For some 2000 years or more civilization has been
ruled by a paradigm which was grounded in the Judeo-Christian creation
myth. It was reinforced by Greek philosophy, Roman Power, Newton's
Mechanics, Darwin's evolution, and Smith's economics. In the waning
two decades of the 20th century a new scientific and social paradigm
has been developing that could have the most, deep, fundamental
impact on human civilization since man first moved out of the cave.
The old paradigm placed humans in a purposeful universe created
by some super normal power for the domination and use by man. The
new paradigm suggests a self- organizing universe in which humanity
is but one of the created interdependent webs of being.
The new paradigm, which I'll call the Gaian paradigm,
not only has many roots but, can be, and is becoming, the underpinning
of a new global network of cultures replacing the now dominant and
domineering man-centered Industrial culture. The new cultures will,
like all cultures, be a holistic unified coherence of interdependent
components. They will result from a deep fundamental transition
of our worldview, our social institutions and our lifestyles. The
need for this transition is being made obvious by the growing numbers
of critics of industrialism. And it is happening, and being made
real, in the positive and creative and positive work of organizations
like the E.F. Schumacher society.
The coming of the millennium is providing a unique
opportunity for the full fruition of a new Gaian civilization. There
may be a little more than an iota of truth in the original Biblical
definition of Millennium as a catastrophic climax followed by a
period of peace, harmony and beatitude on Earth. At least the millennium
is being looked upon as a time of change. Minds are opening to new
ideas. People are looking for new actions. It is in this spirit
of a hopeful deep fundamental millennium transformation of society
that I'd like to talk today.
The New Paradigm
Many basic scientific observations led to this
new scientific/social paradigm. One was the observation that biological
evolution did not progress as Darwin predicted by a series or minute
changes which led over time to the emergence of new species. Rather,
biological evolution happened in quantum leaps. Major biological
changes and new species are created in relatively short periods
of time after long periods of stability. This observation was designated
by Stephen Jay Gould as "punctured equilibrium".
Two other observations were linked to become the
"Gaia Hypothesis." James Lovelock, a scientist working
for NASA, observed that the biosphere of the Earth was radically
different from all other planets. It stayed amazingly constant,
and within ranges which supported life. Lynn Margulis, a microbiologist,
at the same time, was studying the evolution of micro organisms
over the billions of years before animals appeared on the face of
the earth. She found that life forms were interdependent.
Life was able exist on Earth because of a symbiosis
among all life forms. Everything was interdependent with everthing
else. Life created its own biome. Lovelock and Margulis proposed
that the whole earth was a self-organized, self-supporting ecological
system At the suggestion of a neighbor of Lovelock, William Golding,
athor of Lord of the flies, they termed this living Earth system
Gaia, after the Greek Earth goddess.
A theoretical understanding of how Gaia, or in fact any system,
might self- organize came from other fields of science including
mathematics, physics and particularly computer science. Chaos and
Complexity theories made possible by computer modeling have moved
science beyond the limits imposed by linear mathematics, algebra
and calculus. Study of the transition of order into chaos, or chaos
into order, and the formation of complex systems from simpler ones
has opened a whole new area for science. Two particular breakthroughs
in the field are relevant to the Gaia concepts.
"Self-organizing criticality" is an
idea proposed by Brookhaven National Laboratory physicist, Per Bak.
His first computer model representing self- organizing criticality
was of a pile of sand. As you pour grains of sand on a spot it slowly
builds into a stable inverted cone. As you continue pouring the
cone becomes unstable until sand slides and avalanches restore a
new larger stable cone. He showed that biological evolution occured
in such bursts. Simple entities formed more complex systems, which
remained stable until internal pressures built up and caused a rapid
reorganization. There seems to be a law of nature, self-organizing
criticality, by which new forms come into being.
'Autocatalysis,' developed by Stuart Kauffman
at the Santa Fe Institute is another concept which provides a theoretical
base for the evolution of Gaia. Autocatalysis holds that systems
of biological entities may promote their own rapid transition into
different forms. Kauffman uses the simple example of the slippery
footed fly and sticky tongued frog. The mutation of slippery footedness
gave no environmental advantage to the fly until the mutation of
the sticky tongued frog. Only then did Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest
come into play. Networks of potential mutations may develop and
remain dormant until triggered by an environmental change or other
phenomena that brings on the avalanche of transition. Autocatalysis,
linked with survival of the fittest explains how complex organs
like the eye, or new species emerge.
