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Peter Joseph - Origins and Adaptations, Part III - Berlin Z-Day, 2015

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Origins and Adaptations Part III Peter Joseph “We must believe in free-will. We have no choice.” ZDay, Berlin Germany, March 14th 2015 [Applause] Alright ... So, I did a series called 'Origins and Adaptations' in 2012 and 2014 respectively. It was supposed to end there but I decided to continue. This dealt historically with the capitalist economy, and I wanted to show how the system worked, where it came from, how it’s evolved and a lot of things I think everybody here must be very very aware of by now. We should all be well aware that most everything we are experiencing in the world today - from ecological decline, to endless government and business corruption, to human exploitation, to perpetual poverty, to constant war, to growing unemployment, to debt collapse, and to the overall value system disorder - has been predictable. Predictable when viewing the state of the world through the prism of current economic functionality. And from this “system-based” worldview, we can not only better understand the past and the present; we can also anticipate of course, what is in store for the future as this social cancer continues to morph and grow and mutate and absorb and in effect, decouple humanity from everything most fundamental to our long term social and ecological sustainability. So before I close this subject, which been drilled in at length, I want to re-summarize the issue with a quote by a man named Gary Holthaus: “Our economics, social life, politics, and schools have insisted that having more toys is better than having fewer toys; that buying stuff is good for us; that we have to keep up with or exceed others in our consumption; that a high paying job can take the place of meaningful work; that low-paying meaningless jobs that demean our humanity are better than none, and we should be grateful for them because they will turn us into decent citizens; and that a free market has the same powers as a just God...” “But Capitalism rests ultimately not on innovation or entrepreneurship or brains or even a free market – those are just stories: stories we like to tell ourselves because they make those who are successful look good. At its base, industrial capitalism’s success rests on exploitation of resources, racism, child abuse, sexism, and war.” “But even more than all these, contemporary capitalism rests on consumption: government and corporate consumption of resources, technology, and scientific research, and citizen consumption of market goods.” “We are asked to consume not only material goods but ideas, policies, whole worldviews that are presented with all the persuasive skills and battering psychological hype that can be bought…” “We are under assault, we are laid siege by hype: corporate hype, political hype, military hype, educational hype, commercial hype… and as our civil rights have declined in recent years, freedom has come to mean the freedom to choose among 16 brand names of one product. “This is the harvest of a culture so bent on growth with all possible speed that it will pour 100,000 chemicals in the earth and atmosphere, into our lakes and groundwater and oceans, before it has a clue about the long-term effects of a single one of them.” (- Gary Holthaus) Now - that out the way - what I'd like to do here: take the terms “Origins,” “Adaptations” [and] change the context a bit. Instead of how the current economic system has evolved, let’s look at the other side. What is the technical history, for example, of this logic we might term a Natural Law Resource-Based Economy? And more importantly, what is its relationship to the evolution of material culture? - this term “abundance” we often flagrantly toss out. What does this evolution suggest about ourselves? our psychology? our sociology? even our nature? - as the deeply social organisms we are? Now I have to warn you, this presentation is a bit stream-of-consciousness. I’m less interested in defining a whole set of ideas than I want you to more or less entertain the concepts I put forward, even though naturally I’ll be drawing some conclusions. Here is a table of contents ([in the back] if you can’t read it I’m sorry) by a man named John Etzler. Some of the themes might sound eerily familiar if you read these contents. We have chapters on “The power of wind, tide, waves;" we have chapters on “Systems of machineries and the establishment of applications of these powers;” a “Plan for the building of a community;” oh! and “The earth can nourish 1000 times more men than now exist,” etc. Sounds familiar. This is one of the first post-scarcity books ever written. The subjects include the importance of renewable energy in a systems approach, applying machines to labor of course, adapting human values through education and creating an abundance. Here are some quotes. “The first elements of mechanics teach that there is no motion imaginable, that could not be produced by some adapted mechanism, provided we have the requisite power…" “We have superabundance of power… a million times greater than all men on earth could affect hitherto… The powers are chiefly to be derived from the wind, from the tide, from sunshine and the heat of the sun... Each of these powers requires no consumption of materials, only materials for the construction of the machineries.” “Once established, there will be no occasion for any work except the superintendence of machinery, which requires 1 to 3 persons in all (he was being relative) of the whole community. If done in turns, every adult would hardly have one turn