Archive for the ‘Future Positive Front Page’ Category

Awakening Your Unique Self

Monday, April 29th, 2013

I am a big fan of Marc Gafni’s teaching. He presents a leading edge approach to human enlightening. He currently has a new 10-session tele-course underway, and after participating in the first session past Wednesday, I know it will be wonderful. The course meets online continuing Wednesdays at 6:00pm PST. Registration is still open, and you can download any sessions you that you miss. Here’s Marc:

Hi Friend,

I could not be more excited to invite you to join us for the Awakening Your Unique Self course. I want to take this opportunity to share with you —at least in part— why this course can change your life.

I want to link together two ideas: outrageous love and awakening to your unique self. We will go deeper into this in the course, but I want share this preview.

To awaken to your Unique Self is to be Lived by Love. It is the way to access all of the joy, depth, delight and profoundly powerful meaning and purpose that comes only from glimpsing Your Awakened Unique Self.

It is also the way to make yourself a beneficial presence on this planet right now which will change the very core of way you experience reality.

It is the way to make your life a gift to “all that is” and it is precisely what will naturally cause “all that is” to shower you with gifts of all kinds in return.

Let me try and go even deeper into this with you for a few minutes.

We live in a world of outrageous pain. Boston, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Congo, Kenya, Jerusalem, Manhattan, Bangladesh. Outrageous pain is everywhere.

The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love.

There is an outrageous act of love that the worlds needs from You. No one else but You is capable of addressing that unique corner of Un-Love and healing it into Love.

The world is going to break your heart. The world is outrageously painful. There is outrageous betrayal. Outrageous heartbreak. Loneliness beyond imagination. 20 million children dying a year of hunger or hunger related diseases when there is enough food to feed every child four times over. There are seventeen million slaves in the world today. The world is outrageous.

The only way to respond to the outrageous pain is to commit acts of outrageous, audacious joy and love. Every time your hearts breaks it also opens more deeply. More pain can enter your heart and more outrageous love action can come from within your heart.

When your heart opens you are filled with the powerful energy of outrageous love that makes you more whole. When you let your heart break you do not become broken. You become more whole. There is nothing more whole than a broken heart.

To be outrageous doesn’t mean to break inappropriate boundaries. The outrageous lover keeps every sacred boundary that should be kept and breaks every boundary of smallness and contraction that desperately yearns to be broken.

To be an outrageous lover does not mean to be insane. The only insanity is the belief that you are separate from the whole – small and impotent. Outrageous love is the only possible path of sanity.

It is insane for children to die hungry when there is food for them to eat. It is insane for human beings to murder each other in order to cover up the fear of death. Awakening to outrageous love, to the knowing that you are part of the whole, that you are a unique expression of greatness, that you are powerful beyond measure, is the only sanity.

The path of outrageous love is the path of Your Unique Self.

To live Your Unique Self is to walk the path of the Outrageous Lover.

That is what it means to be a Unique Self.

You are a Unique Self! This is the simple and powerful truth of your life.

What does that mean?

To be a Unique Self is to realize that you are a unique expression of the LOVE INTELLIGENCE and LOVE BEAUTY that initiated and animates all that is.

You are Love’s Verb.

Your Unique Self is Love’s Verb.

You are an Outrageous Love Letter from infinity to our world with a Unique Love Language that can only be spoken by You.

Reality needs You to Commit Outrageous Acts of Love that no one but You is capable of doing.

God needs Your service. Your Deed is God’s Need. Reality’s Need.

God waits for You to partner with him/her in the way of outrageous love.

Reality itself is God’s outrageous love letter.

The unmanifest becomes manifest in order to love.

Your life is love in action.

To awaken into your Unique Self is to be LIVED BY LOVE.

It is for this reason that I know that there is nothing more important to do in this lifetime than to Awaken to Your Unique Self.

That is the purpose of our time together. I’m so excited. There is nothing I would rather be doing.

In Outrageous Love,

Dr. Marc Gafni

Registration is still open, and you can download any sessions you that you miss.

Front Page

Monday, March 4th, 2013

The Gifting Earth is now open for charter membership.

How does it work?

Timothy Wilken, MD

The Gifting Earth is a free online system that enables its members to help each other through the gifting and sharing of: Goods, Services, Knowledge, and Compassion.

HomeI am a synergic scientist. The word synergy derives from two Greek roots: erg meaning “to work,” and syn meaning “together;” hence, the term synergy simply means “working together.” Synergic science is the study of working together. It is a relatively new science, but it has produced a powerful new understanding of human behavior and of human organization. Synergic science reveals a relatively simple solution to our present human difficulties. That solution requires that we work together and act responsibly.

One of the discoveries of synergic science is that the best organizations – the most efficient, the most productive and those wherein the members are the most happy – are those organizations where the participants have win-win relationships with each other.

From synergic science, a tensegrity is the pattern that results when push and pull have a win-win relationship with each other. The pull is continuous and the push is discontinuous. The continuous pull is balanced by the discontinuous push producing an integrity of tension and compression. This creates a powerful self-stabilizing system.

We humans have needs that are continuously pulling on us to be met. To meet these needs we or an other, working on our behalf, must take actions to meet these needs. While our needs continuously pull on us, actions are the discontinuous pushes to meet those needs.

Humans as the INTERdependent class of life can have positive relationships with each other. We can form a gifting tensegrity, where we are continuously being helped, and where we are discontinuously helping others. Needs are continuously pulling on us. Gifts are the actions of others which are offered as the discontinuous pushes to meet our needs.

For convenience, We can combine the two terms ‘gifting’ and ‘tensegrity’ into a shorter term GIFTegrity. The GIFTegrity is a newly invented mechanism for the the gifting and sharing of human help.

GIFTegrity is the engine that powers The Gifting Earth. Let us begin by describing how a GIFTegrity is structured and how it works. Every member of a GIFTegrity community would participate in two roles – as a GIFTor and as a GIFTee. Every member participates by both gifting help to others and by receiving help from others. The continuous pull of the GIFTees’ needs are balanced by the discontinuous push from the GIFTors’ offers of help. Again we see as an INTERdependent life form, there will be times when we will help others and times when others will help us.

You help.
Others help.

You help others.
Others help you.

You help others help you.
Others help you help others.

You help others help you help others.
Others help you help others help you.


A GIFTegrity works on trust, generosity and gratitude. I give help to those in need and trust that when I am in need there will be those who will give me help.

Can I trust you? When we use the word trust, it usually means can I rely on you not to hurt me.

Synergic Trust is a larger term. It includes ordinary trust, so I can rely on you not to hurt me, but it also means that I can rely on you to help me.

Synergic Trust was discovered long ago, and was once known as: The Spiritual Principle Of Giving And Receiving“When we give to one another, freely and without conditions, sharing our blessings with others and bearing each other’s burdens, the giving multiplies and we receive far more than what was given. Even when there is no immediate prospect of return, Heaven keeps accounts of giving, and in the end blessing will return to the giver, multiplied manyfold. We must give first; to expect to receive without having given is to violate the universal law. On the other hand, giving in order to receive — with strings attached, with the intention of currying favor, or in order to make a name for oneself — is condemned.”

And while, The Spiritual Principle of Giving and Receiving relies on “Heaven to keep account of giving,” a GIFTegrity relies on a public database to keep account of giving and receiving. This database of the history of gifting is a public space where the gifting events are made visible to all members who are participants in good standing.

Imagine a world where Co-Operation has replaced Market — a world where GIFTors and GIFTees have replaced sellers and buyers. We are all familiar with Market and our dual role in Market as Sellers and Buyers.

Market requires money. To get money, most of us sell the hours of our lives to employers. Our employers then make some product with our help, which they then sell to buyers for money. So in the world of Market, the participants are both sellers and buyers. You have to sell something first to get money, if you don’t have money, you can’t buy anything.

When you become a member of The Gifting Earth (TGE), you enter into the world of co-Operation, here you also have a dual role. You will be both a GIFTor and a GIFTee. You will post the Gifts you would like give or share with other members of the community in your role as a GIFTor. You will also post the Needs you would like to receive or borrow from other members of the community in your role as a GIFTee.

What you might gift or share

Almost any good or service can be gifted or shared on TGE. Our database is organized into four general classes of Gifts and Needs.

1) Goods – THINGS: Any material object that has value. This would include: tools, appliances, electronics, computers, telephones, equipment of any kind, lawnmowers, house furniture, household goods, furnishings, materials, supplies, foods and even large things like automobiles, or houses. Any material object that is of value can provide some good to the user, hence the term goods.

You can give Goods away fully or only gift the use of them for a specified time. Location is very important for the gift of using a tool or appliance, perhaps less important if the item is given away fully.

Things that are gifted can be new or used. Working or not working. The important thing is to describe the offered gift accurately. A television repairman might like the gift of an old TV, that he will repair and use or gift to someone else. So your description of an offered gift needs to be very accurate. No one will be criticized for gifting junk as long as they describe it accurately as junk. Those seeking junk will be happy. Remember one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.

2) Services – ACTIONS: Projects, Labor (skilled and unskilled), Jobs and Tasks. This could be as simple as baby sitting, or giving someone a ride to as complex as building a room on someone’s house or writing a custom software program, etc., etc., etc.. It could be a million and one different forms of helping provided by humans in action. Location is very important. Many services would only available locally.

3) Knowledge – KNOWING: Expertise, Consultations, Counseling, and Advise. Those humans with expertise in almost any field can make that expertise available to others as a gift. Physicians, Attorneys, Accountants, Engineers, Scientists, Teachers, etc., etc., etc.. Location may be less important with telephone and internet communication. Knowing can also be available in the form or books, art, courses, online files, etc., etc., etc.. Location may be less important with telephone and internet communication.

4) Compassion – KINDNESS: Empathy, Sympathy, Love, and Support. Compassion is a very personal form of gift. It is the most human of gifts. Compassion can come in many forms. It may just be lending an ear, holding space with another, or holding someone’s hand. Those humans with experience of the difficult challenges encountered in life can share the lessons they have learned from those challenges with others as a gift. Those that have lost the most, have often learned the greatest lessons. Those that have faced Death in the form of Cancer, Major Injury or Illness, and those that have lost loved ones — children, spouses, or parents, may be best prepared to help their fellow humans who face similar challenges. Because the personal touch is so powerful with Compassion, this gift is often best given locally, but location may be less important with the growing power of internet communication — such as Skype and FaceTime.

Gifting – Local, Regional & Global

Also considerations of location are important in a GIFTegrity. Gifts and Needs may be Local, Regional or Global.

Goods and especially the use of tools will mostly be local. However, it may make sense to gift a major appliance or automobile regionally. And rarely, smaller lighter items might be shipped globally especially if they are unusual one of a kind.

Services will usually need to be local, occasionally regional, and rarely global.

Knowledge is usually available as a global, regional or local gift.

Compassion is often best gifted locally, but with the internet and modern communication devices, I can help people all over the world.

Conditional Gifting

You can gift anything with conditions. A gift is an offer of help. The GIFTee is under no obligation to accept the offer. GIFTing is fully voluntary. The GIFTor makes offers of help when and to whom he chooses. The GIFTee accepts offers of help when and from whom they choose. Conditions of gifting is both intelligent and synergic. A common example for non-local Goods might be to Gift an item with the provision that the Giftee pay the cost of shipping. Many of us have tools that we only use occasionally. If I gift the use of a tool for a weekend, I may do so with the condition that it be returned in clean and in good condition.

However some conditions are prohibited. I can’t offer a gift with the condition that you pay me. That is Market, not co-Operation. I can’t request a gift for purposes of resale. Again, that is Market, not co-Operation.

Read more on the Terms and Conditions page.

Do No Harm

Co-Operation is about working together to help ourselves and each other. Members of TGE are committed to a world where I win, you win, others win and the Earth wins. Win-Win-Win-Win.

I am prohibited from offering a gift that is harmful to others, illegal to possess, or known to be dangerous.

Read more on the Terms and Conditions page.

History of Gifting Events

As members use a GIFTegrity, their history of giving, sharing, receiving and borrowing is documented and recorded in the community space. Gifting, sharing, receiving and borrowing is transparent. It can be seen by all members of the gifting community. Your member profle shows all the gifts you have given, all the gifts you have shared, all the gifts you have received, and and all the gifts you have borrowed as well as any comments made by you and your partner’s in the gifting events. Since your Gifting event rating and comment profile is based not on the number of gifts offered, but rather on the number of gift offers accepted, it is of great importance to have a good relationship between GIFTor and GIFTee. Remember, every gifting event generates a GIFTor’s rating and comments on the GIFTee, and a GIFTee’s rating and comments on the GIFTor.

To be successful in The Gifting Earth community you need to give and interact in a positive way with other members. This means you want to accurately describe your offered gifts and make sure those accepting your gifts get what they expect from your descriptions. You also want to be courteous and friendly in your encounters. If you have an encounter that earns you a low comment from an gifting partner, you will want to repair that encounter as quickly as possible so that that gifting partner will modify or withdraw their low comment. For instance, if I gift a used computer to someone and it doesn’t work as described, I need to be willing to take it back at my expense if the GIFTee paid for shipping. Or pay for disposal and give up my credit for the gift. Remember, every gifting event effects the ratio of giving-receiving for both the GIFTor and GIFTee.

Ranking the Gifting Event

This the score awarded at the end of a gifting event by your gifting partner.

GIFTors are ranked on CommunicationGenerosity and Co-Operation.

COMMUNICATION: How accurate, complete and clear was the description of the offered GIFT? How timely, complete and clear were messages related to the offered Gift?

GENEROSITY: How did the GIFTor relate to the GIFTee?

CO-OPERATION: How well did the GIFTor embrace the spirit of working together? What is your overall rating for the gifting event?

5 Stars — Amazing Event
4 Stars — Great Event
3 Stars — Good Event
2 Stars — OK Event
1 Star — Neutral or Negative Event

GIFTees are ranked on Communication, Gratitude, and Co-Operation.

COMMUNICATION: How timely, complete and clear were messages related to the requested NEED?

GRATITUDE: How did the GIFTee relate to the GIFTor?

CO-OPERATION: How well did the GIFTee embrace the spirit of working together? What is your overall rating for the gifting event?

5 Stars — Amazing Event
4 Stars — Great Event
3 Stars — Good Event
2 Stars — OK Event
1 Star — Neutral or Negative Event

Getting Started

Now once a new member has completed their registration as a GIFTor-GIFTee, they will first need to offer a gift. Once you have posted an initial gift offer, then you are unrestricted in your ability to post both Gifts and Needs into the data base, the TGE software program is designed to help members sort and match Gifts of help with Needs for help.

