A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Greatest Country In The World

When I was a young child I marveled at my good luck at being born in America, the greatest country on the earth, and wondered at the various degrees of bad luck of others: gangs of hollow-eyed bone-thin children in the streets of the bombed out cities in Europe, Chinese families starving by the millions in a civil war, rebellions in Central and South America; the Japanese could not even be thought about openly even in the privacy of one’s own mind.  Photographs in the great magazines of the great country supplied my pre-literate mind, and I had very big ears both figuratively and literally.

Yet, even back then there was a nagging question: America was great, powerful and good, how was it possible that we should have so much, both material and security, and others be so deprived?  In my childish simplicity it seemed that my country could, if not fix the plight of others, then improve the conditions of their lives. 

As a child I moved to the rural south.  There I saw that migrant workers lived in tiny one-room shacks with no plumping, no glass or screens on the windows, often no real doors; I could see thin stacks of cardboard partly covered with dirty blankets on the floors.  “Negroes” lived in isolated “niggertowns” off the main roads, really medieval villages, out of sight, out of mind.

I began to marvel more specifically at my good luck to be born in America as a white child to parents with enough money to buy a little land, build a real house and have a working car.  I visited a friend’s house, a small frame place with only exterior covering, the 2x4 framing still exposed on the inside.  In the bedroom, behind a blanket curtain, I saw my friend’s uncle, a skeleton in a bed, skull face with wet, searching animal eyes; a man with some terrible degenerative disease.  I added to my list of marvels that everyone in my family, including myself, was healthy.

The Korean War (police action) was thoroughly terrifying to my nearly 10-year-old person.  I added to my list that my immediate surroundings were not being overrun by millions of bloodthirsty Chinese in very scary quilted fighting suits. At about this same time the sanctity and security of my American, white, lower middle class, healthy, not in a war-zone life began to be challenged by the Russian Communists, who could, and perhaps wanted to, deliver and drop atomic bombs on my grade school.  I felt completely out-classed by atomic bombs; that famous aerial photo of Hiroshima, ‘after,’ would dance up in my mind and I would search it for something that looked like my schoolyard.

Yet, even with all these things going on, the paradoxes of my safety and ease of life compared to those skinny farmers in India, their stick children trying to hide behind their stick mother or the little naked children of a Central American jungle village… I tried and tried to understand how they felt, how they might think about their world, what it must be like to be them.

My life remained remarkably easy by comparison: school, work, relationships; maybe not so much relationships, I wasn’t very good with relationships, but I was bright and quite attractive – like a shiny object that you want to pick up and play with until it proves not so interesting after all – and so always had normal people around.  The rest of the world, on the other hand, also continued on with its incomprehensible inequities: Vietnam, South Africa, Central and South America, the Congo and a hundred other places where human life was not recognized to be of any particular value by the powers-that-be.

And the point of this little reconnoiter through personal reflections?   It seems the usefulness of the social and economic structures that protected me and many millions more like me are coming to an end.  I have come to understand that never was the “normalcy” of my life experience normal; it was a hiatus from the normal, lived out in the momentum of a previous time.  The experience of Korean villagers driven from their homes by war was normal.  The aboriginal displaced from ancestral lands (pick your country) was normal.  The little 400 square foot apartment with 7 people and just barely enough food was normal.

The mineral and biological wealth of the North American continent, supplemented by the stolen wealth of the undeveloped world, was so great that just the splashes from the carrying bucket soaked the people.  Those with serious psychopathic greed feverously gathered all that they could get, but were easily seen and somewhat easily constrained, though, perhaps more importantly, they needed the American people and, especially, they needed the people to need them.  Not that they always remembered; it was possible to remind them.

But with the last half of the last century has come an explosion of transportation, digital and communication technology, the imminence of peak everything, the obvious near-term end of population growth and consequential end of economic growth binges; it is becoming increasingly clear that the bubble of American popular sanctity and security will have to end for the psychopathically greedy and their attendants to avoid sharing.

And they are frantic to avoid sharing.  If sharing were to start, even a little bit, then the gates would be torn open and, horror of horrors, the elites would have to begin to confront the possibility of normalcy.  And living like the rest of humanity is not on the table; the options have been thought through and are being put in place. There is always the moment, as a plan begins to be implemented, when all the participants can see what is happening; we may not like it, may be in denial for a time, but we know.