for one day’s superintendence in the whole year. But it would probably be done voluntarily being about an amusement [and] no tedious occupation of labor.” “Today we drudge and toil in agriculture and in manufactories, making many useful and many useless things for human life, for supplying many various demands of necessities, comforts, and luxuries. We care little about the real benefit our industry may afford to the buyer, provided we make money by their sale. There is an endless variety of artificial productions of every kind, resulting from competition of the producers…” “What virtue can be in passing one's life like a prisoner in the treadmill? The occupations of manner or present state of advancement are yet not much better - they are either a monotonous drudgery or some insipid occupation, which nothing but custom and necessity may render tolerable in some degree, but which are the very means to keep the mind in inactivity in low, trivial pursuits…” “What is the mighty object of leading such a life? of course to get money - in order to buy what one wants. Is this the most exalted virtue, the highest destination of man's life that can be thought of in this world? It may be a virtue or a necessary evil in a state of general ignorance and prejudice - but it is no virtue found in nature.” Does any of this sound familiar? This book is called 'The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, without Labor, by the Powers of Nature and Machinery' and it was written almost 200 years ago in 1833. That’s about 50 years before the first light bulb was invented. Etzler envisioned a society that harnessed renewable energies in various ways, plugging them into power steam engines, and using those engines in turn to facilitate automation, stopping human servitude and drudgery - and the hence the creation of his view of a global abundance. He even talks about creating composite materials out of wood dust and particles and approaching architecture through molding and extrusion, along with mixed-use concepts such as ocean-powered steam vessels that is desalinating water at the same time as producing energy. And of course, he implies little need for the market or monetary system and saw it as a waste of life and inefficient. It’s safe to say that historically speaking, Etzler appears to be one of the first to promote the most core framework of what TZM generally embraces. His primitive but lucid analysis regarding the potential of science and technology to help humanity through earth-based, natural law design is really missing nothing, when you read his work; his overall technical perspective is sound. And of course, it didn’t take long for Etzler to be derisively labeled as the first technological utopianist: a term that has persisted ever since, as I’m sure many here have heard. And to this, he jauntingly added “But there will be men who are so ill favored by nature they slovenly adhere to their accustomed narrow notions without inquiring into the truth of new ideas and will rather, in apology for their mental sloth, pride themselves in despising, disputing, and ridiculing whatever appeals novel to them.” Again, sound familiar? Now I will admit, to his discredit, if you read him, he's a bit ... gratuitous. He does go overboard with his vision of this so-called “paradise” and it’s often difficult to read through his work without getting an over-exaggerated sense, an unrealistic sense, due to his rhetoric, which I think is common with a lot of people, a lot of futurists throughout history. He also - sadly enough - did fail in his lifetime to produce the engineering that he sought, and mainstream history pretty much sees him as a delusional mad scientist. Now - all that noted, that historical little tidbit, let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s assume we went back to 1833, the time of this book. But instead of using Etzler’s primitive version of what could be a resource-based economy - with renewable energy-powered steam engines moving steel and wood automation machines to free labor - we instead transplanted the current, common 21st century technology into 19th century. Remember, Etzler's idea of “paradise” was to remove the need for labor drudgery and create abundance - in the material climate he knew at the time. Keep that in mind. Back then there were no powered cars. No home-wired electricity, no planes. We hadn’t even hit the Victorian era yet. Life was very simple in comparison to today. And just as we today have little clue what material life will be like 200 years for now, how could we expect Etzler to perceive any differently? Again, his vision of “paradise” was based upon the expectations, values and ambitions of the time. It's a very important point. Back to the issue. It is needless to say that there is certainly no question that 21st century technology as we know it could create the material expectations of an "upper class"-lifestyle standard of living, respective to the early to mid-19th century, without labor for income, assuming a shift in the social system of course. Absolutely no question. And again before I go further, please understand that this is an argumentative abstraction; this is speculation. As if we’re aliens that came down in 1833 to install automated tech, filling in whatever industry was doing at the time, the means of production and interests, to satisfy the interests of the time. So, I don’t want anyone to read into this to think that this is some static state of concept of technology, because really in truth when technology develops, it changes our values. So, keep that in mind. This is about material expectation of a given culture at a given time. And the abstract