Sunday, August 30, 2015

Groups, Goals, and Actions

Motivated by the threat of global catastrophe that has become more real every day, I recently set about identifying personal goals so that I could determine what actions to take that would best serve my needs and values. That requirement made the scope of the search general and specific, global and local, and incorporated key findings from my research along with thoughts about the essence and physical manifestations of "right" and "wrong."

The result builds on the fact that we are each part of a family (or closely related group of people), which is part of a species, which is one of many species that interact and comprise the totality of life on Earth. It incorporates what I consider the most fundamental value of all: "good" is that which maximizes the quantity and variety of life over all time. Limitations in awareness and power force each individual member of a species, like us, to collaborate with other individuals like us in the transformation of the parts of the world not like us, living and non-living, into environments that enable us to contribute to this good; and for that we are rewarded with an increased sense of life satisfaction (happiness).

Each of three basic goals can be pursued simultaneously, and to varying degrees, by any group: maximizing happiness, maximizing population (the members of the group), and maximizing longevity (how long the group can exist as a group with distinguishable characteristics). I include individuals, or the "self," as a group whose longevity is the same as lifespan and whose maximizing of population is the propagation of his or her genetic uniqueness. Each of these goals will be prioritized by the group on an ongoing basis depending on conditions, history, and success.

A group may even choose to work against one or more of these goals by, for example, serving one or more goals of another group. This may be justified, at least in the short-term, if the other group needs help providing resources that maintain the first group's longevity and population, and if that help can be provided by delaying or postponing growth. If future growth of both groups is impossible, then the population and happiness goals would have been reached and maximizing longevity would be the primary focus by preserving the production of resources. If longevity is threatened as it is for humanity and other species today, then larger groups will need to prioritize the goals of their sub-groups as resources become too scarce to maintain current happiness and, potentially, population.

Goals can only be reached through action. Theoretically, any action will have an impact on each of the goals discussed here, and can be prioritized based on both the relative impacts of other actions and on the priorities of the goals themselves. Other goals may be added and addressed, ideally as supporting sub-goals (if not, then as totally independent of the basic ones). I personally choose to include as my own, at least as placeholders, all basic goals for all groups, and to prioritize them based on my preferences and understanding of their interdependencies.

As I gain more experience with this approach, and because I consider "others" to have a high priority, I will share details and insights in future discussions that can be enhanced by them.