by Mike Meyer
It’s time to start serious planning for the worst case. While it is definitely not time to give up all hope, we do need to face the reality of our species weakest links because they are working to kill us all. And it appears that a number of influential people have come to the same conclusion.
Historically the weak links were simply the folks who caused trouble in crowds at public events, started rumors about their neighbors, and made sure that any ‘others’ who passed through were made unwelcome. These were the folks that were quick to speak up against anyone that was in any way different than they were.
But they were part of the human community and may have had skills of value. The phrases, ‘new and exciting’, ‘different and interesting’, ‘original and creative’, mostly didn’t exist for them. Later concepts such as ‘innovation’, ‘diversity’ and ‘change’ caused instinctive fear followed quickly by anger. Because of this they tended to be very concerned with what other people did in private because it might be different than what they did and that provided food for both titillation and anger.
For several thousand years this didn’t much matter. These were simply the conservative and difficult people you normally tried to avoid unless you were related to them or had to work with them for some reason. They were the easily angered and overly sensitive people who didn’t like change or people who caused change. In contemporary America they have become Trump followers, in Turkey they are Erdoğan supporters, or in Brazil the are Bolsonaro voters. In all cases they are a minority but have placed very questionable in positions of high authority.
In traditional societies these people performed the service of maintaining traditions and limiting social change. This worked fine for stability and minimal disruption in communities. As population expanded and was forced to explore new lands and new ways of living these are the people who stayed home. But as populations grew and urban living became the new normal for the human animal this population became more and more unhappy.
These are the people who have been unhappy and angry at all the changes for years as the process of technology driven change accelerated. The rise of social technologies allowed diverse populations, even in rural areas, to discover other people like them. Discovery and communication fostered new confidence and, with clearer understanding of expanded human rights, demands to stop oppression.
Within that diversity, initially misunderstood to be value loaded to innovation and change, the weak links also discovered others like themselves. Given their avoidance of change they tended not to pursue new ideas but instead sought group affirmation of their hatred of difference and anger at everyone else’s illicit activities. Those activities were, of course, illicit because other people were doing them. As the most common repository of racism in American society blaming others for reasons of race or ethnicity was the natural response to the rising stress of change.
In our evolutionary past these people were more valuable as they were by nature extremely suspicious and easily frightened. Often that could be a survival edge because not every new and different group was friendly. And, humans being what they are, friendliness could be a cover for planned murder and theft.
Unfortunately the rise of the post industrial planetary culture began to seriously disrupt human social standards. Increased education, wealth, and health allowed standards of innovation and diversity to become dominant. This was and is an unnatural world for these people. They are extremely uncomfortable in crowded environments with constant change and diversity. They want to be with their own kind and are the population that fosters racism and ethnocentrism.
Authoritarianism is natural to them. As they are most clearly outraged by differences they identify freedom as a weapon to inflict their fears and anxieties on others. Because they are most unhappy and share a very limited range of interests with other people very similar to themselves, wherever they are and in whatever culture, they tend to be active politically. Their focus tends to be suppression of both change and differences. This is simply their dominant nature. Unfortunately evolution has made this subgroup suddenly dangerous to our species survival.
This creates the strange condition now seriously disrupting human societies in the first stage of evolution to a planetary culture while facing the first, full planetary threat. In a different planetary situation this would probably work out over the course of a century or so. These people, the weak links now, are a minority and do not seem well suited to very large urban metropoles subject to constant change. But the needs of supporting diversity in crowded environments will need to work out how to deal with those who are instinctive in their rejection of that very reality.
The big problem is that this group is deadly in times of planetary crisis with self inflicted climate change. Cooperative change is needed by our entire species working more closely and cooperatively together than any time in our history. Hence the identification of this part of our population as our weakest links. That weakness now is the inability to handle diversity and quick, all encompassing change. To survive we have no other options.
That makes our weak link populations deadly to our species. We have never had this situation before, even though this is just one of many, completely new situations we are facing now. How do we deal with this?
The liberal standard nation state is some form of representative government based on the ideal of equal rights for all people. Ironically the weak link population is the now the most active in claiming their ‘right’ to minimize or eliminate rights for all other groups. But that is their nature.
While this is nothing new it is very new in the disastrous impact this is having on human survival. In the past this would have simply produced a ‘conservative’ society prone to isolation until population change disrupted them. But we are now in an era requiring very rapid and dynamic change to survive.
