Lifestyle, Freedom and The Humanity Factor
What is happiness?
It is difficult for most in the world today to imagine a society without the duress and daily strife endured by the act of simply trying to survive and keep a healthy mental and physical state. So much of our lives today is centered around staying financially ahead and making sure we have enough money for today, tomorrow, our family and even perhaps for the next familial generation, we often lose sight of what it is that actually creates well-being and happiness.
In fact, this fear and often predatory motivation has created a social climate that has even generated a positive value association toward narrow, self-interested behavior. While the line is always subjective as to what behaviors are to be considered “ethical” or not, the competitive, scarcity-driven orientation toward gaining an acceptable quality of life continually reinforces our lower brain, “fight-or-flight” propensities, perpetuating a constant sense of social detachment and general loss of empathy for others. In many ways, money itself has even become the reward and status standard, not what it can do with its potential to move the world.
Therefore, given these values, it is always a challenge to discuss a NLRBE's non-market premise with the vast majority of those in modern culture, as certain knee-jerk contradictory assumptions almost always prevail. It is not the purpose of this essay to address these in detail but to denote how communication of a future lifestyle not based on these now long-sustained values is difficult, as the idea of existence without such strife is almost impossible for many, due to our history.
Merging Society and Individuality
Ayn Rand and other famous authors and theorists in the 20th century spent a great deal of time talking about a duality between self-interest and social interest, or individualism and collectivism. In these works, whether in fiction-based literary form or in actual economic treatment, rarely is consideration given to a possible balance between the two.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both.”
There is no denying that human beings have evolved with a deeply social nature. It could be argued that what really defines us are the relationships we have created in our lives, not to mention the vast influence of cultural development itself, which is the main source of most value orientations at any given time in any given society.
Yet, at the same time, we cannot deny the personal development needs, freedom of expression sought and general independence most all humans tend to need to feel in their day-to-day lives. While the notion of “free will” might be highly complex in analysis, there appears to always be a part of us that navigates based on what we consider to be “choice” and if we feel oppression of that choice, it tends to upset us and destabilize.
So, while it is true that when the synergy of the total life experience is brought into focus we can well argue that all of our choices exist under some level of duress, influence or impulse and hence are actually not entirely “free”, we cannot ignore the emotional interest we tend to have in perceiving ourselves as separate, independent and individual in some way. True or not, the very idea of free determination appears critical to personal development, confidence and wellbeing.
This is brought up, as perhaps the most important sociological outcome of a NLRBE is something historically unprecedented on a large scale in the history of human society. Today, we have the technological means to not only bring all human beings into a high standard of living due to the rapid advancement of technology and basic understandings in science, we also have the ability to structurally rationalize ourselves as being actually responsible to each other and the Earth itself.
The market system has been unable to reinforce this sense of community or harmony with the habitat because its very foundation works against both as a value or virtue. The Earth, in the market model, is viewed as an inventory of resources waiting for financial exploitation and the more goods in service, the more money is made and hence more jobs are created. Likewise, perpetual human oppression has been a natural byproduct of the underlying Malthusian, scarcity-based orientation, since the dawn of existence.
This old system, which is a natural consequence of this scarcity-driven order, worked well during primitive periods where our impact on the Earth and how much damage we could do to each other had “acceptable” limits, if you will. The larger structural problems inherent simply could not be understood at that time. However, today the market has revealed itself as no longer a method towards sustainability or a means for intelligent resource management and it also creates a constant propensity to view other human beings as threats to one's own survival.
On the social level, the entire edifice justifies a zero-sum game. Two people going into a coveted job interview for the same job may be respectful to each other, but they both know only one of them will get the job. This fear-based competitive nuance runs the gamut of societal affairs from justifying massive wealth gaps and class imbalance in the developed world to the overall ignoring of mass poverty and the genocide it is in the developing world.