Within a GIFTegrity, the role of GIFTor is active. The role of GIFTee is passive. The Browse page contains all active Gifts and Needs currently available. Here you can search and sort to find Gifts that might help you or Needs that you might be able to meet for others. The list of Gifts and Needs can be sorted alphabetcially, by rating scores and by distance from the users location.

Freedom of Choice in the Synergic Help Exchange

GIFTors are free to offer their gifts to any member who requests their gift. GIFTors may also offer a gift in response to a posted Need. The GIFTors are in control of their giving. Once a GIFTor selects a GIFTee to receive their offer of help, then the GIFTee is notified that an offer of help has been made to them. The GIFTee can then access the profile and gifting history of the offering GIFTor. Using this information, the GIFTee can decide whether to accept the offer of help or not.

Freedom of choice is an absolute tenant of GIFTegrity. The GIFTor decides when and to whom to offer a gift of help. The GIFTee decides when and from whom to accept a gift offer of help.

GIFTors and GIFTees get to know to each other initially by reading each other’s member profiles and Gifting event histories. The GIFTee is under no obligation to accept an offered gift. At this point the GIFTee may contact the GIFTor with questions or clarifications about the offer. If the GIFTee accepts the offer, than that action is recorded as a finalized gifting and both profiles are updated. Both GIFTor and GIFTee can make comments about the interaction then or at a later time if more appropriate. If the GIFTee declines the offer of help, the GIFTor is notified so they can offer their help to some other member of the GIFTegrity.

Gifting Event Overview for GIFTS

The chart below describes the gifting event process for Gifts. If you are giving away the gift, you are the GIFTor. If you are receiving someone else’s gift, you are the GIFTee.

Inline image 1

1. GIFTor logs into The Gifting Earth and posts a Gift offer
2. GIFTee browses or searches the website, finds the gift and clicks “Request Gift”. (Note that more than one member may request the same gift.)
3. GIFTor selects one GIFTee (or more if there are more items available) to whom to Offer the gift.
4. GIFTee receives a notification that they have been offered the gift, and elects to accept it.
5. GIFTor receives notification that GIFTee has accepted the gift, and activates the gifting event.
6. At this point both parties receive contact info, and, if and as necessary, meet in the real world to transfer the gift to GIFTee
7. After the gifting event has occurred, both parties return to The Gifting Earth to complete and rate the gifting event
8. Once both parties have completed and rated the other’s participation, the gifting event is complete.

Gifting Event Overview for NEEDS

The chart below describes the gifting event process for Needs. If you are receiving the gift, you are the GIFTee. If you are meeting someone’s need, you are the GIFTor.

Inline image 2

1. GIFTee logs into The Gifting Earth posting area and adds their need to the system.
2. GIFTor browses or searches the website, finds the need and clicks “Offer Gift”. (Note that more than one member may offer a gift to meet the same need.)
3. GIFTee selects one GIFTor from whom to accept the gift.
4. GIFTor receives a notification that their offer to provide a gift has been accepted, and activates the gifting event
5. At this point both parties receive contact info, and, as and if necessary, meet in the real world to complete the gifting event.
6. After the gifting event has occurred, both parties return to The Gifting Earth and complete and rate the gifting event.
7. Once both parties have completed and rated each other, the gifting event is complete.

Transparency in the GIFTegrity

To help the GIFTors decide to whom to gift to and the GIFTees decide from whom to receive a gift, The Gifting Earth documents and preserves a history of all gifting events. As both GIFTor and GIFTee, I can make my decision to select a gifting partner with benefit of the following knowledge:

1) My potential Gifting partner’s real name, hometown and home state and zip code.

2) How long they have been a member of The Gifting Earth.

3) The number of Gifts they have Given. The number of Needs they have had met.

4) Their cumulative rating for all gifting events (1 to 5 stars) awarded by their previous gifting partners.

5) Their individual ratings for each gifting event (1 to 5 stars) and the written comments by previous gifting partners related to those particular Gifting events.

6) The user profile information that potential Gifting partners have chosen to share with the gifting community.

This makes the processes within a GIFTegrity transparent and helps members make choices that result in win-win relationships.

Read the Privacy Policy

Ratio for Gifting and Receiving

Within The Gifting Earth, the total number of Gifts offered by all members should equal the total number of Needs requested by all members. If there are more Gifts offered then Needs being requested, then the excess Gifts are being wasted. If there are more Needs being requested than Gifts being offered, then some Needs are going unmet.

Ideally, within The Gifting Earth, every member will find themselves both helping others and being helped by others. Over the life of one’s membership, each member could expect to be helped by others as often as they helped others. The number of their needs being met by others would roughly equal the number of gifts that they give to others. So as a guideline, we recommend that you try to post equal numbers of gifts and needs. This is made easier by our recognition of the four classes of gifts and needs: Goods, Services, Knowledge and Compassion.

However within any real community, not all of us are equally blessed. Some of us have more and some of us have less. Jesus of Nazareth said, “That to those who much is given, much will be expected.” Those that are giving more will gain the respect and gratitude of their community. Those that are given more will be helped by the caring and generosity of their community. That which makes any part of community better makes the whole community better. When we realize that we are INTERdependent, we need each other. If I need you, whatever I do that makes you stronger is of benefit to me.

Also there will be times when I have more to give to others than I need to get from others. And, there will be times when I need to get more from others than I have to give to others. These variations within the individual patterns of giving and receiving are also normal. We each need to strive to do the best that we can.

To improve your Gifts to Needs ratio, you will need to gift more. Also, you will want to accept others gifts carefully, and only when you truly value and need them. In co-Operation, we are working together to make all of our lives better. The accumulation of things, you really don’t need or want, is best left in the world of Market.

Bringing Dead Wealth to Life

One major advantage of the GIFTegrity is that it resurrects Dead Wealth. Dead Wealth is that wealth within the human community that is not being used to help self or others. Dead Wealth is found in all four forms – Compassion, Knowing, Action and Goods.

Goods – We all have lots of perfectly good things we have in boxes in our garages, attics, and closets. Used tools, appliances, furniture, clothing, furnishings– things we never use but are too good to throw away. Now they can be easily liberated by simply describing them accurately and gifting them away. Or how about just gifting away the use of some those great tools you only use one day a week or one day a month.

Service – We all have some hours in our lives that could be available to help others. The Gift Tensegrity gives me an outlet for all of those other skills and abilities that I am not currently trading to some employer for money. Some of us can do home and automobile repair, handyman work, cleaning, cooking, sewing, child and elder care, teaching, etc., etc., etc.. Or, it might be that if we knew what help others needed, we could combine their errands with our own when we are out running around anyway. The Gift Tensegrity allows you to quickly find out how you can turn those wasted hours into help for others.

Knowledge – Almost all of us have significant expertise in some areas. Some knowledge of how to solve problems that we have encountered in our lives. However, in our present world we trade the hours of our lives to others for just enough money to earn our livings. Our employers don’t want our expertise and knowledge unless it applies to the limited task they hired us to perform. Yet in the larger context of community our unwanted expertise and knowledge could help others. The GIFTegrity gives us an outlet for sharing that expertise and knowledge. Again, this might be in the form of knowing and action joined together such as consultations, couseling, analysis and real time problem solving, or it may be available in the form of knowing and levers such as reports, books, video or audio tapes, artwork, photos, computer files, etc., etc., etc..

Compassion – And finally, all of us have benefited at some time in our lives from the gift of compassion. We know that it is often the best gift to receive and give. The GIFTegrity expands our ability to gift and receive this most special gift.

Need Help – Look First to the GIFTegrity

The GIFTegrity is a distributor of synergic help. And as INTERdependent form or life, we all need help. In a GIFTegrity, all participants win. Synergic relationships are those that make me more productive, more effective, and more happy. When I need help, this is where I will look first. In the beginning the gifting tensegrities will not instantly replace the fair market. It will begin as simple an alternative to the fair market. I will begin to meet some of my needs at the GIFTegrities. As I begin gifting and finding that some of my needs are met this way. I will have less need to sell the hours of my life for money to use in the fair market. Once I am gifting 10 hours a week.I will then be able to reduce my working week from 40 to 30 hours. This is how the transition will occur.

Out of Work – Look to the the GIFTegrity

The gifting tensegrities can be enormously important to those individuals finding themselves out of work. When there is no market for the hours of your life. There is still no shortage of people who need your help. The gifting tensegrities acts as an immediate outlet for those with help to Gift, but no market for their help to Sell. In fact the GIFTensegrity becomes a new type of insurance for all humans who are at risk for losing their jobs. In this society, that is all of us.

GIFTegrity – Not Just for Individuals

Synergic TeamNets are groups of individual humans that form themselves into Synergic Teams for the purpose of performing a larger and more complex task than they can perform as individuals. These individuals co-Operate through a network based on synergic relationships and synergic compensation mechanisms to accomplish those larger and more complex tasks. Barry Carter has written extensively about this concept in his book Infinite Wealth. And, I have developed a mechanism for organizing Synergic Production Teams called the Ortegrity which is available elsewhere. TeamNets can register with a gifting tensegrity and list the Needs of their TeamNet Project. They may be able to attract the help they need though the free synergic GIFTegrity, or they can attract help, by inviting others to join their team for Synergic Revenue Shares if the project produces revenue.

Economist Wayne F. Perg, Ph. D writes:

“My … understanding of the GIFTegrity is one of a radical move away from trade-oriented or materialistic sort of exchange.

“In the GIFTegrity there is no accounting, there are no prices, there is no barter (no tit for tat), and there is no medium of exchange! For me, it is the road to a post-monetary, post-barter economy.

“Barter and monetary economies both tie together giving and receiving. One cannot be done in the absence of the other. It is this “tying together” that is the ultimate source of “dead resources” and unemployment.

“The GIFTegrity frees giving from receiving and receiving from giving and will, as it is implemented, bring all resources to life and eliminate unemployment.

“The GIFTegrity does this by creating transparency, i.e., by creating good information on the SEPARATE giving and receiving actions of all members of the gifting tensegrity. Because there is no trading, only gifts given with no requirment of payment, there are no market prices and no accounting of trades. What there is is an open exchange of information on needs and resources available to fill those needs and ongoing individual negotiations around actions that will meet those needs.

“I see the GIFTegrity bringing the exchange relationships of a living organism to human society. As Elizabet Sahtouris has pointed out, the heart does not hold an auction for the supply of oxygenated blood and it does not withhold blood from those organs who are currently unable to pay.

“I see the GIFTegrity as a powerful new vehicle for first supplementing and then eventually replacing our present exchange economy that relies on money and barter to facilitate exchange.

“I see the GIFTegrity as a powerful step forward from money systems and barter because it separates the acts of giving and receiving whereas both money systems and barter tie giving and receiving together into formal exchange transactions. It is this tying together of giving and receiving that creates “landlocked” resources and unemployment.

“I do not see the GIFTegrity replacing informal, undocumented and recorded giving and receiving within families, groups and communities within which all participants are known to each other and within which trust is well established. In fact, I see the operation of the Gift Tensegrity increasing the number and size of the groups within which informal, undocumented giving and receiving is the norm.

“It is my understanding that, in the GIFTegrity, I do not make any commitment to giving in advance. As a giver, I have access to information on the needs of those who are seeking what I have to give, but potential receivers of my gifts have no access to me as a giver until I offer my gift to that person, organization, or community to which I decide that I would like to give.

“Also, given my big picture vision for the GIFTegrity, I see givers and receivers including organizations (including for-profit businesses) and communities as well as individuals.”

Read the Scientific Basis for the GIFTegrity

The Gifting Earth is now open for charter membership.

Front Page

Monday, December 17th, 2012

This essay was published in Spring 2010 issue of  Inquiring Mind. The focus of that Spring 2010 issue was addiction, but the article speaks to a much deeper human need. 

It was originally titled: The Suffering of Separation.

The Need for Community

Janet Surrey

As a psychotherapist I am continually moved by the anguish of isolation so many experience. Like fish with water, we hardly see the pervasiveness of this condition for our being in the world. Whatever we try to do to relieve this suffering—through denial of our deepest needs for connection, to materialistic pursuits, or to compulsive social or work activities—we are haunted by the “dis-ease” of separation and cannot rest and take refuge in our families or communities. The breakdown in community in the U.S. has been documented by many scholars, and the resultant loneliness and alienation are revealed in the high rates of depression, addiction, anxiety and violence. People in our society feel fundamentally separate, cut off from each other and disconnected from the natural world. We can see our isolation through the lens of the First Noble Truth, which points to the suffering of the separate self. The greater the fundamental attachment to self, the more we suffer.

Particularly in the United States, our cultural ideals support individualism, competition, denial of vulnerability and independence. Relationships are valued as supports or buttresses to the self. But like hungry ghosts we still yearn for the stability and continuity of deep community. When offered the opportunity, however, we often cannot drink fully; our thirst becomes painful and leads us to develop strategies to deny or to avoid feeling our yearnings. The problem is both external—lack of available communities—and internal—the ways we hold ourselves back from surrendering to relationships. Our default position of alienation or non-belonging is often a consequence of painful experiences that lead us to mistrust and run when the going gets rough. We run for protection toward isolation or search for new and improved relationships or communities. Yet we also seek spiritual practices and communities to restore or realign ourselves to our most fundamental condition of interconnectedness or “interbeing.”

In the early years of my own Theravadan practice, the emphasis on individual, solitary practice often seemed to me to be supporting the Western value of self-sufficiency as well as celebrating the heroic, solitary journey. We practiced together in groups for weeks but never even learned each other’s names. We sensed the underlying power of community in practice but didn’t realize this in real relationship. The practice of taking refuge in sangha seemed to be the stepchild or foundational support to practice, rather than practice itself. The solitary Buddha was the icon, even though in truth the Buddha spent very few days alone, living most of his eighty years in community.

I was later drawn to practice with Thich Nhat Hahn, who seems to intuitively understand the overwhelming suffering of isolation in the West. He emphasizes building local and worldwide communities and teaches the practice of “learning to see with Sangha eyes.” To build “good enough” communities that are not there solely to serve or support us, we need to do the work of inventing or embracing practices that support and nurture sangha, that help us to become “good enough” members of a community. Perhaps we need to add a teaching on “right relationship” to the Eightfold Path.

Two years ago at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, I heard teacher Eugene Cash offer a reordering of the Three Jewels from the usual “Buddha, Dharma, Sangha” to the new “Sangha, Dharma, Buddha.” Even though the Buddha was clear that these refuges are interdependent and co-arising, in our own rank-ordering culture, first is best, most valuable, on top. It is in this reordering that I believe the Twelve Step programs offer a profound vision and practical experience of taking refuge in the sangha.

