In the 10-12 centuries, roughly 500-600 generations, after the agricultural revolution, humans have embarked on a wild, improvisational binge of social experimentation, construction and reconstruction. We have built cities, and larger political aggregates, of many types. Over this span, there have been many examples of human organizers seeking to control all in sight, most often using force as a primary instrument, and usually with exploitation – milking it for all it is worth – in mind. We have many examples of such ambitions being less than globally successful, and falling apart after a few to several generations of the organizers. In the last few centuries, some attempts to organize human activity have had global or near-global reach. Consider the recent colonizing efforts of the European populations. Though two “world wars” efforts to organize human activity globally have persisted, but shifted from the overtly colonial mode.. We are now engaged in a second attempt to integrate the globe on largely consensual bases, Both attempts were launched in the immediately preceding century. Parallel to these efforts have continued to be „trading‟ arrangements, in which ad-hoc organizations of various sizes and formats order the production and use of a much larger set of streams of products and services than were managed in prior trading and exploitation networks. In the first decade of the eleventh millennia after agriculture (approximately), our attempts to become healthy, wealthy and wise are now played out in a global stage. We buy, sell and invest globally. We are trying to organize on a global basis everything from virus control to nuclear arms control. Our negotiation with Earthlife as a whole will be conducted both locally and globally. Our political, or state, structures, now have given rise to tiers of organizations leading to an all-earth umbrella organization. All politics remains local, as has been said by a famous American politician, and many after him. But all localities are now subject to global pulls and tugs, and all (in most countries) are linked politically to global forms of organization. Looked at from the perspective of the the Universe‟s order building dynamic set out in previous chapters, we now participate in an effort to implement that dynamic – group building, in human terms – to Earth scale. (Never mind that Earth is a tiny marble in the immensities of space. It is large enough to be quite a large challenge for us much tinier mites.) That is an exalted position for a bunch of babbling apes not far removed from stone choppers and axes.
From our own perspective, if we suppose that the human community may be larger and richer, reaching more of its potentials, if organized along mutualistic lines – that is, accommodations in which there is benefit both to the groupings of various sorts and size and to an Earth-comprehensive ecumene – then we are privileged with the opportunity to participate in new endeavors of great potential benefits for our kind. But in the multidimensional globalization which we undertake – spanning economic, cultural, and political structures -- we have no guarantee of success on any timetable we can firmly establish, or at any level we can confidently assume. It is entirely possible that we will make more than two false starts at a global political integration of mankind. It is entirely possible that our global unification efforts may persistently yield stunted results, or even permanently abort. There is so much we do not know. What is the combination of constraint, innovation, and rivalrous behavior which will best serve us – and more broadly the life enterprise in which we are embedded -- in the long run? Should we always have contending, but not mutually destructive, alliances at the global level? How do we get global policing of parasitic behavior without global despotism? Do we want a fungus-like open border ecumene, or tightly sealed national entities gingerly minueting with each other? Where can we look for lessons? We draw upon 10-12 millennia of experimentation in human social organization above the nomadic level, of course. In recent centuries, we have begun to piece together an history of over three billions of years of life organization on Earth. I have tried to extract some lessons from that history in a preceding chapter. In the last century or so, we have begun to develop modeling techniques which may be of some use. How do we set objectives? We might try to specify some things we would like to avoid. Here is a suggested list: inter-group predation – i.e. wars parasitism – at any of many levels; e.g. holders of valuable, key resources, holders of key functions which serve social organizations Major collapses Excessive rigidity Wasting valuable human assets – „natural‟ endowments, valuable resource production mechanisms, valuable technologies, cultural achievements Social hubris – attempting too much We might try to specify some things we would like to see realized. Here is a short suggested list.
giving everyone in the global community a stake in its global integration, a franchise for participation, some benefit from being a part of the global human community accurate and effective accountability mechanisms – effective „news media‟, requirements for openness, transparency and full reportage on undertakings which have broad effect on the human communities, especially when those undertakings are mounted by bodies explicitly formed by citizen defined communities for the benefit of those citizen communities , Effective control of „weapons of mass destruction‟ Building international institutions carefully, from the ground up, so to speak – identifying functions to be performed internationally and constructing mechanisms clearly designed to serve them, carefully integrating the multiple functions we identify and construct Effective use of the instruments of „science‟ – measurement, models, peer reviews, public disclosure, explicit validation or invalidation of theses on the basis of observable and replicable phenomena -- to critique our problems and suggest sustainable and productive social designs. Books can be, and, I venture, will be, written on each and every point identified above. Rather than try to write all those books, I would like, at this point, to suggest some of the major challenges, or inflection points, I think I can see coming up over the next few generations of humans. The energy transition from cheap fossil fuels – oil and gas – seems likely to pose a major challenge. We will need to manage international relations so as to enable us to avoid wars and/or collapses of major population complexes. The depletion of these cheap energy assets coincides with the spread of energy intensive technologies to massive populations in Asia – notably China and India. Just as the whole globe gets involved in high energy activities, our cheapest source of energy peters out. We can imagine enormous tensions coming into play as a result of this combination of events. We will need to maintain technologies and organizational arrangements permitting major energy flows over large regions – indeed, globally.1 (Arguably, we could have solar, wind and nuclear technologies with less international integration than oil requires. But these technologies are likely to be more efficient and globally beneficial with international integration than without it.)