A NLRBE, on the other hand, structurally combines societal interest with personal interest and environmental interest. Its functioning is directly tied to the resources and environment, actually rewarding sustainability and efficiency. Likewise, there is no gain to be had by the exploitation of others or behaving in the dishonest and corrupt ways we tend to accept as normality. Theft, crime, fraud and all structural outcomes common to the scarcity-based market, will no longer have any real incentive as the entire society is oriented to serve itself, and harming others only harms one's self.
For example, an enormous number of laws exist today that protect one's private property. People might be motivated to steal for a number of reasons, but statistically a lack of means, general deprivation and hence relative or absolute poverty, is the common precondition. When people steal physical goods, they are usually stealing exchange value in most cases. In a NLRBE there is no exchange value and hence to “steal” an item that cannot be sold is mostly pointless.
Likewise, a common objection is that if goods were available without price, there is no restriction on taking vastly more than one needs. Once again, we need to consider the reason for such an action. Since the same goods cannot be sold, they would simply exist in another place, perhaps even inconveniencing the person who took them. What is one to do with, say, 200 televisions? Why would someone take five times the amount of food needed if they cannot eat it all and it will go to waste?
From an ethical standpoint, which is often seen as culturally subjective, we see a great number of customs in society today based upon what is considered “appropriate”. When a person walks down the street and litters on the ground, anyone watching would likely not applaud such behavior. In regions where water or electricity is paid for with a flat rate, people do not just let the water run all day long or keep lights on constantly, simply because they don't need to care, financially. There has always been a general social and environmental sense of responsibility under the surface of the current zeitgeist and a NLRBE will finally amplify these same responsible propensities to a vast degree, rather than incentivize their suppression, which is what the current system does.
Humanity Factor & Access Rights
Still, while a NLRBE will set in motion, for the first time in history, a kind of economic and social premise that reinforces sustainability, human solidarity, empathy and sharing on a global scale, working to literally unite the human family with common concern, there will always be problems of some kind, including behavioral.
There is an unpredictable element to human development. The great many and complex environmental and biological influences, which create our personalized form, comprehension and propensities, can be difficult to understand in causality to any degree of absolutism. We simply cannot account for all relevant factors. While a great deal has been learned about human influences and how certain things should and should not happen to a person during development, as they have statistically predictable consequences with respect to behavior, there is always a possibility of things going wrong that are out of a family or society's control. We can call this the “humanity factor”.
The current social order, which is, again, literally built out of the market-oriented, scarcity-driven, competitive premise of economy, has an enormous legal apparatus to control human behavior. In the new approach, we could likely expect a 90-95% decrease in such “criminal” acts since the vast majority of “crime” has to do with money, trade and property. These very ideas are no longer relevant in this post-scarcity model for there is no basis for those problems in general. They have been designed out.
However, this “humanity factor” can still generate unexpected circumstances and problems that require a socially accepted course of action. A simple example is mental illness, which can develop slowly over time and unexpectedly. It is a medical problem and must be treated as such. A volunteer group working to help those sick in the behavioral context would need to be in place, no different than those who work in any other facet of societal maintenance. However, this team would be a vast departure from the crude idea of “police” and “security” we see today. Likewise, there are certainly no prisons existing to incur inhumane treatment and punishment.
Even in the case of “crimes of passion” or the like, the worst scenario is containment if the individual is unable to control destructive actions. Just as we might quarantine a person with a highly contagious, infectious disease if it were a serious threat, the logic to contain people who pose behavioral threats to others would suggest a similar scenario - only this containment would be humane and for the sake of research. Whether biological or developmental, all aberrant behaviors have a source of some kind and as complex as they may be, only further study can work to source solutions.
On a more moderate level, such as the case of adolescent kids who, in the common discovery and rebellious stage of development, act in socially offensive ways in experimentation, a different kind of understanding is culminated where the community can come together to assess the nature of the problem and work to deter the behavior as a community. Just as minors are treated in the Western world today, given non-criminal condemnation in most cases, the same type of community assessment can be provided, which will likely come natural to any family or local region.
