In part one, I went through various scenarios where living on Earth could become a living hell. Of course, to many people currently alive, they would argue that life is already a living hell – and for many, I would agree. In this post, I’m going to get ludicrously utopian and brainstorm what we might do to make living on Earth more heaven-like.
I already know what many are thinking: this type of thinking leads to insane ideologies like Communism, cults, etc. The problem with being that skeptical is that if we’re not even trying to imagine a better future, how are we ever going to do anything besides the incremental bullshit politicians throw at us (e.g. “going to reduce poverty by 5% by end of the decade”, etc.)? I think we desperately need a better vision and strategy for the future so let’s take off our skeptic hat for a moment and list out some ideas for what might put us on a much better path.
Reading these ideas, your first instinct may be to throw your hands up and say “These are impossible to do!”. Well that may be right and completely unhelpful. Think bigger, dream bigger! That’s the problem – we give up! Another criticism might be that these ideas are too simple. If so, then why aren’t they being done? Think about the people who are preventing these things from getting done. That’s a big clue to the source of these problems and we’ll discuss the challenges of implementing these ideas. And remember these are ideas, it’s not an operating manual. For now, just imagine the possible and wonder why we don’t have it.
We’re aiming high: heaven on Earth. Of course, heaven will mean different things for all of us, this is actually the big challenge behind almost everything humans do when they want to improve things: nobody agrees on the outcome or final vision so we fight endlessly about how to live best. I think the solution to that is to admit that humans will have a different definition of heaven, but, the vast majority of us can agree on some very basic principles of an existence that would be much better for all humans, as heaven-like as possible.
Proposed Principles of a Heaven on Earth
- People are healthy of mind and body (for example, they have food they enjoy and nourishes them).
- People aren’t subject to violence and are not compelled to do things they don’t want to do.
- People are allowed to live to their potential, pursue what makes them most happy and fulfilled in life (assuming this doesn’t hurt anyone else) and don’t need to work themselves to death.
- People, if they choose, are surrounded by other people they love and like to be around.
- People are physically protected from the elements and have surroundings that are clean, safe and pleasing to them.
- People have agreed on some simple universal basic rights (movement, speech, etc.).
- NOTE: Be careful here – we want human rights, not rights to others wealth. This is where Communism goes murderously crazy; the right to housing, right to healthcare, universal income, etc. require humans to provide for other humans which violates their rights by requiring someone else’s labor and resources.
- Life is not too easy (which creates boredom, laziness, or worse. One could imagine a “dystopian heaven” where people are just plugged into virtual reality helmets all day) but challenging enough to activate humans greatest abilities which are solving problems and innovating new creations or at least feeling useful or raising kids.
- People have agreed to limit things that may cause terrifying results (see part one): artificial intelligence overlord, human/animal experimentation and torture, human tracking/credit systems, etc.
- We make decisions on things humans care about using metrics that are human-centered (and earth-centered) like mental/physical health, happiness, fulfillment, air/water quality, poverty etc. not economic focused like GDP, growth, etc.
- A dedication to beauty, truth, kindness and meaning would put our focus on the real and pleasant aspects of life.
That’s a simple list, imperfect, but a decent start. The point is to provide the basis for people to live with dignity (but not coddle them like a child). They will then have the space to innovate, develop themselves, properly care for children and hence, bring real beauty and love for life back into the world. Leaders committing to these few things alone in each country would make life dramatically better for a huge majority of the population on Earth. Of course, the problem is implementation so let’s move on to some ideas for getting there.
How to Move Towards Heaven on Earth
Decentralization and Localism
First, let’s address why ideologies like Communism and other “top down” systems tend to end up as a dystopian nightmare: centralization. They implement these ideas from the top and shove it down the throats of people who either do not want it or it will not work because they have a different set of local issues or complexities that are not understood by a distant authority.
Because the people do not accept it, the ideological powers that be then try to force them to accept it and this is how we get to really bad ideas from forced collectives, to re-education and death camps. Seriously, the death count from Communism trying to do this alone is approximately 100 million (and perhaps a billion or more whose lives were made worse to this day in the process). To fight back, the people then usually resort to war or terrorism to try to stop the central authority.
One size does not fit all when it comes to the desires, needs and cultures of humans which vary dramatically. Humans are simply too diverse and complex to have a “one world government” or some other type of grand planned solution. Do you really want a world dictator? It’s fine to have a handful of principles to live by that are more or less generally agreed upon, but forcefully implementing things seems to always lead to disaster. Don’t think about this as a left versus right issue, think about it as a “top down” vs “local”.