I have a twenty-five-year-long intimate connection with living at the intersection of the Eightfold Path and the Twelve Step program. I have also worked as a professional in the addiction/recovery community and have coauthored the play “Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” the story of the relationship between the cofounders of Alcoholics Anonymous. The ground-breaking discovery of these two men was that “true meeting”—one drunk coming clean to another through telling their authentic life stories to each other—could accomplish something neither drunk could do alone. It could lift them from the destructive and fatal cycle of alcoholism into sobriety and a new dimension of living.

Sobriety describes a state of being, a willingness to face reality—“life on life’s terms”—with equanimity and open-mindedness, becoming “as willing to listen as only the dying can be.” Liberation from the suffering of alcoholism through the Twelve Steps becomes possible through surrendering the separate self, that is, in taking refuge in the fellowship of other sufferers, the healing sangha. In the beginning is the “We.” Step 1 says, “We admitted that by ourselves we were powerless over alcohol.” Relinquishing the ego is essential for achieving and maintaining sobriety. The principles and practices of this surrender, including prayer and meditation, are the most powerful vehicles for taking refuge in sangha that I have experienced.

Addiction is often called a disease of isolation. You are as “sick as you are secret.” Moving out of shame and self-delusion into the light of awareness and nonseparation is essential not only for survival but for spiritual health. Sobriety depends on the learned capacity to ask for help, to admit vulnerability, and to “call before you take the first drink.” There is great and transformative power in learning to reach out to another human being when the momentum of the past and the voracious craving of addiction are calling the addict to take refuge in the substance or addictive behavior. This step, of taking refuge in fellowship and relationship, is a moment of liberation. One of the promises of the Twelve Step program is that “self-seeking will slip away.” The suggestion to reach out beyond self, to “put your ego in your back pocket,” and in the face of craving to do service and share the gift of sobriety with others, leads to the experience of release from suffering.

The fellowship of the Twelve Steps is a worldwide network of meetings and relationships. It is alive, accessible and available 24/7 through face-to-face meetings; telephones or Blackberries or Internet; and through literature, prayer and meditation. In a concrete way the fellowship can be tapped into anytime or anywhere. Isolation thus becomes a chosen state, not a pre-existing condition, not something temporarily ameliorated though a weekly sangha meeting or potluck. Our Buddhist communities could benefit from such a realized, concrete expression of community that can never be lost unless one actively or purposefully “closes the door.”

These Twelve Step relational practices represent the journey from solipsistic, delusional “relief” through addictive behavior to the light and release from suffering in the realization of nonseparation, or anatta. This relational realization is practical, teachable, simple and profound, and ultimately life-changing.

The dialectic between the Buddha’s teaching of “see for yourself” and the practice of surrendering self to refuge in sangha points ultimately to the Middle Way for us humans. On the Buddhist path this living intersection of alone and together is taught beautifully by Gregory Kramer in his “Insight Dialogue” retreats, where the seamless movement between internal practice and relational practice is investigated and realized. Any living sangha can become a doorway to the great web, which Joanna Macy describes as “the Maha Sangha of All Beings,” seen and unseen, past, present and future.

This glimpse of true interbeing can occur when the personal and collective work of confronting obstacles and practicing nonseparation is a central practice of the meditation community. This includes finding creative ways to directly address the suffering and structural divisions of race, gender, class, sexualities, etc. Many Buddhist centers are beginning to take on these issues more directly and to reflect a new level of awareness of this necessary aspect of building sangha. The new multicultural Dharma, the pioneering East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, and the people of color retreats are leading the way in this important work.

The current work of many vipassana teachers in particular is a fruit of Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s authentic commitment to community building and to reaching out to more marginalized or underserved communities. Participating in the Community Dharma Leader (CDL) program, about to begin its fourth cohort of participants, has offered the most profound vision and experience of true sangha that I have known. Resting in Buddhadharma and supported by the commitment of the leaders to practice “dissolving self and other,” my own group of ninety participants found the way to the “We.” Active engagement with diversity, practicing non-violent communication, and relational practice of the Brahmaviharas—all held in the silence and a deep commitment to living and sharing the Dharma—opened the sangha doorway.

When we first began to meet and practice together over two and a half years ago, none of us was exactly sure what “community Dharma leader” actually meant. For some it was a recognition or evolution of their leadership roles in their communities of practice; to others it was a chance to learn and commit to reaching out to new populations. For me it came to represent a new priority and practice of community Dharma. I now feel a passionate commitment to realizing and teaching this community Dharma and drawing on the practices of sangha that the Twelve Step community offers. I see this creative, unfolding refuge practice as aligned with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s call for building sangha as “communities of resistance” to the powerful forces of materialism, alienation and violence in Western culture. I feel its importance for nurturing true healing and liberation in Western psychotherapy. And I hear the voice of Thich Nhat Hanh in his evocative teaching that “the next Buddha, the Buddha of the West, will come as the sangha.”

Copyright © 2010 Inquiring Mind

Janet Surrey, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and lecturer at the Harvard Medical School, she is a founding scholar and board member at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, in Massachusetts. Dr. Surrey is a co-author of Women’s Growth in Connection and the Psychology of Peacemaking. She is co-editor of Mothering Against the Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers. Along with her husband, Stephen Bergman and Samuel Shem, she has co-authored the book “We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Men and Women”. Dr. Surrey is the author of numerous articles and papers. She has written and spoken widely on many topics, including gender issues, mother-daughter relationships, addictions, couples therapy, empathy, adoption, and peacemaking.

Front Page

Monday, October 10th, 2011

A road map for tomorrow’s cities By James Howard Kunstler

Published in the July/August 2011 issue of Orion magazine

Back to the Future

By James Howard Kunstler

I LOVE THOSE CITIES-of-the-future illustrations from the old pop-culture bin. In “yesterday’s tomorrow,” they always get things so wonderfully wrong. One of my favorites, from the August 1925 issue of Popular Science Monthly, depicts a heroic cross section of New York’s Park Avenue looking to the south from around 47th Street in the far-off sci-fi future of 1950. “Airport landing fields” are denoted on the roof of a building that has replaced the familiar Grand Central Station tower at the end of the vista. A zeppelin hovers over a row of quaint little “aeroplanes” stashed up there. Park Avenue itself has become a pedestrian mall, not a honking Checker Cab in sight. They’re all down in a three-level underground tunnel system: one level for slow motor traffic, one for fast, and the lowest for trains and subways. “Spiral escalators” connect all the levels to the street above, and turntable-equipped parking garages occupy the basements of the “half a mile high” skyscrapers that line the avenue.

The illustration is a beautifully rendered black-and-white lithograph, and the layout of this future New York is impeccably rational down to the pneumatic “freight tubes” in the lowest subbasement of the buildings. It expresses every wish of its day about optimal city life to absolute perfection, the engineered efficiency breathtaking. Of course, this vision didn’t come to pass. Among other things, it failed to anticipate the effects of the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the massive shift to suburbia afterward, which decanted so much wealth (and so many well-off citizens) out of the cities. About the only thing it got right was that the buildings lining Park Avenue would eventually be a lot bigger.

Another favorite of mine in this genre, done in the mid-1950s to portray the far-off year 2000, depicts a city of towers cut through with swooping super-duper highways. So far, so good. It could be Houston or Atlanta today. The amusing part is that the cars depicted all have giant tail fins—because people were cuckoo for tail fins that year. So, naturally, the future would be all about tail fins.

In other words, most visions of the future are really less about the future and more about what’s happening now. Extrapolation tends toward exaggeration. Today, there are two basic cities-of-the-future themes competing in the collective imagination: the dazzling megacity of megastructures (Dubai’s steroid-induced construction) versus something I call Thanatopolis, the city of the dead (Blade Runner, Children of Men, The Book of Eli, etc.). All this said, it should be obvious that planning for the city of the future is tied into the urgent issues of our time—climate change, peak oil, ecological destruction, the crisis of banking and money, population overshoot, and war—familiar themes to readers of this journal. Add to this the virtual certainty of the nonlinear playing out of events, and you’re soon in the realm of pure conceit. But assuming the human race will carry on (and I do), we’ll have to live somewhere, and in some manner, and lots of plans are being made now anyway.

I depart from a lot of current thinking on the subject. For instance, many people seem to think that there will be more of everything—more people, taller skyscrapers, greater suburbs, bigger airplanes, larger metro regions, or even super-gigantic slums. I don’t go along with this bundle of bull, except for the slums, which I think will be short-lived, contrary to the vision of popular author Mike Davis’s Planet of Slums. Of course, trends won’t proceed with the same timing everywhere in the world. But I think the general theme going forward, certainly in the U.S., will be the comprehensive contraction of just about everything.

I see our cities getting smaller and denser, with fewer people. Skyscrapers will be obsolete, travel greatly reduced, and the rural edge more distinct. The energy inputs to our economies will decrease a lot, and probably in ways that prove destabilizing. The first manifestations of climate change will be food shortages, one of the reasons I think super slum cities will be short-lived. The growth of urban megaslums in the past one hundred years has been predicated on turning oil into food, and the failure of that equation is aggravating weather-related crop failures around the world. Food shortages will quickly bend the arc of world population growth downward from the poorer margins and inward to the “developed” center—with stark implications for politics and even civil order. The crisis of money is already hampering the operation of cities and will soon critically impede the repair of water systems, paved streets, electric service, and other vital infrastructure. We are heading into a major reset of daily life, a phase of history I call The Long Emergency. Tomorrow will be a lot more like a distant yesteryear in terms of reduced comforts, commerce, and the scale of things.

Bye Bye Beaver

A major theme of mine over the years has been the fiasco of suburbia, where more than half of the U.S. population now lives. It was not produced by a conspiracy, but because it seemed like a good idea at the time, given the confluences of history. Its time is over; the global oil predicament will finish it off, probably sooner rather than later. Laying aside the fine points of its design shortcomings, the logistical drawbacks will leave suburbia harshly devalued. That process is already under way in the aftermath of the housing “bubble.” In the past decade, homebuyers were told to “drive till you qualify”—meaning, far enough into the exurban asteroid belts to where housing was still reasonably affordable. As long-term prospects for motoring dim, these are precisely the houses that are sinking the fastest.

All suburbs have a problematic destiny. Some will do better than others, based on idiosyncrasies of politics and geography. A few will be retrofitted into towns, though a shortage of capital will be a big obstacle when it comes to money for police and other services. Suburbia’s characteristic lack of civic armature suggests an absence of community cohesion. I expect many suburbs will become squats, ruins, and salvage yards. Out of necessity, we will have to forage and reuse all kinds of materials that were energy-intensive to make, from aluminum trusses to concrete blocks.

A lot of young people already have no use or affection for suburbia, and have begun moving into big cities. But when our energy supply problems get worse, there will be wholesale demographic shifts to smaller cities and small towns, especially places that have some relationship with local food production, water power, and water transport. Our smaller cities and towns are intrinsically better scaled for future energy realities. Most of these places are in sad shape after decades of neglect, but they can be repopulated and reactivated.

Farming will require far more human attention than it did during the heyday of industrial agriculture, when roughly 2 percent of the population could produce food for everyone. This agricultural landscape will be organized differently with smaller farms and more people living on or near them. With reduced access to liquid fossil fuels, we’ll run fewer big machines. We may need to revert to draft horses, oxen, and mules as well, which will require care and feeding, with a significant amount of acreage devoted to growing animal feed. Food production will come closer to the center of our economy than it has for generations.

Shuttering the Metroplexes

Meanwhile, our big “metroplex” cities will run into as much trouble as the suburbs, but for different reasons. Categorically, they are not scaled to the energy realities of the future. Our giant cities are products of the cheap energy era; the arc of their explosive growth since 1945 is self-evident. They’re simply too large and too complex. Everything about them is designed to run on endless supplies of cheap fossil fuels and the resources and byproducts made possible by them: steel, copper, cement, plastic, and asphalt. To support daily life, they require far-flung supply chains dependent on complex transport systems. Like it or not, we are entering an era of reduced complexity, and a lot of the systems we now depend on—from factory livestock to “warehouses on wheels”—simply won’t exist anymore.

These giant cities will contract and densify around their old centers and waterfronts, if they are fortunate to have them. Remember: cities traditionally exist where they do because they occupy sites of geographical and strategic importance, such as Detroit’s position on a short stretch of river between two great lakes. Some kind of settlement will continue to exist in most of these places, but not in the form we’re familiar with. They will be urban in the traditional sense of the word: compact, dense, mixed-use, and composed of neighborhoods based on the quarter-mile walk from center to edge—the so-called five-minute walk, which is a transcultural norm found everywhere in pre-automobile urban communities. The pattern is scalable: one neighborhood is the equivalent of a village; several neighborhoods and a commercial district make a town; and many neighborhoods comprise an average-sized city.

The decline of cheap fuels will lead to the demise of the trucking system and commercial aviation. Forget about biodiesel, algae oil, and similar fantasies. They don’t scale up beyond the science-project level. We’ll have to move more stuff (and people) by rail and boat. Waterfronts and harbors will once again become important in daily life. In North America, this applies especially to our inland waterways, including the linked Mississippi-Missouri-Ohio Rivers (one of the most extensive such networks in the world), the St. Lawrence River, the Hudson–Erie Canal system, and the Great Lakes. In terms of climate change, the inland waterways will be less threatened by changes in sea level than our saltwater ports. As the global economy withers, economic activity is likely to become more internally focused anyway.

It remains to be seen what rising sea levels will do to the great harbor cities of New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Baltimore. They have some topography to protect them, but they could lose a lot of real estate. The picture is a lot swampier for Miami, Jacksonville, Charleston, Norfolk, New Orleans, and Houston. For decades, we’ve been redeveloping America’s decrepit waterfronts with condo towers, festival marketplaces, concert stages, and bikeways. Whoops. We’ll have to go back and restore the infrastructure we demolished for waterborne trade: the landings, warehouses, dry docks, and even the sleazy accommodations for sailors.

Some newer U.S. cities occupy unfavorable sites, and they will simply go out of business. Phoenix’s fate is sealed: without mass motoring and cheap air conditioning, it will collapse. You can’t grow food in the desert without heroic irrigation, and all their water comes from elsewhere and at great expense. In Las Vegas, the excitement will be over for the same reasons. Both of these cities will become small, remote outposts. Given its likely isolation, whatever happens in Vegas will likely remain in Vegas in the future as well. Denver exists in the first place because of the logistics of cattle ranching and railroads. If the Southwest gets drier, as predicted, that city may wither, too.

