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 HoloWorld2002-12-18 02:41
picture by Flemming Funch

Years ago I wrote up a vision about a synergetic society that I called HoloWorld. It is incomplete, and I still hope to put more meat on it, but nevertheless it is fairly detailed. It all boils down to some very simple principles, like:

People are free to choose how to live

That can be expressed in an assortment of ways, each of which is more or less likely to be misunderstood by a lot of people. "People can do what they want". "An it harm none, do what thou wilt". Anyway, when used as an organizing principle, a whole lot of other principles and approaches would have to come from that. As everybody aren't likely to agree on how they want things, we must inevitably have:

Negotiation of self-interest taking place along the edges

Edges of what? Edges of any space of any kind where one or more people have a certain interest, a certain agreement on how things are supposed to be. So, if anybody has a different idea about what is supposed to happen, there's something to talk about. And if groups of people arrive at somewhat homogenous agreements on how they like things to be, but some people don't like it, there's then a need for:

Voting with your feet

Meaning, that if you don't like how things work in one place, you move into another place where things are more to your liking, or you make a new place and invite people to come to it. That implies the principle that you are allowed to arrange things in different ways in different places.

None of this is anything I'm inventing. I think it is crystal clear that there are certain fundamental rights and freedoms for living beings. And there is a certain natural way for free beings to work things out organically amongst themselves. The rest of nature is working that way, although it sometimes does it in a violent way which we might wish to transcend.

But there is something that freaks out a great many people about the idea that everybody might be free to do what they want to do. I believe that deeply within all of us, that is really what we desire. We want what we want. That's sort of a no-brainer. But it often takes the form that *I* want to be free to do what I think is right, but everybody else should not have such a freedom.

Mention that basic idea, that people should be free to do what they want, and many will instantly conjure up visions of a lot of evil things in the world. "How dare you! Do you really think people should be free to go around killing other people!?!". No, that's not what I'm saying. The people being killed obviously wouldn't be free to choose what to do, so the basic rule is violated. If everybody needs to be free to make choices, we obviously have to clarify that it is choices for themselves, not choices for other people. Nobody's free to go around taking away other people's choices.

Another angle is that people think of all the 'immoral' stuff they don't like. Porn, prostitution, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, bad language, gambling, atheists, communism. And what they're really saying is that they feel compelled to not choose those things, and they don't want those things around them, and the only way they can think of accomplishing that is to try to force the same norms on everybody in the world. The answer is the voting with your feet principle. Go and find some other people who believe in similar standards. Stick together, and put up some signs at the perimeter of your space: "No bad language allowed! Communists, go away!" And you're in your full right to do that. And if a gang of foulmouth communists happen to live in the next town, or the next building over, you might have to negotiate the shape of the boundary between you in order to keep everybody happy.

HoloWorld is essentially just some visions of how it might look in different settings, in different sectors of society, if free people self-organize.

At first I called it FreeWorld, which I kind of like better. But I noticed the reaction from some people, who immediately imagined some kind of Mad Max world with rampant immorality and roving motorcycle gangs. And, well, the people who didn't like it were probably those who went to catholic school and who are worrying a lot at night about whether they are good enough people. But they need to feel they belong in the world too, not just the people who will go straight for the orgies and free drugs.

The thing is that free choice does not inherently or implicitly lead to chaos. On the contrary. It has the good potential for leading to a very diverse and complex system with a lot of negotiated arrangements between different players and groups of players, and a lot of mutually supportive arrangements. Look at nature again. There are no laws saying who's supposed to do what. It is self-organization.

A free market embodies an intelligence larger than any individual participant can access. Millions of participants each making continuous informed decisions about how best to optimize their conditions, it can add up to something amazing.

Human societies have so far rarely allowed free markets to take place. Usually small groups of ambitious individuals have managed to conquer monopoly positions where they take on the role of telling everybody else what to do, often enforcing it through violence and deception.

But the potential energy that can be released from billions of free people self-organizing is much larger than the force of industrial age economic system or the aggricultural age government system still in use in most places. The information age is already shifting things around greatly, having released some forces that can't be put back in the box. But the real payoff will be in the next stage. People doing what they're here to do, and groups of people organizing themselves to do what they collectively are here to do. Self-actualization and collective intelligence.

The hard part is maybe how to get there. 'Civilized' humans are so used to being owned by their governments and their companies and their parents and their churches, that they wouldn't necessarily know what to do if they were free. They might look for somebody else to control them. Or they might go on a rampage, heading straight for all the stuff that was previously forbidden, and avoiding all responsibility.

The truth is of course that we're already free to do what we want to do, and we're free to self-organize. It is just that we've bought into some ethereal control structures, some templates of how we think the world works. It really doesn't. Or, rather, the world would work differently the moment we collectively changed our minds about it.

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