question I pose to you all is: "Would it be enough?” Would you be satisfied with your ability to be free of servitude, living a high standard of living for 1833, free to pursue interests as you saw fit, ... even though it’s still 1833? Obviously, from the standpoint of today’s material culture it’s rather hard to accept that, right? Because we are acclimated to life today, and its relatively advanced technological state. Well, with that in mind, how about this: What if I told you that tomorrow, all of you will have access to an upper class home, access to 3D printing means that can produce everything material you may need, given our traditions at the time. Global transportation was free and fast. Your food is organic, pure, freely available through automated vertical farms, and so on. Hence your life would now be open to pursue, again, your own interests and projects, with no need to fear for your basic economic survival, without servitude or monotonous labor, hence what we promote as a resource-based economy. I would be very surprised if anyone here would deny this condition and the cultural satisfaction clearly that it would generate. But wait! What if we shot ahead 200 years from now? And humanity is now darting around the universe at the near the speed of light, living on various planets just for a change of scenery, facilitating a seemingly almost infinite amount of goods by today's standards through nanotechnology and the like. And perhaps - I don’t know - even pressing little buttons on their wrists that give them instant orgasms. [Audience chuckles] In that world, 21st century society would be pretty crappy, wouldn’t it? It would be just as primitive in that future view, as we look back on the 19th century. So what’s my point? Well, "material expansion" (material expansion is the term I’m using here; I hope that makes sense) after the core, universally shared needs of all people are met, is transient. It has to be. It’s meaningless. It’s like stepping forward on an escalator moving the other direction at the same time. It goes nowhere. One, for example, cannot successfully argue that the merit of an advanced technological society with all the frills that we see in the West, today, is somehow “better” than a culture say that lives without any such modern communication, electricity or an arsenal of hedonistic toys - but, due to their worldview, their exposure and their values, they are actually satisfied with their standard of living. They are happy, and have high relative public health as a result. What’s the problem? It goes nowhere, because material expansion mistakes a social process that actually serves as a tool of communication for societal bonding. It mistakes this ... element that is there for us to share with each other, for an end in and of itself, as I will explain. Put another way, this assumption of material progress and the illusion of infinite wants it creates, has little to do with the function of some good, and everything to do with the social relationship it creates. It is about social connection, for better or for worse. And the most critical aspect of this, is that it's largely out of our control. It’s pretty much hardwired and subconscious, built right into our evolutionary psychology. If there is anything that has become increasingly clear in cognitive neuroscience, is that we are created and defined by others, at every stage of our physical and psychological development. And I know this may seem trite to many of us in TZM but I realized recently that we really don't understand how dramatic this is, how profound it is when it comes to what we think is important, and why we act the way we do. In the 13th century King Frederick II of Sicily decided he wanted to figure out what the natural language of humans were. Some said it would be Greek, some said it would be Latin. So to figure it out, the king took 50 infants upon birth, gave them the best food, little rooms, general conditions, but limited all human communication and contact, to see what these children would grow up naturally speaking. What happened? They all died of “stress dwarfism” which comes from a lack of human contact. Human contact is a hardwired human requirement for development. We evolved to learn, and to learn from other people. Natural selection has programmed us to expect certain things to occur as we grow, and virtually all of these relate to interactions with other human beings. “Critical periods” as they’re termed is one form. Language, for example, can only be learned from others at a very specific time in development. And the spectrum of influence when what "should happen doesn’t" or what "shouldn’t happen does" generates predictable consequences across the entire human population. For example it is well established that children not given the opportunity to form proper emotional attachment as infants very often end up as maladjusted adults. Likewise we imitate each other constantly and subconsciously, just as how babies impulsively imitate facial expressions they see about them as they develop. We have mirror neurons that fire in sympathy when watching other people’s actions, and we generally sense other’s pain and happiness in empathy. Some even have an advanced condition called mirror-touch synaesthesia, and when they watch violence like a boxing match, they literally feel it; they actually can’t witness anything violent. We are easily primed. The term “primed” is fascinating. Countless studies show how easy it is to elevate confidence and destroy it. This is why bullying works. If you think that you are stupid or inferior, if you’re being told that over and over again, even if you have the strongest will, if you’re