One of the interesting aspects of the energy prospect is the role which might be played by the international oil companies and associated market institutions. One can imagine alternative means of getting oil to consumers. But the size and efficiency of the oil distribution mechanism might be a powerful factor in discouraging international power grabs.
It appears to this observer today that a robust international trade framework which gives all major population centers a stake in the peaceful maintenance of efficient global commerce would be a major contributor to managing the upcoming energy transition. We face an interesting problem created by the concentration of oil in an area with a culture differing substantially from those of the oil consuming regions. It looks like the Islamic Middle East is going to have for decades to come increasing control of the oil tap in an oil thirsty world.. How much leverage will this give these Islamic oil producing countries? On the other side of the sell-buy divide, what temptations to non-producers to grab and hold these energy assets will arise? What destructive melees among „world powers‟ can arise if there is a scramble to control Middle East oil by force? From the oil producing country perspective, this is an interesting challenge in how to construct win-win arrangements. The value of the oil largely arises from the buyers of it. So one wants the oil consumers healthy enough to pay a handsome price for the oil. One would not want to see the oil consumers blowing each other up, if the result were to be a big drop off in the gains from selling oil. . Assume your buyers can buy, and can pay a hefty price. One would want to get maximum leverage from the oil without provoking oil consumer country takeover of the oil resource by force. An effort to take over oil production by force might be stimulated by resistance to high prices, complaints about the distribution of oil by one or more major players capable of takeover, or failure of the delivery mechanism of such severity as to make the buyers think it worth their while to take over the production and delivery system.
From the viewpoint of an oil consuming country, one could see attempts to take over oil production by force as risky and potentially highly disruptive. Do we need a another world war, over the oil patch? How many oil consumers might die, refineries be destroyed, production be lost? Oil producers can keep reminding oil buyers of these considerations. If Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran could ever get on the same page, they would have a strong hand to be played vis-à-vis the remainder of the world. But they would need to
play that hand with discretion and skill. (I do not necessarily want them to make a strong cartel, as a citizen in an oil consuming country. But they may have an opposing viewpoint.) From a larger perspective, we will need effective international political organization, to discourage resource grabs by force and encourage the peaceful arbitration of interests. We can see this major set of problems coming up. We could stand pat and see if our existing institutions will handle it. I suggest that we need to examine carefully what institutions we have in place to handle this problem, refine our current international institutions as appears to be needed, and invent such new institutions as may be required. There are of course a host of other issues related to the transition to more costly energy sources. But this chapter is given to implications of this transition for the global integration of humankind. A second major challenge is the gradual reshaping of the United Nations mechanism. The World War II era initiators of the United Nations deserve highest marks for seeing that some sort of global integration mechanism is needed. There have been initiatives to „reform‟ the UN of the „tightening up‟ sort over the last two decades. Such efforts tend to focus on the management structure, and on achieving better accountability. One would expect such efforts to continue. Within limits related to not trying to strip the organization of all useful function, such activity is appropriate – indeed necessary. But larger issues seem likely to come into play. It seems to me, and I suggest to you, that the Euro-American centric organization of the UN will increasingly seem anachronistic and inadequate if and as the huge population masses of China and India assume a larger role in global economic interactions. When you shift the organization control mechanisms, you may bring into play the agendas of those who acquire more influence in the organization. Altering the U.N. mechanism might be a global scale pandora‟s box. But not altering the UN mechanisms could lead to UN implosion, or irrelevance, One way or another, fundamental considerations will be presented, over time, about what the whole UN rig might be supposed to be accomplishing. Is the U. N. primarily about avoiding war? Managing issues of the global „commons‟ (like the oceans, air quality, global warming). Protecting against global health threats? Facilitating commerce? Equalizing wealth ? Protecting basic „human rights‟?