It’s pretty clear that we can’t just force humans to do things. We need to focus more on some principles of a good life and actively encourage and support people to implement that the best way they can locally. It’s one thing to live, it’s another to “let live”. So a big push should be to let others live as they please as long as they don’t explicitly harm others. Whether they want Wakanda or The Shire we should let that happen. Some cultures may have different gender roles, marriage rules, even (gasp!) different governance systems – monarchies, etc. and that’s fine – we don’t need to impose cultural norms on others and frankly doing so is the height of hubris and the source of a lot of conflict. Prefer to live differently? Go to a place more aligned with your preferences.
Align Incentives with Goals and Accountability
“Never, ever, think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.” — Charlie Munger
Incentives rule the world. If one’s actions are driven by goals and rewarded or punished based on behaviour and decisions, then, over time, you’ll get much better results. One of the major problems right now is that those who control the majority of the planet not only don’t have an incentive to change anything, they’re not even remotely held accountable for their decisions and actions. They have no “skin in the game”. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a poorly run government, business or school district, the root cause will almost always be a lack of incentives and/or accountability.
Think about it, do we really incentivize politicians, bureaucrats and our intellectual and business elites (for example) to move towards anything like the Principles of a Heaven on Earth above? Do they go to work thinking about the health, safety, self-actualization and wealth of their constituents and customers or do they care more about giving feel-good speeches, staying in office, defending their budget, maintaining their monopoly and making small incremental changes that are meaningless? What is their incentive to improve things for humanity? If you dig deeply, you’ll likely find there are few if any incentives for them at all to do anything but to remain in power (or remain wealthy), keep the status quo, be actively hostile to the people, rob the treasury or worse.
“Every one of these books says that the Great War was of total military incompetence. Why was it?” Our teacher did not hesitate a second but shot right back, “Because not enough generals were killed; they stayed away behind the lines and let others do the fighting and dying.” Effective leaders delegate but they do not delegate the one thing that will set the standards. They do it.” — Peter Drucker
Don’t get me started on accountability. Has anyone, for example, been jailed or lost their jobs over the 2003 Iraqi War deception (thousands dead, trillions of dollars lost), the 2008 financial crisis (indeed, we rewarded many with large “bailouts” and “stimulus”), our shitty education system, our crumbling infrastructure, the Covid-19 debacle, various police killings and a hundred other government screw-ups that we read about daily from federal to local levels? I honestly can’t think of anyone who’s really been held accountable and the presidents and politicians we had during these debacles certainly never admitted fault (maybe a few low level functionaries have resigned but never the actual decision makers). Note that this includes reporters and pundits who were usually misleading at best. In many cases, these people are actively defended by the bureaucracy (or their unions).
So, what’s to be done? I can guarantee you if heads rolled, people jailed for those decisions and they were publicly shamed that behaviour would change quickly. Accountability needs to be paramount and we need to modify systems to align incentives with goals and remove incentives for bad actors.
No person who is responsible for making decisions should have incentives for anything but the benefit of the people they represent or serve. Can you imagine if people in power were rewarded for the health, happiness and success of the people they represent? Align the incentives of rich people, business, government, the middle class, the poor and the environment and you’ll see dramatic improvements in life on earth.
This is, of course, easier said than done but there are many well-functioning institutions that do this (some other countries as well), we just need to clean house and implement these systems in the poorly-functioning institutions. I would also say that we the people are partially to blame for tolerating this and electing the same people over and over. However, the way the system is structured is rigged by terrible leaders as we’ll see below.
“Once people believe in a better future – for themselves and others – they become willing to take risks, work hard, sacrifice near-term comfort, delay gratification, and cooperate with others, all of which are the raw ingredients of economic and social progress.” — Morgan Housel
Decentralization and aligning goals and incentives are all good, but what are we working towards? What is the goal we’re trying to achieve? I’ve already mentioned that people will want different versions of heaven and I think decentralization is a big part of that. Your heaven may not look like mine – yours may look like Star Trek, mine might look like a Mutual of Omaha special. That’s one of my main points, diversity of heavens. So I think a good goal is for humans to build their own version of heaven.
