Thursday, December 11, 2014

Values For An Ideal World

The British-based organization Common Cause provides an excellent, formal discussion of current research into world values, and how it relates to issues of social and environmental health. By comparison, I have tended to be pretty loose in my treatment of the subject of values, citing specific applications interchangeably with their deeper motivations. For example, my valuing the maximum amount and thriving of life over time and space is a special consequence of action based upon the formal "self-transcendence" group of values; it is also closely related to what I have been calling "global responsibility." Not surprisingly, the opposite group of formal values, "self-enhancement," corresponds to maximizing personal "happiness" and meeting "personal responsibility." There are two other, opposing formal groups of values, "openness to change" and "conservation," which in my world-view are more aligned with the "openness" dimension of personality that prefers certain "environments" over others (in this case, dynamic vs. static). As Common Cause points out, we all have these values to varying degrees that depend on specific situations, but we also have preferences (much like we have preferred personalities) which will make us more or less inclined to change our circumstances.

In the context of creating a healthier world that approaches the ideal, where humanity doesn't suffer major population loss and it gives other species more power so they can reduce the threat of uninhabitability, self-enhancement and conservation can no longer be dominant. More variability in the environment is inescapable whether or not we pursue this course, since a significant amount of climate change is already locked in, so those of us who prefer change will tend to benefit more than those who don't. If we choose to let pursuit of personal power dominate, conditions will only get worse; because people with power will benefit from further limits on resources and therefore promote more, until they can't, and we will all fight to the death for the remaining scraps.

The requisite change in dominant values can occur voluntarily or not. In my concept of an ideal world, the change is voluntary, proceeding from a fact-based civil discussion of what our dominant values will be and the preferred consequences of living by those values. Reality is likely to be a lot messier, even if we do readjust our values in time to avoid calamity, which I consider a long shot worth taking.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Requirements For Another Ideal World

In "Money and Responsibility" I mentioned my latest vision of an ideal world, whose focus is on preserving and proliferating life, especially ours, through commonly held values, understanding, and management of resources. It can be described, with some refinement, by a set of requirements that would apply wherever humans are (on Earth and in space):

  • V: All of us agree to a common set of basic values and standards for developing them
    • The main value, which dominates all others, is the preservation and proliferation of life for as long as physically possible
  • U: All of us agree to a common understanding of reality and standards for developing it
    • That understanding will be based on observation, logic, and verifiable predictions
  • M: None of us can take, or render useless, the means of basic survival ("the commons") used by anyone else, including members of other species critical to maintaining those means, beyond the constraints of natural predator-prey relationships
  • E: Everything not in the commons may be distributed among people in a socially acceptable way, such as in an economy
    • This includes rewards for risks incurred in expanding the commons, which may be kept for a fixed time (not to exceed one lifetime)
  • R: We are all responsible for maintaining the commons

For convenience, I'll refer to these requirements by the acronym VUMER, and its implementation "VUMER World." The main value is the driver for all of the requirements; and an accurate and commonly-held understanding of reality is critical for taking appropriate and effective action in implementing values, especially those involving survival, and well as maintaining a cohesive society. Values "V" and understanding "U" therefore take precedence over the other requirements, which deal with implementation.

It is of course possible that an actual global agreement about values and understanding (which itself is pretty "ideal," and would involve everyone, rather than just officials of dominant political entities) would preclude my preferences for them and everything that follows from them. I wouldn't be surprised if such an outcome represents a compromise between VUMER World and the "Dead World" we are currently creating, which might delay our demise by a few more years, but at least we would all be invested in the outcome rather than, as many of us are, going along for the ride.