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Utopia and technology

from David Ruccio

Forget Bitcoin. It’s the underlying technology, blockchain, that is generating the most excitement. Even utopia!

Bitcoin is a digital currency that was invented in 2009 by a person (or group) who called himself Satoshi Nakamoto. His stated goal was to create “a new electronic cash system” that was “completely decentralized with no server or central authority.” After cultivating the concept and technology, in 2011, Nakamoto turned over the source code and domains to others in the bitcoin community, and subsequently vanished.

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While Bitcoin (and other so-called cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, Ripple, and the other 1500 or so other such currencies) have generated a great deal of media attention (for their novelty, their ability to permit transactions beyond government surveillance and control, and their wild gyrations in price), it’s blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, that carries the utopian promise of remaking the economy and society.

At its most basic, blockchain provides a decentralized database, or “distributed digital ledger,” of transactions that everyone on the network can see. This network is essentially a chain of computers that must all approve an exchange before it can be verified and recorded.* The technology can work for almost every type of transaction involving exchange-value, including money, goods, and property. It can also serve as the basis for a variety of other functions, from distributed cloud storage and the recording of property titles to authenticated voting and decentralized social media platforms.

For some (such as Brendan Markey-Towler), blockchain technology makes it possible not only to envision, but to establish a viable pathway toward, a utopian alternative to contemporary society.

On the face of it a mundane and boring technology for bookkeeping, blockchain is actually revolutionary because it makes the anarchist utopia a more realisable dream than has ever before been possible. At the very least it provides the strongest challenge ever posed to the monopoly of the state over the promulgation, formation, keeping and verification of institutions and the public record. The purpose of this essay is to investigate the conditions under which this might occur, and the dynamics of a society organised using blockchain technologies.

According to Markey-Towler, blockchain can serve as the basis for organizing an anarchist utopia—”a society which is composed of groups formed entirely by mutual association and absent violence and coercion.” The idea is that the keeping of verifiable records via blockchain technology allows for the creation of a public record that is kept by everyone and updated by collective consent, which means there is no nexus of power (such as the state or monopoly corporations) that can be exercised to corrupt or use the public record as a tool of extortion.** Even more, the existence of blockchain technology makes it possible to exit from existing economic and social relations and to practice, if only in a selected domain, a different way of organizing economic and social transactions. Thus, it permits a “sort of competition” for adherents between the two systems—one organized in and by the state, the other via decentralized distributed ledgers—and creates the possibility for individuals to choose the set of institutions associated with the alternative, blockchain technology.

I have no interest here in exploring either the feasibility or desirability of such a blockchain utopia (although I have elsewhere, e.g., here and here). My focus for the moment is otherwise—on the fact that the claims about blockchain from the latest example of a long series of “technological utopianisms.”

Many will remember this 2012 iPhone commercial claiming the device is the most used camera in the world. Light piano music twinkles and images of people living their best lives flit past. It is utopic desire, crystallized: the ad says that the gadget will make us happy, and that, through its lens, we’ll all evolve into a better version of ourselves. Facebook (like other social media) promised to give “people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” And there’s Uber, which pledges “to make transportation safer and more accessible, helping people order food quickly and affordably, reducing congestion in cities by getting more people into fewer cars, and creating opportunities for people to work on their own terms.”

Many will recognize these as pledges that technology will usher in the new utopian society. But, as Howard P. Segal reminds us,

few if any of the high-tech zealots of our own day have even considered the possibility that, far from being original, their crusades fit squarely within a rich Western tradition of technological utopianism. It is not likely that very many of them realize how old-fashioned they really are when celebrating technology’s prospects for transforming the nation and, in due course, the world.***

They are merely the latest in a long line—starting with the late-sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century Pansophists (such as Tomasso Campanella, Johann Valentin Andreae, and Francis Bacon) through the utopian socialists of the early nineteenth century (especially Henri de Saint-Simon) through the numerous technological utopians of the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries (including Edward Bellamy, Henry Olerich, Edgar Chambliss)—of prophets of progress and the possibility of achieving utopia through the introduction and expansion of new technologies.