I think the Principles of Heaven on Earth above are a good starting point which could be tweaked based on local values. From there, I think the next obvious step is for leaders of individual local human groups (countries but more likely states, cities, businesses, tribes, etc.) to actively start imagining and working towards a shared vision. People should express and demand a vision from their leaders, otherwise what is the point? Where are we going and what are we doing?
If there’s one thing I believe is missing from our current leaders is any kind of vision whatsoever. All I see is posturing, bickering, blocking, blaming and some lame policy proposals that make almost no difference in anyone’s lives. I see minor incremental improvements sometimes and we’re actively going backwards in many cases.
The biggest issue I see is that most people have no vision of what a better planet (country, city, neighborhood, etc.) would look like so we don’t even know where to start. Sure, Communists and Scientologists probably have some grand vision of a future earth but there’s a lot of people that don’t share it. Right now, most of us are just reacting to reality instead of actually trying to create a better one. Most are waiting for others to act and that’s hope, not a strategy.
Demand a vision with detailed goals (and metrics), align the incentives and hold the people in charge accountable and we’ll begin to see improvements. The business world functions perfectly fine using these principles, it’s the public sector that has really fallen behind and will only continue to do so as long as we don’t start getting rid of the rotten apples.
The people will rally behind an inspirational vision and will have fewer disagreements if the vision is shared by them. If we focus on vision instead of disagreement then we can move towards de-escalation and a problem solving mindset. Less day to day in-fighting because everyone will know that we’re all working towards the same goal. A shared vision reduces conflict and confusion.
A New Frontier
A good way to get people excited and thinking about different visions of the future is to have a focus on something big like outer space. Humans have always been inspired by frontiers and I think space is the ultimate challenge and a source of nearly limitless wealth. One can argue that Americans’ really only get motivated by big new frontiers. Our best and brightest can unlock the trillions of dollars of minerals in asteroids, for example (trillions of gallons of water too).
And the best part of space? It doesn’t end. We can keep going forever. If people don’t like Earth or don’t share a vision with anyone on Earth then they now have a place to focus on for the future. If we get the sense that Earth is not the only ball of dirt to fight about then I think a lot of problems will go away.
Space will not only inspire thousands of entrepreneurs but will also be a relief valve for those that don’t fit in, want more freedom or even to make their own new world. We can stop arguing and if someone doesn’t like it here, well, get your ass to Mars (or wherever)!
Finally, space exploration should not only bring wealth but massive technological innovation (including clean energies and more). Roaring economies can be so dynamic and inspiring that nobody wants to sit around arguing about social justice or microaggressions; there’s too much excitement and opportunity to waste time tearing each other apart. When you watch this video of the first SpaceX landing, do you feel like arguing or get inspired? Let’s stop arguing and get inspired again.
Better Institutions and Systems
“Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.” — Dee Hock
I think almost anyone will admit that, at least in the developed Western world, many once-functional institutions are now failing us badly. From government (schooling, military, CDC, voting systems, etc) to the media, we are seeing failures at almost every level to do even the basics properly and the various systems within and outside of these institutions are also failing.
So basically, we have a failure of these mostly-government organizations (some are sort of private or non-profit but the private sector in general is much more effective than their governments) and the systems that make up these institutions. What that tells me is that not only do we need better institutions, we need to design them better and have better systems from the beginning. I’m not even sure some of our existing institutions can be reformed due to being so ineffective, bureaucratic and resistant to change – we may need to replace many of them completely.
It’s not a money thing either. These institutions are hideously over-funded in many cases. Those that scream about under-funded schools or healthcare obviously don’t know how to read a simple chart showing our spending over time (and per capita) has exploded. Did you know that the Amish have better health outcomes than most modern people at much less expense? Did you know the US spends near the top in education with mediocre results? These systems are broken and need to be reformed or, more likely, replaced.
So what would help us do that? This is such a big subject that thousands of pages and decades of work could be required but I think we need to settle on some principles of effective institutions to move out of this mess.
Principles of Effective Institutions (and Organizations)
- Does it work well? The number one thing to ask of any institution, organization or system you deal with is “Does it work well?” Because if we simply asked that and held the people in charge accountable for that system to work, we’d probably toss out most of congress and most people in charge of education, infrastructure, defense, intelligence, housing and healthcare (I’m sure you can think of many more). Ask the average bureaucrat if their system is working well or if they even care. Again, we need to incentivize them if it isn’t and hold them accountable if they don’t deliver.