As our certainty in our American greatness and personal safety begins to weaken, we cry out our old phrases, the ones that we were taught by the economic and political elite: “economic growth, personal responsibility, free market, free trade, greed is good, pro-life, don’t tax the job creators, freedom:”  We are like children who, when they suddenly feel out of favor and in danger of losing parental protection, search for just the right thing to say and do to return to good graces.  But these phrases are out of date, are of no interest.  And we are bewildered: we say to the powerful, “I still love you.” and it is replied, “But, I no longer love you.” 

The powerful no longer need us, at least not as they did in the past; the American people have become fungible.  Germany still needs Germans; if all the Germans were to disappear there would be no Germany, but if Americans were to disappear they would just be replaced with new ones from all over just like in the beginning, and just like “in the beginning,” stubborn ones who stayed on would have to be reeducated into the new society.  The economic superstructure has come not to care who is running around on the streets and fields below so long as the running around is in all the desired directions.

The good cop/bad cop routine of the Democratic/Republican party proves that the people cannot yet be completely ignored, but the time is getting closer when we, common folk in general, will have experiences like the people of Chile, Argentina, China, Kenya, Iraq, Egypt and dozens of other places where the elites don’t feel the need to hide their intentions.

My childhood conundrums have been largely cleared up.  The “normalcy” of my youth and early years was really not normal at all, but life in a very special protected community, one over which I either never had or had given up influence as its price.  The American Dream of more and better every year should have tipped all of us off to the con game, that we were being used and that there would be a judgment day.  All that was required to understand the game was Life Magazine or National Geographic and a newspaper or a radio.  Even as a little child, I could see that something was wrong.

There is still the opportunity to remake the place that we live, this country. Not into the country that used to be; that was and is a lie, but into something more real.  There is still great power in the people, great energy when the TV is turned off.  There are ideas and many millions of available ‘man-hours.’  First, however, it is necessary to see ourselves with honesty and reality, and it is there that I despair.

Monday, January 9, 2012

3 Essays About The Truth

Here are 3 essays written simultaneously, literally side by side on a screen array.  It is my intention that they be read in order since reading them simultaneously is impractical; though I tend to think of them as a visual triptych which can be seen all at once, the various parts forming patterns of multiple relationships.

I read so many news reports and opinion pieces that treat the world-that-is as if there is no other, has been no other; as if the thoughts in the writer’s head are the “Thoughts of Man.”  It has never been true that the problems realized are necessarily the problems to be solved – the first ‘problem’ is always to recognize the real concerns.

I do not, cannot, claim to have cracked the nut of truth on these matters, but I do claim that these and other essays on this blog model the method reasonably well.

The essays are 1) “Corporations Are Collective Entities, My Friend”, 2) The Real Economy v. The What-if Economy and 3) The Natural History of Human Change

“Corporations Are Collective Entities, My Friend”

Here are two somewhat conflicting and competing statements, both true, that must be understood and harmonized for the self-serving economic and political arguments around corporations to make sense and for our responses to be meaningful [1].

1) The responsibility for actions can only be assigned to individuals (natural persons) or groups of identified individuals.

2) The human unit of action is the community; the actions of individuals form into collective phenomena arising, one way or another, from community opportunities, rewards, rules, values and beliefs.

Taken separately these statements offer little difficulty: a door is opened by a single hand, a lever is pulled, a pedal is pushed, a trigger is pulled; in every case actions ultimately are done by individuals (a situation somewhat complicated by our machines).  But, of course, there are “team sports” in which individual actions are coordinated into group behaviors, and then the responsibilities must be spread among all participants.  Perhaps one or more individual may be considered more responsible than certain others, but this doesn’t change the basic understanding.

Given our present habits, the first statement raises the question: Can the individual actually performing the action be absolved of responsibility for it; and a companion question, are there times when the individual should be absolved of responsibility for it? In other words, are there times when it is possible for the responsibility for an action to be assigned to some other entity than the actual performer, and are there times when such reassignment is also desirable?

These are not trivial or purely academic questions since their answers ultimately decide our relationship to each other and how we treat collective entities like governments, corporations, religious and other institutions.  When, where and why responsibility can be taken from the performing hand and reassigned makes all the difference.

Clearly there is great power in the ability to assign and reassign responsibility for actions; whole “industries” have grown around such (re)assignment, generally in one of two forms.  Responsibility has often been assigned to the various forms of community, either in whole or in part, or assigned to some supernatural cause.  Here we have obviously entered the domain of the second statement.