However, in some cases, there might be a need for a type of rights system when dealing with accessed goods. In other words, a simple rule system of some kind might be useful, centered not on property rights but access rights.
Imagine a scenario where an individual parks his or her bike on a street, without a lock, entering a house. This bike was checked out of a local distribution library for the person's use. Then, a bystander, who is in a hurry, not close to a distribution library, sees this bike and makes an inappropriate decision to take the bike to get where he needs to go. This is a dishonest and rude act.
In a property system, this would be called “theft”. In an access system it might take a different term, such as an “access violation”. The severity of the action is very different and it is more of an annoyance than a crime. In a property system the bike would likely be sold for money or kept. In an access system, the original user would simply obtain a new bike and move on, inconvenienced, while the person who took the bike would likely just drop it off after use, as there is no resale value and hence no real reason to keep it.
Yet, it doesn't mean the act should be ignored and go unnoticed in its access violation, as such behavior, as rare as it likely would be, would need acknowledgment to serve as a form of operant education. It is no different than how people today learn basic decency, respect and etiquette. Therefore, rather than property rights, a simple access rights rule could be installed to deter such behavior. In other words, any person obtaining items through the system would have access rights to those items for the duration of use and if another comes and takes those items, it is an offense. Reinforcement to deter such future acts would first be warnings. If persisted over time, it could mean a temporary limitation of future access in some genre for that offending person.
In reality, it could be considered a “slap on the wrist” for essentially being annoying and rude. However, if a person were to repeat this over and over, it might take on the role of mental illness, as something of an impulsive behavior disorder and that medical context might come into play at that time. But once again, this type of behavior would be extremely rare and if far from a serious concern. However, such possible measures should be understood, as this isn't a utopia. It should also be noted that technical resolutions are always sought after as the primary prevention strategy to design out any such problems.
Crisis management is another issue. Just as we have a volunteer fire department in most cities in America, who live their normal lives until they get the call for an emergency, this same approach can work for natural disasters or acts of extreme behavior, such as behavioral violence. In the case of an earthquake, flood, tornado or the like, each case would naturally have a plan in place by the society to assure proper handling. This preparation can cross regional lines as well, with contingency plans agreed upon on the global level to know how the rest of the world may help if a given region has a severe problem. This is actually similar to how the international community works to help in crises even today, when such problems occur.
Overall, we can speculate on all these ideas and problem-solving measures to a vast degree, but the underlying precondition set in motion by the NLRBE, will dramatically reduce the commonality and severity of each issue and that is important to remember. For example, buildings constructed in regions susceptible to earthquakes will be made to withstand them as best they can. This is very difficult in the current world due to the associated financial costs as the revisions deeply needed are great. Such impediments will no longer exist and proper, technically accurate construction and infrastructure can be made to assure the least amount of damage in the event of such a natural disaster.
As technology unfolds and scientific understanding evolves, culture changes. This has been the trend of history. With the exponential development of information-based technologies and hence the applied technology that then emerges, each generation develops new values, associations, means and expressions. Let's imagine waking up one morning in a NLRBE - a day in the life:
You rise to a generally quiet hum of mild traffic, with maglev trains whisking about the city. Having a love for high views, you get out of bed on the 20th storey of a simple yet elegant, mold- extruded apartment complex that converts all sunlight into energy through photovoltaic paints on its outer shell. You have a fleeting moment of marveling at this reality as the sun bursts through the windows, forcing increased alertness out of your early morning stupor.
As you emerge, you are also reminded of your cousin having taken part in that global, university driven initiative about two decades ago, which sought to perfect this paint technology to a degree of efficiency never before seen. In just a few years of collaboration, this PV paint achieved 90% energy efficiency, making it workable in almost any structure. You remember the joy and satisfaction your cousin felt when his team was on the front lines when this breakthrough for humanity was achieved. It was like the elation felt amongst soccer teammates after a goal has been scored.