- Is it cost effective? Projects that took months decades ago now take years or even decades to get done at 10X the cost or more. As mentioned above, healthcare and education spending are out of control and that’s only the tip of the iceberg of “cost disease” which I believe is largely related to bad management, over-regulation, corruption and again a lack of accountability and incentives. If it’s helpful, simply compare your institution to another city, state or country that does things well.
- Is it resilient? Many of these institutions worked well at one time (usually because they had exceptional people running them) but over time they became inefficient, corrupt, politically co-opted or worse. A well designed organization will be not only effective but resistant to being degraded. Humans are often the weak link in systems and institutions so a “trustless” system (take humans out of the decision-making process where possible) may be ideal. Think about how a human sociopath would exploit the institution and design against that.
- Dedication to simplicity and constant improvement. As the Dee Hock quote above mentions, “Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.” Many organizations have simply become too complex or bureaucratized. Make a core value of an institution that it must dedicate itself to simplicity and constant improvement (and, again, hold people accountable to that standard). It’s hard to think of a government function from social security to voting to emergency aid that couldn’t be massively simplified and improved with digital government, for example.
- Disallow unions for critical institutions. The threat of a strike for something critical like law enforcement, education, sanitation (most government functions really; imagine if the military went on strike!) is an egregious violation of the public trust and is akin to holding the people hostage by the people who are supposed to serve them. I have no issue with private unions but public unions have way too much leverage and are a big reason these institutions are terrible in the first place. The only people who ever seem to disagree with this commonsense principle are the people in these unions.
- Reward the best. The institutions and even the individual employees should be ranked against their peers and rewarded to create incentives for performance and to spur energy and competitive instinct. Private organizations do this to great effect (sales goals, bonuses, etc).
- Does it need to go? Some things are just too broken to keep and many times starting over is easier than reform. For example, the teachers unions are so powerful and exert so much control over the Democratic party (and local politics) that I see almost no chance of reform for public schools. That’s why many people have basically given up and are now private schooling, developing homeschooling networks, creating charter schools, “funding students, not schools” and more workarounds.
“The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose and it will defend itself.” — St. Augustine
Listen, you can’t fix anything if you can’t see the problem, or the powers that be never report on it or let it be known. The concept of “sensemaking” is important here and basically means how we make sense of an increasingly complex world – how we see reality. I would argue that in many ways our sensemaking is actually getting worse even though the level of information we have access to has increased exponentially. The ability to know what’s going on and making decisions is the core of sensemaking and anything that distorts that process is going to harm us long term.
First, our media is absolutely terrible and one-sided. If you don’t think so then I question your sanity. Some stories or studies are buried, distorted, discredited or completely ignored because it hurts the wrong person or political party.
A quick example is the “children in cages” border crisis which was an enormous deal a while back provoking millions of voices of outrage under the previous president, but somehow is “nuanced” now that the situation is actually worse under another president who was in the administration that actually built these cages (and those voices of outrage are all but silent). It was obviously political scapegoating from the beginning. How about the riots of the summer of 2020 where the media acted like it was “mostly peaceful” protesting (that killed a lot of people and caused billions in damage) and suddenly big events and masks were just fine in a pandemic. These are small recent examples but the point is that we cannot make good decisions without accurate data or perspectives and our current mainstream media is almost completely one sided.
Second, our university system and the related science and peer review system is proving to be biased or outright broken. You know something is wrong when someone parrots the line: “the science is settled!”. Really? Like the food pyramid, Vioxx, cholesterol, stomach ulcers, global cooling, and dozens of other topics which science got wrong at one point? Science has always been a process of getting closer to truth and those who don’t understand that frankly terrify me. When I see a published list of scientists that openly back a particular theory I know it’s almost always political and besides, as Einstein said (after being shown a list of hundreds of people who disagreed with him): “If I were wrong, one would have been enough”.
In many ways our universities, outside of the hard sciences and some skilled professions (legal, administrative, trades, etc.) are nearly useless (outside the socialization they might provide) and simply straddle people with lifelong debt for a degree with dubious value (the equivalent which can probably be learned online). I believe this massive amount of people with near-useless degrees are behind a lot of the culture war issues we have because they’ve been scammed, they know it, have a lot of time on their hands and they’re taking it out on the world. See elite overproduction for more on this concept.
