The Crisis of Western Civilisation in the Age of Entanglement (Part 2) …

The drift towards Autocratic Technocracies

“Human character is unchanging and thus its conduct in calamitous times is always predictable.”

Victor Davis Hanson

“Westernisation, coupled with globalisation, has created an affluent and leisured elite that now gravitates to universities, the media, bureaucracies, and world organisations, all places where wealth is not created, but analysed, critiqued, and lavishly spent.”

― Victor Davis Hanson

“One of the greatest accomplishments of Western civilisation is the development of the scientific method and the scientific disposition, which entail the development of falsifiable hypotheses about the world and the unwillingness to take unverified and untheorised claims about the world as truth, simply because someone states that they are true.”

— Heather Mac Donald

In 2017 US Theoretical Biologist Professor Stuart Kauffman was asked a question by Edge.Org — What is the scientific term or concept that ought to be more widely known by the scientific community?

His response was as follows:

““Non ergodic” is a fundamental but too little known scientific concept. Non-ergodicity stands in contrast to “ergodicity. “Ergodic” means that the system in question visits all its possible states. In Statistical Mechanics this is based on the famous “ergodic hypothesis, which, mathematically, gives up integration of Newton’s equations of motion for the system. Ergodic systems have no deep sense of “history.” Non-ergodic systems do not visit all of their possible states.”…

Examples of non-ergodic systems in our Material World include the evolution of life in our biosphere, social systems, personal risk management (our Survival Instinct) and the economy.

The future is path-dependent, and its history matters.

For two examples that illustrate this concept, we will briefly revisit some principles emerging from 19th and 20th Century evolutionary biology theory and 18th Century Political Science.

Evolutionary Biology, Heritable Variation and the Selfish Gene

Heritable Variation was a phenomena that 19th Century UK Naturalist, Biologist and Geologist Charles Darwin identified that was further refined throughout the 20th Century.

Darwin believed that changes to the Fitness Landscape (environmental changes) generated variation over time in living plants & animal species.

He saw unique hereditable genetic differences as developmental differences from a common ancestor rather than a “gene centric” transmission process subsequently proposed by ethologist Richard Dawkins in his book — The Selfish Gene — released in 1976. An idea that built upon the 1966 principle theory of George WilliamsAdaption and Natural Selection.

Whether it was Darwin’s ideas or the later ideas of Dawkins and Williams, history matters in the Evolution of Life.

Social Contract and Inheritable Rights

Way before the articulation of the term, similar non-ergodic concepts were being applied to social development by 18th Century British Irish Statesman, Economist and Philosopher — Edmund Burke.

He saw Society as an eternal Social Contract — a continuum between the Past, Present and Future.

“As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are yet to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal Society.”

One that provided rights to members of Society but also obligations.

“Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality.”

To Burke, history mattered.

The aims of Civil Society could only be worked out through history.

Political rights grounded in transcendent principles could only be understood in the context of an historical tradition.

Beyond Reductionism and Classical Views of our Material World

The ideas of non-ergodicity, evolutionary biology and 18th Century Edmund Burke’s perspectives of Political Science all at the very core view the Material World in a fundamentally different way.

Rather than things — atoms, discrete, objects and ontology — Clocks — a Classical or Digital way of perceiving Reality.

They shift the prism to one of a continuum, flows and processes — emergent, dynamic, evolving complex systems — Clouds — a Quantum or Analog way of perceiving Reality.

A Copernicus 2.0 shift.

A new World View that combined Clouds & Clocks.

A new World View that combined Reductionism with Entanglement and at the same time recognised the limits of what we know.

A new World View that moved from a Classical Digital World to a Quantum Analog World.

A new World View that recognised the inherent nature of the Human Condition.

A new World View that integrated our Mental World and Material World metaphysics with physics, reason with meaning and mind with the body.

The capacity to hold two competing World ViewsClassical and Quantum in our Minds simultaneously (Quantum Reasoning) requires the return of a Dualism way of being.

