A central consideration inherent to TZM's perspective on societal change for the better regards understanding “progress” itself. There appear to be two basic angles to consider when it comes to personal or social progress: manifesting potential and problem resolution.
Potential & Resolution
Manifesting potential is simply the improvement of a condition that was not considered prior to be in a problematic state. An example would be the ability to improve human athletic performance in a particular field through targeted strengthening, diet, refining techniques and other means that were simply not known before.
Problem resolution, on the other hand, is the overcoming of an issue that has currently recognized detrimental consequences and/or limitations to a given affair. A general example would be the discovery of a medical cure for an existing, debilitating disease so that said disease no longer poses harm.
However, taken in the broad view, there is a distinct overlap with these two notions when the nature of knowledge development is taken into account. For example, an “improvement” to a given condition, a practice that then becomes normalized and common in the culture, can also potentially be part of a “problem” in a familiar or different context, which requires resolution in the event new information as to its inefficiency is found or new advancements make it obsolete by comparison.
For example, human air transportation, which is fairly new in society, expanded transport efficiency greatly upon its application. However, at what point will modern air transport be seen more as a “problem” due to its inefficiency by comparison to another method? So, efficiency is relative in this sense as only when there is an expansion of knowledge that what was once considered the “best” approach becomes “inferior”.
This seemingly abstract point is brought up to communicate the simple fact that every single practice we consider normal today has built into it an inevitable inefficiency which, upon new developments in science and technology, will likely produce a “problem” at some point in the future when compared to newer, emerging potentials. This is the nature of change and if the scientific patterns of history reflect anything, it is that knowledge and its applications continue to evolve and improve, generally speaking. So, back to the seemingly separate issues of manifesting potential and problem resolution, it can hence be deduced that all problem resolutions are also acts of manifesting potential and vice versa.This also means that the actual tools used by society for a given purpose are always transient. Whether it is a medium of transportation, medical practices, energy production, the social system itself, etc. These practices are all manifest/resolutions with respect to human necessity and efficiency, based upon the ever-changing state of understanding we have/had at the time of their creation/evolution.
Root Purpose & Root Cause
Therefore, when it comes to thinking about any act of invention or problem solving, we must get as close to the root purpose (manifest) or the root cause (problem) as possible, respectively, to make the most accurate assessment for action. Just as tools and techniques for potential are only as viable as the understanding of their foundational purpose, actions toward problem resolution are only as good as the understanding of the root cause. This might seem obvious, but this awareness is often missing in many areas of thought in the world today, especially when it comes to society. Rather than pursuing such a focus, most social decisions are based around traditional customs that have inherent limits.
A simple example of this is the current method of human incarceration for so called “criminal behavior”. For many, the solution to offensive forms of human behavior is to simply remove the individual from society and punish them. This is based on a series of assumptions that stretch back millennia.Yet, the science behind human behavior has changed tremendously with respect to understanding causality. It is now common knowledge in the social sciences that most acts of “crime” would likely not occur if certain basic, supportive environmental conditions were set for the human being. Putting people in prisons is not actually resolving anything with respect to the causal problem. It is more of a mere “patch”, if you will, which only temporarily stifles some effects of the larger problem.
Another example, while seemingly different than the prior but equally as “technical”, is the manner by which most think about solutions to common domestic problems, such as traffic accidents. What is the solution to a situation where a driver makes a mistake and haphazardly changes lanes, only to impact the vehicle next to it, causing an accident? Should there be a huge wall between them? Should there be better training? Should the person simply have his or her driver’s license revoked so they cannot drive again? It is here, again, where the notion of root cause is often lost in the narrow frames of reference commonly understood by culture.
The root cause of the accident can only partially be the question of integrity of the driver with the more important issue being the lack of integrity of the technology and infrastructure being used. Why? - Because, in part, human fallibility is historically acknowledged and immutable. So, just as early vehicles did not have driver and/or passenger side “airbags” common today, which now reduce a large number of injuries that existed in the past, the same logic should be applied to the system of vehicle interaction itself, taking into account new technical possibilities for increased safety, to compensate for inevitable human error.
Just as the airbag was developed years ago as the evolution of knowledge unfolded, today there is technology that enables automated, driverless vehicles which can not only detect every necessary element of the street needed to operate with accuracy, the vehicles themselves can detect each other, making collision almost impossible. This is the current state of such a solution when we consider the root cause and root purpose, overall.