The university system (in the West at least) is also behind a lot of the culture war, especially their obsessive push for multiculturalism and diversity (which sounds great on paper – probably why it also trickled into the government). If there’s anything that has been damaging to our social cohesion it is the insistence that somehow a society with multiple cultures and enforced quotas and preferences based on race (a questionable measure at best – what about increasingly mixed races?) is going to be a better place to live than the mostly homogenous countries that tend to dominate the top of every quality of living list on the planet. There are rare exceptions but those exceptions are usually ruled with an iron fist because cultures tend to clash (Singapore comes to mind as well as Yugoslavia before the fall of Communism).
It’s not clear who was behind the diversity push decades ago, but apparently it’s linked to studies where groups of various backgrounds (not necessarily races or cultures, just backgrounds or perspectives) did better when solving problems or doing various projects together, which is something that is pretty obvious but it doesn’t seem they extrapolated that to being actual neighbors. So then, the concept somehow became forced racial diversity (bussing mandates), forced cultural diversity (quotas, unlimited immigration, new classes of “hate” crimes, etc.), then people had to be “anti-racist” or apologize for their heritage and we’ve finally ended up in the gutter with basically “white man bad”. This has been devastating for social cohesion with increased loneliness and less civic participation. It’s Orwellian that “diversity is our strength” is such a common slogan when almost the exact opposite is true. Further, these people seem to only want to impose this on majority-white countries (rarely arguing for diversity in say, Africa, South America, China, etc.) which is highly suspicious.
Forced diversity doesn’t work and you probably know it intuitively (there are many studies on this, which the media like to ignore, to be discussed in a later post). Why do people who push this want life to be harder? A natural and balanced diversity can develop over time and has in many places but forcing this on a society is as bad as any top down solution I mentioned earlier. A high trust, highly cohesive society is generally considered the best place to live and that typically will not include much diversity or multiculturalism – nobody worries about high crime in Iceland or Japan breaking out into race riots.
Finally, to make this all even more complex, any human can now filter their information to suit their cause or biases. It’s endless and has only gotten worse since we all stopped listening to the same 3 newscasters decades ago (and they were probably lying too). The ability to cut through this information (and disinformation) is a skill, it’s not really being taught by the education system and being angry and biased is actually profitable for the media.
So, we know the media and education systems are not helping us get to heaven on earth and are actively spreading division and falsehoods. What is to be done? This will be a tough nut to crack because humans have many biases, we love virtue signaling and we love being tribal. We’ll need to get a lot better at sensemaking and, more importantly, ignoring the current sources of bad information and division. What can help us get better at sensemaking?
Principles of Better Sensemaking
- Cut the media out. I would say make better choices but the corporate media are so absolutely horrible I recommend ignoring them completely (outside of local or national emergencies where you need to be informed). Go for books or a well-curated Twitter feed instead.
- Go to university only for hard sciences and certain professions. Almost all degree programs outside of those can be self-taught or at least learned online saving an enormous amount of time and money.
- Commitment to truth even if it hurts. Become aware of your biases and call others out on theirs. Encourage source verification and logical thinking.
- Realize that science is a process and that saying “the science is settled” is akin to witchburning.
- Encourage education systems to teach all of the above (but parents will likely need to do it because our education systems are mostly broken).
We won’t get close to heaven on earth unless we get the current elites to start caring more about their people. And trust me, this is an elite problem. If the elites were living in hell like so many others, changes would be happening fast. Elites of previous generations at least had a sense of noblesse oblige toward their countrymen.
Global travel and jetsetting has basically made them not only distant but able to collaborate together as a sort of global tribe. So we have this wealthy, global jet-set that barely understands how their average countryman lives or, in many cases, actually despise or look down on them. Mostly, immigrants have replaced their household help so they don’t even see a lot of working people around them as fully “them” or probably never even look them in the eye. They love to get together and make big plans about the world. Recent topics included the “great reset” (using Covid as an excuse to grab more power) and encouraging the world to eat bugs for protein. Great.
These elites are so predictably uniform you can almost describe them without knowing anything about them: wealthy (except for politicians who tend to get rich after they’re powerful), well-traveled, went to a handful of educational institutions, consume the same media sources, have the same “woke” language rules, almost always left wing (with some notable exceptions), heavily emphasize “charity” or “public service” (aka virtue signaling), think Hollywood is great as well as most things on this list of things “white people like” (regardless of their race). Even worse, they push luxury beliefs on the people, but in their own world tend to value marriage, personal responsibility and hard work. In many cases they’re destroying institutions with centuries of tradition with little forethought to how this will affect regular people. In short, our elites suck and you know it.