Other cities composed largely of suburban sprawl also face unfortunate futures, particularly in the Sun Belt—that part of the U.S. that grew explosively after the Second World War. Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas, Houston, Charlotte, and other sprawl cities are hugely disadvantaged. On top of a bad development pattern, recent construction quality is atrocious—chipboard, vinyl, and “innovative” spray-on finishes. In the humid Southeast, air conditioning vies with heat on exterior walls to condense moisture in the framing, causing buildings to rot from the inside out and become uninhabitable. In Florida, foreclosed houses often decay in months as humidity infiltrates the drywall and mold grows. People who seek refuge in the Sun Belt states as our energy problems worsen may be disappointed by how things work out there.

Since the wealth of these newer cities is largely represented by sprawl, a tragic amount of political and financial capital will likely be squandered to prop it up. This will amount to a futile campaign to sustain the unsustainable. It’s already happening via enormous government life-support of the housing industry and stimulus dollars poured into highway projects. We should instead concentrate efforts on fixing our passenger rail network and developing local public transit.

Southern California is in a category of its own, with dire water politics exacerbating the liabilities of suburban sprawl. Much has been made of the relatively high population density of Los Angeles. But on the whole, the city is just too big, too spread out, too car-addicted, too thirsty, too primed for ethnic friction, and too dependent on imported supplies of everything. A favorable outcome for Los Angeles might be a network of much smaller towns connected by public transit, much like the original City of Angels—except that history is not symmetrical and the sheer inertia of disintegration might drag LA beyond any desirable reset point.

Towers of Babel

One big surprise awaiting us is how quickly the skyscraper will become obsolete. Even the architecture profession does not yet recognize the problem. It’s not primarily because of issues of heating and air conditioning, or running so many elevators, though electric service may be less reliable in the U.S. a decade from now. Rather, it’s because these buildings will never be renovated. Reduced energy resources means proportionately reduced capital in the system. We’ll be painfully short of financial resources and fabricated materials—everything from steel to the silicon gaskets needed to seal glass “curtain walls.” Cities overburdened with skyscrapers will soon discover that these structures are liabilities, not assets. The skyscrapers deemed most “innovative” by today’s standards—the ones most dependent on high-tech materials and complex internal systems—will be the greatest failures. This includes many of the new “green buildings.” We have no idea what we’re going to do about this dilemma. There’s no public awareness about it whatsoever.

In 2004, The New Yorker published a hugely influential piece called “Green Manhattan.”  Reporter David Owen wrote: “New York is the greenest community in the United States, and one of the greenest in the world.” This was due, he said, to the efficiencies of apartment towers and the ability to get around on foot—a notion that Harvard economist Edward Glaeser seconded in his recent book Triumph of the City.

While I’d agree that tight, dense, and walkable urbanism is crucial for our future happiness, it’s a tragic error to suppose that stacking people in skyscrapers is necessary to achieve this. Most of central Paris is under six stories and nobody complains about a lack of cosmopolitan verve there. The infatuation with skyscrapers is just another facet of the technological grandiosity that pervades American culture these days—the dangerous idea that we are unbounded by limits. It is this sort of mentality that’s gotten us into deep trouble with extreme car dependency and massive oil imports.

All this points back to the issue of scale. New York is already too big and too tall. Central Chicago has similar problems. The temptation to maximize investment returns on the floor-to-area ratio of buildings—the number of stories you can stack on, say, a one-acre building lot—had the unintended consequence of producing too many tall buildings with an unsound future. As with suburbia, we built skyscraper cities because it seemed like a good idea at the time, and for a while it penciled out economically. This is no longer the case. All our big cities will contract, but for cities full of skyscrapers this contraction will be especially painful.

As in 1925, today’s cities-of-the-future are also preposterous fantasies. Take for example the proposed “Aerotropolis” described in a book by the same title. Two decades ago, business professor John Kasarda noticed that the Federal Express company revitalized the dying economy of Memphis, Tennessee. His conclusion? Successful cities of the future must be organized around airports. Aerotropolis is once again yesterday’s tomorrow. It assumes that cheap transport is a reliable constant as far ahead as we can see, which I doubt. The author is apparently oblivious to today’s irreversible global oil predicament and the effect it is already having on commercial aviation. Airlines in the U.S. have been contracting for a decade by merging, dropping routes, and firing so many employees that it is nearly impossible to find a live one nowadays in an airport concourse.

I can’t see how this situation will improve. I’d say there’s a fair chance that commercial aviation won’t even exist in twenty years. Airplanes require oil. We have fantasies about running them on substitutes like distilled coal liquids—because, people say, Germany powered the Luftwaffe with coal liquids toward the end of the Second World War. Again, it’s a matter of scale. Running the Luftwaffe through all of 1944/45 probably required less fuel than does running trucks in and out of Providence, Rhode Island, on any given week. American cities will be lucky if they can organize their future activities around railroads and waterways.

Feeding the Future

Speaking of technofantasies, another popular proposal is for skyscraper farms. The fiasco of suburbia sowed a lot of confusion in how we think about our human habitat. It hopelessly muddled the distinction between urban and rural. A manifestation of this confusion is the notion that we should focus our resources on growing food in “vertical farms” in the midst of our cities.

The problems we face with skyscrapers in terms of capital resources argue against this idea in the first place. Add to that the need to provide either artificial lighting for plants stacked under many layers of ceilings, or the energy to mechanically rotate them around the outer walls to expose them to sunlight. It is a particularly dumb idea when you consider that there is a practical relationship between cities and their agricultural hinterlands, where crops can be grown horizontally on the earth itself, without elaborate structures, artificial lighting, or high-tech gadgetry. The vertical farming idea is a demonstration of how extreme our technograndiosity has become, and how far we’ve strayed from centuries of accumulated wisdom.

Growing food on city rooftop gardens is fine but limited. Urban kitchen and dooryard gardens are historically quite customary. Community gardens on empty lots are a swell idea. But we better get our heads straight about where most of the food will have to come from, especially when a lot more of it will have to be grown locally. The appropriate place for that is outside of town. There’s a big difference between gardening and farming. Some activities are essentially rural and some urban, and we need to reestablish this distinction.

Our confusion about this distinction is visible in proposals to turn Detroit into farmland. Detroit is so far gone, the argument goes, that the only conceivable use for all that abandoned real estate is to re-ruralize it. This speaks to our lack of confidence in architecture and urbanism per se, and leads to the current default remedy whenever our cities fail: tear things down in favor of green space.

Such thinking is the result of architecture’s decades-long inability to provide buildings worthy of our affection; municipal planners’ design ignorance and extreme reliance on traffic engineers; the environmental movement’s focus on wilderness, wildlife, and disdain for human activities; and, of course, suburbia itself, which prompts most of us to despise any human imprint on the landscape. Detroit is rotting from the inside out. The inside, the old city center, the part closest to the river, is destined to be the urban site of highest value in the future. Although it may never resemble the Detroit of 1960, we have the skills and knowledge to rebuild something of appropriate urban quality there again. And there’s plenty of adequate farmland outside Detroit in rural Michigan to serve it.

Tomorrow’s Yesterday

The Congress for the New Urbanism coalesced as a formal organization in 1993 to offer an alternative to suburban sprawl. As a battle of ideas, the New Urbanists eventually won by default when the housing bust put an end to further suburbanization. The New Urbanism is now simply urbanism. There is no other body of coherent principle that can produce human habitats that have a plausible future. Still, sheer human perversity manages to generate opposition from predictable interest groups.

Harvard has been battling the New Urbanists for two decades on the grounds that traditional urban design is insufficiently avant-garde, intellectually unadventurous, politically retrograde, technologically naive, lacking in sex appeal, square. Harvard’s Graduate School of Design is now pushing a dubious new practice they call “Landscape Urbanism.” Don’t be fooled. So-called Landscape Urbanism incorporates lots of high-tech “magic” infrastructure for directing water flows and requires massive, costly, complex site interventions. It’s explicitly against density and vehemently pro-automobile. It’s just super-high-tech suburbia in the guise of environmentally avant-garde high art. Naturally it comes with heaps of opaque theory, designed to mystify and impress the nonelect.

But the USA doesn’t need more architectural fashion statements, moral status posturing, or art stunts. It needs places to live that are worth caring about and compatible with the capital and material resources that we can expect to retain going forward, which are liable to be scarcer than what we’re accustomed to.

I don’t think there’s any question that we have to return to traditional ways of occupying the landscape: walkable cities, towns, and villages, located on waterways and, if we are fortunate, connected by rail lines. These urban places will exist on a much smaller scale than what is familiar to us now, built on a much finer grain. They will have to be connected to farming and food-growing places. A return to human scale will surely lead to a restored regard for artistry in building, since the streetscape will be experienced at walking speed.

The requirements for this will be pretty straightforward. It doesn’t call for “critical theory,” as the grad schools refer to metaphysical thinking these days, but rather practical skill and common sense. The mandates of reality are telling us very clearly that the age of fossil fuel magic is drawing to a close, with huge implications for how we occupy the landscape. It also implies a timeout for the kind of rapid technological change that has come to seem normal for us. This necessary timeout is probably the only thing that will prevent us from destroying the planet we call home. We’re suffering profoundly from too much magic.

The infatuation with technomagic in our visions of the future city has paradoxically produced places with no magic, no power to enchant the human spirit. The city of slick glass skyscrapers may inspire a certain crude awe, as anything gigantic might. But go to the tower districts of Houston, Minneapolis, Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, and I guarantee you will not find anything like enchantment. What you’ll find is sterility, a vacuum, a fiasco of unintended consequences. It turns out that the human spirit needs texture, not sleekness in its dwelling place, and it needs things human-sized to feel truly human, and despite all the striving to escape that, it is exactly what we’re going to get.

Front Page

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Today’s article is an interview of synergic scientist Stuart Kauffman. It was originally posted at on November 19th of 2008. Kauffman agues that we should see the ceaseless creativity of nature as sacred.

God Enough

Interview of Stuart Kauffman by Steve Paulson

Biologist Stuart Kauffman has plenty of experience tilting at windmills. For years he’s questioned the Darwinian orthodoxy that natural selection is the sole principle of evolutionary biology. As he put it in his first book, “The Origins of Order,” “It is not that Darwin is wrong but that he got hold of only part of the truth.” In Kauffman’s view, there is another biological principle at work — what he calls “self-organization” — that “co-mingles” with natural selection in the evolutionary process.

A physician by training, Kaufmann is a widely admired biologist; in 1987, he was a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award. He’s also one of the gurus of complexity theory, and for years was a fixture at the Santa Fe Institute, the renowned scientific research community. A few years ago, he moved to the University of Calgary to set up the Biocomplexity and Informatics Institute.

If this sounds heady, it is. And getting Kauffman to explain his theory of self-organization, “thermodynamic work cycles” and “autocatalysis” to a non-scientist is challenging. But Kauffman is at heart a philosopher who ranges over vast fields of inquiry, from the origins of life to the philosophy of mind. He’s a visionary thinker who’s not afraid to play with big ideas.

In his recent book, “Reinventing the Sacred,” Kauffman has launched an even more audacious project. He seeks to formulate a new scientific worldview and, in the process, reclaim God for nonbelievers. Kauffman argues that our modern scientific paradigm — reductionism — breaks down once we try to explain biology and human culture. And this has left us flailing in a sea of meaninglessness. So how do we steer clear of this empty void? By embracing the “ceaseless creativity” of nature itself, which in Kauffman’s view is the real meaning of God. It’s God without any supernatural tricks.

Kauffman is now approaching 70, and his advancing age may partly account for the urgency he seems to feel in grappling with life’s ultimate questions. When I spoke with him, I found him in an expansive mood as we ranged over a host of big ideas, from the prospects of creating life in a test tube to the need for a sacred science.

You’ve suggested we need a new scientific worldview that goes beyond reductionism and incorporates a religious sensibility. Why?

The first thing to say is that the current scientific paradigm has done extraordinarily good work for at least 350 years. The reigning paradigm of reductionism takes a little bit of explaining.

It goes back to the Greeks in the 1st century A.D., and then it explodes at the time of Newton, who had three laws of motion and a law of universal gravitation. With Newton comes the idea of a deterministic universe. In fact, he took himself to be doing the work of God. The theistic god who reached into the universe and changed its course gave way during the Enlightenment to a deistic god, who wound up the universe at the beginning and let Newton’s laws take over. It was the clockwork universe.

So the idea is that if you understand the laws of the universe, you can plug in all the variables and predict what the outcomes will be.

Exactly. It finds its clearest explanation in the French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace, at the time of Napoleon, who said if you knew the masses and velocities of all the particles in the universe, then you could compute the entire future and past of the universe. As the Nobel laureate physicist Steven Weinberg says, once all the science is completed, all the explanatory arrows will point downward from societies to people to organs to cells to biochemistry to chemistry to physics.

And if you can explain the laws of physics, Weinberg thinks you can explain everything else.

Right. He also says we live in a meaningless universe. Those are the fruits of standard reductionism. And the majority of scientists remain reductionists. It’s comforting in that the entire universe is seen to be lawful; we can understand everything, from societies to quarks. Yet a number of physicists, including Nobel laureates Philip Anderson and Robert Laughlin, feel that reductionism is not adequate to understand the real world. In its place, they talk about “emergence.” I think they’re right.

Can you explain what emergence is?

There are things that we just can’t deduce from particle physics — life, agency, meaning, value and this thing called consciousness. The fact is that we can act on our own behalf and make choices. So agency is real. With agency comes value. Dinner is either good or bad. There’s consciousness in the universe. We may not be able to explain it, but it’s true. So the first new strand in the scientific worldview is emergence.

And that new scientific view has no room for reductionism?

Right. In physics, and in the meaningless universe of Steven Weinberg, there are only happenings. Balls roll down hills but they don’t do anything. “Doing” does not exist in physics. Physics cannot talk about values because you have to have agency to have values. So let’s talk about agency for a moment.

You and I are having an interview right now. We’re acting on our own behalf and we’re changing the world as we do so. The physicist Philip Anderson has a charming way of putting it. He says if you doubt agency, just look at the anguished expression on your dog’s face when you say, “Come.” When I used to call my sweet dog, who died recently, he would give me a sidelong glance. I think he was thinking, “Well, I’ve got more time here.” Finally, I’d say, “Come, Windsor!” And he’d come.

I don’t doubt agency in my dog Windsor. And once you’ve got agency — and I think it’s sitting there at the origin of life — then you’ve got food or poison, which I call “yuck” and “yum.” And once you’ve got food or poison, it is either good or bad for that organism. So you’ve got value in the universe.

Are you rejecting Weinberg’s famous comment? “The more we comprehend the universe, the more pointless it seems.”