Slowly gaining focus as your pupils find balance with the invading light, you glance out of the window and notice an enormous machine, suspended from a crane of sorts, slowly adding a new section to the very building structure you are a part of. Almost like magic, the machine is able to form, from what first appears like a kind of liquid plastic, a new apartment configuration and appends that form onto the existing structure. Quietly, safely and oddly with very few parts, there is no technician in sight, even though likely someone is monitoring the process from somewhere. Blinking and scanning sensor lights on the huge machine appear to suggest that it understands everything about the surrounding area and what it needs to do.
Glancing further around the city's skyline, there is an immediate sense of synergy with nature. The city has no awkward concentrations or imbalance. The slick transport systems that zoom by, which are high-tech indeed, seem to merge seamlessly with the greenery, lakes and canals. Suddenly, a picture on the wall next to the window catches your eye. It is an old archival shot of almost the same perspective, but taken many, many decades before, during what modern folk now call the “last dark age”.
In this shot a sense of tension, congestion and strife is felt. A long stream of automobiles is seen on a strip of crude concrete highway backing up all the way out of frame. You remember from your history education years ago that back then a monetary practice created great duress and discord, with people piling into cities to gain employment and hence to gain the money, in order buy things and survive. You then think of how things have changed indeed, feeling rather sorry for that primitive culture and happy you were born when you were. Of course, realizing that you too live in a fleeting era as time marches on, you further try to imagine what aspects of your life today will one day be considered outdated in the future.
Feeling hungry, you enter into the apartment's kitchen. It is a fairly new design you hadn't seen before. While the systems concept and the interest to combine and unify industrial design was mentioned prolifically in your educational materials as an engineering student, you notice the advanced degree of efficiency now achieved. The kitchen is one unit. The dishes and ware are designed for the washing and placement process, which is directly built in. Once a plate is dirty, it is set into a compartment that already understands the nature of the pre-designed plate and processes the plate with a kind of cleansing steam and a UV configuration that also sterilizes it. Automatically, the plate is then returned to the proper disperser location in the shelf for the next use. It was as though the kitchen was one big, unified machine.
However, checking the refrigerator, you realize you have forgotten to pick up provisions for your short stay. You ponder whether to do go down to the lower level to pick up such provisions and come back, but you decide it is time to get going and you will grab something at a café on the way. As you exit the apartment, you swipe the access key into the control panel to confirm your final exit and then glance at the control panel to find the “clean” button. After a bit of frustration, you finally realize the apartment has been designed with a time-based motion sensor system to clean itself automatically when no motion is detected.
You then notice the CF6 robot in the corner and take pause as to the amazing technical feat it is to have this robot understand the exact nature of the space, where things belong and where they do not, all programmed with absolute 3D spatial awareness of the apartment to clean and arrange. It is hard for you to imagine what it must have been like to maintain such daily drudgery generations prior.
Exiting the apartment, which is actually a temporary access location you “rented” through an online service, you then enter the hallways and almost collide with a fast moving older man who drops a small laptop. You realize he is one of the managers of the apartment complex. You help him pick it up and he apologizes profusely. “Very sorry!” he exclaims. “We have a problem with the CF6 on level 12 and I need to reboot him!” “Good thing we always have a few backups for each room!”
You thank him kindly for his well-kept place and continue on your way, with a brief reflection back to that historical photo in the room you just left. Long ago, people's sense of contribution was always associated to money. They had jobs, as they were called. Today, people's vocation is a matter of choice, facilitated also by a basic sense of social responsibility. Our society is designed to take care of us as one, so why should we not take care of society itself in return? The man who passed you maintains that building because he enjoys helping others and since he, himself, only needs to work a few hours a week at this role, he views his volunteer time as valuable and without burden, happily assisting others who very much appreciate the contribution. It makes him feel like he is more a part of the community.