The second statement, taken in its most literal form, is also clearly true.  Human action is a product of the community in which it occurs.  Even those actions that we typically see as completely individual are actions assign to that status by the community; other communities can assign quite differently [2].  Therefore, actions are rewarded, punished and guided, this way and that, all based on community values and beliefs.

If individuals are acting out the prescriptions for behavior given by the community, then how can it be that they are responsible for the consequences?  Even those who violate more general community standards are almost always acting in coordination with some narrow part of the community standards that they have either gotten wrong or been led to believe to be correct, at least in the moment.  And if it is not identifiable community standards being followed, there are the beliefs associated with even a very personalized supernatural (even madness) that can be said to account for behavior.

However, if the first statement is to be adhered to, then while assignment of responsibility might be made to some entity other than the primary actor, that assignment would have to be to another natural person and not to a collective entity; it is in the attempt to assign responsibility for actions to collective entities that have put us in our quandary. Either natural persons are responsible for their actions or no entity is; only natural persons have the substantive existence that is required.

Since both statements are true, then they must be harmonized rather than taken to be competing, with one or the other them supreme.  The first step toward harmony has already been suggested: only natural persons can be assigned responsibility for an action; responsibility cannot be spread so thin that it fails to adhere to an identifiable person or persons.

The person speeding cannot claim, since the whole raft of cars within which he was driving was speeding, that he was not speeding.  The business executive that acts out the stipulations of a contract cannot assign responsibility to her boss, to company policy or the law.  It must be a matter of community understanding that responsibility for an act lies with the hand closest to the action.  Of course, this cannot be an iron law, but as a general expectation, attention would be focused in the right direction.

The problem with assigning “cause” to company policy or community standards is that no actionable entity is required to respond to grievances or harm.  Those complained to might offer that “someone should really change that policy,” or that “it doesn’t seem fair, but everyone does it.”  How different the situation would be if the process server had to be sufficiently informed of the correctness of her actions that she could support them on her own behalf; and that she might refuse to do actions that offended her, would of necessity refuse since she would be responsible for delivering a summands created falsely.

Impossible, you say, people cannot be held responsible for the actions required of them by the society; no one is responsible.  Everyone must do and live within the adapted form of their social situation.  If the crowd is speeding, then you must speed. If the group is stealing, then you must steal.  If the community is murdering, then you must murder. This is, certainly, how we have been living!

If all responsibility is ultimately to lie with the community, institution or corporation, then there will no standards within which human beings can live.  It is only when responsibility for actions adheres to individual human beings that behaviors organize into functional systems.  But then the question is begged: where are the standards to come from if not the community?

The standards must come from the community, but the responsibility for the outcome of actions must reside with natural persons.  In this way individuals are guided in their behavior, but are required to regularly consider the standards by which they live and the behaviors of others to which they contribute.  Ultimately, it is the community’s collected behavior that acts on the world; it is essential that all the contributors take personal responsibility for the community rather than being absolved of responsibility by consigning it to the community, institution or corporation.

It should be obvious that a collective entity cannot be assigned responsibility for actions since it has no device other than human agency by which to act: The Church acts only through the humans who, by their own actions, claim association with it; the government acts only through its humans; a corporation is only a collection of human beings who accept, by their own actions, to live within its standards. In every case it is the human that is responsible for the collective entity, and must not be allowed to claim that their actions are absolved by the collective’s habits and rules.

A collective is only a way to organize – synergize – the behaviors of individual human beings so the whole can accomplish more than the uncoordinated actions done separately.  It, therefore, must have organizational principles: rules that members must follow to become and remain a member.  Our present general point of view, that unaccountable forces move our collective action, leads to collectives that are truly unaccountable.  If natural persons are not accountable when they are guided by collective interests, and if collective interests are not accountable since accountability has no place to be assigned, then the whole human enterprise is a run-away train and will “adapt” itself right out of existence along with all that it grabs hold of on the way.

The attempt to conflate the functional relationships of natural persons with the functional relationships of collectives, especially corporations, is only a way of continuing to remove responsibility from natural persons who find it uncomfortable and inhibiting.  The great mass of us natural persons have supported that conflation, in our own immediate interest, by going along with avoiding responsibility for the actions of our own hand whenever we can.