I profoundly believe that Weinberg is wrong. I also happen to think that Weinberg is utterly brilliant. He’s one of the best defenders of the pure reductionist stance. But once you’ve got agency, you’ve got meaning. This is the beginning of a change in our scientific worldview. Agency is real, so meaning is real in the universe. Value is real, at least in the biosphere. And these things can’t be talked about by physicists.

So the reductionist model breaks down when we’re talking about how life evolves.

Absolutely. This idea is frightening at first, but then utterly liberating. For 3.8 billion years, the biosphere has been expanding from the origin of life into what I call “the adjacent possible.” Once we’re at levels of complexity above the atom, the universe is on a unique trajectory. It’s doing something that it’s never done before.

To take one example, I argue that the evolutionary emergence of the human heart cannot be deduced from physics. That doesn’t mean it breaks any laws of physics. But there’s no way of getting from physics to the emergence of hearts in the evolution of the biosphere. If you were to ask Darwin, what’s the function of the heart? he would have said it’s to pump blood. That’s what Darwin meant by adaptation. But there may be other causal consequences of the heart, or any other part of you, that are of no functional significance in the current environment, but may become useful in a different environment.

Isn’t this called a Darwinian pre-adaptation?

Yes. And when a pre-adaptation happens, a new function comes to exist in the biosphere and can change the history of the planet. We just don’t know ahead of time what the relevant selective environments are. This is just stunning when you think about it. We cannot say how the biosphere will evolve.

The same is true for our technologies, our economy, our culture. We didn’t have the faintest idea what would happen with the invention of writing or the invention of tractors. These were Darwinian pre-adaptations at the technological level. This is the creativity of the universe that we’re participating in right now. We literally don’t have the faintest idea what the biosphere is going to invent in the next million years, or what technology is going to invent in the next 40 years. Who foresaw the Web 50 years ago?

It seems that one of your big goals is to explain the origin of life. You have devoted much of your career to trying to work out a science of self-organization. Can you explain this?

It’s harder than you think. I wrote a whole book, “The Origins of Order,” and I very carefully never defined self-organization. My own life work asks if there might be laws of self-organization that are sources of order in biology quite apart from natural selection. For most biologists, the only source of order is natural selection. But we don’t need DNA or RNA to get molecular reproduction. People have already made self-reproducing systems. Reza Ghadiri at the Scripps Research Institute took a string of amino acids and used it to replicate itself.

But the second part has to do with self-organization. I worked out a mathematical theory, which says if we have a large enough diversity of molecules and chemical reactions, so many reactions will be catalyzed that you’ll get some form of collective autocatalysis popping out of the soup. The mathematics has been proved, but it still needs to be shown experimentally. For years, I’ve been probing laws of self-organization that co-mingle with natural selection, and give rise to the order we see. And we’re not very far, experimentally, from creating life all on our own.

One of the great mysteries of science is consciousness. Virtually all scientists assume the mind is formed by neural circuits in the brain, while religious traditions typically see a direct connection between the human mind and God. Do you accept either of those views?

Nobody has the faintest idea what consciousness is. In the Western tradition, St. Augustine said the human mind is directly connected to the mind of God. The dualism of Descartes distinguished between mental substances and physical substances. Now, contemporary neurobiologists and computer scientists believe that if you have a sufficiently complex computing system — like neurons or logical gates in a computer — then it would become conscious.

But I’ll tell you my own bias. I think it’s possible the mind is associated with quantum mechanics. Now, a good physicist will say, “That’s just nonsense. Quantum behavior will disappear in 10 to the minus 15th second, so it can’t happen.” Well, there are recent theorems in quantum computing that say that’s not necessarily so. The question is, Can you get sustained quantum coherent behavior at body temperature in something like neurons? Nobody knows.

Are you saying there’s no way that computer scientists in the future will be able to reproduce the human brain? That computers will not be able to create consciousness?

Roger Penrose wrote a book called “The Emperor’s New Mind.” He looked at this argument for artificial intelligence, and he said it’s just bunk. I think he’s right. I’ve fallen in love with the idea that consciousness has something to do with being poised forever between the quantum world of possibilities, where nothing actual happens, and the transformation of that — whether it’s the collapse of the wave function or decoherence, where something actual happens in the world.

If this is related to consciousness, it provides an intellectual framework in which we can understand the mind acting on matter. Quantum mechanics is astonishing because it’s not causal. It just happens. Maybe the mind is acausal. Maybe the mind is non-algorithmic. I don’t want you to take this very seriously. It’s just Stu Kauffman getting old and thinking weird things. But it may be true. And even if my arguments are right, it still doesn’t tell us what consciousness is. I don’t have any idea. Nor does anybody else, including the philosophers of mind.

You call yourself a secular humanist. But you also say we need to reinvent the sacred. What do you mean by that?

Once one gets beyond reductionism, it leads to a radically new scientific worldview, which changes our place in the universe as human beings. We are not meaningless chunks of particles spinning around in space. We are organisms with meaning in our lives, and the way the biosphere will evolve is ceaselessly creative. The way the economy evolves is ceaselessly creative in ways that cannot be predicted ahead of time. That’s why five-year plans don’t work. The same thing for human culture.

OK, we can’t predict what’s going to happen. But I’m still trying to figure out why you invoke religious language. Why do we need a new understanding of God and the sacred?

First of all, because of global communications and commerce, a global civilization of some kind is emerging. But there’s also a natural retreat by some people into religious fundamentalism, and people are killing each other. So I think a shared sacred space across all of our traditions will lead us to coalesce around a sense of what is sacred; for example, all life on the planet and the planet itself. I hope we can find our way to a global ethic, beyond just the love of family, a sense of fairness, and a belief in democracy and free markets.

Historically, God has had a very specific meaning, particularly in the Western tradition. It refers to an all-powerful, transcendent reality. Can you take such a loaded word and give it a new meaning?

Maybe. I have a very explicit reason for wanting to use the word “God.” It’s the most powerful symbol humanity has created. We have been worshiping God or gods at least since the sacred earth mother 10,000 years ago in Europe. In the Abrahamic tradition, our sense of God has evolved. For example, the Israelites, 4,500 years ago, had Yahweh, who was a ferocious warrior, a law-giving God. That’s a very different god than the one that Jesus spoke of, a God of love. So our sense of God just in the Abrahamic tradition has evolved.

The question is whether we choose to take our most powerful, invented symbol and use it in a new way to mean the creativity in nature itself. Is it more astonishing to believe in a God who created everything that has come to exist — planets, galaxies, chemistry, life and consciousness — in six days? Or is it even more astonishing and awesome to believe what is almost certainly the truth: namely, that all of this came to be all on its own? I think the second.

Most scientists talk about the origins of the world strictly through naturalistic means. Why are you so determined to invoke “God”?

“God” carries with it a sense of awe, reverence and wonder that no other symbol carries. It’s a choice. Can we give up the creator God — the all-powerful, omnipotent, all-loving God who confronts us with the problem of evil — and instead find reverence for a ceaseless creativity in the unfolding of nature? I think we can.

I also feel parts of the religious person’s sense of awe. I sense the solace that prayer to a transcendent God brings. But I don’t believe in a transcendent God. I do believe in this new scientific worldview.

Forget the “God” word for a second and just try to feel yourself as a co-creating member of the universe. It changes your stance from the secular humanist lack of spirituality to a sense of awed wonder that all of this has come about. For example, I was sitting on my patio and started thinking about the trees around me. I thought I’m one with all of life. If I’m going to cut down a tree, I better have a good reason. It’s not just an object. It’s alive. Then I thought about the river I’m sitting next to. I can dam the river if I want to. But I’m going to change the ecosystem downstream from it and change the planet.

So even without talking about God, this new scientific worldview brings with it a sense of membership with all of life and a responsibility for the planet that’s largely missing in our secular world. In a materialist society, being spiritual is — if not frowned upon — what you do in the privacy of your own mind because there’s something flaky about it for those of us who don’t believe in God.

It sounds like your God is equivalent to nature.

I’m saying God is the sacredness of nature. And you can go a step beyond that. You can say that God is nature. That’s the God of Spinoza. That’s the God that Einstein believed in. But their view of the universe was deterministic. The new view is that evolution of the universe is partially lawless and ceaselessly creative. We are the children of that creativity. One either does or does not take the step of saying God is the creativity of the universe. I do. Or you say there is divinity in the creativity in the universe. If we can’t transform our secular humanist, consumerist worldview into one in which we have this sense of responsibility, awe and wonder for the planet and all life, then we can’t invent a global ethic. Yet we need it to create a transnational, mythic structure to sustain the global civilization that’s emerging.

You are Jewish, but you’ve said you can’t accept the God of Abraham. Have there been occasions in your life when you wish you could?

Sure. I don’t believe in God, but I seem to thank Him a lot. It’s not logical but it feels right. Of course, Jews don’t believe in Heaven and Hell. I’m almost 70 and have lived a lot more than half my life. Death is frightening. It would be wonderful to be able to believe in a heaven so that when I die, I could see my daughter who was killed 20 years ago. I wish I could, but I don’t. I think when I die, I die. But it would be nice to believe the other.

Your daughter Merit’s death must have been a wrenching experience. Did that pull you in a religious direction?

In one sense. There’s an ancient Aramaic prayer that’s perhaps 5,000 years old. It’s the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. When Merit died, it mattered enormously to me as a non-observant Jew, but a member of the Jewish community, that the Kaddish be said for my daughter.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that Neanderthals buried their dead. They aren’t even in the direct lineage of Homo sapiens. Why did they bury their dead? The need to reach out in these spiritual directions is antique in us. You can see it in the struggle that’s going on right now among religious fundamentalists. Fundamentalist Islam is appalled at the materialism and secularism of the West. Some kind of awakening to the spiritual part of being human seems to me just essential. And this goes beyond where science can go.

You don’t accept traditional beliefs about God. But are you carving out a different space from atheists, especially the scientists who are atheists?

I absolutely am. Take Richard Dawkins‘ book “The God Delusion.” It’s a very good book. And I know Richard, and he lays out the atheist case well. It appeals to the billion or so of us who do not believe in a supernatural God, and who’ve hidden in the corners, particularly in the United States, where religion is so widely adhered to. But it will do no good whatsoever in bridging the gap between those who do believe in some form of God and the secular humanists like Dawkins and myself who do not. We need something else.

Well, Dawkins does not want to bridge that gap. He wants to convince those religious believers that they’re wrong.

Absolutely. But I think Richard is wrong. Not that there’s a supernatural god. I think that there’s something else. I think the creativity in nature is so stunning and so overwhelming that it’s God enough for me, and I think it’s God enough for many of us if we think about it. You see, Richard’s view, and those of the new atheists, is simply not going to reach out and persuade those who hold to the standard Abrahamic religious views to consider something else. Whereas I hope what I’m saying may help create a new kind of sacred space.

Copyright ©2011 Salon Media Group, Inc.

Front Page

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

From the 2007 SynEARTH Archives. Reposted from The Edge. [First published in The New Republic, 3.19.07.]

A History of Violence

Steven Pinker

In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, “[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized.” Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world. This change in sensibilities is just one example of perhaps the most important and most underappreciated trend in the human saga: Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth.In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. Yet recent studies that seek to quantify the historical ebb and flow of violence point to exactly that conclusion.

Some of the evidence has been under our nose all along. Conventional history has long shown that, in many ways, we have been getting kinder and gentler. Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution—all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.

At one time, these facts were widely appreciated. They were the source of notions like progress, civilization, and man’s rise from savagery and barbarism. Recently, however, those ideas have come to sound corny, even dangerous. They seem to demonize people in other times and places, license colonial conquest and other foreign adventures, and conceal the crimes of our own societies. The doctrine of the noble savage—the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like JosÈ Ortega y Gasset (“War is not an instinct but an invention”), Stephen Jay Gould (“Homo sapiens is not an evil or destructive species”), and Ashley Montagu (“Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood”). But, now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler.

To be sure, any attempt to document changes in violence must be soaked in uncertainty. In much of the world, the distant past was a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it, and, even for events in the historical record, statistics are spotty until recent periods. Long-term trends can be discerned only by smoothing out zigzags and spikes of horrific bloodletting. And the choice to focus on relative rather than absolute numbers brings up the moral imponderable of whether it is worse for 50 percent of a population of 100 to be killed or 1 percent in a population of one billion.

Yet, despite these caveats, a picture is taking shape. The decline of violence is a fractal phenomenon, visible at the scale of millennia, centuries, decades, and years. It applies over several orders of magnitude of violence, from genocide to war to rioting to homicide to the treatment of children and animals. And it appears to be a worldwide trend, though not a homogeneous one. The leading edge has been in Western societies, especially England and Holland, and there seems to have been a tipping point at the onset of the Age of Reason in the early seventeenth century.

At the widest-angle view, one can see a whopping difference across the millennia that separate us from our pre-state ancestors. Contra leftist anthropologists who celebrate the noble savage, quantitative body-counts—such as the proportion of prehistoric skeletons with axemarks and embedded arrowheads or the proportion of men in a contemporary foraging tribe who die at the hands of other men—suggest that pre-state societies were far more violent than our own. It is true that raids and battles killed a tiny percentage of the numbers that die in modern warfare. But, in tribal violence, the clashes are more frequent, the percentage of men in the population who fight is greater, and the rates of death per battle are higher. According to anthropologists like Lawrence Keeley, Stephen LeBlanc, Phillip Walker, and Bruce Knauft, these factors combine to yield population-wide rates of death in tribal warfare that dwarf those of modern times. If the wars of the twentieth century had killed the same proportion of the population that die in the wars of a typical tribal society, there would have been two billion deaths, not 100 million.

Political correctness from the other end of the ideological spectrum has also distorted many people’s conception of violence in early civilizations—namely, those featured in the Bible. This supposed source of moral values contains many celebrations of genocide, in which the Hebrews, egged on by God, slaughter every last resident of an invaded city. The Bible also prescribes death by stoning as the penalty for a long list of nonviolent infractions, including idolatry, blasphemy, homosexuality, adultery, disrespecting one’s parents, and picking up sticks on the Sabbath. The Hebrews, of course, were no more murderous than other tribes; one also finds frequent boasts of torture and genocide in the early histories of the Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Chinese.