Recognising the eternal dialectic between Order & Chaos, Reductionism & Entanglement, and Codification & Emergence.

Buddhism, Ancient Indian & Chinese Philosophy all have a long, rich history highlighting the importance of Paradox, Opposites, Dialectics and Dualism however, Western post-Cartesian thought had largely separated our Material World experience & perception and Mental World thought & reason via a Cartesian partition.

Cartesianism rationalism holding that scientific knowledge can be derived a priori from ‘innate ideas’ through deductive reasoning.

The mind being wholly separate from the body and the only reliable truths emanate from the existence of a metaphysical mind.

Our sensations and the perception of reality being the source of untruth and illusions.

The Rational Mind, Cartesianism, Reductionism, Determinism, and Cause-Effect.

A World of Clocks but no Clouds.

A World View which saw the Mind, Body and World as Machines.

It has led to a deep dark place.

A Crisis of Western Civilisation in the Age of Entanglement.

A Legitimation Crisis and increasing inability to navigate Complexity.

Rather than embrace Reflexivity (Learning how to Learn) and begin to revisit our core Axioms, Ideologies, Truths & Beliefs in the context of a changing Fitness Landscape — that being more and more Complexity — we have doubled down on our Cartesian Episteme, Techne, Models of the World and World View.

We now had apparently entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

But were non-ergodic living evolving systems really Mechanical Machines?

Were there limits to Logic, Rational Mind, Engineering, Algorithms and a reductive form of Science in responding to such complexity?

A deep desire for simplicity, certainty and knowing despite the non-ergodic nature of our Material World.

Autocracies, Plutocracies and Technocracies.

So what are some of the potential reasons for Western Civilisations accelerated drift towards Autocratic Technocracies?

A. Collapse in Meaning

“There is but one law for all, namely that law which governs all law, the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity — the law of nature and of nations.”

— Edmund Burke

As Edmund Burke outlined, Liberty simply cannot exist without Morality.

As we replaced our Temples of Prayer for Temples of Reason and shifted towards a Secular Liberalism Society that Privatised Meaning the Ground Motives that formed the bedrock of our complex Social System structure were being removed.

Friedrich Nietzsche warned how the Enlightenment had resulted in the erosion of religious beliefs, which had served as a foundational belief system for much of the world.

With “God now Dead”, increasingly our State had become a de facto God.

This shift from individual Mental World morality to a collective Material World State as a way to regulate Society has over time resulted in more State Action and intervention in individuals day to day lives.

Ultimately, morphing into the fusion of Government, Private Sector & Transnational Organisations to provide this regulation — the emergence of the Market State, the death of civics and a dying citizen.

B. Collapse in the Social Contract

“Society is indeed a contract. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”

— Edmund Burke

In the March 2021 article — The 6 crises of Secular Liberalism and the Legitimation Crisis, US 20th Century Philosopher John Rawl’s Theory of Justice and concept of a Veil of Ignorance were predicated on a Symmetry and notion of human rights but also human responsibilities.

A Society where Liberty was balanced with Morality.

Instead we have seen a growing inequality, focussed on Identity, equated “Price to Value”, “Privatised Meaning”[25], ignored the The Limits of the State Action and welcomed the Invisible Hand of the Market by embracing the Wealth of Nations but omitting The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

C. The rise of the Administrative State

“There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”

Baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu

The doctrine of the separation of powers divides the institutions of government into three branches — legislative, executive and judicial.

It was a governance concept that had evolved from the time of Aristotle and antiquity reaching its modern day tripartite form in the Constitution of the United States and Westminister System.

The mechanisms checks and balances reflected shaping a system that recognised the inherent nature of the Human Condition and the potential propensity for a desire for power by each one of us.

Despite this Separation of Powers doctrine, by the early 21st Century the accountability and transparency of the Administrative State (i.e. executive branch administrative agencies exercising the power to create, adjudicate, and enforce their own rules) had become increasingly opaque and it had broken its fiduciary duty & nexus to the Citizens which it was meant to support.