Technological utopianism, as I am using it here, refers to one or more of the following three claims:

  1. Technology is the means for creating a perfect society.
  2. The perfect society itself is modeled on technology.
  3. The perfect society is one that promotes the development of new, better technologies.

Clearly, Markey-Towler’s enthusiastic claims for blockchain technology meets the definition. So, as it turns out, does contemporary mainstream economics.

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Mainstream economists treat technological innovation as the sine qua non of economic and social progress—the key to economic growth and the achievement of global prosperity. It is introduced in the production function as y, the “recipe,” whereby capital (K) and labor (L) can be combined to produce output (Y). Thus, even without changes in the amount of capital and labor, output will be increased as new technologies are introduced. Thus, when they move from an individual firm’s production function to economy-wide economic growth, mainstream economists claim that the key is the increase in productivity due to technological change, which is generally referred to as the “Solow residual” (named after Nobel laureate Robert Solow).****

The mainstream argument is that the level of production and the rate of economic growth can be increased by the introduction of new technologies, which lead to higher levels of productivity. More goods and services are thus made available to satisfy human wants, thus solving the problem of scarcity.*****

Moreover, mainstream economists claim, an economic system based on free markets is the best way of encouraging the development and application of new technologies. At a microeconomic level, profit-maximizing firms have an incentive choose the best, more efficient technologies, for themselves and for the economy as a whole. And free international trade is the best way of increasing the pool of research and development experiments, from which the best technology is chosen. Thus, technology trade increases national income in each country and raises the total gains from trade.

Contemporary mainstream economics thus combines market utopianism with technological utopianism.

As I see it, the biggest problem with technological utopianism is that it takes politics out of the equation—whether in imagining solutions to economic and social problems or envisioning the role of technology in a radically different kind of economy and society. Technology thus becomes a substitute for politics. As Aleszu Bajak has recently explained with respect to finding a solution to climate change,

Relying on a technological fix that’s just over the horizon avoids the mountain moving required to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, bring hundreds of countries into agreement on how to limit and clean up emissions, and alter the consumption habits of an entire civilization. Those are systemic complexities ingrained in our economies and cultures. Propping up glaciers to limit sea level rise, sprinkling iron dust into the oceans to encourage plankton growth to absorb carbon, or spraying the skies to reflect the sun’s heat just seems simpler.

Much the same can be said of obscene inequalities in the distribution of income and wealth, the “diseases of despair” that now afflict a large portion of the U.S. population, or the prospect that new forms of automation will eliminate jobs and make workers redundant. In each case, a technological fix is promised—tax-rate changes for inequality, the expansion of healthcare insurance for increasing levels of addiction, a universal basic income for labor-substituting robots—when the problem itself is political, not technical.

And that means the solution has to be political—organizing people to criticize the existing set of institutions, in order to imagine and create new ways of organizing the economy and society. New technologies may even have a role to play in enabling people to see such a “virtual reality.”

Tackling problems as deeply ingrained as the ones humanity faces right now will require facing a question that technology alone cannot address: are we willing to band together to criticize and change the existing set of economic and social institutions?

 

*To carry out a transaction a party needs two things: a wallet (public key) and a private key. A wallet is a string of digits and letters, also called a public key. It is an address that appears each time a transaction is done. The private key is a string of random digits that should be kept in secret. When someone enables a transaction it is signed with a private key, which is only visible to a sender. Then a network of nodes carries that transaction making sure that it is valid. Once it confirms its validity the transaction is put into a block where, because it has been “hashed,” it is virtually impossible to change without being detected.

**Technically, blockchain fulfills three requirements: (a) it guarantees a certain degree of reciprocity and security with respect to exchange and property; (b) it is sufficiently easy to interact with and to keep records; and (c) it permits a certain degree of freedom to use one’s property, that is, it is secure from theft, corruption, and manipulation.