At the century scale, it is hard to find quantitative studies of deaths in warfare spanning medieval and modern times. Several historians have suggested that there has been an increase in the number of recorded wars across the centuries to the present, but, as political scientist James Payne has noted, this may show only that “the Associated Press is a more comprehensive source of information about battles around the world than were sixteenth-century monks.” Social histories of the West provide evidence of numerous barbaric practices that became obsolete in the last five centuries, such as slavery, amputation, blinding, branding, flaying, disembowelment, burning at the stake, breaking on the wheel, and so on. Meanwhile, for another kind of violence—homicide—the data are abundant and striking. The criminologist Manuel Eisner has assembled hundreds of homicide estimates from Western European localities that kept records at some point between 1200 and the mid-1990s. In every country he analyzed, murder rates declined steeply—for example, from 24 homicides per 100,000 Englishmen in the fourteenth century to 0.6 per 100,000 by the early 1960s.

On the scale of decades, comprehensive data again paint a shockingly happy picture: Global violence has fallen steadily since the middle of the twentieth century. According to the Human Security Brief 2006, the number of battle deaths in interstate wars has declined from more than 65,000 per year in the 1950s to less than 2,000 per year in this decade. In Western Europe and the Americas, the second half of the century saw a steep decline in the number of wars, military coups, and deadly ethnic riots.

Zooming in by a further power of ten exposes yet another reduction. After the cold war, every part of the world saw a steep drop-off in state-based conflicts, and those that do occur are more likely to end in negotiated settlements rather than being fought to the bitter end. Meanwhile, according to political scientist Barbara Harff, between 1989 and 2005 the number of campaigns of mass killing of civilians decreased by 90 percent.

The decline of killing and cruelty poses several challenges to our ability to make sense of the world. To begin with, how could so many people be so wrong about something so important? Partly, it’s because of a cognitive illusion: We estimate the probability of an event from how easy it is to recall examples. Scenes of carnage are more likely to be relayed to our living rooms and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. Partly, it’s an intellectual culture that is loath to admit that there could be anything good about the institutions of civilization and Western society. Partly, it’s the incentive structure of the activism and opinion markets: No one ever attracted followers and donations by announcing that things keep getting better. And part of the explanation lies in the phenomenon itself. The decline of violent behavior has been paralleled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence, and often the attitudes are in the lead. As deplorable as they are, the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the lethal injections of a few murderers in Texas are mild by the standards of atrocities in human history. But, from a contemporary vantage point, we see them as signs of how low our behavior can sink, not of how high our standards have risen.

The other major challenge posed by the decline of violence is how to explain it. A force that pushes in the same direction across many epochs, continents, and scales of social organization mocks our standard tools of causal explanation. The usual suspects—guns, drugs, the press, American culture—aren’t nearly up to the job. Nor could it possibly be explained by evolution in the biologist’s sense: Even if the meek could inherit the earth, natural selection could not favor the genes for meekness quickly enough. In any case, human nature has not changed so much as to have lost its taste for violence. Social psychologists find that at least 80 percent of people have fantasized about killing someone they don’t like. And modern humans still take pleasure in viewing violence, if we are to judge by the popularity of murder mysteries, Shakespearean dramas, Mel Gibson movies, video games, and hockey.

What has changed, of course, is people’s willingness to act on these fantasies. The sociologist Norbert Elias suggested that European modernity accelerated a “civilizing process” marked by increases in self-control, long-term planning, and sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others. These are precisely the functions that today’s cognitive neuroscientists attribute to the prefrontal cortex. But this only raises the question of why humans have increasingly exercised that part of their brains. No one knows why our behavior has come under the control of the better angels of our nature, but there are four plausible suggestions.

The first is that Hobbes got it right. Life in a state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short, not because of a primal thirst for blood but because of the inescapable logic of anarchy. Any beings with a modicum of self-interest may be tempted to invade their neighbors to steal their resources. The resulting fear of attack will tempt the neighbors to strike first in preemptive self-defense, which will in turn tempt the first group to strike against them preemptively, and so on. This danger can be defused by a policy of deterrence—don’t strike first, retaliate if struck—but, to guarantee its credibility, parties must avenge all insults and settle all scores, leading to cycles of bloody vendetta. These tragedies can be averted by a state with a monopoly on violence, because it can inflict disinterested penalties that eliminate the incentives for aggression, thereby defusing anxieties about preemptive attack and obviating the need to maintain a hair-trigger propensity for retaliation. Indeed, Eisner and Elias attribute the decline in European homicide to the transition from knightly warrior societies to the centralized governments of early modernity. And, today, violence continues to fester in zones of anarchy, such as frontier regions, failed states, collapsed empires, and territories contested by mafias, gangs, and other dealers of contraband.

Payne suggests another possibility: that the critical variable in the indulgence of violence is an overarching sense that life is cheap. When pain and early death are everyday features of one’s own life, one feels fewer compunctions about inflicting them on others. As technology and economic efficiency lengthen and improve our lives, we place a higher value on life in general.

A third theory, championed by Robert Wright, invokes the logic of non-zero-sum games: scenarios in which two agents can each come out ahead if they cooperate, such as trading goods, dividing up labor, or sharing the peace dividend that comes from laying down their arms. As people acquire know-how that they can share cheaply with others and develop technologies that allow them to spread their goods and ideas over larger territories at lower cost, their incentive to cooperate steadily increases, because other people become more valuable alive than dead.

Then there is the scenario sketched by philosopher Peter Singer. Evolution, he suggests, bequeathed people a small kernel of empathy, which by default they apply only within a narrow circle of friends and relations. Over the millennia, people’s moral circles have expanded to encompass larger and larger polities: the clan, the tribe, the nation, both sexes, other races, and even animals. The circle may have been pushed outward by expanding networks of reciprocity, ‡ la Wright, but it might also be inflated by the inexorable logic of the golden rule: The more one knows and thinks about other living things, the harder it is to privilege one’s own interests over theirs. The empathy escalator may also be powered by cosmopolitanism, in which journalism, memoir, and realistic fiction make the inner lives of other people, and the contingent nature of one’s own station, more palpable—the feeling that
“there but for fortune go I”.

Whatever its causes, the decline of violence has profound implications. It is not a license for complacency: We enjoy the peace we find today because people in past generations were appalled by the violence in their time and worked to end it, and so we should work to end the appalling violence in our time. Nor is it necessarily grounds for optimism about the immediate future, since the world has never before had national leaders who combine pre-modern sensibilities with modern weapons.

But the phenomenon does force us to rethink our understanding of violence. Man’s inhumanity to man has long been a subject for moralization. With the knowledge that something has driven it dramatically down, we can also treat it as a matter of cause and effect. Instead of asking, “Why is there war?” we might ask, “Why is there peace?” From the likelihood that states will commit genocide to the way that people treat cats, we must have been doing something right. And it would be nice to know what, exactly, it is.

Once again, Steven Pinker returns to debunking the doctrine of the noble savage in the above piece based on his lecture at the recent TED Conference in Monterey, California.

This doctrine, “the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like JosÈ Ortega y Gasset (“War is not an instinct but an invention”), Stephen Jay Gould (“Homo sapiens is not an evil or destructive species”), and Ashley Montagu (“Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood”),” he writes. “But, now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler.”

Pinker’s notable talk, along with his essay, is one more example of how ideas forthcoming from the empirical and biological study of human beings is gaining sway over those of the scientists and others in disciplines that rely on studying social actions and human cultures independent from their biological foundation. —JB

STEVEN PINKER is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His most recent book is The Blank Slate.

Front Page

Monday, August 22nd, 2011


Enlightened CommUnity

Timothy Wilken, MD

As we enter the second year of the second decade of the twenty-first century, our human species is in crisis. Every human knows we are in crisis. The evidence is all around us and fills the stories of our daily lives. Descriptions of this crisis fill the front pages of our newspapers, dominate the television network’s nightly news broadcasts, are the obsession of cable network’s talking heads, and provide the focus for countless blogs on the web. Our current human behavior, and our current methods of organizing ourselves are helpless in solving our problems. Our old ways of behaving and our old ways of organizing our communities are proving to be obsolete. They cannot solve our problems; in fact, they are the very cause of most of our problems. If we are to surmount our human crisis, we will need to change our behavior, and change the way we organize our communities.

Today, our problems are so difficult that they are overwhelming our individual abilities to solve them. We are rapidly entering into a state of what I call individual overwhelm. It is becoming increasingly difficult for modern humans to solve their problems as separate individuals. But what is difficult for individuals working separately is often much easier for individuals working together. Instead of asking, “How can I meet my needs and solve my problems,” we must learn to ask, “How can we meet our needs and solve our problems?”

I am a synergic scientist. The word synergy derives from two Greek roots: erg meaning “to work,” and syn meaning “together;” hence, the term synergy simply means working together. Synergic science is simply the study of working together. It is a relatively new science, but it has produced a powerful new understanding of human behavior and of human organization. Synergic science reveals a relatively simple solution to our human crisis. That solution requires that we work together and act responsibly.

The human behavior that best supports acting responsibly is called Enlightenment. The natural attributes of enlightened humans — kindness, compassion, calmness, peace, tranquility, intelligence, genius, wisdom, and goodness — insure responsible action. Enlightenment changes individual human behavior.

The organizational pattern that best supports working together is called CommUnity. When individuals form a CommUnity, they discover that they can accomplish much more by working together than they can by working separately. CommUnity utilizes synergic union. Examples of synergic union include operating together as in co-operation, laboring together as in co-laboration, acting together as in co-action, creating together as in co-creation, and thinking together as in co-intelligence. These examples of synergic union require shared motivations, shared emotions, shared intelligence and shared knowing. CommUnity must be structured so that the process of working together fosters shared values, shared goals, shared dreams, shared hopes, shared responsibility, shared commitment, and of most importance, shared authority. CommUnity changes collective human behavior. To solve today’s problems and exit our current human crisis will require nothing less than the creation of Enlightened CommUnities.

Read a 70 page overview and summary of the concept of Enlightened CommUnity on PDF.

A Prototype of Enlightened CommUnity

I am currently exploring the possibility of creating an Enlightened CommUnity in the Monterey Peninsula in California. The following overview served as introduction to a meeting that occurred on 04-30-11.

Since synergy means working together,synergic science can be described as “the study of working together.” Synergic science explains that from an individual participant’s point of view, humans can relate to each other in only three ways. These three types of human relationships can be described as falling on a continuum. Dysergic relationships are those that are hurtful and detrimental, neutral relationships are those that are ignoring and neither detrimental nor beneficial, and synergic relationships are those that are helpful and beneficial.

Dysergy means human behavior that results in working against to the detriment of others in a relationship. In the language of games, dysergy results from a losing relationship. I am made less because of my relationship with other. This is any relationship wherein I am less happy, less effective and less productive than I would be without the relationship. Neutrality means human behavior that results in working separately with null effect on others in a relationship, as if, the relationship did not matter or even exist.In the language of games, neutrality results from a drawing relationship. I am unaffected by my relationship with other. This is any relationship wherein I am equally happy, equally effective, and equally productive as I would be without the relationship. Synergy means human behavior that results in working together to the benefit of the ‘whole’—to the benefit of all the participants in a relationship. In the language of games, synergy results from a winning relationship. I am made more because of my relationships with the other members of the group. This is any relationship wherein I am more happy, more effective, and more productive than I would be without the relationship.

CommUnity is an intentional and consciously created organization in which all members participating within the organization are in win-win relationships with each other, and with the commUnity as a whole. I win, you win, and commUnity wins.

I propose creating a two tract educational process here on the Monterey Peninsula. One tract will focus on helping our neighbors become more enlightened. The second tract will focus on teaching those interested the principles of commUnity. These two tracts will support the mission of creating a real Enlightened CommUnity right here in the Monterey Peninsula.

To solve today’s problems and exit our current human crisis will require nothing less than the creation of Enlightened CommUnities. … Let us begin.

Listen to the 04-30-11 recording of the First Meeting of Monterery Enlightened CommUnity in MP3 or m4a format.

Front Page

Monday, August 1st, 2011

As we flounder with our current debt crisis and approach the 2012 election, have  you ever wondered if there wasn’t a better way? … Reposted from 2002 SynEARTH Archives.

Beyond Democracy

Timothy Wilken, MD

In today’s world, it is assumed without question that majority rule democracy is the best way to organize humanity. To even offer a criticism of majority rule democracy is to invite an immediate and often emotionally charged attack on oneself. We are quickly asked to choose between majority rule democracy or the dictatorships of communism/fascism. We are quickly reminded that if we don’t like it here in a majority ruled democracy, we are free to leave.

And, majority rule democracy which is rule by the most, appears to offer a clear advance over dictatorships which is rule by the one, or oligarchy which is rule by the few.

Majority rule democracy in its purest form was found in the ancient Greek city-states and early Roman Republic, these were direct democracies in which all citizens could speak and vote in assemblies. This was possible because of the small size of the city-states almost never more than 10,000 citizens. However, even these ancient democracies did not presuppose equality of all individuals; the majority of the populace, notably slaves and women, had no political rights at all. So even here the majority really did not rule.

In modern representative democracies we find the majority rule mechanism used to select our representatives, to make decisions within committees and to make decisions within the legislative bodies. In the United States, we elect one president, 100 Senators and 435 Congressman. This is one President for ~276 million Americans. There are two Senators for each state. Senatorial representation would vary from one Senator for ~16 million Californians down to one Senator for ~350,000 Delawarians. The members of the first House of Representatives were elected on the basis of 1 representative for every 30,000 inhabitants, but at least 1 for each state. At present the size of the House is fixed at 435 members, elected on the basis of 1 representative for about 500,000 inhabitants.

Our representatives do not even know us. If any Congressman met with 10 of his constituents every day for 365 days a year, it would take over 137 years for him just to meet all of them. And Congressmen are only elected for two year terms. If our Congressman don’t even know us how can they represent us?

So if we carefully examine modern representative democracy scientifically, we discover it is an oliarchy. In other words, we are ruled by the few. When we go to the poles to elect a President, we are simply electing the leader of the few who rule. Majority rule democracy ends for we the people the moment we exit the voting booth. And, our elected leader will have no need of our opinion for four years.

Its even less representative than it appears!

Both houses of Congress facilitate business by the committee system, and each has a fixed number of permanent committees, called standing committees, the chief function of which is considering and preparing legislation.

As the United States grew in population and in influence in world affairs, the volume and complexity of the matters arising in Congress also increased. Due consideration to all matters submitted to the Congress could not be given in open debate on the floor of the Senate and House. As a result, the standing committees of the Congress became the arbiters of the fate of practically all legislation. There are 22 standing committees in the House and 16 standing committees in the Senate. Even though majority rule is used to make decisions in these committees once the decision is made the results are imposed on ~276,000,000 Americans.

In recent years, the American people have attempted to exert their will by making use of ballot initiatives. Almost always if these initiatives are not popular with the few that rule, they are quickly dismantled. In November of 1996, the majority of Californians voted for Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action, Proposition 215, which legalized medical use of marijuana, and Proposition 187, which denied legal benefits to illegal immigrants. By January of 1997, all three were hung up in the courts or in a jurisdictional squabble with the federal government. None was close to being enforced.