So we have these somewhat homogenous elites, with few ties to their countrymen, controlling governments and institutions (that are obviously failing in many cases), not really caring about the regular folk and basically running away with the game (global wealth disparity is enormous right now). So what do we do? In the past, the people would just rise up and start killing the elites until they get the point. I’d prefer we not do that so the only way I can see short of guillotines is encouraging them, shaming them and holding them accountable.
First, the modern elite is a slave to public approval and virtue signaling. If each country posted a list of the elites and their charitable contributions as well as their tax paid this information would be very valuable as leverage against how they (and their business interests) are perceived. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were basically shamed into giving most of their wealth away and I think this same principle can be applied to our global elite.
Next, a voluntary wealth contribution to a charity fund on the top 1% of wealthy estates and businesses (each country or even city could adopt this) and a list of those who pay it and those who don’t (including their business interests). We actually want to encourage them to be generous then give them lots of praise for doing so – mention it at every political opportunity, let them put a badge on their products and logos, make a leaderboard and make them compete. Ultimately, they’re just humans and will respond to peer pressure like this.
Finally, and most importantly, we want our leaders to encourage the elite to be generous and love their people again. Right now, their Instagram feed is probably more important to them. But, we need to stop listening to them until they do care and have some skin in the game. Right now, they’re self-absorbed and could care less about the people and until they do, we need to ignore their advice and policies because they’re largely responsible for getting us in this mess in the first place. Note that accountability and a good vision will be helpful here too.
If that doesn’t work then outright shaming and protests, boycotting their companies, actually voting politicians out (yes, even if they’re in your preferred political party), etc. and wealth taxes will be the next logical step. Whatever it is, we need a peaceful way for the elite to care about their people and to be held accountable. If necessary, our leaders should give strong hints about the current state of the people and the potential for the people to pull out the guillotine if our elites don’t get on a better path.
Be careful though, the elite are wily and they know how to co-opt and disarm a movement. Remember “Occupy Wall Street”? That disappeared quickly and suddenly Wall Street was supporting all sorts of movements from gay marriage to Black Lives Matter (aka Woke Capital) which took the heat off them and put the focus back on the culture war and regular people fighting amongst themselves (which is ideal for the elite and what they wanted). Very clever, be careful!
A Clean Slate
If we ever want to be able to live together on Earth (at least until space is a viable escape) we need to start with a clean slate for the people and their debt. I believe doing so will not only improve equality but will make us dramatically happier and perhaps fuel a new renaissance.
First, I think absolute equality under the law is important or much of this won’t work. This includes people and government giving up previous grievances about various things from the past: race, slavery, land, etc. We want social cohesion and harmony, yes? Do you think we have that and do you think further grievances and various “reparations” will fix that? We currently spend an enormous amount of energy on scrutinizing who owes what to whom or who’s offended by what because of what their ancestors did.
Yes, life is unfair. Manhattan probably should have different owners. So should Ireland, Mexico and basically everywhere except the place where humans originated. We’re all descended from the conquered or conquerors (if you’re alive now, more likely the latter). Being a mature adult is understanding that a trillion fucked-up things happened over the centuries, doing your best to make sure they don’t happen again, and thriving regardless. We need to all be seen as equals under the law – no special treatment for anyone. An absolutely clean slate – you are judged on your behavior (not your ancestors).
Frankly, I don’t see how grievances will ever end unless we’re turned into the Borg – so one generation has to suck it up and reset. We can simply say we tried to be equitable but it failed – it is basically impossible to account for grievances or even say when we’re “done” and the perpetually aggrieved have no incentive to end them. It’s okay to say something isn’t working, Russia tried communism and it failed so they just gave up on it. We can do the same.
Finally, there is simply too much debt around the world for a lot of humans (and countries) to ever dig out and thrive. We’re talking trillions of dollars and frankly, money isn’t real and is less important than humans (we forget this!). Past generations have done debt jubilees and I think it’s time for us to consider this. The only ones who will object are the bankers and other elites so yet another reason to reform those institutions and put the elite on the right path. Yes, this will probably cause economic distress for a while (but can be done thoughtfully in phases) but frankly the relief it will cause so many will be worth it.
Beauty, Truth, Kindness and Meaning
The previous sections have been very clinical; reform this, hold these people accountable, debt forgiveness, etc. so I want to get closer to the conclusion which is basically that I think heaven on earth (regardless of which heaven you envision) is almost always something of beauty, truth, kindness and meaning.
