Watch videos with subtitles in your language, upload your videos, create your own subtitles! Click here to learn more on "how to Dotsub"

Peter Joseph - Sustainability: Beyond Political Categorization - Z-Day 2019 (Repository)

0 (0 Likes / 0 Dislikes)
Sustainability, Beyond Political Categorization. My name is Peter Joseph and this video has been prepared for the 11th annual ZDay conference held in Buenos Aires Argentina March 23rd, 2019. The goal of this talk is to cover a range of issues centered around a train of thought, one that supports truly sustainable social organization. A system that can maintain homeostasis with the Earth, improve public health, and effectively ensure social stability of the human species. And part of this thinking is understanding the problems of thinking itself and the difficulty inherent in the communication of this train of thought due to cultural bias, cognitive bias, a general lack of comprehension, impulsiveness, a drive towards simplistic understandings, and other problems that we see commonly when people are trying to evaluate new information. Our ultimate challenge as a movement is communicative, needless to say. And one central problem involves intellectual categorization, which refers to the tendency of people to hear a new idea and due to a lack of understanding or clarity, or even willful misinterpretation at times, the idea is hastily thrown into some pre-existing category shrouded with undue bias. We see this frequently when someone discusses social ideas that are not based upon market economics. The most common reaction today is to assume that anything that isn't based upon markets, isn't effectively capitalism, must be Marxism! It must be socialism or communism. Language, being a collection of symbols with ideas formed in a kind of hierarchy where a single word or idea ultimately becomes defined by other words and ideas, and it's very easy for different people to hold completely different semantic understandings. It's also very easy for people to reduce their interpretation of a concept down into a more simplistic association or category, evading the truth of the idea. This cognitive tendency takes many forms and one is "polarized duality." If something isn't white it can only be black. It's an either-or interpretation. So if you're not a capitalist you must be a socialist. If you want to see more social equality and less tribalism you must be a card-carrying liberal in contrast to a conservative. Left versus right, etcetera. At the same time you have dismissive categorization: boxes created as pejoratives, removing any nuance. For example if you see the real possibility of bringing the entire human population to a decent standard of living - effectively eliminating poverty, or maybe even eliminating war - you're no longer rational, you are now a utopianist. Or perhaps you have a different understanding of world events, daring to question how far criminal sickness will go in the world today, uh oh- you must be a conspiracy theorist! So this kind of thing goes on and on, and it's very stifling. Dismissive, categorical, polarized and oversimplified world views plague us as a civilization. We do think in language. And if you can control people's language about certain subjects, groups, ideas, you can control their thought process, by association. In fact if you look carefully at how the media organizes itself in support of normative society there's a whole genre of dismissive and polarized categorical words that are routinely used to debase non-normative assumptions. And the reason I bring this up is not only to illustrate the problem but to express the need to try and sidestep it by how you go about your communication, how to work around this problem. And the solution is to try and refrain from any kind of larger order labeling yourself, keeping conversations focused on a train of thought. This means the process of communication has to start from the most detailed and specific place you can defining things as you go, presenting evidence that is inferential to each conclusion building your argument manually. It's not perfect, but it's the best way to approach it. Over the past 10 years I rarely if ever hear anyone talk against the actual train of thought itself associated to a natural law resource-based economy. Instead, everyone criticizes the Movement itself in some way. It's all symbolic, generalized and vague, they relate some belief system, they try to bracket it in with historical communism as usual, "It's against human nature," associative pollution is created where a person or a group or an institution is somehow merged into the idea. The bottom line is that ideas, if they are true, if they have true value, have value in and of themselves. They don't need to be categorized. They don't need to be associated to some person or group or historical notion. Epistemological reasoning stands on its own. And finally on this subject I want to point out that human sustainability and public health - trying to build out a model based on reasoning that supports these ideas - isn't to be confused with a political ideology. It may seem like a trivial distinction but it's important, because in order to get these ideas across, the receiving mind has to understand that we're dealing with fundamental principles of survival. At the end of the day it's not even really about class or social inequality in and of itself as if some oppressed group needs to be set free; it's bigger than that. It's about what an Andorian society actually requires to exist and keep persisting without all the horrible features that we're seeing rise today. In the end the method of science, which is not perfect in its evolving practice, is still at the foundation of the epistemological and technological progress we have seen as a civilization. It works. It cannot be dismissed as some subjective