by Mike Meyer
Understanding the world wide paradigmatic shift’s disruptive effects is one of the largest challenges that we have ever faced. That ‘we’ represents our entire species and that is a primary problem. We don’t work well as a species because we still think of ourselves as communities, a form of tribal group, clustered in alliances.
No group takes responsibility for our planet. That clearly explains the failure to date in dealing with the largest, most complex problem our species has ever created. Climate change is producing a growing and accelerating array of problems for many of this planet’s life forms including ours. These are not small problems but extinction level conditions.
The coordinated efforts to deal with this hves been reserved to second or third level coalitions of specific community groups who have some professional knowledge or exposure to the effects of this in their areas. Primary action is assumed to be limited to agreements reached by the 195 nation states on this planet. These nation states are, themselves, third or fourth order alliances of smaller groups of political communities with greater or lesser control of those member communities.
Within these layered political communities we have significant minority groups committed to acting on the basis of random mythologies, willful ignorance, irrational greed, ethnic grudges, and mentally deranged leaders. And that is the effective leadership of this planet as no planetary standards exists for assumption of power.
This is not a promising situation. Most people don’t have a clue and wouldn’t recognize a clue if it was presented to them. Even if they did recognize the clue many of them have been trained to ignore such things in order to avoid slowing their leaders’ quest for wealth and power.
But we need to work with what we have.
As I have discussed previously the types of problems that are produced by planetary level complexity cannot be broken up into smaller pieces suitable for solving at the tribal alliance level. Efforts to do that are either ineffective or make matters worse while further confusing the population.
If you have gotten to this point, and this is the first time you have directly addressed these issues, you may well be thinking, to hell with this, I need a drink. Might as well party until the deck tilts too far to be able to dance. We just won’t think about what happens after that.
But wait, there is hope. The nature of fundamental paradigm change is the creation of a new way of seeing and thinking about our world. So how does that help?
We are up against a mental and cultural wall. We have created problems (climate change is the biggest, most immediate, and directly linked to other problems) that we cannot think about effectively or deal with at all on the scale that we currently use. Paradigms are the unified systems by which we see and understand life so that means that our current or old paradigm is broken. It doesn’t allow us to solve the problems we now have.
We need a new paradigm. But that is exactly what is happening and this has been developing clearly over the last century or more. Even sudden change at this scale is decades and centuries but we need now to move much more quickly.
All of this is very much a process of evolution with punctuated equilibrium. That just means that things are not continuous but are seemingly stable for long periods and then suddenly a lot of things change. We are now in the “a lot of things change” stage and just in time to maybe save us all.
But this is where it gets difficult because people do not spend much time thinking about how they think about things. We also don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how we understand the world we live in. In fact we spend much of our early life being taught things about this and only parts of that even stay with us depending on what we end up doing for a living.
How do you even think about changing the way you think about the world we live in and how we use that understanding to decide what we do on a daily basis? Mostly we don’t and don’t need to consciously do that. It happens to us as we are exposed to new ways of thinking with new people and face new unsolvable problems. One day something that doesn’t make sense is explained in a new way by someone and we suddenly see a solution we couldn’t see before. It’s now usually called “getting it”.
This links very strongly to diversity and the rise of metropoles (urban regions) as the primary human residence. The flow of new and different ideas with information as the primary indicator of value. That is why the metropolitan coasts and regions are the drivers of the new, post industrial economy. Industrial cities and agricultural communities are inherently conservative because they do not deal in intellectual value and individual creativity that is the product of communication and group interaction physical and virtual.
From solving one new problem with a new way of seeing and thinking, we begin to see other things from a new perspective and realize other things that need to change. The world becomes a different world and we like it better because problems are easier to solve. You may not even realize this until you go back to talk to someone who still thinks with the old paradigm and you discover they don’t really make sense anymore. That is the classic indicator of paradigmatic change. It is a species version of the saying that you can’t ever go home again.
So, if that is happening already we should be OK, right? We just need to wait until we see the new solutions. But these things take time and we don’t have a lot of time. Fifty years is a short time for this and we don’t have fifty years to figure out how to slow down and stop climate change. So time is a factor.
We also have about 7+ billion people on the planet and we need to deal with these things now at the planetary level. The last time we had a measurable and large paradigm shift was the Scientific Revolution in Europe (a small part of the planet) around 1700 and the total human population was only about 600 million people. And we can make the argument that the Scientific Revolution paradigm shift didn’t really change the way people thought worldwide until the last fifty years. That is a long time and is, incidentally, how most of us still think now.