Humans aspire to these things and I think if we want a better world, we should make them a priority. Yes, there are many problems and billions of people that don’t have the time or money to think about such things, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Beauty can be inspiring and all future visions should have an aspect of beauty to them (and certainly truth, kindness and meaning).
If we started with beauty, truth, kindness and meaning as principles then we probably would have never allowed the world to get in its current state. A lot of people also forget that life is not all about convenience, efficiency or even pleasure, that technology should serve humans not vice versa. Yes, we don’t always agree on beauty but that’s why we will have multiple heavens. But overall, most people’s version of heaven probably doesn’t look like Mad Max for a reason – we have a conception of beauty that most can appreciate. Not a lot of people deny the beauty of art in major museums or would refuse to live on Lake Como.
For truth, simply see the Sensemaking section above. I want to reiterate that if we don’t have a commitment to truth then we’ll never be able to master reality or make scientific breakthroughs and will continue a downward spiral towards mysticism and beliefs that simply make us “feel good”.
Meaning is a tough nut to crack because in time past, religion would give us meaning and usually your entire city or country had the same overall concept of how life worked (another reason why homogenous societies tend to produce more happiness). One of the most destructive parts of modern life is that so many religions and belief systems have been undermined and globalization has mixed us up so much that many people have no source of meaning or have adopted a nihilistic worldview. My discussion of localism touches on this and I think people should be near others with similar beliefs as an antidote to nihilism; social cohesion is helpful here too. Again, this is another example where multiculturalism and diversity are doing us little good.
Ultimately, it’s up to each person to find meaning in the world. I believe if you haven’t found meaning or purpose, then your purpose is to find meaning in life. Make it an adventure, try different perspectives, religions, viewpoints, locations and experiences. Ultimately, people tend to find meaning in something that motivates them (either negatively or positively) or simply with their family and friends.
“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.” — Matthew Kelly
That was crazy, right? I probably gave up on this essay half a dozen times because the topic is so overwhelming and the odds are so stacked against us. I mean, could we actually stop the in-fighting, tribalism and overcome human nature to ever get any of this done? One thing I’m certain of is that we won’t change human behaviour drastically. But we can tweak it!
- Establish some Principles for a Heaven on Earth that we mostly agree upon.
- Promote decentralization and localism – never dictate from the top.
- Align incentives with goals and accountability.
- Create a vision we can rally around and work towards.
- Open space up as a new frontier to both inspire and allow others to “exit”.
- Reform or replace our broken institutions.
- See reality better (sensemaking).
- Get better elites or throw them out.
- Start with a clean slate.
- Promote beauty, truth, kindness and meaning.
A tall order, but I’m an optimist so I think giving this a try is much better than the alternative. As the quote above says, we underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade. Certainly there have been exceptional people that have gotten great things done before. You’ll note that most of these things aren’t drastic human behavior changes but actually just priority and organizational changes (organizations managed by humans who can be persuaded) – not that hard actually if we can all get pulling in the same general direction.
Even more heartening is the concept of an intolerant minority. Most people think that you have to have an overwhelming majority of people agree with you to change things. That’s actually not true – an intolerant minority of people can affect change by being obstinate and enforcing their vision. So could we convince 10% of the planet that we have a better framework for the future well-being of our planet? We can decide right now and it can happen. I’m dead serious.
So what can the individual do to encourage this and become part of this intolerant minority? I think it’s pretty obvious that you simply start living these principles and demanding your leaders do as well.
- Take care of yourself, family and community first. Heaven starts locally. Be the example to your family and others. Raise your children this way. You can’t expect others to listen to you if you have a shitty life.
- Dedicate yourself to beauty, truth, and kindness.
- Demand vision and accountability from your leaders, the elite and the institutions they control. If they don’t act, replace them or better yet, become the new leaders. Think big, think space.
- Promote these ideas to friends, family and politicians. Shoot down bad ideas and demonstrate how terrible our current elite and institutions are.
The bottom line: everything about getting from hell to heaven is about individuals taking responsibility for their lives and demanding accountability from their leaders. We can live better. We don’t have to live with the incompetence, poverty, suffering, crime and war. It starts with us, now.
Many people who are much smarter than I influenced some ideas in this essay. Also, dozens of various books/articles, people on Twitter and specifically these authors whom I highly recommend (whom would probably not endorse or agree with my views just as I don’t agree with all of theirs):