***Howard P. Segal, Technology and Utopia (American Historical Association, 2006), p. 66.

****Solow (1957) started with a neoclassical production function where Yt = At•F(Kt, Lt), where Yt is aggregate output in time period t, Kt is the stock of physical capital, Lt is the labor force and At represents productivity growth due to technology. Solow then estimated the variables for the U.S. economy for the period 1909-49, where output per labor hour approximately doubled. According to his estimates, about one-eighth of the increment in labor productivity could be attributed to increased capital per person hour, and the remaining seven-eighths to the residual.

*****This is one of the reasons why Robert Gordon’s work on the slowing-down of U.S. productivity growth has been met with such concern.

  1. Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
    June 10, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Sadly perhaps, police agencies will be/are breaking into blockchain now because of drugs, weapons, people traffic, etc. Even if I only wanted to avoid paying all my taxes in some political jurisdiction, I really wouldn’t want to be associated with the other stuff. Here in Germany politicians routinely lose their jobs, at least, when kiddie porn is found on their computers. Think the anti-porn sleuthes won’t break into block chain for that as well?

  2. June 10, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    One should also separate the «speculative bubble» perspective, from the various possible technological possibilities for the use of the Blockchain technology. For instance, it will be very usefull in all kinds of «historical records», namely in real estate or personal health history…
    On the issue of «utopia», the whole polemics around «bitcoin» (et alia…) reminds me of the ideological clash between Marx and Proudhon.

  3. Helen Sakho
    June 10, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    David, I am just about to order an Uber in Africa to take me to the moon or to Mars, where new life has now definitely been confirmed by NASA (the greatest and mightiest technocrats) to exist. And I am afraid, I shall send no “selfies” to prove that I am “over the moon”! All I shall take with me is a bottle of water from the Atlas Mountains, which should keep me going to a few days away from it all. Perfect utopia, for a few days at least. Oh, and a selection of small pocket books. Animal Farm, The Prophet and Love, Pnin, a few printed pages of the Tablet, and a few other bits and pieces.

  4. June 10, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Right now banks keep our payments ledgers as they are trusted third parties who do what bitcoin also does, but banks do more than that. Banks create new money by lending i.e. by extending credit. This second credit creation function doesn’t seem to be easy for bitcoin because credit creation requires the blessing of government. For example bank charters allow them to legally create credit and the loan documents are legally enforceable by law. Law is a political construct. If you don’t pay your mortgage a nasty gun toting man will legally come and throw you out and legally take your house. Few understand this combination of running our payment system combined with credit creation, contracts, and legal enforcement of credit agreements is how our current system works. Bitcoin is about a third of that in offering an alternative payment system. In that sense it’s another type of shadow bank, along with money market funds, non bank credit card companies, wire transfer companies, etc.

  5. Helen Sakho
    June 10, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    Potential Credit Unions turned into actual Western Unions. Nice and easy does it. Cash. Immediate transfer. Global.

    • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
      June 11, 2018 at 7:46 am

      Hi, Helen, I think for most humans indeed the point is to have the product delivered, money in this case. I am reminded of an old US fast food ad: A little old lady stands up in the audience & proclaims “Show me the meat”. We don’t need so much extraneous stuff, I think.

  6. June 15, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Great piece, David, one of your best. It just so happens I came across this piece, which is directly relevant to you honing in on the power relationships which invariably influence how a new technology is deployed, and on whose behalf: https://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/internet/wall-street-firms-to-move-trillions-to-blockchains-in-2018

    How did I get to this article? From trying to answer Dean Baker’s rosy picture of the current economy, and reading Yanis Varouvakis’ book “Global Minotaur,” which pointed out the role of credit default swaps in the 2008 mortgage derivative crisis, something I needed some reminding of – which triggered my memory of how uncritical Dean Baker is of the whole derivative universe – a neutral technology he as declared, not the cause of troubles.

    Bear with me. So I said, given my take on CDS’s I wondered, since they are, aside from their technical “majesty,” bets on what other investments, derivatives, sectors are going to fail, if they might not provide a clue by asking today in 2018, where their users are placing their negative wagers? That’s how I got to the fine article I linked to above.