ideology. The reason I bring this up is because what's happened in the world of discourse is rarely does anyone take a real technical position anymore; it's all political and groupistic. Very rarely does anyone talk about or take a technical position about what's required to ensure our most basic adherence to survival principles. Ultimately it speaks to the reality that scientific thought is still so removed from actual governance of our society right now that it is effectively dismissed as just another kind of political ideology. And that's something to keep in mind. And that brings me to the phenomenon of anti-intellectualism. Disappointingly, there continues to be a culture of anti-intellectualism that boasts and revels in its own ignorance. It begins in the culture of education where those that are excelling in academics are deemed nerds or geeks or outcasts while those that flaunt macho brawn or vanity or beauty are considered cool and then popular. And within this bizarre tendency, attempts to communicate relatively complex thought is stifled by willful ignorance and ego. Complex ideas require complex explanations and there's a reason languages have vast vocabularies. Words generally represent ideas and more nuanced ideas require more nuanced and detailed organization of language. Understanding more words effectively means understanding more concepts. There's an odd myth that you often hear when someone is faced with complex ideas that they're intimidated by. They'll say something like "Oh well, good ideas should be easy to communicate, regardless," as if you're talking to a child. Well while it's good strategy to simplify your language as best you can, any attempt to describe real-world phenomenon is going to be inherently complicated. A basic reason the world continues to fall apart around us in fact is because almost every facet of our lives is governed by over-simplistic assumptions, propagated by over-simplistic language. For example we have a global judicial practice that believes in total free will, and throws people in cages rather than examine the causality behind their behavior, working to correct sociological preconditions. We have a global economic structure that organizes around competitive trade based upon the theory that trade is this mutual beneficial process with zero perspective on the long term systemic consequences of that seemingly simple individual action. Now when it comes to understanding human behavior, people often take their superficial sense of what they have seen around them, and slap the label of "human nature" on it, assuming that the behavioral patterns they see are the only patterns that could possibly exist. How many times have you brought up a complex subject to somebody, regarding human behavior, and they turn around and say - as if they're an expert, as if they worked on the problem for years - "Oh, that's just human nature," when the truth of the matter is extremely complicated. What we do know is that humans have great variability and much of our behavior is contingent upon what society incentivizes or not. Our "nature" very much appears to be that of great adaptation. In fact as an aside, I would like to point out that those who have settled on the argument that the society we have today is representative of our human nature in some fixed way, what they are actually saying given what's happening in the world, taken to its logical conclusion, is that it is in our "nature" for us to slowly destroy ourselves. And that rests counter to every other species evolution has created. Species on earth do not destroy themselves. They get destroyed by something else out of their control. The difference is humanity is perpetuating behavior that it can actually change but due to our customs, that are so cyclically reinforced - especially through money and the psychologically short- sighted nature of market economics - the initiative simply isn't made properly. It's a deep social pathology. Anyway back on point, all of this is to say that the anti-intellectualism we see in the world, this immature drive toward wanting everything to be simple, is yet another communicative challenge and it should not be indulged. Now let's shift gears a bit and think about the process of knowledge development itself. It's been well established that the most effective scientific disposition rests on the principle of falsifiability. Falsifiability in science means that one's more interested in disproving a hypothesis rather than proving it. In other words the theory becomes true not only because of direct evidence to support it, deductively, but also because that there is a lack of evidence to disprove it. Now it may seem as if both perspectives are the same thing and accomplish the same goal but the psychological disposition associated with falsifiability helps avoid cognitive bias. And what you'll find when you speak with people that are dogmatic about the way the world is today is they rarely take the opposite perspective and are constantly looking to confirm their own conclusions, not question them. For example we very often hear today this declaration that market capitalism must be a viable system because it has brought a large number of people out of extreme poverty over the past century. To the extent that poverty reduction has been this significant over the years is actually quite arguable, but that's for another conversation. But assuming significant poverty reduction actually has occurred, to say it's because of capitalism is extremely superficial, and the result of a willful interest to simply validate one's bias in support of markets, rather than be critical. Which also might explain why the people most notable for promoting this happen to be extremely wealthy philanthropists. The technical problem is that in order to make that conclusion you have to exclude the actual