Yet, as advanced as that solution may seem, especially given the roughly 1.2 million people who unnecessarily die in automobile accidents each year, this thought exercise may still be incomplete if we continue to extend the context with respect to the core goals. Perhaps there are other inefficiencies that relate to the transport infrastructure and beyond that need to be taken into account and overcome. Perhaps, for example, the use of individual automobiles, regardless of their safety, has other inherent problems that can only be logically resolved by the removal of the automobile application itself. Perhaps in a city, with an expanding mobile population, such independent vehicle transport becomes unnecessarily cumbersome, slow and generally inefficient.
The more viable solution in this circumstance might become the need for a unified, integrated mass transit system that can increase speed, reduce energy use, reduce resource use, and reduce pollution along with many other related issues to the effect that using automobiles in such a condition then becomes part of an emerging problem. If the goal of a society is to do the “correct” and hence sustainable thing, reducing threats to humans and the habitat, ever increasing efficiency, a dynamic, self-generating logic unfolds with respect to our technical possibility and design approaches.
Our Technical Reality
Of course, the application of this type of problem solving is far from limited to such physical examples. Is politics as we know it the best means to address our social woes? Does it address root causes by its very design? Is money and the market system the most optimized method for sustainable progress, problem resolution and the manifesting of economic potential? What does our modern state of science and technology have to contribute in the realm of understanding cause and purpose on the societal level?
As further essays will denote in great detail, these understandings create a natural, clear train of thought with respect to how much better our world could be if we simply follow the logic created via the scientific method of thought to fulfill our common goal of human sustainability. The one billion people starving on this planet are not doing so because of some immutable natural consequence of our physical reality. There is plenty of food to go around. It is the social system, which has its own outdated, contrived logic, that perpetuates this social atrocity, along with countless others.
It is important to point out that TZM is not concerned with promoting “patches” as its ultimate goal, which, sad to say, is what the vast majority of activist institutions on the planet are currently doing. We want to promote the largest order, highest efficiency set of solutions available at a given time, aligned with natural processes, to improve the lives of all, while securing the integrity of our habitat. We want everyone to understand this “train of thought” clearly and develop a value identification with it. In the end, there is no single solution – only the near empirical natural law reasoning that arrives at solutions and purpose.
- Source: Atomic Education Urged by Einstein, New York Times, May 25th 1946
- A notable modern example is new transport technology such as “Maglev” transport that uses less energy and moves substantially faster than commercial airlines http://www.et3.com/
- Again, this reality is embodied by the term “application set”.
- Reference: Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes, Dr. James Gilligan, 1996
- The ‘Merva-Fowles’ study, done at the University of Utah in the 1990s, found powerful connections between unemployment and crime. They based their research on 30 major metropolitan areas with a total population of over 80 million. Their findings found that a 1% rise in unemployment resulted in: a 6.7% increase in Homicides; a 3.4% increase in violent crimes; a 2.4% increase in property crime. During the period from 1990 to 1992, this translated into: 1,459 additional Homicides; 62,607 additional violent crimes; 223,500 additional property crimes. (Merva & Fowles, Effects of Diminished Economic Opportunities on Social Stress, Economic Policy Institute, 1992)
- Reference: Ben McLeish lecture: “Out of the Box: Prisons” (www.thezeitgeistmovement.com)
- Reference: Human error: models and management, James Reason, 2000 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc1117770/)
- A 1996 NHTSA study found the fatality reduction benefit of airbags for all drivers at an estimated 11 percent. (http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/regrev/evaluate/808470.html)
- Source: Google Engineer Claims Its Driverless Cars Could Save A Million Lives Every Year, Blake Z. Rong (http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2011/04/google-engineer-claims-its-driverless-cars-could-save-a-million-lives-every-year.html)
- Source: Car Accident Statistics (http://www.car-accidents.com/pages/stats.html)
- A slow, general shift, even in modern commercial society, from “ownership” to “access” is beginning to find favor today. (http://gigaom.com/2011/11/10/airbnb-roadmap-2011/)
- Major international organizations have stated statistically that there is enough food for everyone and that starvation is not caused by a lack of resources. (http://www.wfp.org/hunger/causes) In combination with efficiency improvements which will be noted more so in Part III, the possibly for absolute global food abundance of the highest nutrient quality is also possibly today.
- This comment is not meant to demean any well-meaning social institution working to help within the bounds of the current socioeconomic method. However, as will be described more so in Part II, the current social model inherently restricts a vast amount of possible prosperity/problem solving due to its very design and hence activist and social institutions which avoid this reality and can only be working to help “patch” problems, not fix them, since they originate from the social system itself. A common example is charity organizations that wish to provide food to the poor. These organizations are not usually addressing why those people are poor to begin with and hence are not truly working to resolve the root problem(s).
- This essay belong to Zeitgeist Movement Defined: Realizing a New Train of Thought