'Self-organizing criticality" and "autocatalysis"
are among the scientific concepts that show how biological entities
self-organize in quantum like leaps from simple cells to linked
complex networks of cells, organs, plants and animals. More than
that, physicists like Lee Smolin and Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann
have extended self-organizing back to the beginning of time at the
Big Bang, suggesting that the same principle may apply to the self-organizing
of fundamental particles into atoms, atoms into molecules and molecules
into galaxies, solar systems, planets, and life. At the same time
economists like Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow, Brian Arthur, and
Jon Holland have extended the new paradigm in the other direction,
to include economics, social organization, and human consciousness.
This new scientific/social paradigm suggests that
people have no superior divine mandate within a universe created
for them. They are not independent of, above or beyond the natural
world in which they are imbedded. They do have the unique ability
to understand, through science, the laws that govern them, to envision
future worlds, and to co-create those future worlds within the laws
of science. The comming millennium will evolve radically differently
from anthropocentric paradigm which has dominated the past 2000
Cyberspace and the Networked Universe
"Everything is connected to everthing else"
is one way of stating the Gaian Paradigm. It is a fact of science,
and is a social mindset. But it is more than those, it is a fact
of technology. "Networking" was identified by John Naisbit
in Megatrends, as one of the major new trends of the century. As
he saw it, it was a social and political trend. It was made possible
by the railroad, the automobile, the telegraph, and the telephone,
each of these technologies made the Earth smaller and put people
in more rapid and reliable touch with one another. The real quantum
jump in networking is only now before us. Computers and the Internet
are providing a challenge that has hardly been explored. Cyberspace
is a global phenomenon providing humanity the oportunity to work
globally in real time. This takes networking well beyond the concept
about which Naisbitt wrote only a few years ago, or the concept
of transnational networking which was the root of the formation
of TRANET, the organizaion with which I've been working since, 1996.
The Gaia Hypothesis, the theories of chaos and
complexity, the Gaian concepts, and the computer technologies which
now face us grew independently of one another. But they form a unity.
They in themselves, are an example of the self-organizing principle
which shapes all of cosmic evolution. Together make up the Gaian
Paradigm. They challenge us to prepare ourselves for an avalanche
of social, political and economic change in the years ahead. The
coming millennium will evolve radically differently from man-centered
paradigm which has dominated the past 2000 years.
Part 2 The Implication of the Gaian Paradigm to Social Institutions
The new Paradigm is a scientific hypothesis which
explains many phenomena in cosmic evolution. But it is more than
that. It suggest a new worldview or mindset by which humans can
examine current phenomena with respect to their long range future.
Futurists are no longer dependent on examining history and technological
trends. In fact, puncture evolution and self-organizing criticality
suggests that new social, as well as physical and biological, phenomena
arrive, like an avalanche unpredictably. We may not be able to foretell
them with accuracy, but we can examine groups of related social
phenomena that are close to chaos. And we can foresee possible future
happenings of social importance. This is not unlike the mountaineer's
warnings of avalanches, the meteorologist's prediction of weather,
or the geologist's foresight of earthquakes. The mathematical accuracy
of physics, the model science of the past, applies only to a very
limited range of phenomena. Even those, as quantum theory says,
are only very highly probable. Nature is nonlinear and unpredictable.
Punctuated equilibrium applies equally well to
social and cultural evolution as as it does to biologicalevolution.
As long as a society is adapted competently to the values and needs
of the people it serves, it will tend to preserve those values and
practices that have sustained it, and will resist change. But again,
when things detriorate (economic downturns, street violence, family
disintegration, warfare, religious uncertainty, famine, ecological
collapse, or whatever) deeply rooted cultural premises are quickly
abandoned. A pweriod of uncertainty and chaos sets in. If new knowledge
reveals a profoundly different view of the world, a new cultural
and social strucure replaces the old. Society today is in it most
profound period of chaos and change.
In the coming years it is most probable that every
social institutions that has been developing for the past 2000 years
will be deeply, fundamentally, and radically reexamined in the light
of the New Scientific/Social Paradigm. The new mindset gives humanity
a new powerful tool to foresee and prepare for the uncertain future.