history of how these nations and societies became poverty-stricken to begin with and the history of how markets came to be established itself. People like Adam Smith did not invent capitalism in the Enlightenment. Its industrial and pre-industrial permutations are part of a chain reaction that happened since the dawn of Agriculture some 12,000 years ago. The kernel seed of this system is the very act of competitive trade itself. And once you have a system of people and then groups working to compete for income, hence consequentially turning into labor exploiters and resource exploiters for the market, every core characteristic of the economy and effectively the social system as we know it today, was predictable. From property laws to labor specialization, to the rise of companies and corporations, to the basis of the legal system, to the consumption basis of the economy itself to drive jobs, to the merger and usurpstion of government power, to the entire global class hierarchy and inequality, to even philosophical perspectives of the human condition derived from witnessing this experience, these customs. Such as the assumption by Thomas Hobbes who is considered the father of political philosophy, who declared that humans exist in a "state of war." All of this was predictable based on the structurally molded behavior of competitive trade. And if you're not familiar with that please review other writings and talks that I've done documenting this at length. And with respect to socioeconomic inequality and poverty once again, one part of that historical process has been nationalist economic power in the form of colonialism that has stolen regional resources and subjugated and effectively damaged whole countries for the sake of market exploitation, setting in motion chain reactions of long term deprivation and even vast corruption for that region. The people in the Global South, who are or have been in abject poverty over the past two centuries, did not get there because they were left behind by capitalist progress. They got there because they had been robbed and abused by the capitalist incentive system, manifesting brute force acquisition and domination by other competing nations through war and colonialism. And of course the same patterns continue today, but in less obvious forms by way of global trade agreements, economic sanctions, general economic globalization, and war once again. Only this time war has turned into a different kind of profit system. In the context of the United States Empire war is an enormous business in and of itself: a market driven initiative that is willing to destroy other nations and peoples for the sake of its own nation's corporate profits or for the sake of future security of its own nation's corporate profits. It's another consequence of this kind of thinking, not some rogue side effect. In fact if you really look at nations of the world and how deeply entrenched they are with the corporate enterprise you'll notice that really the nations are now just constituencies of corporate interests. So, those who have statistically risen out of poverty in the last century, to say that it was a successful feature of capitalism is really ridiculous. The only reason any alleviation is occurring now actually has to do with the scientific rise of Applied Technology: technological efficiency, not market efficiency. And while the common rebuttal to that by apologists would be that if it wasn't for the infrastructure of markets, that applied technology also wouldn't come about! This is yet another unfounded bias-confirming assumption. We're dealing with an infrastructure, a mechanism. Markets are a mechanism. And there are many ways for say me to travel across the United States, technically with an infrastructure. I could walk, I could drive a car, I could take a train, I could take an airplane. And then to say that the only way to get from point A to point B is because of one of those mechanisms is to deny the existence of all the others and to deny the existence of possible improvement, as if these infrastructures, these mechanisms, are the best that we could ever have. And when it comes to the development of science and technology this is really an issue of epistemology, not trade and the market incentive. Human ingenuity is a natural process we embrace to adapt our understandings of the environment and build upon knowledge. And even more, the better we can network together the faster the process of intellectual development. So the active foundation of the development of applied technology for solving problems has to do with how people are networking information together and then organizing resources to apply given solutions. And to say that only markets are the most optimized form of this kind of information flow and economic development is silly, and easily contradicted. What you'll find in fact is there's actually more inhibition of science and technology occurring than its expression. Because the market system's incentive is only about gaining income. If the infrastructure of society was not based upon that incentive you would see an extremely different pattern of intellectual development and applied technology. The question becomes: what kind of infrastructure is most conducive to allowing human ingenuity to flourish? and that of course is a conversation to be had, its a lecture in and of itself. The point I'm trying to make here has more to do with bias confirmation than this particular fact. But the next time someone does make the remark that "Oh! Capitalism has brought more people out of poverty than any other system," make sure you shut them down by explaining that the only reason people were ever in poverty to begin with was because of the very framework that capitalism is based upon. Why? Because the system is structurally based upon the exploitation of scarcity, not overcoming