Exiting the building, the street is bustling with motion. You notice an artsy looking, retro French café on the corner and laugh to yourself at the pointless, yet cute nostalgia. You enter and sit at a small corner table, smiling politely at the family across the way. Realizing you are running out of time since you have to catch a train to attend a conference a couple hundred miles away, you tap a simple order into the kiosk menu in the center of the table. Tea and waffles. Once submitted you can't help but notice a mild vibration occurring behind your head.
Since your grandfather was an engineer who helped design the original automated kitchen system, this is curious to you as the usual tradition was to put the processing facility above and center in the space. It appears there was some restriction in this narrow area so they hid it to the side. About two minutes later, a red light appears on the table to alert you that your order is ready. A glass door opens that is perpendicular to the table-top and a conveyor extends to reveal your tea and waffles. You grab the tray and rush to finish in the hope not to miss your train. Once done, you slide the tray back into the opening and it closes for cleaning.
As you exit the café, you can't help but notice a decal with the silhouette of a female form with a tray, bending over what looks like a table. At first the image confuses you and then you remember that at one time in history people were slaves to others in this very way. Before the automated restaurant, people actually wasted their potential by waiting on each other and manually bringing food and taking orders. Once again, you are happy you were born when you were.
Emerging back outside you realize you have a fairly long walk. Pondering jumping on the maglev trolley, which constantly circles about the city like a giant worm, you decide it is probably going to be too slow. So, you make your way to the street parallel, which is where the automated cars zoom around in their custom paths. Pulling out your cell phone, which has a special application linked to the region's transport system, a white cab quickly notices your call and stops on the corner. You enter the front of the cab and verbally describe the address. A voice confirms your request and you are off.
Arriving at the train station, you exit the cab and begin to make your way. Gliding along you notice a person with a very large bag next to you, strolling it along. This perplexes you. It appears so arduous and unnecessary. You ask yourself why anyone would need such a large bag when the basic things everyone needs can be found in any city in the world, on demand. The idea of luggage seemed awkward and strange. Yet, before you have a moment to ponder this any further, the man in front of you suddenly collapses to the ground.
Instantly a large crowd begins to form to see if they can assist. Being the closest to him, you notice the characteristics appear to be of a heart attack. While extremely rare in the world at that time, they still occasionally occur. Pulling out your phone you text emergency number 331 with the word 'medical'. This sends instant notification of an emergency to a local team of volunteers trained in medical practice, along with the location via GPS. Within minutes a team arrives and works to save the man's life. With the man still breathing, he is placed into an automated emergency vehicle, which zooms off to the local hospital. Concerned about the fate of the poor man, you collect yourself and continue on, even more late than before.
Finally making it to your train, you enter and sit. Within moments the doors close and you breathe a sigh of relief. In your seat is an entertainment center with has on demand media. As the train begins to accelerate, you suddenly remember that your nephew produced a feature film about whale migration recently, but you can't remember the name. Given this media center has a link to literally all media ever produced in human history, digitized and contained in one accessible database, you balk at the idea of searching for it amongst the millions of films.
Then, it comes to you! So, you enter the title and there it is. However, your remember your trip is only about 275 miles so you know you won't get far as this maglev train goes about 3000 mph. You will be lucky if you get 8 minutes into the film. So, rather than spoil the experience, you decide to go over some notes you brought for the conference. The subject of the conference is terraformation. Great interest is being shown by humanity to further explore the idea of inhabiting space, and this conference will address the potentials currently available.
However, before too much thought can be done, you arrive at your destination. You exit the train and enter the station. You realize you need some equipment for some program work that will be addressed at the conference, so you make your way to the local technology library. You need a versatile laptop and a series of storage cards to bring your notes and work with you after it is done. You enter the library and feel a buzz on your phone. You pull it out and a curious notification welcomes you to that region's technology center and asks if you need search assistance.
