Evolutionary Philosophy – Daniel Schmachtenberger: “Phase shift for humanity” (Part 1)

Daniel Schmachtenberger is a futurist, evolutionary philosopher, strategist and social engineer. In this talk he addresses the social crisis that we are experiencing – it is a very inspiring view by considering the larger context of the process of our civilization.

He offers a clear, open view of our human species and of nature on which we all depend – and which, according to Schmachtenberger, we still do not understand properly.

You can find his talk with David Fuller from Rebel Wisdom on Youtube (see below). Here is the text of their conversation. And our german translation can be found here.

David Fuller: A lot of people have a felt sense that things are starting to break down, do you sympathize with that? And how would you sort of sum up what that means? 

Daniel Schmachtenberger: „If we look at the history of the thing we call civilization today, one very obvious thing that we notice is that all the early civilizations don´t still exist, whether we look at the Mayas, the Aztecs, the Egyptians, the Roman Empire, the Greek Empire, they all collapsed – and so the precendent is actually that civilization collapses, not that it maintains. 

The real difference is that this is the first time we have a completely global civilization. There really is no such thing as „USA“ or „China“ separate from each other, when you understand globalized materials economies, technology economics – where there´s actually no country in the world that can make its own consumer electronice, right? Without the mining and manufacturing and technology from around the world.

So our process of civilization is one that has inherently self terminating dynamics built into it. When that happens at a fully global scale, it is a – basically, the catastrophe is just unbounded, where it has always been bounded. As big as the Roman empire was when it fell, it wasn´t everything. And limited not only by its total geographical size but the level of technology it hadn´t, it caused desertification throughout agriculture, but it wasn´t able to destabilize the biosphere at large.

In a hundred years of industrialized fishing, we´ve removed most of the large fish species from a water planet – a ¾ water planet that took three and a half billion years to get thoses fish species.

Unlimited processes in a limited biosphere

And so you recognize that we´re operating the same way that has always led to war and environmental destruction and collapse of civilization, just factoring exponential technology. 

And so when you start to think about exponential rivalry, rivalry dynamics, that lead to polarization, that ends up leading to war, but now exponential warfare, it becomes larger than a finite biosphere can handle and it becomes existential. 

When you think about exponential extraction and exponential pollution which means depletion and accumulation from open loops in a network diagram you go to an ecosystem, there are no open loops, every thing is the food for something else, there is no unrenewable resource, no waste.

Our civilization is characterized by materials economy that´s linear, not circular. 

So toxicity, depletion, is on one side, accumulation on the other, whether we are talking about – on the depletion side, whether we´re talking about species extinction or biodiversity loss or any of the issues that we look at there , and on the accumulation side whether  we´re talking about CO2 levels in the air or in the water or nitrogen runoff or degraded uranium or whateverelse is, those are all specific instantiations of open loops in the way we do civilization in relationship to the closed loop dynamics of the ecosystem that both have a civilization that is increasingly fragile and that is making increasingly fragile underlying ecosystem basically debasing the substrate upon which it depends. 

Time is running out: We have to get to zero Co2 emissions that quickly.
In order to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, global emissions would have to fall from 2020 onwards. If we wait until 2025, it´s an almost impossible task.

And so when you think about exponential extraction, exponential pollution that obviously get´s larger that the playing field can handle. When you try and think about exponential expansion of the monetary supply that has to be based in goods and services, that can´t keep happening. 

When you think about we compete using narrative and information, you start to think about exponential information tech used for disinformation and for population control – you get to a place where the information ecology is so broken that – what is actually happening with North Korea or not – are we going to have nuclear war –  or what´s actually happenig with Syria – what´s actually happening with Putin´s relationship to the Trump administration, how long do we really have before all the corall die-off – like all the most important questions as to whether we make it or not as a species, nobody really knows how to make sense of it. 

The loss of sense making

And so when you have a situation where you´ve actually got an exponentially decreasing sense-making capacity, an information ecology that is increasingly more broken, with an exponetially increasing capacity to make big choices, – technology is basically a level of our choice making –, so a fist has one level of harm and when I extend that to a stone tool, it´s a bigger harm, to a bronze tool, to a gun, at the level of an ICBM that´s just a really a big extension of that type of choice-making capacity.

But when I have exponentially increased choice making capacitiy with exponentially worse sense making, that always runs into a cliff. And so the underlying dynamics that are leading to the selftermination that people feel and sense right now are not different in kind than the ones that we´ve been facing since the beginning of what we call civilization they´re differnet in magnitude and in the speed of process, factoring the exponential curves involved. 

David Fuller: When talking about the „shift“– we can talk about in in terms of material terms or we can talk about it in terms of an evolution in consciousness or the way that we operate –  what do you sense is that leap that we need to make it in terms of how we operate?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: You actually have to think about it on all of those levels to be able to make sense of it in a meaningful way. Otherwise it´s kind of like asking when we are talking of the health of a person whether that means the health of their liver or their kidneys or their blood – that doesn´t even make sense, you can´t seperate those things from each other.

So when I think about what economics is – economics is our value system codified as value equations that determines how much we value one thing relative to another thing.

That determines what we´re incentivized to do and what we confer power to. So if a dead whale is worth a million dollars on a fishing boat and a live whale in the ocean is worth nothing, that´s a value system codified in a value equation that then incentivizes behaviour.

But it also incentivizes psychopathology, psychopathy actually – I have to shut empathy down, because leaving the whale in the ocean – it actually isn´t even gonna stay in the ocean, another guy´s gonna hunt it out. So I´ve got a tragedy of the common. I have to kind of deaden to be able to do the thing that is incentivized by the system –  or somebody else does it and I´m just not effective in the system. 

So, you can´t think about the evolution of human consciousness and the evolution of economics differently. But if you look at the way economics then needs to protect its own profit stream, in the way it will learn how to influence media to control peoples sense making frameworks, in the way it will influence governance, again this is getting to consciousness – or the way it will influence legislation on the nature of what happens in education to prepare people to the work force and so the paradigm shift is basically  – everything. 

Part 2 can be found here.