By May of 1998, Proposition 215, the Marijuana for Medical Use Initiative which passed by a 56% majority throughout the state and by an 80% majority in San Francisco has all but been dismantled by the Few who Rule. They had succeeded in closing the majority of the medical marijuana clinics which had opened throughout the state, and were pressing criminal charges against many of those involved in the clinics. Obviously, the majority does not rule in California.

This fact is being increasingly realized by citizens across the nation. Voting in our representative democracy does not make a difference.  And we the people appear less and less interested in pretending that our voting has any effect whatever. Voter turnout has been declining steadily since 1960. And as reported  in the Wall Street Journal for November 9, 2000:

“Overall voter turnout for this week’s election barely budged despite nearly $1 billion of campaign television advertisements and the closest presidential contest in decades

“About 50.7% of the nation’s 200 million eligible voters cast ballots this week, marginally greater than the rock-bottom level seen in 1996, but significantly lower than the 1992 level, said Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. Four years ago, only 49% of those qualified to vote actually did so, the lowest turnout since 1924. By contrast, some 55% of the electorate went to the polls in 1992′s close race between Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush.”


Seeking synergic government

However, even if we had direct democracies using majority rule, it would not be a synergic form of government.

Adversary relationships require loss.

Neutral relationships prohibit loss, but do not require winning.

Synergic relationships prohibit loss and require winning.

So in fact, if we use the Neutral criteria of prohibition of loss, majority rule democracy is not even a neutral form of government. In majority rule democracy, the minority often loses. As Andrew J. Galambos wrote:

“The word Democracy comes from the Greek words which mean “rule of the people.” However, the practice of Democracy can be no better than the understanding of the concept of “rule of the people.”Over the past 2,000 years, most people have come to accept without question or reservation the idea that Democracy means the ability of the people to choose their mode of social organization by means of majority vote.

“The political concept of Democracy arose as a consequence of counting yeas and nays on particular issues and than selecting the men who would decide how issues were to be resolved. Whichever man could muster the choice of more persons than his opposition could muster became the dominant person for the society. This was and is nothing more than an application of the old dictum, might makes right.

“This concept of Democracy (which prevails to this day) relies upon the ability of the winning political leaders to count upon the support of more people than their losing opponents. However, this concept does nothing to ensure the protection of the property, hence, the freedom of those who may disagree. Furthermore, those who may be in the majority with respect to a given issue or political candidate will eventually find themselves in the minority with respect to other issues or candidates. In the long run, therefore, everyone loses. This concept of Democracy eventually breaks down and leads to a destruction of freedom.”

Source: Andrew J.Galambos, What is True Democracy,  Free Enterprise Institute, 1963

In today’s “FREE” world all political decisions are made using majority rule democracy. The the group deciding may be small, a committee faced with solving some particular problem, or large, the entire voting electorate of a nation choosing a President. Regardless of the size of the group deciding, decision is made when one faction within the group achieves a simple majority. That faction wins, the minority faction loses. Majority rule consensus requires only a simple majority to force the minority, the losing voters to accept the position of the majority, the winning voters. There is no need to gain the agreement of all of the members. There is no need to prevent the minority from losing.

Majority rule democracy of which the committee is the most common example is filled with political intrigue and back room deals to obtain majority consensus and defeat the minority. This often results in the dark art of politics which makes strange bedfellows. Even when the majority wins they are not assured of the cooperation of the minority. Often the minority may only support the elected plan half-heartedly, or even seek to sabotage the plan they didn’t vote for since they feel they are losing anyway.

Compared to the rule by the one of dictatorship,  the rule by the most of majority rule democracy, appears to be a much fairer way. And fairness is perhaps the greatest value of our American nation.  However, it should now be clear to the reader that while Neutral political-economic systems are better for humanity than Adversary political-economic systems. Majority rule democracy is really an Adversary political-economic system pretending to be a Neutral political-economic system. In reality only lip service is given to rule by the most.

What we really have in America, the “freest nation on Earth”, is rule by the few. And, while rule by the few holds some advantage over rule by the one, its advantage does not imply there is nothing better for Humanity.

If we are to find a synergic form of organization for humanity, we will have to look beyond the representative democracies of today.

Read the Synergic Future Series: 1) Beyond Property 2) Redefining Wealth 3) Synergic Wealth 4) Synergic Wealth II: Deepening Our Understanding 5) Trustegrities — Protecting the Future and 6) Synergic Guardians — Protecting the Future.

Front Page

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

On May 04, 2011, I reposted the Discovery in North Carolina of the Organizational Tensegrity article from the SynEARTH Archives. Today, I feature the followup in that original series. …

Upon returning to California from my meeting with Dr. Coulter, I had a new focus. I knew a lot about Capitalism most of which I had learned as a student of Andrew J. Galambos. I was very clear about hierarchy. But I was a novice when it came to heterarchy. I immediately set out to find out as much about heterarchy as I could. In the early 1980’s, the best business organizations in the world were to be found in Japan. And, I soon discovered the secret of their success was their mastery of heterarchy.

HETERARCHY: The Secret of Japan, Inc.

Timothy Wilken, MD

In 1983, the major success of Japan, Inc. was serving to focus international attention on their ways of doing business. The Japanese were employing organizing strategies that produced the highest productivity and quality of work-life in the industrial world.

Their success appeared to threaten the viability of many American corporations. This threat was leading to the careful examination of the Japanese way by numerous individuals.

Their findings revealed the major focus of the Japanese was long-term and wholistic. This was in striking contrast to most American corporations where the focus was short-term and particulate.

As the world’s business corporations sought to compete and survive in the late 70s and early 80s, they sought the most powerful organizing strategies available. Who would be right — the Japanese, or the Americans?

Should businesses have wholistic concerns or particulate concerns? Did the recent major success of the Japanese prove they had the right system?

What about innovation, creativity, and originality? How do they fare under the Japanese way? Many American business leaders were forced to decide without really being able to predict the effect of their decisions.

William Ouchi is best known for his work, Theory Z, which was published in 1981 when American businesses were still scratching their collective heads in trying to understand the Japanese advantage. Dr. Ouchi pointed out that advantage, which was revealed to be a Japanese commitment to democratic leadership that resulted in increased quality, increased productivity and decreased costs while making workers at all levels full partners in business.  He contrasted the American and the Japanese ways in the following chart.




Wholistic Concern Particulate Concern
Collective Decision Making Individual Decision Making
Collective Responsibility Individual Responsibility
Implicit Control Mechanisms Explicit Control Mechanisms
Lifetime Employment Short-term Employment
Non-Specialized Career Paths Specialized Career Paths
Slow Evaluation & Promotion Rapid Evaluation & Promotion


Economic Survival

And how long could American businesses afford to wait before deciding? Ouchi said, “it takes a minimum of two years to convert to a type z company, and some companies might require four or six years to see effects.”

The success of the Japanese could be explained by synergic system analysis. As I examined the two ways from the point of view of synergy science, I discovered the American way was dominated by hierarchy, while the Japanese way was heavily influenced by the heterarchy.

Other-Directed Management

Nearly all of America’s businesses employed other-directed management. Other-directed management is when “A” tells “B” what to do, and often how to do it as well.

Recall that hierarchy is a vertical system with many levels of organization. Those with greatest responsibility and authority occupy the higher levels. Hierarchy creates a feeling of difference or individuality. Individuals within the system see each other vertically, “He is over me.” “I work under John.” “He is way up in the company” “She is the lowest one on the totem pole.” All too often individuals within a hierarchy experience feelings of inferiority. This is not surprising in a system based on superior  and inferior levels. In humans, feelings of inferiority produce hostility. In the jungle, being inferior was often synonymous with death.

This adversary reality was also experienced in the cave, and the tribe, and the feudal state , and is experienced in nearly all the corporations, institutions, governments, and militaries of earth.

Recent mind-brain science reveals that hostility produces a ‘down shift’ within the human mind to a very primitive mode of thinking — the SURVIVE MODE. This “mode of thinking” originated in the jungle, and is the master of fighting and fleeing.

Since the inception of hierarchy its constant companion has always been conflict. This now seems to be its primary limitation. One significant contributor to conflict is other-directed management.

Some corporations are seeking to move away from other-directed management through use of “delegation of responsibility”. Here, managers are still told what to do, but not how to do it. They have more freedom to self-direct. But even within systems with “delegation of responsibility”, the price of failure is usually termination or at the very least stagnation of ones career. This produces fear of failure with resultant conflict.

Conflict — Preparing to Fight or Flight

The SURVIVE MODE of the human mind is the real “king” of the jungle. We humans are clearly the dominate form of life on this planet. We have successfully fought and fled  our way from the African savannah to the top of the modern corporate board room.

The survive mode is quite effective for physical conflict, with its extremes of rage and terror, but highly ineffective within modern organizations. The survive mode is our most primitive way of thinking. It was for survival emergencies in the jungle. Humans thinking in this mode are highly inefficient and non-productive, they lose access to almost all of what we call “human intelligence”. Any conflict can produce hostility within a human, and hostility always shifts humans into the survive mode.

Synergy science has identified conflict as the major obstacle to efficiency, productivity, and quality of work-life within all organizations. While Hierarchy clearly has some major strengths, its problems with conflict create the greatest of liabilities. If human organizations are to survive into the 21st century, it is crucial that conflict be eliminated.

conflict        :      friction
___________        _________
organizations   :    machinery

Synergic system analysis reveals that the major secret of the Japanese way is the reduction of conflict they have achieved within their organizations.

Synergy Increases Efficiency

Synergic system analysis reveals that efficiency within a system is a direct variable of the type of relationship that exists between the parts that make up the whole system.

In other words, it is how these parts relate with one another that will absolutely determine the success of the whole system.

Recall that adversary relationships are bad for me, bad for you, or bad for both of us. Neutral relationships have no effect on you or me. But synergic relationships are good for you and good for me — WIN-WIN.

The synergic relationship maximizes efficiency. Neutral relationships significantly limit efficiency, and adversary relationships allow no possibility of efficiency.

Synergy science reveals that conflict is an indirect variable of efficiency, productivity, and quality of work-life. Using win-win relationships within organization is like applying grease to machinery.

It is by making win-win relationships that we will form systems in which the sum of the whole system is much more than the sum of the parts. This “much more” results in what Haskell called the cooperator’s reward.

If we humans desire a share of the cooperator’s reward, then, we must learn to create win-win relationships between all the individuals within our organiztions and to reduce conflict where ever we may find it.

Eliminating Conflict

I pause here to mention one apparently different point of view. Recently some business writers have  been singing the praises of conflict. They advise “managers” to learn to creatively manage conflict, rather than to try to eliminate it.

However a closer examination reveals that these business writer’s define “managing conflict” as creating “win-win relationships”. Whereas synergy science defines the creation of “win-win relationships” as “eliminating conflict”. So whether we refer to the creation of “win-win relationships” as “eliminating conflict” or as simply “managing conflic”, we would all agree, it is good to create win-win relationships.

The Japanese clearly have some cultural advantages in creating win-win relationships. First of all, they are a very crowded people with over a hundred million individuals living within a geographic area no larger than a single one of our states. This crowding has produces a strong force toward a cooperative life style, and the Japanese do strongly seek consensus. They also are the only nation to have experienced nuclear war, this resulted in a people deeply committed to the cooperative way.

Some Americans seem to want to explain away the Japanese success by pointing to obscure genetic and cultural differences, as if in so doing they will somehow invalidate the Japanese success. Their success will not be invalidated. The Japanese success results not from obscure genetic and cultural traits, but from simply reducing the conflict within their organizations.

And the most powerful strategy presently known for reducing conflict is heterarchy.

The Japanese Way

The Japanese reduce conflict by using heterarchy in their systems. In many ways, the basic structure of Japanese business appears no less hierarchical than our own. However, the Japanese have introduced heterarchy into their systems in at least three significant forms.

First of all, the Japanese use “quality circles”. Management and workers all sit at the same level in advisory “heterarchies”. This allows the managers to be very aware of the attitudes of those who will be implementing decisions. Conflict can be discovered and eliminated effectively within the heterarchy. All participants of “quality circles” feel they are on a full and equal basis to discuss problems and recommend changes.

Secondly, while much of the Japanese work day is spent in hierarchical organization not unlike Americans, the Japanese business day does not end at 5 pm. The mandatory socializing which occurs every night after work is structured as heterarchy. This provides another opportunity to reduce conflict and many business decisions are made in this social setting.

And thirdly, while hierarchy prevails in terms of organizational responsibility, the Japanese manager adopts a more open heterarchical style. He welcomes his worker’s inputs, and encourages them to participate in the decision making process.

This is a move away from other-directed management towards more self-directed management. This is accompanied by an almost instantaneous decrease in conflict.

If we are to learn anything from the Japanese, it should be that reduction of conflict always produces a significant increase in efficiency, productivity, and quality of work-life.

My study of Japanese business opened my eyes to the power of heterarchy. It is now obvious that all human organizations must master the power of the heterarchy. However, hierarchy is not the villain in this story. For American busnisesses to throw out hierarchy in a rush to embrace the Japanese way could be a worse mistake than to make no change at all. American busnesses are the masters at hierarchy, and here the Japanese can learn something from them.

The discovery of the Organizational Tensegrity reveals that human organizations require a system of organization that transcends both heterarchy and hierarchy.

At one and the same time the Organizational Tensegrity is neither a heterarchy nor a hierarchy, and simultaneously it is both a heterarchy and a hierarchy. There is a third alternative to either heterarchy or hierarchy.

The synergic way produces win-win relationships between all members of the system by transcending both heterarchy and hierarchy. This is the mechanism that allows the Organizational Tensegrity to eliminate all internal conflict.


The Organizational Tensegrity can then be defined as that “complex organizational system that creates a balance of both heterarchy and hierarchy to produce win-win relationships among all members of the system and simultaneously eliminate all internal conflict”.

Synergy science teaches us the both-and point of view. Systems are not wholes. Systems are not parts. Systems are both wholes and parts. A human organization is not just a community, it is not just the individuals within the community. A human organization is both a community and the individuals within that community. We humans are usually misled by our great propensity to “either/or” thinking. This is not a question of “either heterarchy or hierarchy”.

An Organizational Tensegrity is highly flexible being able to move between heterarchy and hierarchy easily and frequently. This ability of the organizational tensegrity, to instantly shift between these two strategies, allows it to gain the strengths of both while avoiding their weaknesses altogether.