it with abundance. Socioeconomic inequality is a defining characteristic of this model, which inevitably deprives some cross-section of civilization. The fact we have developed science and technology that has eased that stress has been utterly coincidental. Moving on, similar to the problem of short-sighted perspectives and misunderstanding long-term causality, there's a stunning denialism occurring when it comes to the structure of the market and its effect on the environment. While there is indeed a slow rise of people that are beginning to see the connection between this economy based on consumption to power jobs, adhering to a growth ethic, a competitive growth ethic, the mismanagement of the habitat, and the full magnitude of this connection, is still seldom discussed. I am unaware of one prominent economist in public office or representative of higher education, that unequivocally points out the fact that the economic system we have today is completely unsustainable by every measure, empirically and formally. If you're not familiar with the terms empirical and formal, 'empirical' means as witnessed by history, observable data taken over time from the real world showing specific patterns such as the fact that it is well established that every year humanity uses more resources than the earth cyclically produces, known as our annual resource overshoot. 'Formal' on the other hand means by mathematical modeling, organizing variables that represent real-life behaviors and interactions. And if you were to take the variables associated to market behavior and put them into a computer, analyzing the dynamics of incentivized trading behavior and market processes we experience every day, then placing that dynamic model inside of a finite habitat, to set the machine loose, it would just be a matter of time before that theoretical habitat was completely destroyed by consumption and pollution. Why? Because there is no variable in the market economy that allows for a steady state balance, homeostasis, where the producing and consuming population is in harmony with the Earth's natural regenerative cycles. Returning to empirical data, in the context of ecology today every life-support system is in decline with enormous resource overshoot, pollution, biodiversity loss, and so on. I'm not going to go through the statistics here as I've talked and written about it at great length before. But how does the mainstream consensus deflect this fact? - that capitalism with its complete structural antagonism to anything concerned with conservation and balance, seeking only turnover through sales and job growth and so on - how is this blanketed over, how is it justified, how is it rationalized? What do people do? They blame population levels. The thesis is that "Up, it's just overpopulation folks, we shouldn't change the system, we need less people." This is a very common argument even though it's not particularly popular. We're exceeding the carrying capacity of the earth, some would say. Once again, it certainly appears like a valid conclusion but there's no real concrete evidence that humanity has or is about to exceed the true carrying capacity of the earth, because how you assess the carrying capacity of the earth isn't even properly understood. The carrying capacity of the earth is not a fixed number. It is contingent upon how resources are used based upon technological strategy. Generally, quantitative changes in carrying capacity occur through the process of ephemeralization as I've talked about before, coined by R. Buckminster Fuller, and also what Jeremy Rifkin derives as zero marginal cost in production. So imagine an abstract island. The island naturally produces food and has a fresh water supply. An average person's needs are about 64 ounces of water each day, and about 2,000 calories. So this hypothetical island in its most natural state maintains a steady-state water supply of 640 ounces of water and 20,000 calories each day. assuming those resources were cyclically consumed, as we are. So what does that mean? It means the carrying capacity of that island is 10 people. Now, what if those people started to learn about their environment, applying that knowledge? What if they realize that say through some kind of sea water evaporation process they could produce 10 times the amount of drinking water, while also discovering agricultural techniques that increase the yield of their food supply also by 10 with no extra pressure on the ecosystem. Suddenly, even though the island's raw state hasn't changed, the carrying capacity goes from 10 to 100 people. So, the carrying capacity of earth is not fixed. It's contingent upon how strategic and efficient humanity is with its resource use, and of course how it organizes general behavior. And on that note let's talk about public health. The two most foundational areas underscoring any society is habitat sustainability and public health. I've already touched upon what habitat sustainability means, but to summarize the basic idea, sustainability means a condition of homeostasis or balance where behavior is theoretically able to continue into the future without degenerative consequences. And again while we hear this word associated to the habitat and the ecosystem constantly, that isn't the only context when it comes to society. And this falls in the context of cultural sustainability. And it's actually possible for a society to be ecologically sustainable but be culturally unsustainable, meaning that the behaviors of people are creating different levels of instability that could also lead to species destruction or extinction. And I would argue that markets are not only unsustainable ecologically, it's unsustainable culturally because it reinforces a competitive mindset. As most are familiar, competition within market behavior has been praised as a force of innovation