consistently beaten down, you’ll begin to act that way. And if you really want to see something spooky about our hardwired social nature, throw the average individual into a crowd or get them to identify with a group. We have this limbic system response that drops our sense of critical thought in many cases. It drops our inhibition, our volition and our independence, when the herd gets excited. If I right now - if someone over here - screamed “Bomb!” or everyone just simply made the motion to go this way - just the motion - people would follow along, in a flock-like behavior; our limbic system simply responds that way. Not to mention the “groupthink” that’s so common out there, and our detachment from responsibility when we’re associated with another group and they’re behind us, supporting-... Any teenager knows what peer pressure does and the decisions that are made, that would never be made if they were alone, due to that influence. So coming back to the main issue: What all this means in material culture. Sociologist Charles Cooley probably put it the best: “I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am.” We literally define ourselves in social terms and assumed social responsibilities, which is why, statistically, 1 in 5 suicides are now linked to simply being unemployed. Culture has created the story that if you don’t have a job, then you lose your social value: a completely social connection. A study done a few years back in Fiji took western commercial television into an area that didn’t have it before, and after being introduced to the fashion, thin characters and social associations of beauty and success, the culture exposed saw a dramatic rise in unheard-of eating disorders and newly found interest to be thin and fashionable, and other commercial attributes. And, since I've been criticized for not having much comic relief in any of my presentations, I present to you Charlie Sheen. [Audience chuckles] Charlie brought the word-... where’s Ben? Ben? - [Ben] “Winning!” - into western pop culture. He spent weeks in the media spotlight explaining how great he was due to his wealth [and] status, a couple years back. By the way I bring this up not to impose hate on Charlie, but to show how his mainstream values and social sense encapsulates almost everything set forward by the system we live in: the favoring of wealth, status and competition. When he was asked what he thought of those that said he might NOT be “winning” he said “They can say that, but what kind of car are they driving? What kind of girls are in their home? You are either winning or you’re losing ... there’s nothing in between. I am going to win inside of every moment and they can just find the most comfortable chair in their small house and sit back and enjoy the show.” [Audience laughter] And I hope I’m not the only one who can appreciate the unintended double entendre at the end of that statement. Now what is my point? Those familiar with TZM know we have talked a lot about something called structural violence, in fact you’ll hear another talk on that today. Specifically the bio-psycho-social manifestation of violence that occurs by exposure to certain social circumstances. Such as, for example, the fact that people with low socioeconomic status have been found to correlate with high incidence of heart disease. It isn’t about what they’re eating, it isn’t their lack of exercise - it is simply about the stress of the way they feel. And the way we feel in this world is almost exclusively a social consequence. In the words of Robert Sapolsky, “It isn’t about being poor. It’s about feeling poor.” And when you see the emerging class divide now, we are not seeing just an injustice - we are seeing really a public health crisis, in the making. And the real task at hand - the real adaptation, to come back to the form of this lecture - is to redefine the social contract, to redefine how we actually look at each other. Because really, that is all that matters to any of us whether we’re aware of it or not. So in conclusion to this mildly rambling presentation, when it comes to the future of our society, when it comes to the heart of a sustainable culture, when it comes to the precondition that can set the stage of a new relationship, not only with each other, but with the habitat itself, I think this “material gain/status continuum trap” is going to be one of the most profound philosophical problems facing all of us, and the culture at large, those that are of course in the "normal" sphere, most of all. And it will be the core force distracting the public from understanding the general logic of the new social system we talk about: based on balance, sustainability and human trust; true social capital - the only reason we exist. And our adaptation to understand the critical need to alter this distorted current sense of relationship - or, to use old language, to alter this distorted spiritual relationship - is a subject that each of us need to consider in our own communication practices, and I thank you very much. [Applause]

Video Details

Duration: 23 minutes and 29 seconds
Year: 2015
Country: Germany
Language: English
Producer: The Zeitgeist Movement
Director: The Zeitgeist Movement
Views: 78
Posted by: ltiofficial on Jun 17, 2015

In this third "Origins and Adaptations" installment, Peter uses more of a "stream of consciousness" / economic to technology focused style, drawing upon the first post-scarcity RBE book ever written ("The Paradise within the Reach of all Men" by John Etzler), and exploring the question: How much material expansion and gain is "enough" once all human needs are met?

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