It's become clear to me partly as a result of two recent forays into the amazing world of online discussions. Not amazing in the sense of new or novel - I've been involved to a varying extent with them for going on 10 years now - but amazing in the fact that people thousands of miles apart can come together over even the most obscure interests and form a community of sorts. This internet thing - and I really do think it will catch on, just watch - will itself be the subject of many of my thoughts in the still very hypothetical future of this blog. But the reason I mention it now is that it has provided me with an incomparable tool for exercising my own budding theories, and for learning so much that I can not even begin to catalog what it's done for me.
The first direct inspiration for this blog - for a whole new way of thinking for me - was an article called "Human Destinies" by Richard Nikoley on his "Uncommon Sense" blog.
Richard was asking about the future of civilization. What his article really did for me was to get me to think directly on a subject that I've been thinking around the edges of for a long time: What is the future of human civilization? I'm a huge fan of Science fiction. I've read about distopias, utopias, a-topias, and every other kind of "topia" imaginable. I've absorbed incredible amounts of "knowledge" about the physics of subterranean travel, space travel, time travel, and "beam me up" travel. I've learned all about theocracy, technocracy, autocracy, and dysfunctional democracy. So this was the kind of discussion I'm always ready to jump into and make a fool of myself in.
But Richard's phrasing of the question took it beyond the mere technological, beyond the mere political. He identified the three core developments that he believes have marked turning points in human civilization: agriculture, secularization, and industrialization. Then he asked: What is the state of humanity that "we must either achieve ... or it means we've destroyed ourselves". With a setup like that, he was obviously not looking for answers pertaining to really fast computers or flying cars.
I jumped into this with both feet, making what will seem to many like a grandiose prediction. To sum it up briefly, and in keeping with the "ation" form from the last paragraph, my answer was individuation, then universal habitation. And that's it. Someday, individualism will be the reigning political and social order. I consider this an advance on par with the other three, and what's more, I believe it is a prerequisite for the final stage of human advancement, the ability for individuals to live anywhere and anywhen they choose.
More on that in a bit.
The second direct inspiration was a conversation I had in the comments to two posts about the future of libertarian politics at the QandO blog. (You'll have to scroll down a bit on those links to see my comments, which are themselves numerous and scattered, because this was a long and heated debate, and I came in late.) The gist of my argument was that politics, libertarian or otherwise, is most definitely not the future. Politics is a system that has utterly failed to solve any real problems. Politics has only fostered human advancement to the extent that it has bent over backwards to get out of the way, as it tried to one bright day in 1776.
I had a very hard time getting anyone to even understand the point I was really making. To be fair, I went a bit outside the context of the question at hand, so it's no surprise that I didn't succeed. But it really got me thinking. I've though a lot about politics since discovering it as an interest during the Daddy Bush administration. What struck me during this conversation is that, while I've always thought of politics as a means to an end and not an end in itself, I've never focused on those ends as the primary motivation for what I've been doing.
The discussion at Richard's blog brought those ends into sharp focus for me, and the discussion at QandO, coming right on its heels, brought a bit of an epiphany. I discovered that what I really want to talk about, what I really want to get the world talking about - if I can be so bold as to assume I have any power to do so - is where we are going. It's nice to talk about how we'll get there, but it's meaningless without the why that informs the how.
The scattered and chaotic state of the libertarian movement makes more sense to me now. It is a result of the idea, implicit in everything it does, that the main purpose of the libertarian movement is to advance the libertarian movement. Libertarianism is an inherently negative movement - its against this or that - but what is it for? They will be adamant that they are for freedom, but all that really means is that they are against oppression. But why? I don't think that I'll ever again be able to take seriously discussions about the latest outrage in the war on drugs, or the fact that a Libertarian Party candidate for a minor office managed to get 11% in a three-way race. Yes, there are outrages, yes there are promising electoral results. But, no, these are not the things I live for.
So what does a rationally self-interested post-libertarian who still wants to see the world turn out the right way live and work for, if not politics? The idea of universal individualism and the ability to live anywhere and anywhen is a compelling idea, but lets be serious. It's not something that will be a consideration in my lifetime. My answer to Richard was, I believe, right on the money. But in addressing the broadest possible context it necessarily leaves out a few minor details.
In the context of my life (the only context that means anything - you may not agree, and I won't respect you in the morning if you do) the here-and-now and the tomorrow matter a lot more than a thousand-year speculation, however enticing that speculation is. The faster computers and the flying cars are important. Important because they are steps in human advancement considered in the largest possible context, but also because they are things that can be real and concrete in the here-and-now and in the tomorrows that I and others alive today can actually experience.
There are four threads that I think encompass all, or at least most, of the touchstones of Human Advancement.
Life is the necessary prerequisite for everything that matters and the standard by which we judge everything's value. Life is humans being. Life is the fact that we keep breathing, but also the fact that we keep thinking and keep doing. Life is about medical advances that keep us alive longer and better, it is about how technology can make us live not only better but also differently and in different environments than the one that nurtured us to where we are now.
Intelligence is the defining characteristic of human nature. The predecessor to this blog was called think!freedom. It was going to be a political blog, but that odd exclamation point in the middle was intended to be significant. It was supposed to symbolize the idea that freedom starts in your head. It starts by thinking, it advances by thinking, and thinking is it's breath and blood. Intelligence, is not only the ideas of one individual, it is also the sharing of those ideas with others. It is about not only what we think, but how we communicate those thoughts. It is the fountainhead of all that is to come and the understanding of all that has been. It is the future and the past, and the link between them.
Technology is the application of intelligence to concrete needs. It is faster computers and flying cars. It is the means by which our intelligence creates the conditions for its own advancement - for Human Advancement. It is intelligence made concrete - wrought in steel and plastic and electronics. It is what will bring us from cave dwellers to masters of the universe.
Freedom is the external context necessary for our intelligence to do its job. It is the individualism that I spoke about in Human Destinies. Nothing more can be achieved without it. The demands the future will place on our intelligence and the cooperative efforts required to realize our destiny are too great to be achieved in a world of "We" instead of "I". Politics is obsolete, it has been for decades if not centuries. It can be argued that it served a purpose at one time, but even so, its purpose is done. It is now only an obstacle to be overcome, or better, to be pushed aside.
Together, these are the purpose of this blog. To examine those next steps that will lead us from today to that distant tomorrow I talked about in Human Destinies. It's roots and inspiration are in politics, but its purpose now is to discuss the steps that politics will have to make - including stepping out of the picture altogether - only as part of the full range of things that get us closer to our destiny.