    Oh, and by the way, this type of asking led me to new information, and forgive posters at this site if I missed previous addresses to this – the fact that in May of this year – and unmentioned by Dean Baker, Pope Francis himself issued a Bulletin denouncing the misuse of derivivatives and especially the negative hoping of CDSs bets…that I haven’t finished reading but the first 5-7 pages were good…

    By the way, the first article I linked to at Spectrum stated that there were hedge fund hopes that American student loans going bad would provide the new speculative bonanza for a new round of customized CDSs which only the big banks could create with their mathematicians, physicists and data magicians, but they declined to enter the dicey perception realm of betting against young students. Instead they were looking at customizing the block chain technology which underlies the whole alternative currency universe as David has rightly grasped.

    Happy exploring folks, I had a good time and thanks for the push Dean Baker.

    • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
      June 16, 2018 at 7:26 am

      Hi, gracchibros & Davud, I was helping to design chips when I was a teenager. Since indeed encryption is pretty good these days, some people have taken the opposite tack: show the identities of those who have dealt with possibly some still encrypted data on investments, say. The issue here is the PERSONAL & CORPORATE IDENTITIES of the included parties, we are told. But ask the people who have tracked Mr Trump if it is possible to find tangible identities. The answer is no due to legal nominees in off-shore mailboxes, & even in the State of Delaware. Here is Europe Swiss numbered bank accounts have given way to corporate & personal identities worldwide . Just find a country & sniff it out.

      • June 18, 2018 at 2:48 am

        Yes Dr. Beckman. .And what the author of the Spectrum article is driving at is a smaller case instance of how the still ongoing contest for the shape of the internet and open source code – free and universal – is at odds with the bending of this hoped for non-commercial commons by the private power of proprietary inventions…Google, Microsoft, Facebook…they may still use common language in some of their tools and public offerings, but it has been badly bent by the commercial urge…at least that’s where I am in my understanding.

        Utopia subverted – or never more than a pipe dream…like Keynes at Bretton Woods and his clearing system and bancor…Yanis Varouvakis insists that is the major problem in the world economy today: there is not enough universality – institutionalized – to redress the great trading imbalances which will lead to the next crisis. One can see the hopes for the alternative currency movements in this light…as striving for the missing commons, a Libertarian version at least, but what nations or institutions would it be rooted in?

      • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
        June 18, 2018 at 6:12 am

        Hi, gracchibros, of course I use the internet many hours a day for work & play, and I am not concerned about my information. (I am a boring but friendly prof for most, I expect.) It is the introduction of massive lies & the use of the internet to turn control electric power, for example, which concern me.
        All that cash flow from these firms go into massive incomes for millions around the world–massive by their local standards. Is that bad? The answer lies in our personal value systems. Do Hollywood people & athletes make too much? Do politicians make too much, considering all their perks? Again in the eye of the beholder.
        As for controlling the internet, I trust government not much more than competitive industries. Ah, but off to lecture, with my train a healthy half-hour walk away….

  7. June 26, 2018 at 10:15 am

    Until about 1500 in the west technology was no more than the tools humans invented to build their shelters, provide their food and clothing, and travel from place to place. Humans did not expect these technologies to in any way change or improve their lives or their communities. Humans expected for most things to continue as before. Then right around 1500 humans invented a new culture based on the notion that human life and communities can not only change but improve compared to past lives and communities. Historians and anthropologists who study this cultural shift coined the phrase “the idea of progress” to summarize it. Only with this cultural change did it become possible for humans to invent ways of life assumed to result from progress. Such as utopia and heaven and technological improvement. The movie Gladiator from Ridley Scott depicts what life looked like in the Roman Empire at its height. Many reviewers and audience found great relief in Russell Crowe’s killing of the Emperor Commodus. A killing that gave the happy-ending most movie goers like. While some of the ways of life depicted in the movie reflect historical research accurately, the ending of the movie does not. No gladiator killed Commodus. Members of the Roman Senate assassinated him. Strangled in his bath after poisoning failed. And even after his death nothing changed in the form or structure of the Roman Empire. Romans had no notion of progress. Today we do, thus the “happy-ending” filmed by director Scott. The static and hopeless world of Scott’s Gladiator general would create such psychic distress in today’s humans that most would be senseless within a few weeks. The moral: don’t assume humans always knew about, understood, or wanted progress (technological or otherwise). This is a relatively recent cultural invention.

    • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
      June 26, 2018 at 5:55 pm

      Ken, very interesting, as one can then say that those who have done well by the standards of a society can either accept that or push for changes. I suspect there were lots of small changes in Roman military equipment & tactics over the years because life & death, as well as promotion, were involved. In other words. a military person really was always in jeopardy & yet also had the possibility for promotion. Others might have felt more fixed at one social & economic position.

      • June 27, 2018 at 12:55 pm

        James, the words from the Roman arena are used for dramatic effect in novels, movies, etc. today. But during the time of ancient Rome these words ruled the world and all it’s inhabitants. Every person who lived within the confines of the Roman Empire lived and died at the whim of the Roman Emperor. This was absolute. Of course, rebellions occurred (e.g., Spartacus) but they changed little. And they certainly provided no hope, and more importantly no desire for “a better future.” The world was fixed and the all the people in it fixed in their places. Plebeians and Patricians never changed. By Rome’s period the communalism of Sapiens had been replaced by rigid hierarchy enforced by meanness and physical violence. This would not change for 2,500 years. And even today this rigid hierarchy threatens to take control once more.

      • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
        June 27, 2018 at 1:28 pm

        No dispute on that, Ken, but moving sav from Sergeant to Captain of the guards was my point–a micro event perhaps. As the Christian Church arose & priests became bishops & such we have another example.

      • June 28, 2018 at 2:04 pm

        James first, moving from sergeant to captain (Centurion) is impossible in the army of ancient Rome. Moving position in the phalanx is about all that could happen to a Roman soldier. And this is my point. In ancient Rome the sons of carpenters became carpenters, the sons of stone masons became stone masons, etc. etc. The story of Jesus is socially deviant for several reasons. Not following his father into carpentry is one. Challenging the Roman hierarchy is another. Progress did not exist in ancient Rome. It has not existed in human culture until humans invented it sometime in the 15th century.

      • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
        June 28, 2018 at 2:32 pm

        Hi, Ken, did you ever serve in the military? In my nearly 8 years in the Marine Corps I saw people jump way up in grade due to emergencies in which they performed well, & generally when they were exceptional in anything from logistics to field operations to new strategies or equipment. General rules seldom apply all the time in all situations as you know. Look,how did Trump become President?

      • June 29, 2018 at 10:37 am

        James, Marine, 9 years active, then reserves till 1984 retirement. I agree with your assessment of military promotions, even for the Corp. But, as I’ve said I take an historical view of everything. Before the 15th century progress did not exist. The notion of progress has a history that begins in the 15th century. My only purpose was what I said in the original comment, don’t assume humans always knew about, understood, or wanted progress (technological or otherwise). This is a relatively recent cultural invention. Nothing more. You can find my views on the election of Dummy Donald on the “Clueless or Just Plain Stupid” conversation on this blog.

      • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
        June 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm

        Ken, you know how the military can be opportunistic, for sure.

      • June 30, 2018 at 8:03 am

        James, generally since the invention of the modern military during the time of Napoleon, the military has been a central form of employment and identify. The military was just one more capitalist enterprise, charged with ensuring the continued existence of capitalist nations and actions. World War II nearly broke this form for the military. Thus, the ever-tighter alignment of the military with the goals of capitalism after the War. To the point now that we may be witnessing the end of the national military. Being replaced by the corporate military. Since corporations are based entirely on fascist structures and goals (even if gentle fascism), it’s difficult for me to envision any other action but fascist by military organizations in the US, UK, China, Russia, etc. A new version of opportunism. And a dangerous one. Perhaps the best route to follow in terms of the welfare of democracy is for nations today to possess no or very minimal military organization. Germany and Japan have done so since the end of World War II. Seems to have worked well for them.

      • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
        June 30, 2018 at 11:54 am

        Ken, as you know both Japan & Germany were occupied–still are occupied–first as losers & then as protected colleagues. There was a large contingent of combat troops in Heidelberg where I teach until 2014. Also, we presumably have most of our European-based nucs in Germany today. My old miiitary base in Japan is still filled with Marines. In other words those nations were & still are protected.

      • June 30, 2018 at 12:05 pm

        James, I wouldn’t use the word protected. Standing orders of the US military in Europe is local land and populations are expendable to stop the Russians. As my German great uncles put it, US troops leaving would be good, but Germans must not insult the Americans by asking them to leave. Personally, I don’t think even Putin (who is a not too bright psychopath) would want to invade Europe.

      • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
        June 30, 2018 at 4:04 pm

        Ken, I doubt the Americans would flee from Russian tanks. At that point I suspect the Pentagon, if not Trump, would say, “Stand your ground”. As we said in my Corps’ days, “.-uck the orders”. Furthermore there are nuclear & other assets in Germany which would be defended, even if the Marines had to come in and back up the Army. I think having some troops in Poland is actually a great idea, as then the Navy, including subs, could cover the Baltic nicely. Putin at most has three good regiments in Europe, with cruise missles fired from the Baltic they would disappear in the dust, I expect.

      • July 2, 2018 at 7:24 am

        James, dumbest order there is – stand your ground. Only someone like a Hitler would give such an order to professionals. I know the situation in Europe is often depicted as the Russians having the advantage. They don’t. It’s the other way around. Putin has available for active and effective combat no more than three divisions. Even these may be questionable due to equipment shortages. Ukrainian irregulars could defeat the Russian invaders if the US would give them the equipment. Putin’s reliance on cyber, psyops, and some high-tech weapons is not wholly voluntary on his part. He really has no effective combat force for any face-off with the EU, US, UK, or even Iran.

    • Craig
      June 26, 2018 at 9:16 pm

      Correct. Humanity is actually only vaguely and shallowly conscious/self aware and thus lacks the wisdom and ethical fortitude to do….what is even obviously in their own self interest. And are becoming more and more “distracted from distraction by distraction.”

      All the more reason to create a social, political, economic, monetary and anthropological infrastructure that aligns with and supports the highest concept of wisdom….that is, grace.

      • Craig
        June 26, 2018 at 10:03 pm

        that is, grace, and its economically relevant philosophical and policy application….monetary gifting.

      • Prof Dr James Beckman, Germany
        June 27, 2018 at 8:59 am

        Hi, Craig, over my long existence I have found few who do what we do: try to stand back & view the entirety. Most are into their immediate familial & personal situations. Trump builds his family’ wealth/political future. Few in Parliament are any different, I expect.
        With such rapid change in national clout & personal settings, it is really hard for most to grasp universal values, as we are on a tumultuous ocean voyage or at least earthquake-prone land with rutted roads. Then of course we have much of the media engaged in stirring the emotional pot, it seems to me.

      • Craig
        June 27, 2018 at 9:58 am

        Yes, that (individualism) is an accurate observation. The only thing is…its completely irrelevant after the paradigm change has occurred because most will simply accept the new paradigm, go back to being unconscious of it the same as they were of the old one and yet be fully accepting of its lasting progressive effects. Again, humanity is still in its infancy so far as conscious self awareness is concerned.

        Now your concern about individualism being an inhibition to paradigm perception and initial acceptance is also valid, but as the Chinese (or is it Japanese) character for crisis is synonymous with change, mankind cannot long endure sustained crisis and the mass socio-economic and political movement I’ve been advocating here will need to be intelligently targeted to those constituencies whose self interests obviously dovetail with the new paradigm and its policies. (The new paradigm is actually in everyone’s self interest, except perhaps those who are employed and/or inured to the old paradigm…because that is the nature and definition of a paradigm change.)

        Finally, recent sociological research regarding tipping points and the power of a dedicated small percentage of activists has strongly suggested that majorities are actually not needed for new ideas to become the norm. Ken can probably confirm this sociological research fact.

