Frederick Douglass was born a slave, but eventually escaped to freedom. He then became a publisher, abolitionist, orator, and US Ambassador. In his autobiography—a true must-read for anyone who wants to understand American history—he describes how learning to read drove his process of personal liberation. He learned he was free in his mind long before … Continue reading Truth Matters
Sound science and the free flow of facts are a national security imperative. Without genuine investigation, a willingness to discover evidence, and ways to ensure that reliable, useful, accurate information is moving freely, everyone is less able to know which choices will have which ramifications, and so everyone is less able to make informed choices about how to govern individual or shared outcomes. Open access to sound science is integral to any serious strategy to secure the nation, ensure the rule of law, or empower the people to achieve durable future prosperity.
Why we choose the burden of outdated power structures
The modern age opened with the advent of modern science and a deliberative effort to demonstrate truth with examination of evidence. Modern democratic processes emerged from this break with feudal history. Today, we are living in post-modern times—the period after modern breakthroughs became the general foundation on which new discoveries were then made.
Philosophers, architects, literary theorists, painters and politicians, will all define post-modern in different ways, but what we can say is that we have emerged from modernity into a time when legitimacy is not inherited or seized, but rather developed through decentralized processes of discussion, coordination, and responsible accountable governance. Today’s most recognized monarchies own their legitimacy only because they support and sustain democratic political systems that carry out the acts of government in parallel to their position as historically founded national leaders.
All the building we have to do…
For many years, the engineers of the United States have warned that infrastructure urgently needs trillions of dollars in routine maintenance, and trillions more in updates and upgrades. Infrastructure is the shared framework on which we build a thriving economy. Businesses of all sizes are able to compete for market value, in part because the quality of transport, electrification, and communications infrastructure is of world-leading quality.
Fierce Urgency & Democracy Rooted in Deep Principle
Exigency is an immediate state of pervasive intense demand on our attention. “Exigent circumstances” are considered to be both emergent and critical enough to override one’s normal free will and moral decision-making. Under extreme pressures, the argument goes, one is less able to “live up to” the best of what we expect of ourselves and each other. This leaves one with less agency, less sovereignty, and less capability for doing anything other than tending to whatever actions will allow for survival in the face of a threat. In that sense, whether we know it or not, “exigent circumstances” are by far the most commonly used excuse for deviating from what would normally be considered acceptable or ethical behavior.
A city is a constellation of forces, a map of relational dynamics tracing human need, aspiration, action, and invention, a wager against bleak limitation, and a beacon in the darkness that shows a network of souls have gathered to pool their imaginations. A city can be of any size; it is a polity—a civic space where people come together to make the world they will inhabit.
There are cities of 20 people with the ambition to reach other worlds and the wisdom that comes with knowing deeply the limitations of place, and there are mega-cities of tens of millions who will never know how so many people came to live so near to them, because the reasons are all so different and the personal interests so divergent. And sometimes, these megacities are more local in their focus than anyone in cities large or small could imagine, that focus driven by the sheer time-cost of even thinking beyond the city limits. In one after another study, we are hearing that urbanization is the great challenge of the first half of the 21st century.
There is a tension between the feudal system and modernity, which is most usefully illustrated by the differences in how feudalism and democracy treat knowledge. In the feudal system, where powerful landlords control access to resources and consume the political space, general scientific, historical, and technical knowledge is jealously guarded and is shared with working people only in order to achieve a specific objective of the ruling class. Knowledge is used to guarantee lifelong indenture and the perpetuation of rigidly determined power structures.
Democracy, by contrast, requires that all people have routine access to high-precision, traceable, tested knowledge of all kinds. Modern societies, those born amid the collapse of feudal regimes of various epochs, enter into modernity by committing in one way or another to the idea that knowledge is a universal right and that people should be able to access it, rework it according to tested truth and lived experience, and assist in the ongoing work of expanding the wider pool of human intelligence. Continue reading “Beyond Feudalism: Shared Sovereignty, Human Dignity & Open Information”
A New Blueprint for Human Liberty
We want a future characterized by freedom from tyranny and deprivation. We want a future characterized by open access to education and empowerment. These wants are also needs, if we are to build a human civilization capable of the flexibility and resilience required to outlast the risks that flow from our own frailties. The metaphysical structures we call institutions have developed over long centuries fraught with scarcity, conflict, injustice and the reaction to injustice. We know this, and we let ourselves forget it. So, it is worth remembering: we are always, in subtle and deliberate ways, striving to free ourselves from the inefficiency of rigid institutions that ignore human need and the nuance of life as it happens at the human scale.
We can design the future we want. We can design institutions that “know” how to receive, to sift through, to leverage, and to be enhanced by waves of change. Knowledge is a constellation. The knowledge in your own mind is a constellation, but the constellation of all that is known extends to all human minds, and to all that we use to document what we perceive and comprehend. That constellation of knowledge relationships is also a map of the future, though we don’t yet know with perfect clarity which elements we will inhabit and which we will escape. Continue reading “Freedom from Tyranny: Redefined”
Historically, when observers to the Bretton Woods institutions would raise issues of macrocritical value distortion, they were generally told “That’s not our business.” The common practice was to treat environmental damage, the degradation of basic rights, limited access to education, as “unquantifiables” or as “social issues”. IMF leadership would refer to the founding mission as dealing exclusively with the health or unhealth of fiscal math in a given country—its budgetary solvency. At the World Bank, the mission of ending poverty was not seen as directly linked to the building of basic civic and economic infrastructure required for sustained human development.
So, for a long time, macrocritical considerations would make their way into analysis and reports, but global economic leaders went on about their business without worrying too much about environmental impacts, gender inequality, or systemic multi-directional feedback loops like the climate system.
We need to think of economics as something much wider and more diverse than the 2-dimensional graphs we are so used to. Economists, investors and political leaders routinely push us to believe economic progress means expansion over time. When the total amount of goods, services and currency exchanged in a given place expands over a … Continue reading An Evolving Biochemical Technicolor Birdsnest