The cultural result of that will be a very different human society. But how do we maintain the ideals of equality of rights and achieve the changes required over the next twenty years and beyond while these people work actively to block and deny reality? Sadly there are opportunists and criminals who’s specialty is manipulating the weak links people for power and exploitation.
We are seeing the successes these opportunists can achieve by focusing on triggering their instinctive fear and reactive hatred for differences and any change. They are not thoughtful or perceptive but instinctively suspicious and reactionary. These are elements of all human nature but this minority embodies this as central to their self definition. The very different planetary condition has suddenly turned this group to a problem far larger than ever in human history.
I dare say most people’s preference is to remove the opportunists and prevent the type of people in positions of authority who know only fear and manipulation for personal gain. The election of Trump and his cohort in America proved that to be a dangerously naive assumption. Arrival of similar types at varying levels of ignorance and criminality have made it clear we have an entirely new type of problem with very old characteristics.
How do we deal with this in a way that does not collapse into the very authoritarian misery that both the opportunistic leaders and our weak link population are susceptible to while limiting that danger from a fuzzily identifiable part of our population? This is the first time that I am aware of a human personality type becoming a major problem in human survival.
We do not have much time to figure this out and these people are a very immediate danger to our survival. A common guess is that these people are a problem because of weak education or for situational economic reasons but that does not seem to stand based on surveys of various kinds. This is a new problem on species and planetary scale.
It seems that the only way to deal with this is part of what is beginning to be seriously promoted by those who have the resources and innovative skills to do something. Perhaps this is the answer but is initially being presented as an escape mechanism for the oligarchy who are heavily responsible for the failure to address the climate disaster. This needs to be discussed and decided at the broadest level to ensure that wealth is not the only or even the primary criteria this solution. It must integrated into a true planetary component of our survival strategy.
Jeff Bezos is actively pursuing the creation of orbital cities. His vision is also the vision of many of us who see this as a means of ensuring human survival while also escaping the climate disaster that is is almost certain we will be unable to limit in the time we have.
What will this mean? I strongly suspect that this will produce a cultural and, possibly, an evolutionary split in our species. The linked Economist article on Jeff Bezos identified the difficulties and expense of large orbital cities and the changes in social organization that would result. Moving raw materials up form our planet’s gravity well makes little sense economically in order to manufacture goods that would be cheaper and easier to do on planet.
What does make sense is to move to a post scarcity social model off planet based on the unlimited raw materials and power available there. But underlying this is also the reality I have described above. How to ethically deal with the portion of the human population that appears to be unsuited to the age we are entering and seem completely unable to understand the threats that we face.
The linked article (above) defines the orbital cities as a place of luxury with opportunities that could draw citizens to live in orbit. But is could also be a way to allow room for the weak links to stay behind and have room for their way of life.
Many science fiction stories include colonies beyond our solar system with specific ethnic or exclusive populations who have left Earth to organize their preferred utopias. A major problem is the near impossibility of achieving that with actual interstellar transport of human populations. The distances are just too enormous.
These stories also run counter to the nature of the identified groups within the human population. The majority of our population is migrating steadily to urban environments and finds happiness in diversity and change. If any were to leave Earth permanently it will be form this majority.
Looking at the current collapse of America into low grade fascism and bigotry with similar problems in Great Britain plus parts of Europe, Turkey, and the Philippines, I think the motivation to move to orbital cities will be to escape the depredations of the weak link governments constantly struggling for authoritarian control.
This could begin to develop within twenty years. And that would be at a time that we know that climate disaster and change will begin to seriously affect human opportunity on this planet.
This is, I think, the worst case scenario. Facing the loss of a significant part of our planet to unfavorable climate change, those that can will move to the new orbital cities. They will leave behind those that refuse to, probably even then, admit that the climate disasters around them are happening.
We should begin now to discuss this as an option just as Bezos is doing with Blue Origin and Elon Musk is pushing for Mars settlement with SpaceX. We need an increasingly unified alliance of free and democratic states to save our planet and, also, to arrange alternative routes to survival. Perhaps this could be used to halt the nationalist/fascist disaster driven by our most unhappy population.
Our planetary climate disaster is the most complex problem we have ever faced. Each stage of this is presenting new and unique problems and needs that must be addressed quickly and at a scale never before achieved.
We need to work on dealing with this now.