Is there any really good way to structure a human society?
If not, then what's the best of the bad lot?
Or, to put it another way: Is there some way that a sociocultural mind can be fashioned out of human "cells", that leads to rampant joy, growth and choice ... and with less of the opposites of these values than we now see in the human world around us?
Certainly, Cosmist values seem to argue in favor of societies allowing their members a fair bit of personal freedom, and encouraging progress rather than a steady state ... and treating each other with compassion rather than cruelty or repression.
But there are difficult issues when one digs into the details, and broad Cosmist philosophy doesn't solve them.
Balancing compassion versus choice in government is difficult -- taxing people to pay to feed and educate poor children is an imposition on freedom; yet leaving the poor children starving and ignorant is uncompassionate. One would like society to self-organize in such a way that such dichotomies don't exist -- and perhaps this is happening, coupled with the advance of technology; but it's happening frustratingly slowly for those now in disadvantaged positions.
It seems clear that, even without further advanced technologies, we could do considerably better than current social orders as solving these difficult problems.
But ultimately, it seems there are limits to how well a society of humans can be structured , given our intrinsic cognitive limitations. And there are even stricter limits to how well a society of humans can be structured under conditions of scarce resources.
I.e.: any sociocultural mind, composed at base of "legacy humans" like we are today, is bound to be at least a bit psychologically screwed-up ... and even more so if we're involved in struggling over scraps of matter shaped into particular configurations.
The best course, it seems, is to obsolete the dilemmas of society by redefining the human mind and abolishing material scarcity.
Churchill said "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."
Clearly there's something to this, which is why the democracy meme is spreading around the world, and is correlated with other indices of human well-being.
But even if this is accepted: what kind of democracy, then?
Should the Net be used to allow direct democracy? -- where people vote on a variety of specific issues rather than delegating so much to their representatives (who so often seem to confuse and corrupt matters, sometimes doing so even in spite of good intentions)? But who has time to study the details of complex legislative issues so as to vote on them intelligently?
Presumably new mixtures of direct and representative democracy will emerge as advanced technology more thoroughly permeates our culture. To an extent -- though an incomplete extent, giving the limitations of human mind -- Internet technology can likely obsolete some of the dilemmas of democracy.
Human Life After Scarcity?
One thing that could improve the human political situation a lot more than tweaking the details of democracy, would be the drastic reduction of material scarcity.
The reason human life is less brutal now, by and large, than in the past, is because advances in technology have reduced gradually scarcity. We have developed various useful social institutions that embody a great deal of calculation and wisdom ... but arguably, the reason these institutions are proving workable and stable, is the concurrent technological advance.
It seems quite possible that democracy is only stably achievable under conditions of relative material abundance. The ancient Greeks achieved democracy's practical preconditions via slavery. In the modern world we've achieved them via technology.
Most likely, resources will never be infinite -- there will always be some contention for resources of some sort. Most probably some form of scarcity will always exist. But relative to our innate human desires, scarcity could dwindle close to zero. Given nanotech molecular assemblers plus ultra-realistic virtual worlds, provided free of charge to all, there would be a lot less motivation for anyone to risk their comfort by fighting over resources.
In this sort of scenario, the task of managing a society, using ever more refined and liberating mechanisms, will become far easier.
All sorts of possibilities that would seem "utopic" from the present perspective may become possible. Many of the social dilemmas that now strike us as inevitable, may be drastically obsoleted.
A Post-Scarcity Network of Enclaves?
For instance: Perhaps in a post-scarcity scenario, it would work for small enclaves of humans to form -- communities centered around different belief systems and life-patterns.
Each enclave could basically have its own little world, and there wouldn't be practical competition between enclaves due to the minimization of scarcity.
In the modern situation, this sort of "enclave" based social arrangement would run into problems due to issues like pollution that span enclaves. But it seems feasible that advanced technology could resolve this ... "all" one needs are extremely inexpensive nonpolluting molecular assemblers, for example.
You might argue that this is a fanciful notion, because scarcity will never truly be eliminated. But, it may be possible to eliminate scarcity from the perspective of everyday human life. There's a limit to how much an individual human can consume, and still remain human.
What if scarcity were reduced sufficiently that no one wants for practical physical comforts ... and there is more than enough advanced media and entertainment and intellectual and artistic technology to go around: more than anyone could possibly use in thousands of years? In this sort of regime, it seems quite possible that the urge to invade other enclaves and take their resources would be extremely rare.
Better Societies through Better Brains
More pessimistically, there is the possibility that we humans are collectively so perverse that we will still battle each other viciously even once scarcity is virtually abolished.
If so, then the only solution to making a happy society -- to really obsoleting the social dilemmas -- is to modify the human mind/brain ... solving the problems of society at the source.
There is no doubt that, if the human mind/brain were dramatically improved, avenues for deeper social interaction and cultural invention would open up, making modern societies seem more obsolete than primitive tribal life seems today.
I.e., in this scenario: The emergent sociocultural mind would become a far more growing, joyful, purposeful "individual".
Practical Politics Today
The above thoughts on society may seem utopian, unrealistic, futuristic ... what about the fray of real-world politics, right now?
Cosmism dictates only a few broad principles in this regard ... and in practice, reconciling them may be difficult! For instance,
- Allow development of advanced technologies except in cases of extreme danger
- Extend compassionate help to all, except where the imposition on individuals is tremendous
- Don't build structures or dynamics in stone -- leave each aspect of society free for adaptation and growth
- Make joy, growth and choice explicit goals of the social order
Broad principles like these manifest themselves in many ways in the particular situations we now confront -- but that would lead us beyond the present manifesto, to a different sort of manifesto!