D. The emergence of a Cartesian Partition between Capitalism and Democracy

At the very core of the modern day Western Civilisation system was a Dualism between Capitalism and Democracy.

Each Citizen had the agency and capacity to unleash their Animal Spirits to embrace Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

A personal Liberty and Freedom.

At the same time each Citizen had equality (a fraternity) in Societyone person one vote — by using their personal agency to elect the executive branch of Government.

Through Civics and Citizenship each one of us could actively participate in Society.

After 40 years of economic growth driven by increasing debt and higher & higher financial asset prices, the engine of Capitalism was breaking.

It required a transition and rebalancing to the engine of Democracy.

Increasing social and wealth inequality was leading to a polarisation in Society and growing system imbalances.

Yet various powerful interest Groups were reluctant to enable this transition to occur.

The emergence of a Society where small groups of people controlled our Institutions and were increasingly making decisions on behalf of Society in their own interest.

Extractive economic institutions that excluded large segments of the population from the distribution of income from their own activities. They were increasingly preventing everyone except the elite from benefiting from participation in economic relations.

The result was a growing trend towards Neo-Feudalism and a two tier Society — a small Aristocracy and large Working Class.

It was also the increasing death of the Middle Class that historically through their collective action could provide the checks and balances on power.

E. The Limits of Scientific Reductionism and the emergence of Scientism and Social Consensus as substitutes for the Scientific Method

“The elements of every concept enter into logical thought at the gate of perception and make their exit at the gate of purposive action; and whatever cannot show its passports at both those two gates is to be arrested as unauthorized by reason” …

-Charles Sanders Peirce

The reductionist form of Scientific Inquiry emerging from the Enlightenment drove the Scientific, Industrial and Digital Revolutions The Age of Reason.

Its utility and pragmatic value saw Science secure a seat at the head of Society’s table.

The emergence of a Scientific Technocracy.

The increasing government and control of society and industry by an elite group of technical experts.

A Modern Utopia that optimised production and utility for an Industrial Age.

But as the 20th Century progressed it became increasingly apparent that there are no root causes in complexity — an increasing Quantum Age of entanglement.

In such a World a Society where its Episteme and Techne were grounded in ideas of Reductionism, Determinism, Cause-Effect, Statistics, Scientific Management (Taylorism, Fordism, & Friedmanism), Algorithms, Codification, Engineering, Optimisation, and the Rational Mind was simply ill-equpped for this shifting Fitness Landscape.

Valley Crossing had become as important as Hill Climbing.

Reflexivity, Friction, OODA Loops, Open Inquiry, Heterodoxy, Fallibilism, and Epistemological Humility were central to navigating and adapting to a non-ergodic emergent World.

Had the absence of Episteme & Techne for a World of Complexity and the shifting Fitness Landscape resulted in the Scientic Method being replaced by Scientism and a desire for Social Consensus — an Orthodoxy?

Were there Limits to a Reductionism form of Scientific Inquiry?

Was the validation of Scientific Truths increasingly occuring via abstraction — Inference including Deduction & Induction, exceeding Statistical P-Value thresholds or via Peer Reviews and Social Consensus rather than Material World abduction and empricism?

Science had become a noun (an Absolute Truth or a Dogma) rather than a verb — the Scientific Method — a process of open inquiry (an eternal search for Truth).

Reason was no longer an embodied Quality, the Principle of Symmetry was ignored and the Gates of Perception & Purposive Action were increasingly being locked.

In Part 3 of The Crisis of Western Civilisation in the Age of Entanglement we will continue exploring some of the possible reasons Western Societies are drifting towards Autocratic Technocracies and moving away from our rich Classical Western Traditions.

An eternal glimmer of hope remains that we will eventually awaken and begin to Learn how to Learn.

Footnotes:

[1] To be added shortly

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Richard Schutte

Richard Schutte

Innovation, Intrapreneurship, Entrepreneurship, Complexity, Leadership & Community Twitter: @complexityvoid