= The Civium is the name of the new phase of civilization, or what succeeds civilization as city-based organization of human life; and also the name of a project initiated by Jordan Hall, The Civium Project
"The innovation of the printing press massively increased the communicative capacity of Western civilization and radically rebalanced the psychocultural sensibility of the West. But, even then, the majority of communication was face to face and the center of collaboration was grounded in physical proximity.
My third thesis: the invention and development of “the digital” brings an end to the cultural logic of the city that has been driving civilization since the beginning. We are now exiting the epoch of the city and entering the epoch of a new relationship. The civium.
From city to civium
Let’s take a moment to examine the nature of “the digital.” When Andreeson pointed out that “software is eating the world,” he wasn’t kidding around. Digital represents the absolute essence of ‘mediation’. Consider: writing mediates some aspects of language while the telephone mediates other aspects. The telegraph still others. A photograph mediates some aspects of image, a moving picture still others. But digital can (and does) perform *all* of these functions. Digital can express any particular form of mediation.
What this means is that this notion of the ephemeralization of communication will reach its ultimate extension somewhere in the domain of the digital. Barring a significant social collapse of our technological civilization (which is entirely plausible!) it is just a matter of time. The helter skelter endeavor to solve the problem of how to get more and more people into communication by means of innovation and wealth finds its end point somewhere in the digital.
And if the power of superlinear scaling is as I suggest, then the driver moving the history of civilization will continue to do its work. But, with the center of superlinear scaling moved from the physical to the virtual, the balance of power between these two regimes will begin to shift. While the territorial powers will do their best to hold onto their populations, and may succeed for quite some time, ultimately the dynamo of superlinear scaling will subordinate them, just as the city subordinated the indigenous modes of humanity that preceded it.
In the end, this attractor will seek to bring everyone into a single “network”. But, instead of a giant megalopolis, the forces of superlinear scaling will turn their attentions towards the formation of a planetary network connecting, in principle, all minds.
The story of this planetary network, the dangers it poses, and the diverse forces that will govern its shape and trajectory is interesting, but will have to wait for another telling. The point of focus for this essay is that the shift we are witnessing portends a tremendous change in the winds for our physical lives.
For one thing, the city (as we know it) will begin to fade from the earth. With wealth and innovation increasingly found in the virtual, rather than in the urban, those people who are most lightly connected to the city will begin to go elsewhere. And this produces a feedback loop in the opposite direction: as the population of cities *decrease* their wealth and innovation also will decrease — superlinearly.
We might expect this to produce a series of interlocking feedback loops that could accelerate the evaporation of cities. What took thousands of years to create might fade in centuries or even generations.
Of course as people leave cities, they will go somewhere. But where? My thesis is that with the superlinear scaling attractor no longer driving people into cities, the new dominant attractor will become the oldest dominant attractor: we will begin to return to wholesome, human-scale, ‘indigenous’ contexts.
As the earliest pioneers of this new world leave cities in search of a new way of living together, they will begin to congregate around places guided by deep values. Values that guided human choice for hundreds of thousands of years and which have been subordinated by the logic of urbanization for only a brief (ten thousand year) moment.
Liberated from the allure of the city we might expect people to be naturally attracted to places that are physically beautiful, that are safe and clean. Places that are rich in community and make raising a family as easy as it can be. Where meaningful life is most fully supported.
In most cases, of course, we will have to re-build these kinds of places. In most cases, in fact, we will need to re-learn how to live in this way.
Civium is the name that I am giving to a hypothesis: that the most powerful form of network is a properly architected planetary virtual network populated by wholesome, healthy humans who are in intimate relationship with place and each-other.
"The transition from city to civium will involve re-building humane places, re-learning how to live properly with each other and our environment, coming into symbiotic relationship with the virtual and re-grounding in the sacred.
We should be mindful that this transition is not one simply of architecture and urban design. Everything is implicated. Governance at human scale is an entirely different kind of problem than the mass governance that we have become used to. Our approaches to food production, physical manufacturing and waste have been entirely defined by the needs and capacities of the city. We will need to invent entirely new economies in the new context of distributed human-scale civium.
Perhaps even more importantly, family and all of the interpersonal elements of life (education, health care, religion) will undergo a profound (and positive) change. In many ways the move to civium will represent a *restoration* of the personal in these areas rendered so impersonal and inhumane by the territorial logic of the city.
All of this is going to take time and, like it or not, a lot of trial and error experimentation. Civium will not be built in a day.
But here are some things to consider that are a tailwind in our efforts:
- The fourth industrial revolution really is at hand — but the WEF is completely wrong. They are correct in recognizing that a massive technical wave is sweeping across our economic landscape. But they made the mistake of thinking that the city (and its nature) is an invariant. As a result, they have found themselves imagining “15 minute cities” of the future. But when you realize that the city is no longer the center and investigate the technologies underlying the fourth industrial revolution with new eyes, you notice how perfectly many of these technologies support a highly distributed and highly local economy.
- More and more obviously the “ecological crisis” (sometimes narrowly grasped as “climate change”) requires a level of intimacy and sensitivity to entangled complex reality that the technocratic institutions (and technocratic mindsets) of civilization simply cannot produce. Civium, by contrast, is precisely the right instrument to reorient our physical and spiritual relationship with our environment. A people who are intimately connected to their local water and local land, who are intimately connected with each-other and with themselves, and who are buttressed by the innovative capacity of a superlinear planetary network are properly positioned to take full and proper stewardship of the world.
- The challenge of changing demographics (sometimes identified as “demographic collapse”) might only be addressable by something like civium. If we look at the underlying causation of collapsing birthrates throughout the world, it is a very complex affair. On one hand education and a real change in the necessity of large families (due both to decreased child mortality and a changed economy) have played a role. But on the other hand, things like the precipitous decline in testosterone and sperm count; increase in microplastics and myraids of other toxins; and the dramatic decline in mental health (especially in the West) have played a much less healthy role. To put it simply, it just doesn’t make sense to have and raise children in the city. The opposite is true in every way in civium. (Re)connection to the meaningfulness of wholesome family will be a powerful attractor into civium, and as the people of the city evaporate into below-replacement rate demographics, the people of the Civium will naturally replace them over the generations."