We accept a level of ignorance in ourselves and others that is criminal.  We appeal to social standards (or the lack there of), the behaviors of others and economic necessity to reassign to the community responsibilities that are ours.  We narrow the scope of our accepted responsibilities to the barest minimum, often to the point of them disappearing altogether.  It is impossible from such a place to understand how increasingly outrageous, especially, collective corporate behavior is.

It is as foolish to claim that corporations are responsible for their crimes as it is to claim that they are in any way equivalent to natural persons; they are neither.  And we are as responsible for our part in the consequences of their collective action as their managers are for their part.  If we are to hold the CEOs accountable, we must also do so for ourselves. These ways of thinking and the demands so naturally created are a necessary beginning to setting our relationship to collective powers right.

[1] See Robert Hinkley’s, Time for a Real Debate: Are Corporations People?, to see how a more “inside baseball” account of the situation is affected by the thinking in this piece.

[2] Women in the sway of certain religious traditions (community standards!) are legally and socially charged, jailed and sometimes beaten or killed for adultery even when they are raped. Another example is the way, in our society, we assign individual success and collective failure to the wealthy and collective success and individual failure to the poor.

The Real Economy v. The What-if Economy

The Real Economy is my belly and the aurochs’ meat: the Real Economy (economy = ecology) is the energy and material flows from primary sources through the myriads of ecosystem and biophysical transactions.  Eventually all economics must comport with the Real Economy.  The What-if Economy (what economists call real!) is an ad hoc design concerned with putting off that accounting.

Real Economy: There are 100 cattle in the river valley. Left to their own they will remain, year in and year out, about 100 cattle, as long as I and other predators take below the replacement rate.  This is especially true, and even valuable to the cattle, if we predators take the most marginal animals.  The functional forces are independent of human thought, imagination and planning; the forces of the Physical and Living Systems of Order working as they have for 4 billion years.

What-if Economy: If I can get some of those cattle into a pen and stop the wolves, lions and bears from getting any, then I can have all of them for myself.  Of course, the wolves, lions and bears do not stop trying to eat the cattle and thus time and effort must be expended to drive them off or kill them. Fences must be built and maintained; the cattle guarded. 

Cattle must be parceled out as incentive for others to help, promises made for cattle not yet captured or born.  If I had more than a hundred cattle it would be easier to gain the help of others; I would be more secure.  Of course, more time and effort would be required to protect them, to account for them, to find pasture for them, to process them.

The promises made must be kept: a cow to this man, three cattle to that woman, a calf here, a bull there.  The cattle must be more easily controlled; bulls must be kept from the cows; dangerously aggressive animals must be killed.  Other grazers must be kept from the pastures.  All of these things and more must be done so that the numbers can increase to meet the obligations.

There is no end to the What-if Economy; there is always another what-if, another challenge from the Real Economy to be defeated, another possibility to be explored.  But eventually, the aurochs cattle are no longer wild and cannot live on their own, eventually local pastures are insufficient, eventually stream courses are damaged and eroded.  What if we kill the beavers up the valley and dam the stream here? What if we take the pastures further down the valley? What if we trade some cattle for the gathered hay from the people over the hill?

This seemingly simple and obvious process has grown and mutated until the Real Economy is actually conceived to be a pressing danger.  A summary of the statements of What-if Economists is that if humans are prevented from continuing to damage the earth’s primary Real Economy systems, then our way of life will be destroyed and millions, even billions, of us will die.  What makes such a summary compelling is that it is true.

It is also true, if humans continue to treat the Real Economy as a foreign and competing process, that the failure to comport our What-if Economy with Reality will result in the failure of both the ecological systems that allow for the support of abundant and diverse life, as well as our What-if Economy.  The result would be catastrophic for the human species and for the incredible complexity of ecological integration that forms the living structure of the planet’s surface.

There is only one solution.  It is the solution that every organism, plant, fungus, microbe, animal, in the history of life has followed.  The economy of the organism must comport with the economy of the ecological system: economy must equal ecology.

This doesn’t mean that every organism’s detailed functioning must be the same; new physical designs, physiologies and behaviors are de rigueur for life – but all that is new must be integrated into the patterns of biophysical reality: every organism must live within homeostatic limits.  Nothing about the special adaptive capacities of the human species have changed that reality; we have simply used our capacities to discover how to violate those limits for a time and are moving nearer and nearer to the unavoidable consequences of those violations.

So how must the human species live in order to comport with the Real Economy?  The simplest answer is “very differently.”  It is impossible to know, with any certainty, the details since the result will come from complex “negotiations” among human actions and ecological realities; every successful organism solves its problems in special ways.  But, the general outlines are clear.