Heterarchy is best able to provide the needs of the whole — the needs of community, while hierarchy is best able to meet the goals of the parts — the goals of the individuals. And the win-win relationship serves as the binding that holds the system together.

Which way for Humanity? We humans find ourselves once again at the crossroads, which way shall we choose?

I believe our future does not lie in the Japanese way of heterarchy, nor in the American way of hierarchy. I believe it lies in the third alternative — the synergic way of the Organizational Tensegrity. In the years that have passed since I first described the organizational tensegrity, I have contracted the term to simply Ortegrity.

By the end of the 1990’s, the Japanese Miracle had faded. While they still were/are making some good products, they had lost their advantage. Why? What went wrong. … I recently discovered an answer at the School of Cooperative Individualism.

Japan’s Wrong Turn

Bill Totten

When Japan’s economy was booming in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Japan’s leaders had the following philosophy:

1. The PURPOSE or GOAL of a society is the happiness of its members; the purpose of goal of Japan then was the happiness of Japanese citizens.

2. Companies have two roles in society: (1) To provide products and services that contribute to citizens’ happiness, and (2) To provide jobs so citizens could pay for those products and services.

3. Profit should NOT be a company’s goal. Not even one of its goals! A company should only make enough profit to continue as a viable business; that is, to cover the R&D and plant & facility investments it needs to stay viable. If a company has a chance to make more profits than that, it should refrain from making them and, instead, either sell its products and services at lower prices, provide higher wages and benefits to its employees, or both.

That was the philosophy that made Japan Number 1, the philosophy of the Japanese Miracle, the philosophy that created the greatest economic growth (and social gains) in the history of this planet.

Most of those Japanese leaders, who received Confucian educations prior to 1945, had retired by around 1980 and were succeeded by people educated in the system imposed by General Douglas MacArthur’s Occupation after 1945. They have destroyed Japan’s Miracle, and are ruining Japan’s economy, with the same philosophy that has knocked the United States from its economic and social pinnacle down to third-world status:

1. Economic Darwinism (free competition): Society is a jungle where the strong have the right to take what they can from the weak. Government regulations hindering this should be relaxed or eliminated.

2. The role of companies is to make as much profit as possible as fast as possible. The main techniques are: (1) Advertise heavily to dupe citizens into excessive consumption and spending, and (2) Treat employees like coal, oil and other resources; get the maximum production from the lowest possible expenditure on resources; if your fellow citizens are too expensive, take your factories to places where you can hire cheaper human resources.

3. If speculating on stocks and bonds is a faster way to make big profits than researching and developing new products, then gamble your R&D budget on stocks and bonds. If speculating in land is a faster way to make big profits than increasing the productivity of workers, then gamble your plant & facility budget on land.

4. Use your profits to buy politicans who will reduce your taxes — reduce progressive taxes on high incomes; reduce corporate income taxes; create loopholes and tax breaks available only to rich people and large corporations who can afford expensive lawyers and accountants; reduce taxes on inheritances, land speculation, stock and bond speculation; and so on.

5. When this creates huge government deficits, do the following: (1) Make more money by loaning (at interest) the money the government needs to cover the deficits it created by reducing your taxes; (2) Brainwash the citizenry into ‘privatization’ of society’s assets — such as railroads, telephone companies, NASA. These, of course, became valuable because they were built with everyone’s tax money and protected my government monopolies. But when they’re privatized (sold off) only rich people and rich corporations can afford them. (3) Hector the government into reducing the deficits (resulting from cutting your taxes) remaining after ‘privatization’ by cutting services to the average citizen — that is, cutting spending on health, education, welfare and similar services. (4) Get the government to raise excise, social security, and other taxes that fall mostly on citizens who earn most of their incomes from working and must spend most of those incomes on consumption.

6. Use your advertising clout with Business Week, Fortune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and other media that get most of their revenues and profits from advertising to brainwash the general public into submitting docilely to this rape and plunder; if possible, convince them that it’s in their own best interests.

Japan’s MacArthur-educated colonials have used this philosophy since the early 1980s to plunder Japan’s economy.

Mason Gaffney, Professor of Economics, University of California writes: Bill Totten is an American born USC grad who runs a business in Japan, where he lives, has married, and raised a family. His mind has been greatly stimulated by rubbing two cultures together, not to mention rubbing together business leadership with a social conscience. His statement … is so cogent, I thought you would find it useful and challenging, as I do.

Front Page

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

From the SynEARTH Archives.

INTERdependence is the Human Condition

Timothy Wilken, MD

As Alfred Korzybski1921 explained:

“To discover the nature of Man and the laws of that nature, marks the summit of human enterprises. For to solve this problem is to open the way to everything which can be of importance to humanity – to human welfare and happiness.

“The great problem has been felt as a powerful impulse through out the ages of human striving, for in all times it has been evident to thinkers that upon the right solution of the problem must forever depend the welfare of mankind. Many “solutions” have been offered; and, though they have differed widely, they agree in one respect – they have had a common fate – the fate of being false. What has been the trouble? The trouble has been, in every instance, a radical misconception of what a human being really is. The problem is to discover the natural laws of the human class of life. All the “solutions” offered in the course of history and those which are current today are of two and only two kinds – zoological and mythological. The zoological solutions are those which grow out of the false conception according to which human beings are animals; if humans are animals, the laws of human nature are the laws of animal nature. The mythological “solutions” are those which start with the conception to which humans are mixtures of natural and supernatural – unions or combinations of animality and divinity. Mythological “solutions” contain no conception of natural law; scientifically judged, they are absurdities, well meaning no doubt, but silly and deadly in their effects upon the interest of mankind.” (1)

Known to the Wise

Abraham, Buddha, Confucius, and Jesus understood the underlying connectedness of all humanity. Their admonitions to us contain high awareness of our human interdependence. This is why they taught us not to kill, not to steal, not to molest, not to fraud, not to coerce.

They understood that the conflict of Adversity was not for humankind. They understood that the indifference of Neutrality was not for humankind. They taught us to be our brother’s keeper. As Gandhi explains:

“Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality. If man were so placed or could so place himself as to be absolutely above all dependence on his fellow beings he would become so proud and arrogant as to be a veritable burden and nuisance to the world. Dependence on society teaches him the lesson of humanity. That a man ought to be able to satisfy most of his essential needs himself is obvious; but it is no less obvious to me that when self-sufficiency is carried to the length of isolating oneself from society it almost amounts to sin. A man cannot become self-sufficient even in respect of all the various operations from the growing of cotton to the spinning of the yarn. He has at some stage or other to take the aid of the members of his family. And if one may take help from one’s own family, why not from one’s neighbors? Or otherwise what is the significance of the great saying, “The world is my family?”” (2)

In 1932, at the bottom of the Great Depression, the American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke:

“The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States – a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will endure.

“In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor – the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others.

The neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.

“If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.

“With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.” (3)

Why INTERdependence?

When a task is larger than the abilities of a single individual it requires co-Operation. If you want to lift a thousand pound sofa you will need help. Two individuals working together can accomplish more than one individual working alone. One thousand individuals working together can accomplish much more than any individual working alone.

Interdependent systems are much more powerful than independent systems. Humans are the most complex form of life in known universe, and we spin a web of complex relationships to meet our needs and wants. They allow for division of labor. It is by dividing labor, and becoming specialized, that we humans are able to increase our standard of living almost without limit. If each of us had to provide all our own needs and wants, we would have to be the jack of all trades, and the master of none.

We humans joined together to gain the advantage of the division of labor. When we divide labor, each individual can become master of one trade. The individual can then produce a single product much more efficiently then he could produce hundreds of different products. We humans have created complex webs of interdependence based on our division of labor. Division of labor can be quite simple, as when the husband agrees to carry out the trash, while his wife cooks supper. Or it can be very complex, as in a large company, where the tasks are divided among hundreds of thousands of employees.

For humanity, our choice was simple. Become interdependent or retain the quality of life of the plants and animals. Our mothers and fathers, our grandmothers and grandfathers, our great grandmothers and great grandfathers – they have already made the choice for us.

We modern humans are bound together in total interdependence – this means we are totally dependent on each other. Whether we like it now or not, really doesn’t matter. Look in your pockets, we can’t go back 10,000 years now. We don’t know how to live in a true world of independence. We could not survive without the tools of our interdependence. The animals live their lives without the tools of interdependence. They live life naked with no possessions. They catch their food with tooth and claw – killing and consuming plants and animals to survive. They are dependent on plant and animal tissue for survival. We humans share the animal body and are no less dependent on animal and plant tissue for our survival. However, our intelligence and our interdependence allows us to cultivate the plant and animal tissue we need in our gardens, farms, ranches, nurseries, and hatcheries.

Fair Market INTERdependence

The “fair market” of institutional Neutrality provides humanity a limited form of interdependence. When we buy and sell in the fair market, we are depending on each other.

Humans in neutral relationship depend on others to meet their needs. Humans in neutral relationships need help from others.

However in the fair market place of neutrality, the helpers are anonymous. This anonymity is what allows us to feel independent. Our belief systems in the Western ‘free’ world rest heavily on the core belief in independence even while this belief is obviously false.

Humanity was right when we chose Neutrality to move beyond Adversity. But Neutrality is only a short term solution. Human Neutrality does not make us independent, it simply hides our interdependence in the anonymity of the fair market.

Neutral interdependence is not synergic interdependence. Our human culture is evolving, and now it is time now to move beyond Neutrality. It is time to embrace Synergy.

Once, we accept the reality of our human interdependence, then we can get on with winning. The secret of winning then is to get others to help us. Let us examine these options through the lens of synergic science.

Getting Help

Interdependence is the human condition.

All humans need help unless they wish to live at the level of animal subsistence. Interdependence means some times I depend on others and sometimes others depend on me. Once we acknowledge our interdependence and accept our dependence on others, then there are only three ways that we can get help.

We can force others help us – adversary help.

We can pay others to help us – neutral help.

Or, we can co-Operate with others and attract them to help us by making sure that they are also helped – synergic help.

Adversary Help

This is help obtained with coercion – force or fraud. Those providing the help are losing. When you force others to help you, they do the least they possibly can. Because the helper is hurt, adversary help is low quality help.

Adversary relationships are hurting and negative experiences. The helper experiences a loss. He is less after helping you than before. When you force others to help you, they do the least they possibly can.

Adversary interdependence means that sometimes I force others to help me, and sometimes others force me to help them.

Slavery, indentured service, tenant farming, and child labor are examples of adversary help. The criminal makes you help him, when he steals your property. The government makes you help it, when it forces you to pay taxes. You are being forced to help others anytime you are given an ultimatum.

Adversary relationships are hurtful. The parties in these relationships experience loss. They struggle to avoid the loss – they conflict. In an adversary relationship, one individual plus another individual are less after the relationship. In other words (1+1) < 2, and often much less than two.

When you make others help you, coercing them with force or fraud, the helper loses and will typically give you only the lowest quality help. Adversary relationships are marked by high conflict, low effectiveness and poor productivity.

Neutral Help

This is help purchased from others. This is the way most of us get help today. We hire it or we buy it in the market place. When I go to McDonalds, I pay them five dollars to feed me.

The focus in the neutral market place is on a fair price. Because the helper is ignored, neutral help is average quality help.

Macys, Sears, Mervyns, Pennys, Costco, K-Mart, Circuit City, etc., etc. – malls, stores, markets, shops, and restaurants – are all examples of neutral help. The yellow pages in the telephone book are lists of places where you can purchase help. Capitalism’s fair market is where you purchase neutral help. You buy help in the open market place at a fair market exchange price. This is the modern free world where help is sold as products and services.

In the fair market, the helper experiences a draw and will typically produce average quality help. Neutral relationships are ignoring and static experiences. The helper experiences a draw. They are the same after helping as before. When you ignore those who help you, this is why you will get only fair help.

Neutral interdependence means that we are both buyers and sellers of help – Sometimes I pay others to help me and sometimes I am paid to help others.

Neutral relationships are ignoring. The parties in these relationships experience no change. They barter to insure that the exchange is fair – to insure that the price is not too high or too low – to insure that neither party loses. The open market of free enterprise generates a zone of neutrality which markedly reduces adversary relations. Neutral systems gain a marked production advantage over adversary systems. They are significantly more productive. However, this is primarily because they are not adversary.

In a neutral relationship, one individual plus another individual are the same after the relationship. (1+1) = 2. When you pay others to help you, offering them a fair wage in an atmosphere marked by indifference, the helper draws and will typically give you only average quality help.

Neutrality is that place where I work just hard enough to avoid getting fired, and, my employer pays me just enough to keep me from quitting. Neutral relationships are marked by accidental conflict, moderate effectiveness and average productivity.

Synergic Help

This is help attracted by co-Operating with others – working together to solve our mutual problems. When other individuals understand that by helping you, they will also be helped, they will automatically help you. When others understand that when you win, they will win, they will support and celebrate your success. This is the power of the win-win relationship. Show those who can help you, how they will win by doing so. Show them how they will be helped by helping you. Because the helper is helped, synergic help is high quality help.

Synergic interdependence means that sometimes others help me and sometimes I help others.

Examples of synergic help in today’s world are less common. We nd them in many families. Also less frequently in small partnerships and business groups. Synergic relationships also exist in many start-up businesses, where the originators work together sharing in the risks and the rewards equally. But most of the developed world is locked into Neutrality.

If you wish to attract synergic help you must insure that when individuals invest their help with yours, they are also helped. Then they will automatically reinvest with you. When others understand that when you win, they win, they will support and celebrate your success.

Synergic relationships are helping, positive experiences. The helper experiences a win. They are more after helping you than before. When you help those who help you, you get the most help. When you help those who help you, you get excellent help.

Synergic relationships are helpful. The parties in the relationship experience a gain. They operate together to insure that both parties win, and that neither party loses. They negotiate to insure that both parties are helped, and that neither party is hurt.

In synergic relationships, one individual plus another individual is more after their relationship than before: (1+1) >> 2. Synergic relationships are marked by no conflict, high effectiveness and enormous productivity.

1 Alfred Korzybski, The Manhood of Humanity, ibid

2 Mohandas K. Gandhi, Young India, March 21, 1929

3 Franklin Delano Roosevelt , Presidential Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

UnCommon Sense Library


The BasicsWe Can All Win!-PDF

2—Three Ways
3—The Relationship Continuum
4—Three Classes of Life
5—Human Neutrality

The Science — UnCommon Science(PDF)

Intro—Science 2001
1—Knowing 2001
2—A Limit to Knowing
3—Scientific Mistakes
4—What Do We Know

5—Order (PDF)-New

The Present — Crisis: Danger & Opportunity

The Future – A Synergic Future