      • June 27, 2018 at 12:56 pm

        Craig depends on what is meant by grace. Often it is identified as act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency. Christians have difficulty agreeing on one meaning of grace. For many Protestants grace is “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it.” The Catholic Church holds that it is because of the action of Christ and the Holy Spirit in transforming into the divine life what is subjected to God’s power that “the sacraments confer the grace they signify”: “the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through [each sacrament], independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them. And while I agree that humans generally are far from completely self-aware or able to exercise significant control of some of its actions, I cannot agree with the conclusion that grace is the only solution for this deficit. Sapiens is the only imaginative creature on earth. The only creature on earth that fabricates its life whole cloth from its imagination. Fabricating Sapiens culture of equality, sharing, and communal economics and politics is our only hope for salvation.

      • June 27, 2018 at 2:17 pm

        As a Catholic, I see grace as that which we ought to be grateful for, i.e. the love of God motivating all that has been done for us. Given the mess mankind has made of fabricating a culture of equality, sharing and communal political economics, the only hope for our salvation is forgiveness. What Ken is arguing about is method, what Craig is referring to is motivation. One needs both, but Ken is right insofar as one cannot be forgiven for failing at and regretting something one has not tried to do.

      • June 28, 2018 at 2:06 pm

        Dave, it’s my view that any salvation there can be for Sapiens can only come from Sapiens. Sapiens, the only creature on earth that invents itself has only itself to thank or blame for its successes and failures, including its survival or extinction.

      • Craig
        June 27, 2018 at 6:42 pm

        Ken,
        All of the things you enumerated are separate definitions/aspects of the Christian doctrine of grace, not conclusive descriptions themselves. Grace being not just a religious belief, but a simultaneously encompassing and interpenetratively panENtheistic cosmic reality inverts/ends any merely fragmentary perspective on it. Grace is a continual dynamically interactive and integrative mental state in humans also known as a higher state of consciousness…that is in comparison to most people’s normal garden variety state of same. No put down intended by that, just the truth. Grace is also the temporal reality and expression of the more fundamental quantum reality, its just that it happens to have more time and space intruding upon it and hence it presents tremendous and endless puzzlement for humans….to resolve.

        “I cannot agree with the conclusion that grace is the only solution for this deficit.”

        That is simply the temporally biased perspective intruding upon the more fundamental truth….that grace is the cosmic, complete and more underlying reality. This is not to say that a fragmented perspective doesn’t have reality or value, just that it isn’t the complete solution. The complete solution is a complete exegesis and understanding of as many of the relevant aspects of the universal and cosmic reality of grace, in whatever system/area of human endeavor is under examination, that a new cognition (theory) and action (policy) is the result. That’s also the definition of a new paradigm.

        Hence, contemplating grace in all of its aspects is simultaneously capable of being the highest application of the fragmenting, objective mental mode of thought known as science and an enlightening and personally beneficial study of human consciousness….at the same time.

        Economists need to contemplate grace. It would be well worth their time, and a faster means of progress than advancing “one funeral at a time.”

      • June 28, 2018 at 2:08 pm

        Craig, I understand that quantum physicists often connect quantum dimensionality and transcendence with spirituality and religious experiences. I don’t understand all of what they propose, but I agree with most of what I do understand. Having said this, it’s important to point out quantum physics is still a science. Thus, is based on empirical research and empirical evidence. Evidence, I agree of forms and depth not pursed by most only science today.

        In terms of grace and science, I can’t agree that grace as science is the solution for anything. Scientists revealed the world of the atomic. No universal solutions followed. Scientists revealed thousands of earth-like planets in the universe. Still no universal solutions. Scientists reveal in intimate detail the structure and functioning of the human brain. No universal solutions. My version of grace is Sapiens expanding its insights, its understandings until it sees itself in the universe and the it sees the multiverse, per William James. “Visible nature is all plasticity and indifference, a multiverse, as one might call it, and not a universe.” (“The Will to Believe,” and “Is Life Worth Living?” I figure that’s a few thousand years away.