Before developing these general outlines, it needs to be said that there is no obvious and clear way to attain them.  It is unreasonable to demand that an imagined situation should always be accompanied with a detailed plan for its implementation; this is not now we commonly work and is only a way of refusing to consider an option.  We have always recognized a goal, decided on its desirability and then discovered, in process, how to accomplish it.

There are only four primary conditions that we must meet. The failure to fully meet any of these conditions will be (will continue to be) catastrophe for either our species or for the whole planetary surface:

• Humans must live within environmentally determined energy and material use limits.

• The environment must not be perturbed to a greater extent or at a greater rate than it can repair with uninterrupted natural cycles and processes.

• The conditions of human nurturance – the raising and educating of our young – must fully support our biological potential.

• The recognition of the need for biologically sound principles of human nurturance must include the clear recognition of the special nature of the human Consciousness System of Order adaptation, its powers and dangers.

Since, at the moment, we are doing none of these things, the statement that we must live differently is much too weak; we must radically change almost everything that we do every day.  Notice that I do not say that we have to change “who and what we are,” but we must change many, if not most of the things we do in order to become what we are.

  – Suffer me a polemic: as an evolved creature on the earth, there is a particular way for our species to be on the earth just as with every one of the billions of other species that are, or have been, here. If, as a species, we are dis-integrating to the order of biophysical processes, then we must be acting in ways antithetical to our biological nature; which, in our case, results from the failure to meet the third and forth conditions above. –

The science is clear (physical sciences, biology and the economics that include the Real Economy), the earth cannot support the present rates at which humans are using it.  It is also clear from human history that we, the masses, will not tolerate abuse by other humans beyond certain limits.  These two facts point toward more egalitarian social economic forms.  Conditions 3 and 4 can only be obtained in communities sized by human capacities for responsible relationships of obligation across the whole community.

Recent history strongly suggests that large institutions become self-sustaining at the expense of all four primary conditions.  And so, responsibility for all actions would have to clearly be put on natural persons answerable to a community, a community that is informed by sufficient processes of communication.  Institutions would need to remain small, flexible to a social purpose and transitory.

There seems to me to be only two ways for the four conditions to be met; the last time all the conditions were nearly completely met was when humanity was uniformly composed of Paleolithic hunter/gatherers – and even then the forth condition was only very vaguely adapted to and was almost completely unrealized.  So the first possibility would be to return to Paleolithic ways of living; the present earth could support perhaps a few million people living in that way—the population of only one of our moderately sized cities.

The second way is to devote, in essence all, the incredible disposable wealth of humanity, much of it presently being privately confiscated in the insane pursuit of personal glorification and dominion, to discovering how to live in communion with the Real Economy and educating those that need it to such discoveries; especially, empowering and educating the women of the world and retraining the people of the developed world how to live simply and responsibly.  The mechanisms to accomplish this use of resources should be the first concern for students of the Real Economy.

The What-if Economy must begin to be seen for what it is; concerned with its “Rube Goldberg” intellectual inventions, Ponzi schemes and power/control plans; a social science co-opted and compromised by accumulations of wealth; and a complex mechanism to defeat the Real Economy, an attempt to allow a species, out of control, to defeat Reality. 

The Natural History of Human Change

Our physical world is made up of dominating motions: the pull of the Sun’s gravity, the earth’s yearly revolution around the Sun and daily rotation on its own tilted axis, the moon’s monthly transit.  Our small personal motions, going to work, sex, betting on a football game, growing a kitchen garden, all happen within the parameters of these dominating and other motions.  We adapt to all of them; no one seriously demands a weaker force of gravity, a 30 “hour” day or less extreme tidal fluctuations; and we almost as universally accept the normalcy and necessity of our personal lives.

There are motions in our social, political and economic world that, while not based directly in universal physical law, have some of the qualities of dominating physical motion – more on the model of glaciers and large ocean currents, on the one hand, and avalanches and hurricanes on the other.  We, humans, help to create the conditions in which they manifest, but once in motion they are similarly irresistible.

To further explore the potentials of the analogy: the strength of a hurricane depends in major part on the temperature of the water over which it forms and moves.  It does no good to simply build barriers in front of the winds while ignoring forces that form, strengthen and guide the storm.