There could be a flood of self-organizing social phenomena rplacing
the old. In the following we look at three. The burgeoning Civil
Society and the possibility that it could emerge into a new mode
of global governance. The growth of homeschooling which could be
the forerunner of a radically different, community based learning
system. And the convergence of science and religion which portends
a unified knowledge system.
A Global Civil Society Governance System
In 1982, in a European journal on communications
I wrote an article on "Transnational Networks and World Order"
John Briggs and F. David Peat in one of the early books popularizing
"the new science of chaos" quoted it as an example of
the application of the new science to social and political structure.
It was pretty primitive thinking, but may perhaps suggest the direction
that more thought should be applied as we move further under the
new Gain paradigm. The quote suggested that:
"A future world government can be pictured
as a multidimensional network of networks which provide each individual
with many optional paths through which s/ he can provide for his
or her own well-being and can particpate in controlling world affaire.
... [it will be] composed of links between nodes. [It] will have
no center. Each member of the network [will be] autonomous. Unlike
in a hierarchy no part or member will be controlled by any other.
Various members may draw together for special projects or on differint
issue, but there [will be] no bureaucarcy demanding action or conformity."5
This was not meant to be the prediction of a classical anachistic
state, but rather to fruition of the participatory democracy made
possible by new concepts, new technologies, and new worldviews.
That the current social/economic/political system
is on the edge of chaos is made too obvious by daily newspaper headlines
to require much confirmation here. Random killing of tourists in
Florida and Egypt, depletion of the ozone layer, teen suicides,
world hunger, global warming, Washington gridlock, the failure of
global governance in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Ceylon, and the Middle
East, the widening rich - poor gap, the inability to solve, or even
confront global pollution problems, child labor, street crime, and
sweatshops, racism and the glass ceiling, the wanton waste of natural
resources, downsizing of industries, the break down of the family,
are mere symptoms. The basic characteristics of civil society is
lost in the current market/government orientation, which fosters
competition, free trade, self- centeredness, profit-over-people,
globalism, and widespread alienation. Deep systemic problems give
a clear picture of a civilization on the edge of chaos. An alternative
system is self-organizing.
In the past two decades there has been a rapid
rise of citizen organized GrassRoots Organizaions (GROs, often called
Nongovernmental Organizations or NGOs) in Asia, Africa and Latin
America. It has been initiated by the failure and near chaos brought
on by the Industrial Countries' intrusion into culture they did
not understand. This subverion of other cultures to the Western
way started with Columbus who, with the strength of the sword (technology),
the flag (national organization), and the cross (religion) started
the subjugation of all non-European cultures. The subjugation of
people around the world during the periods of 'discovery' and colonizing
that followed, are well known. It is enough, here, to say that indigenous
cultures have been overwhelmed by the dominant and domineering EuroAmerican
Springing from the land, uninvited and often resisted
by outside developers, and even their own governments, people are
now recreating their own communities with new and indigenous technologies,
and taking over where governments and industries have failed. Often
stimulated by a special unique local need, these local Grassroots
Organizations (GROs) grow to become more broadly socially and politically
active, linking up with other GROs to form networks for participatory
democracy and mutual aid. Outside aid to GROs is provided by Grassroots
Support Organizations (GRSOs) formed most often by middle class
professionals and technicians who recognize the inequities engendered
by the current economic- political system. GRSOs reach out to give
in-kind assistance and to legitimize the actions of the peasants
and disenfranchised in their bids for empowerment and local self-reliance.6
Techniques, technologies, information, and service from the industrial
countries are supplied through links created by International non-
governmental organizations (INGOs)
Non-governmental organizations are also becoming
a greater force and better recognize in the Industrial countries.
The problems facing humankind cannot be solved by governments or
markets alone. Nor can governments or corporations create a people
center democracy. But we-the-people are solving our problems world
wide by the third leg of governance, Civil Society. That is, by
citizen participation on a local community scale. New citizen initiated
social innovations are sweeping North America, Europe, Australia,
New Zealand, and to a lesser extent Japan. These social innovations
are being borrowed and exchanged among nearly every country aroud
From England came the cooperative movement, started
in Rochdale England in 1844 by some disenfranchised weavers. It
spread to the U.S. with producer co-ops during World War I, and
with a plethora of consumer co-op during the 1960s. The Mondragon
network of co-ops, in the Basque area of Spain, added the concept
of crating secondary co-ops to serve the primary co-ops. Banks,
Insurance Companies, Management Services, and other businesses owned
by the primary co- op serve the member co-ops . The Seikatsu Club
of some 10,000 Japanese housewives organized by "hans,"
local co-ops, create their own businesses when the market does not
meet their social, ecological , or economic demands.