and progress. But yet once again what defines innovation and progress is left unmentioned. I don't know about you but people owning more and more things and coming up with more efficient ways to quickly use more and more resources, so people can buy them and throw them away and then go buy and more and throw it away, doesn't appear very progressive to me. Progress would have to be defined by actual public health standards, meaning improvement of well-being of society in the short and long term, including better mental and physical health and including less violence and conflict. Same goes for the idea of innovation. People talk about the incentive of competition and even the existence of socioeconomic inequality as this driver of innovation without qualifying what innovation even is, what they're even talking about- innovation towards what? Today you have a sea of entrepreneurs trying to innovate in some way but the direction they innovate towards actually has nothing to do with progress. It's simply about finding something to sell to you. Or innovating advertising and marketing to manipulate you even better so you then go out and buy what they have to sell. Anyway that's an aside, but it's a worthy point. Coming back to cultural or social sustainability, the prevalence of this supposed virtue of competition, which is at the heart once again of market-based economic survival, we really need to pose the question: Is this kind of broad sociological orientation really going to work out in the long run? All one has to do is look at the ever-progressing tools of warfare, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and other powerful technological forces to see that our technological tools just might be moving faster than our maturity. It's one thing for immature people to run around with sticks and stones and even knives, or even guns. It's another thing for people to have the capacity of extremely destructive power at their fingertips with the same state of mind. People like to say that the animal kingdom is based on ruthless competition between individuals and hierarchical groups, that evolution is a force of natural selection through competition and so on. And as true as that may be on some level, the creatures and the biological forces of evolution don't build nuclear weapons. There's a reason humans have evolved complex brains, a prefrontal cortex, where we can actually think about our actions. We are not biological slaves in the same way the rest of the animal kingdom is. And the same way again the rest of the animal kingdom can't create devices that can destroy themselves. As far as I'm concerned, the competitive ethic we see, the declaration of winners and losers, this contrived antagonism, continually reinforced in what we see around us - competitive sports, of course the entire model of business, politics, the fascination of conflict in the media - is really a culturally unsustainable social sickness. We cannot perpetuate a culture of war and expect that to work out in the long run in the wake of exponentially increasing technological modes of destruction. And people are surprised when they see something like what happened in New Zealand or the near-daily massacres occurring in the United States, which uncoincidentally are occurring in the most neurotically competitive nation on the planet, as it sits as well on top of the global socioeconomic power hierarchy. These are not coincidences. Competitive thinking creates bigoted thinking, it creates inferiority thinking and superiority thinking, and it forms racism, xenophobia and intergroup violence, becomes not only predictable but inevitable. And the way we've organized our economic system, what all of us have to participate in, deliberately amplifies the most base tendencies for us to continue our competitive survival against each other. It brings out the worst and most destructive aspect of our human nature, limiting our ability to evolve to a higher plane of compassion and support, for collaborative community and human unity. And finally, when you put these two unsustainable trajectories together, the competitive pinging of our worst and most base instincts by the very nature of our economic structure, along with the inevitable decline of the ecosystem due to that same structure, the undue stress that will be placed on pockets of civilization in the near future is effectively a chain reaction recipe for social destruction. So I apologize that this talk had to come to such a dark note, but it's important to have this sobering realization in the back of your mind regarding what's possible in the future, if these two forces come together in synergy. And it shows the desperate need to get out of the sociological condition we find ourselves. We have to change the social structure. If we do so we change culture and we change society. And that concludes this talk for now, I'll be making a follow-up to this lecture describing the cult of individuality and why it's so difficult to get people to see things through the lens of sociology and structuralism. Thank you very much.

Video Details

Duration: 30 minutes and 1 second
Year: 2019
Country: Argentina
Language: English
Producer: The Zeitgeist Movement
Director: The Zeitgeist Movement
Views: 6
Posted by: ltiofficial on Apr 14, 2019

Peter addresses the problem of communication, categorical associations, the rise of anti-intellectualism and other issues related to discussions surrounding social progress.

Note: This LTI Repository location contains only "official", fully proofread versions of the transcript & its derived translations. More translations will be added as they are completed at

If your language is not yet represented here, consider helping these efforts by joining your language team at (LTI Forum)

Caption and Translate

    Sign In/Register for Dotsub to translate this video.