As a function of both habit and capacity we are ignoring the dominating motions of our present reality: the irresistible glacial forces of population numbers combined with technological developments, the ocean current of wealth extraction and concentration, the avalanches of social disruption and dislocation and the hurricanes of ecological perturbation.  Attention is given to many of the consequential details of change, but not to the reality of the motions themselves and their underlying forces; for finally, this is not a metaphor at all.

Millions of people acting in unison, acting from common belief and habit, cannot be redirected in any simple way.  The forces of change must be equal to the momentum possessed by continuing to stay the same.  This has almost always meant that such forces of change be draconian.  Reasoned argument, scientific and logical conclusions and even general acceptance of abstract ideas have had little impact.  Major changes are, therefore, almost always traumatic for societies and individuals.

But looking at human capacity and potential, it seems that major changes should be possible for human beings without all the Sturm und Drang. We can learn new things with relative ease and, in general, show a remarkable adaptability, however, large groups are most often better understood as large masses in motion than as many highly maneuverable separate entities. 

We might imagine a convoy, a thousand cars long, filling a thousand-lane highway.  It must go in the direction of the roadway; it may not slow down or speed up except in the most complex and gradual manner.  The communication and coordination to perform even the simplest maneuver would be monumental… and this in cars with only the function of moving from one place to another.  Whole lives in motion, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for many tens of years, accumulate complicated interwoven patterns of momentums with all the other surrounding lives. 

In practical terms, it may only be possible to redirect the convoy by crashing the cars and suffering the consequences.  The burdens of coordination and communication would be greatly eased by only the need to crash the convoy, but, of course, the outcome may not be substantively different than doing nothing at all and waiting for the eventual end of the roadway to force a pile-up in any case.

In terms of the metaphor, we are watching increasingly frantic attempts to communicate and coordinate changes in direction coming from all the various ideational centers.  If we image that the convoy can be communicated with by car radio and cell phone, and that people will be tuned to different stations and receiving calls, texts or tweets from different sources, they are still – and this is vital – utterly dependent on the immediate patterns of movement surrounding them to give order to their sustaining behavior.  No matter how compelling, the messages beyond the moment cannot compete with the immediate conditions within which each person finds him or her self.  In other words, the dominating momentum of the convoy, regardless its rationality or irrationality, matters more than any communication from beyond it – even completely believable descriptions of the end of the roadway and the certainties of driving into it at speed. 

Ultimately, people learn to not give attention to the messages from beyond their immediate condition – even when they understand them to be true.  It is only when the immediately surrounding conditions become impossible to predict and respond to that actions are taken in response to the messages from beyond the convoy and then only in terms of the long habit of local attention; once that begins the only certainty is that the loss of internal structure will spread crashes at random.  As a society we are just approaching that point.

Some would say that we have already begun, that economic inequity and the decline of the middle class are evidence, but these have long been the direction of our travel; we are just beginning to realize where we’ve been going.  And we have quite a long way to go in that direction yet before the end of road.  In the world fantasized by typical economists, one that is unlimitedly substitutable, we would have a much longer way to go than we actually do, but we still have the time to retrace our steps into a “modern” version of medieval feudalism, a motif tellingly dominant in fictional portrayals of our future. 

The question for us, for all ideologies of change, is, what are the mechanisms and messages that might be successful in communicating with the great momentum of movement that is present humanity, and what are the realistic expectations?  In terms of the metaphor, a small percentage, say 5%, spread randomly throughout the convoy could slow it down or speed it up, eventually even guide it to some extent, by coordinated increments of change. 

If, at every opportunity, such a random assortment were to apply the brakes a little sooner, brake a little longer and return to speed more hesitantly, then the whole convoy would slow over time.  This is almost certainly how we have gotten to our present place; the incremental speeding up of a random collection of actors. But, given human nature, slowing down is a more tedious and contentious process.  It shortens distances, greater attention is required by all and our animal competitiveness is not triggered by increments of slowing in the way that it is by someone speeding ahead [1].

Clarity of idea is key, and a way to communicate with accuracy and honesty to a sufficient percentage of people.  Otherwise our momentum will carry us all along to the end of road, that point were the systemic order that forms our actions in the world fails to meet our needs beyond our capacity to ignore the failure.  At that point we really do enter the maelstrom knowing nothing of if or how our kind might come out on the other side.

[1] Even after many tens of years I am still amazed and amused when drivers in cars seem to have to speed up to pass me when I am riding my bicycle faster than ambient traffic.