This perplexes you at first but then you remember that the library network in that region has recently been updated to allow for a universal recognition system, facilitated by a phone application you had installed prior, while using another library in the same region years ago. You had forgotten about this. “How convenient!”, you think. You describe the laptop and memory cards and it returns the product profiles. You find that it is correct. Once confirmed, a visual map of the library appears that shows your location and the location of the area with the goods you need. You navigate to that area and check out the items. Then, you exit the library, retrieve an automated cab, and you are off to the conference.
A number of hours later the conference ends. You are inspired, exhausted and hungry, having forgotten to eat most of the day. You decide an Italian style meal sounds good. Luckily, you notice just such a restaurant a few blocks down and start walking. Your phone rings. It is an associate from your hometown. He states there is a problem with one of the food production manifolds and he is unable to respond due to his own personal emergency. You state you will go online and check the system status and get back to him.
You quickly enter the Italian restaurant and take a seat at a small table. It is a pretty busy night so it is noisier than you would prefer. You whip out the laptop, which has a satellite-based Internet connection at all times, and navigate to your region's technical mainframe to check for status errors. Sure enough, there is a power problem in sector five of the automated vertical farm structure in the northeast region. You bring up a digital image of the physical layout, which, by a kind of color-coding, reveals a severed cable line to a power converter. Having seen this problem before, since you have been overseeing your region's food production for about eight years, you gain a sense of relief, as the problem is very simple to fix.
With a few keystrokes, a CR9 modular robot is now under your control in the farm. Through this remote control ability you are able to guide the machine to the problem area and explain the issue. This robot, like the one in the apartment rental you had prior, has a complete understanding of all physical and technical systems in the operation. A 3D model of the plant and its infrastructural design is literally programmed into these CR9s and all it needs is a little orientation from the management team and it quickly goes into action to fix a problem. Once in place, the CR9 quickly understands the problem clearly and moves to replace the bad power cable. In a few minutes, the problem is solved. You call your associate back and he thanks you kindly for the assistance.
Now extremely hungry, you whip around the menu kiosk and find the largest plate of pasta you can! You enter your order, along with a strong cocktail and some water, and wait. About ten minutes later a mechanism in the table opens from the side, elevating your now ever-enticing looking meal to the surface in front of you. You dive in! Eating away, you can't help but notice a gentle faced woman staring at you from the corner. You smile and she comes over.
She asks, “How is everything?” You state “Quite good. Are you the manager here?” She nods. You then go on to describe how your grandfather helped design the kitchen system she is using. She lights up and says, “My family has been feeding people for nine generations. Sometimes I go back and cook the food myself, just for fun!” You both laugh at the nostalgia, comparing the idea to those who still manually fix up old cars just for fun.
After the meal and conversation, you decide it is time to retire for the evening. Pulling out your phone you locate an available room a few doors down. You enter the building, obtain a keycard from an automated key wall, and ascend to your room and sleep. Life moves forward.
- Source: quote-wise.com (http://www.quote-wise.com/quotes/epictetus/is-freedom-anything-else-than-the-right-to-li)
- Ayn Rand's famous novel “Anthem” is a notable, influential example of this artistic culmination of values. It takes place in a dystopian future where mankind has entered another dark age characterized by irrationality, collectivism, and socialistic thinking and economics. The concept of individuality has been eliminated. For example, the use of the word "I" is punishable by death.
- From “Where Do We Go From Here?,” Delivered at the 11th Annual SCLC Convention Atlanta, Ga., 1967 (http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/where_do_we_go_from_here_delivered_at_the_11th_annual_sclc_convention/)
- The essays The Final Argument: Human Nature and Defining Public Health are suggested for review.
- This may sound like a utopian step for a society in the current climate, but this trend can actually be observed embryonically in some societies today, such as in the Netherlands and Sweden, where prisons are being closed down due to exceptionally low crime rates. Reference: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/01/why-sweden-closing-prisons & The Netherlands: http://jcjusticecenter.com/2013/09/14/netherlands-closing-19-prisons-due-to-lack-of-criminals/
- This essay belong to Zeitgeist Movement Defined: Realizing a New Train of Thought