My goal here is to suggest a basic way of understanding this situation in non-technical terms to help accelerate the changes that are needed. Moving to thinking in terms of the planet and not just our neighborhood is big but we need to think about ourselves, other people, and the planet in completely different ways. What are those ways?
New paradigmatic thinking
The Scientific Revolution as a way of seeing the world can be summarized, on the broadest level, as moving from a closed world to an infinite universe. Prior to that in Europe the universe was made up of Earth at the center surrounded by crystal spheres, the empyrean at the highest level. The planets were on lower spheres around Earth and the sun was one of those carrying fire from the empyrean or something like that.
This is cute but obviously bogus. After all Earth orbits the sun in a small solar system on one arm of our galaxy that is one of millions in a possibly infinite universe. Some people still struggle with this because there are extreme limits on what we can know in the current paradigm. Those limits are dictated by a rigorously materialist view of the universe that sees material as passive and ruled only by Newtonian laws of physics. Humans are intuitive and spiritual creatures so we want stories and all questions answered in a way we can understand. Without a very thorough scientific and philosophical education it is hard to fill the missing mystical gaps with science that were originally filled with mythology (religion).
Imagine the people in Europe in the 17th and 18th century when this change was moving through the population. The old, closed universe was easily understandable, nice, and cozy. People knew that god lived above the highext sphere. Infinity and the shrinking of us and our planet to a tiny speck was scary and depressing. It also eliminated heaven. That began the long decline of religion in the West that is now down to 10–20% of the population. To some this still is a problem and they cling to old paradigmatic forms for security although they actually think and live in the current scientific world.
So how does the new paradigm look and what is likely to be different in how we think about our new world? Now we get strange. It is hard to rethink things that we accept as unquestioned. Paradigms represent the rules of the game with no one questioning the size of the playing field or nature of the ball. But that is exactly what is happening and will accelerate as a disruptive process in human society.
It seems to me, after nearly forty years of thinking about this, that things are suddenly coming together with an amazing speed. By suddenly I mean within the last five years. This has been understood as how it could happen but it is shocking to see it actually come about. At the end of this I will list some books that have made this coalescence apparent to me. But this is a broader overview and goes back much farther.
The biggest leap has already happened and is changing the way we understand the structure of our universe. This is staged as we still tend to think in terms of classical, Newtonian physics shaped, somewhat, by the laws of relativity. We know that time slows as we speed up and that is all part of relativity. After all our GPS systems have to adjust for relativity to maintain time synchronization from orbit or they wouldn’t work.
But what is transforming our way of seeing and thinking now is quantum mechanics. In fact I tend to think of the new paradigm as a quantum mechanical world replacing the Newtonian world. Realize the old paradigms don’t disappear completely but become selectively integrated within the new paradigm.
The essential changes as they are now appearing are the integration of the rules of the quantum mechanical world view into our understanding. Schrödinger’s Cat is very important. Things are all connected in fundamental ways and actions can happen at a distance. What upset Einstein who had trouble accepting it referring to it as “spooky business” and leading to his famous statement that he didn’t think god played dice with the universe. While that is true in the old paradigm it has a very different meaning in the new.
Schrödinger’s Cat was both alive and dead until an observer became involved and then it became one or the other. What were once subatomic tiny balls making ups the atomic structure are actually shells of potential. Photons act like waves until they are measured and then they become a photon that is not a wave. It requires a sentient observer to cause this collapse. We all have that power. That is a very large change to our universe.
In the new paradigm we are not tiny and insignificant but very important to the universe as a sentient being. Not only that but we need to work to understand that everything around us is connected in ways that are a bit like the even older paradigm of classical causation. Science spent several centuries eliminating causation as that was a concept of the older mythological mode of thought. But new forms of that need to be reintegrated into our way of seeing the universe, the new paradigm.
It appears that in this paradigm there is a place for something like astrology. No, not the newspaper horoscopes but connections to things that we can feel and imagine that could allow us to influence others in ways that we thought didn’t exist in the our old paradigm. We don’t understand this but we now are beginning to realize how what we know and can empirically test makes much more possible than we previously thought. Everything is part of a fundamental potential.
This is not deterministic in that planets moving can make us do things or be something, but we are connected. The matter that we share the universe and with is not simply dead stuff. It is alive in ways we once instinctively knew but had to forget to achieve real scientific and empirical knowledge. but that scientific knowledge bringing everything around us back to a new type of life.
In a basic way all life and all the material of this planet, this solar system, this galaxy is profoundly entangled with us and our ability to imagine and see those entanglements will make it possible to understand and do things that now seem impossible. That is what we need.
This makes us and our planet a very different world. What will we do with it?