From Bangladesh came the Grameen Banks that introduced
a new credit technique by lending money through groups of borrowers
who guaranteed one another's loans. From Canada came Local Exchange
and Trading Systems (LETS), a local citizen owned computerize exchange
system. Local scrips, such as Ithaca Hours, help local businesses
and individuals create local jobs and exchange goods and services
regardless of the inflow of federal dollars. "Time Dollars,"
systems promote baby sitting pools, senior citizen services, and
other forms of local service based on hours worked not dollars spent.
From Denmark has come co-Housing, in which families
build their own homes but with common ground and common space including
child care facilities and community dining rooms bringing a new
sense of community solidarity. This, of course, adds to the array
of communes, community land trusts, intentional communities, and
ecovillages in which citizen provide the planning and development
so lacking in government and corporate housing developments.
From Switzerland comes Community Supported Agriculture
(CSAs) bringing farmers and citizens together to produce local food
with local resources. The consumers sometimes own the land, share
the produce, and participate in the work, paying a professional
gardener to manage the growing. Other innovations in the food and
agriculture area include farmers' markets, homesteading, and the
rapidly growing development of home gardening.
From India came the concept of Community Land
Trusts (CLTs) and the Ghandian nonviolence that has already transformed
social protest and citizen action.
Many other social innovations such as citizen
patrols, homeschooling, community learning centers, community loan
funds, peace brigades, homesteading, and community bulletin boards
are building community solidarity, empowering citizens at the grassroots
and promoting local community self-reliance without relying on governments
or "the market."
It is all there. A living body of networking organizations
has emerged to fill the niche produced by dysfunctional post-colonial
governments. A plethora of unique interdependent social cells have
developed organs assuming specialized functions that serve the whole.
They have almost magically become the social/ poltical body that
promises better life for the people in developing countries, and
the whole Earth. The natural laws of self-organizing criticality
and autocatalysis are working on the social level.
Through the revelations of science, an understanding of the cosmic
process is slowly emerging. Perhaps with this new understanding,
humanity can participate in the co-creation of a sustainable and
lasting civilization based on citizen participation in local community
organizations - a Gaian global governance.
The First Phase of Democracy
Like any step in cosmic evolution this would be
a unique happening. But like any step in cosmic evolution it would
be subject to the natural evolutionary laws. It was 250 years ago
that the first phase of democratic governance was a unique happening
introduced on the planet. The times then, like the times now were
chaotic. The ruling powers, and the ruling system, had outlived
its usefulness. Masses of people recognized that they were missing
out on many to the benefits that their toil had created. "It
was the best of times, and the worst of times." The American
and the French revolutions happened.
The first phase of demcracy was a foolish idea
to the leaders of the day. Monarchs held their power by the "divine
right of kings." Neither the churches nor the governments were
freindly to the idea that the people could rule themselves, nor
even participate in government. The ideas of voting, representation,
legislating, human rights, politics, constitutions, or social contracts
were little more than hazy academic notions played with by abstruse
philosphers. The Magna Charter had fiven large land owners a degree
of power over their lands and its serfs, but these posers were subject
to the Kings will. It took the Voltaires, the Frnaklinss, the Paines,
and the Jeffersons to bring the ideas of everyman's rights to the
public. And it took the Boston Tea Party, the Bread Riots, and the
revolutionary wars, to bring down the old regimes and make possible
the self-organization of the new.
Self-organization is the right word. The avalance
of change hit an unprepared society. No one had predicted the rise
of national democracy. There were no plans, no designs, or instruction
books for the first phase of democracy. There were few constitutions,
no concept of checks and balances, no rules for voting, no loyal
opposition, no political parties, no civil society, no GROs.
The American colonies had assumed a degree of
self-control under the British Crown. Direct democracy was practiced
in the forerunners of the New England town meeting and in some colonies.
Voting rights were usually denied women, blacks, Catholics and Jews.