What is the best process for addressing this whole set of issues? Just muddle along, like the Brits have done in their internal organization reasonably well? Get a council of wise academics to plot strategies? Have a grand Commission? All of these combined? One can imagine a variety of paths into and out of this global thicket. My own predilections are for stepwise, evolutionary, negotiated adjustments. We need to be modest, careful cathedral builders, ever aware of the limitations of the human stone with which we work. To the extent we get „science‟ involved, we need to be careful engineers, who test our formulas and employ them with discretion and skill. A third major set of issues are those of managing the global ‘commons’ – oceans, air quality, even global temperature control. We have been wrecking our oceans. We may cause one or more highly uncomfortable lurches in the global climate regime. Our progress on getting a handle on these problems is agonizingly slow. A fourth major problem is of course control of weapons of mass destruction. For obvious reasons. I will now offer a few observations or suggestions which I hope are relevant to the tasks described above. We need major, continuing local, national and international efforts to inform the various human communities of what this globalization process is all about, the importance of workable international organizations, and the issues we face as we face them. We are constantly facing parochialism. All around. That is a given. Ignorance makes parochialism intransigent, dangerous. Constructive social computation needs some foresight. And that requires widespread information – formal and informal education. We need to be clear that we are engaging in an eons-length task – the building of structures designed to last for centuries and longer. We are talking about social structures. But social structures are also physical structures. We need to deepen our perceptions of what we are about, in terms of order building. We need, I would suggest, to make more of a science of organization building. One might characterize „statecraft‟ as practiced today as cathedral building as practiced in the medieval centuries. We got some beautiful and functional structures in that era. But the engineering disciplines of the last few centuries have added greatly to the scale and functionality of the structures we can construct. Modern academia has invented a formidable armamentarium of theoretical constructs, research techniques, and modeling. We need some national and international scale academic and think tank organizations making the „social science‟ of human
organization building much more of a science, in a conscious, planned, and incremental way. I will close by addressing some comments to the national organization in which I live, the United States. For much of the last six to seven decades, the United States was a leading force in international organization building. But in the early part of the 21st century, we seem to have become more of a brake on such institution building than a driver of it. Indications of this shift are visible in the flow of daily events. We lag in international efforts to address the threats of climate change. We resist treaties which might curb our military, such as the international court of criminal justice and land mine controls. We have dismissed United Nations processes in making decisions about major international military and social ventures such as the war on Iraq. We punish the United Nations with threats of withholding our contributions, on a regular basis. We have, one might argue, become a very conservative world power, bent more on hegemony than on maximizing the welfare of the international community of which we are a part. The current administration in the United States, and many persons and groups sympathetic with many of its orientations, could contest my characterizations here, and offer evidence of constructive international efforts on many fronts. I am gratefully willing to concede that the United States does enter into constructive international efforts on many fronts. The international scene is complex, with many fronts and dimensions. Setting up a comprehensive „bottom line‟, netting out our international posture, is a complicated process. Scanning over the visible landscape, I offer my sense of a sort of sea change in recent years. I think many have a similar sense. This development, if it is a development, has occurred simultaneously with the diminution of international competition from the Soviet Union and the „communist‟ form of social organization, and with the rise of the „conservative‟ political movement in the United States. We may have shifted our weight. But international rivalry and international opportunities have not suddenly ceased. Great threats and challenges to the globe unifying tendencies of „globalization‟, broadly conceived, loom. The world remains both a dangerous place and a place of great opportunities. One may hope that the „conservative‟ cohorts in the United States, with their own particular blend of idealism and selfishness (all major social movements have such blends), will learn from their recent adventures and misadventures.2 Indeed, one hopes
One could also imagine that in any large body politic, there might be a sort of steady state equilibrium, or back and forth shifts in equilibria, a sort of bistable equilibrium, between conservative and more venturesome and cooperative elements, with no net gain over time in understanding of the international
that the American body politic as a whole will learn from those adventures and misadventures. In the opinion of this person in this country at this time, the United States is as of this writing in 2006 less constructive than it can be and needs to be internationally, in the building of a productive global order, on this small but very contentious marble in space. If I am correct, we in the United States, as well as our companions all around this earth, will as a result suffer unwelcome consequences – the loss of great opportunities, or worse. So we need to wise up about globalization, see it as a sort of manifest destiny for mankind, and be savvy about pursuing global, sustainable, win-wins.
scene and adeptness in it, in the body politic as a whole. I hope for better outcomes than continual flip flops with no net learning involved. .