A New Kind of Civilization: Civilization 3.0

by Daimon Sweeney
(2-3 minutes to read)

The assignment: In 700 words, what's the most important technological innovation in the next 10 years that would support a low carbon world?
My answer: Redirect civilization

How Can All Human Beings Have Satisfying Lives While at the Same Time Nature Becomes Increasingly Vibrant and Healthy? 

This is an entry in the 2017 Masdar Engage Blogging Contest.

We have the technology we need for a low-carbon future, or soon will. Decision-making and participation are the bottlenecks.​

The solution: A global information system of collective intelligence supporting wise decision-making and participation in creating a global sustainable culture.

Sheer inertia and old thinking maintain the status quo. These backwards orientations could easily delay needed action beyond critical climate and social tipping points. Building participation toward sustainability is essential.​

Those favoring a low-carbon, sustainable world need easy access to an objective global resource identifying and communicating best choices and useful innovations in all sustainability-related aspects of life.

With that, innovators, ordinary people, and organizations could easily choose to support sustainable choices with purchases, investment and participation. Informed engagement by the many millions of concerned citizens worldwide could catalyze a global groundswell that overwhelms a lagging status quo. Yet this “information infrastructure” is only one part of something bigger.​

Real transformation requires a deeper shift. Einstein famously said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” A powerful new way of thinking would be to adopt into the sustainability movement the underlying pattern that makes science, technology and capitalism such dynamic, creative, global and resilient systems.

These are “systems of collective intelligence.” Their structure generates naturally coherent, cumulative action over time, driven by global, distributed collective intelligence. Using this model to build a sustainable global culture is a solution that matches the magnitude of the problem. I call this possibility Civilization 3.0.​

Systems of collective intelligence have three parts:
1. A Core Question. These are, for science, “How does nature work?,” for technology, “How can we do this thing or do it better?,” and for capitalism, “How can I make more money?” These can vary to include higher-level considerations.

2. The Process. Working answers accumulate around the core question and subquestions. New possibilities are found and objectively tested. Better answers become the new working answers. The core question remains stable while the answers evolve in an endless process of self-optimization.

3. The Information Infrastructure. This holds accumulated knowledge. It communicates new discoveries, innovations and useful information, uniting those interested across national and cultural boundaries. This is what I pointed to at the beginning.​

A shared question lets people literally think together, using collective intelligence. An information infrastructure is the foundation for a system of collective intelligence that builds through time. 

Systems of collective intelligence are decentralized, open-ended, innovative, participatory and cross-cultural. They seek information and innovation. Superior findings spread. These systems constantly evolve toward more insightful, varied and developed solutions to their core questions.

Core questions define the output; you get what you ask for. To produce a global society of well-being in a thriving natural world I suggest this core question:

How can all human beings have satisfying lives
while at the same time
nature becomes increasingly vibrant and healthy?

While creating a low-carbon way of life is a high priority answer, it doesn't stop there. With a system of collective intelligence objectively reviewing and evaluating products, policies and practices, anyone could consistently make good sustainability-oriented choices in all parts of life. Improvements would cascade worldwide. Anyone so inclined could make good choices. Simply curating what is already known would accelerate change through spreading best practices and connecting people.

High engagement can make this an engine of change. Forward-thinking families, neighborhoods, schools, cities and businesses could share their best ideas, programs, products and discoveries. Local communities could optimize low-carbon well-being, learning and sharing results with each other while connecting with all ages.

Easy access across diverse interests pursuing the same core question would enhance innovation. Each interest area could have an evolving compilation of best practices with links to all that is known - collectively an operating manual for Spaceship Earth.

Prioritizing “all human beings” puts everyone on the same side. Altogether, this is a foundation for a unified global community with a shared interest in a thriving natural world and in creative resolutions to problems, rather than conflict. A global system of collective intelligence, producing a society that self-optimizes toward human and natural well-being, is within our grasp.

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