Suffrage was extended to only landholders of some substance often
as much as 50£ (a goodly sum in those days). Probably no more
than 1/3 of the adult free men could vote. Office holding was even
more restricted. Often to hold elected office a man had to own at
least 500 acres and 10 slaves, or thousands of pounds sterling in
other property. Like with todays GROs, ideas and actions were separate
and disparate. 7 No associations were ready to exercise political
control of society. The task was daunting. But it did happen. In
spite of the later failure in France and earlier failures in Athens
and Rome, the first phase of democracy was born to last in America.8
I have used "the first phase of democracy"
to describe the political innovation of 1776 because, as we know
today, it was only partially successful. It was only partially successful
for many reasons. Primarily because it arrived on the world stage
without preparation. The technology of the times made participatory
democracy impossible beyond the town meeting. Communication was
measured in days or weeks, not as today in nanoseconds. Because
of that, we-the-people could only be "represented" in
the halls of power. Franklin and Jefferson, followng the Native
Americvan model, advocated that all decision be made by concensus
at the local level, and that represenatives be limited to arguing
the case for their communities. But Madison and others, following
the concept of British parliamentarian, Edmond Burke, argued that
represntatives should be empowered to make decision in the name
of the people. Burkian representation was accepted by most colonies
and the Constituional Assembly. This has made the government dominant
and limited the voice of the people.
In spite of extending suffrage, the voice of the
people has been steadily erroded as government has grown in size
and power. People's control of corporations was taken away in 1844
in the Supreme Court's decision that corporations had the same rights
as flesh and blood citizens. Earlier, communties or states could
revoke corporate charters if a corporation was deemed to not be
in the public interest. The rise of corporate power over the people
increased with the opening of Free Trade with no restrictions on
the outflow of capital or jobs, and no global standards for safety,
health, or protecting in environment. The high cost of getting elected
and the free flow of money into politics from the wealthy elite,
banks, and businesses, has made even the first phase of democracy
far less a people's government than was envisioned by America's
Founding Fathers. Emergence of the Second Phase of Democracy
The rise of Civil Society, modern technology,
and the new scientific understanding of how evolution works has
made possible the emergence of a second phase for democracy. We-the-people
now have a voice in our civil society, we have the technology to
communicate around the globe, and we have the new understanding
of social evolution.
Complexity theory shows that ordered complexity
is the natural state of the universe. Biological evolution is the
most obvious example of the tendency toward the ordering of simple
entities into more complex systems. Every step of cosmic evolution
since the Big Bang has been a step toward increasing ordered complexity.
Creation occurs on the borderline between rigid order and random
chaos, "at the edge of chaos." If an entity is too rigidly
ordered it can not change to meet the contingencies of a change
in its environment. Flexibility is one of the cardinal biological
principles of evolution. Without flexibility a life form is not
sustainable, it cannot change to meet new conditions. Without flexibility
progress is impossible.
But governments, like corporations, have been
organized on the concept that good management means rigid order
directed from the top. In the first phase of democracy the people
elected their governmental repsentatives, but all power resided
in the government. Humans have been locked into the worldview in
which rigid order was highly respected. Rigid order was the goal
of organization. Humans are taught to be afraid of chaos, and to
avoid complexity. Yet, the new science/ social paradigm show us
that the edge of chaos is where progress happens with the self-organizing
of complexity. If society is to meet the challenges that face it,
it needs to live closer to the edge of chaos. It must welcome a
degree of disorder.
Democracy since its modern inception has suffered
from its self-guilt of being inefficient. Critics and supporters
alike have held that democracy is too chaotic. They have searched
for ways to move democracy toward more controlled management without
surrendering the human rights they saw as the great strenghth of
this form of government. The Gaian Paradigm sees democracy in a
very different light.
The seeming weaknesses of democracy are its strength.
The theories of Gaia, Chaos and Complexity suggest that self-organizing
on the edge of chaos is natural law. It requires the messy flexibility
inherent in democracy, and absent in more efficient forms of government.
Peope are only beginning to realize that no form of government,
except democracy, provides the freedom and potential of complex
ordering to meet the changing demands of modern times.
The rise of civil society, the burgeoning of GROs,
the growth of social innovation, community involvement in meeting
their own needs, are all parts of the progressive agenda provided
by nature. We may not see clearly today the final organization which
will emerge if we continue to build the decentralized autonomous
communities linked together in worldwide mutual aid. But, that is
the way of cosmic evolution as it is seen from the new worldview.
It purports the emergence of a second phase of democracy. One in
which people in community at the grassroots have a direct input
to all decisions which affect their lives. A new form of global
see part 1Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Bill_Ellis