      • Craig
        June 30, 2018 at 12:27 am

        “In terms of grace and science, I can’t agree that grace as science is the solution for anything. Scientists revealed the world of the atomic. No universal solutions followed. ”

        That’s because they didn’t make the relevant mental integrations between the quantum universe, their own minds and the cosmos as a whole. Science and its now rigid orthodoxy of abstraction and knowledge as data only jumped in and wrecked/missed the experience. When you contemplate

        1) grace as in utter and complete integration on the cosmic/quantum level and the same on the individual mental level….they perfectly reflect each other

        2) similarly the reflectivity of the very actions of our consciousness reaching out to and then withdrawing from whatever it was experiencing at any moment to the popping into existence (reaching) of particles in the quantum universe and then their popping back out of existence (withdrawing)

        3) you begin to see that temporal/physical reality however delightful, interesting and necessary for temporal progress….is actually the reflection of the deeper more fundamental reality of the panentheistic quantum universe…that is, even though it’s also quite real it is the maya illusion of separateness and arrogance in its claim to ultimate reality spoken of in hindu and buddhist wisdom traditions. And finally

        4) the truly complete reality is the integration and self actualization of BOTH of these realities….and that is the state of grace. And that’s why wedding/integrating a philosophy of grace with reflective policies/actions in economics….is the wise and effective thing to do.

        The same applies to the other examples you gave.

        “My version of grace is Sapiens expanding its insights, its understandings until it sees itself in the universe and the it sees the multiverse”

        There you have it. That is exactly the same as my viewpoint. There’s no detraction from the experience itself, It’s just that sometimes it takes the discipline of internal (and external) attentiveness and an addition by subtraction mental sanctification process of non-integrative blocks….to make it fully real to oneself.

      • June 30, 2018 at 8:25 am

        Craig, William James agrees with a lot what you say. But take note that he reaches these points by looking for the basis of why life is worth living. That basis for him is based on “believing” that life is worth living. Belief, the judgement of humans is what makes life worth living or not. We may argue about the details and operations of these beliefs, but ultimately, it’s the beliefs that give meaning and significance to human life. I believe we agree. We arrive at the same place but by different pathways. Also, reaching this end demands we change the meaning and pursuit of since. Science is still empirical. Data is its basis. But now data is something much more than that envisioned by sciences that began 500 years ago in the West. We’re IMO moving toward a unification of the western versions of science with those of China, Islam, and India. Scientists see this certainly. But right now, it’s not much discussed, as scientists everywhere try to save science in general from the populist mob.

      • Craig
        July 9, 2018 at 1:08 am

        They’re right of course to resist the populist mob and their dis-integrative leaders like Trump and Bannon, or gross religionists who would deny the validities of science.

        But unfortunately, because they’ve not integrated the truths in opposites (and also not deleted their separate and/or mutual untruths) they miss the mark of Wisdom and its pinnacle concept grace as in gifting, abundance, directness, inversion, transformation, immediacy, universal benevolence, the essence of tolerance, continual integration/integrating, the moral fortitude to act when wrong is actually taking place even if it is an uncomfortable or unpopular decision, discernment of the deeper truth and of when best it is correct to act or not to act, etc. etc. …..

        Orthodoxy is the curse word of truth because it’s a stop in a universe of process, and via is the curse word of consciousness, which if continually integrated, enables one to experience the cosmos as it actually is, a graceful, adventuresome flow of beauty that’s always there…just waiting for one “to stand in its light”.

      • July 9, 2018 at 6:05 am

        Craig, not all populists are bad for science or society. The populist Progressive Movement of the late 19th and early 20th century US stopped the Gilded Age, saving democracy and honest and effective government for the nation. In other words, not all mobs are composed of defective humans. All the things you list, wisdom, tolerance, transformation, etc. are created and used by humans. Used for good ends and bad ends. The differences are not in the universe, or in the concepts. The differences are in the humans who use them.

      • Craig
        July 9, 2018 at 7:32 am

        “not all populists are bad for science or society.” Correct.

        “The differences are in the humans who use them.” Correct again. Everything depends upon their awareness of and degree of integration of the concept of grace.

      • July 9, 2018 at 9:57 am

        The differences, Craig are in evolution and cultural adaptations. Defective humans exist due to mistakes or flaws in either one or both processes.

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