the future of cool
April 15, 2000

Contemporary worldviews typically take one of two models. The first, absolutist model believes that, with diligence and integrity, perfection is attainable; the other relativist view asserts that no amount of anything will produce perfection. Because diligence and integrity require a base of reference in order to be meaningful, absolutists attempt to achieve perfection by building rigidity into their lives. "Law and order" is an absolutist concept, as are censorship and cryptography controls, and the police state in general. Any system built on enforcement of a rule can be said to be absolutist, in that it attempts to achieve stability by forcing its subsystems into strict, predefined patterns of behaviour. Absolutist thinking is a relic from Newtonian times, from Victorian times, when people believed that humans owned the world and could exploit it however they wanted; when they believed that The Christian Way was the Right Way; when they believed that force was acceptable, and that "the masses" should "eat cake" if they were upset about the tragic living and working conditions they were forced to endure.

IN certain circumstances, absolutism is a good thing. For example in computing it is very useful to be sure that a 1 is a 1 and not a 0. But computers are machines, purpose-built to measure and be measured. People are none of these things. Yet, the "global military-industrial-incarceration complex" -- the "New World Order" -- continues to apply absolutist approaches to social issues. This attempt to enforce rigidity upon the dynamisms of life is not simply futile, but also causes pain, creates other issues, and wastes resources. Inevitably it leads to an expansion of the Complex to enforce a new law against life, with a neat trickle-down right into the wallets of corporate investors, soldiers, prison guards, politicians, and anybody else remotely concerned with The Establishment.

It could be considered that this magical transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich is an accident -- until one notices that life has been lived that way for as long as history records it. The NWO has new methods, but it is the same madness. Exploit the knaves until they die in misery. Keep them stupid; tax them for the privilege of wrestling their own ignorance.

The "democratisation" we have seen in recent centuries was more a watering down of this absolutism to relativism than a form of emancipation. That is, margins for inefficiency were built into enforcement structures. The Complex realised that rules would be broken; the approach became that relatively few rule failures would occur, and smarter ways of dealing with exceptions were created.

However, even relativist Einstein cannot explain the shape of clouds or the fluctuations of the stock market. To explain these phenomena, science has moved again to a newer theory. Chaos theory, or complexity theory as it has become, can explain such dynamics.

Complexity theory states that all things interact with each other on all levels, all the time. It gives every object in the universe a life; this also gives it a death, and thus a lifecycle. The object, or organism, evolves through its lifecycle. It affects its environment in various ways, and at the same time, the environment affects it in various ways also. The exact results of these interactions are unpredictable due to the complexity of the environment, and of the organism. This inherent complexity leaves us unable to draw specific conclusions about the state of the organism or environment at any point. This is what renders structuralist "King Canute" approaches unsustainable -- the nature and substance of their structures are eroded by these unpredictable interactions, an inescapable flaw which only worsens with time.

The process of evolution experienced by each organism works as described by Darwin (he applied it to biology) and Adam Smith (an economist, who termed it the "invisible hand"). However the process occurs in all things, not just within the spheres of biology or economics. The continuous cycle of action and reaction experienced by both the organism and the wider environment encourages the evolution of sustainable organisms only. This is Darwin's "natural selection" -- nature (the environment) selecting only the fittest and most sustainable organisms for reproduction.

The process of selection is simply one of iterated reinforcement. Organisms with attributes disharmonious to their surroundings will receive negative reinforcement with respect to those attributes. That is, they will be discouraged from displaying those attributes. Meanwhile, harmonious attributes are positively reinforced by the environment. That is, the organism will be rewarded for displaying those attributes. Over time, organisms will learn from these reinforcements and adapt themselves accordingly. If they are unable to adapt, they are deselected - that is, they will probably not reproduce, for one reason or another, and may die prematurely.

There is probably an exact combination of attributes that facilitates a purely harmonious existence, but it is highly improbable that any organism will possess it. Most likely, organisms will display a variety of harmonious and disharmonious attributes, a few of which may be fatal, or key success factors, in some circumstances. Attributes in between will cause mild pain or mild pleasure as time passes. The unpredictable nature of the environment means that the sequence of events and outcomes is also unpredictable.

This consequence means that those in the business of prediction, such as marketers, psychologists, climatologists and economists, are of limited worth. And the previously noted consequence -- that of constant evolution -- has already limited the worth of laws, police, politicians, and criminal justice systems. All of those entities are snake-oil merchants. None of them can ever be sure of anything, and serve merely as commentators before and after -- but never during -- the events they claim to be so closely aligned to. They have no power - the environment has all the power. They are nature's bootlace, and a parasite to us.

Indeed, it is asserted that absolutes such as good and bad are meaningless. In the end, only the sustainable organism survives. Diversity is strength; attempts to create crimeless societies have stifled innovation and have produced a slow, unresponsive society instead. The lesson of complexity is to embrace diversity; absolutist approaches attempt to stifle it. Diversity is important because it increases the probability of sustainable organisms evolving. Actions by individuals may at first reduce diversity, but this is an unsustainable approach which will eventually topple itself, if not speedily abandoned. In this way, actions judged "bad" at the time can result in "good" outcomes. For this reason, good and bad become relative to when the judgement is made, and indeed by who makes it - such a subjective view can only ever have little meaning to others.

Thus, it can be concluded that over time, the environment will produce sustainable entities only. We can relax in the knowledge that unsustainable behaviour is not rewarded. In the end, life always wins. Being a "good citizen" is more about encouraging feedback and diversity than conforming to rules. One cannot judge good from bad, but one can distinguish between encouragement and suppression. Does it give, or does it take?

It is on this basis that I believe the future of "cool" resides. The application of Complexity Theory to our socio-political systems and our economies. In essence, it is a liberal ideal - embrace freedom of all kinds. The trend to market-driven economies is evidence of the rise of liberal thinking. Privatise, globalise, self-organise are all byproducts of this thinking. Contemporary bickering over trade bloc membership, level playing fields, barriers to entry and import tariffs are all evidence of the friction between old-world ideas being vigorously defended by the "new world order". Why would they resist the liberals? What have they got against free and fair trade? In a word: profit. The NWO's stranglehold on power translates to money. Liberalising anything reduces the height of their pile - so they greedily and selfishly resist liberalisation.

The NWO can only be termed exploitative; there is no excuse for suppression. The cosy hegemony that is currently world politics did not occur by accident. However, nature does always win, and the hegemony is not sustainable. Thus, the hegemony will ultimately fall. Given the ugly side-effects of the hegemony, that is, war and famine, poverty and pollution, ignorance and violence, its demise cannot come soon enough.

Ordinary people can do their bit by seeing past the facade of the media (which is simply a mouthpiece of the Establishment), conscientiously objecting to all forms of suppression, living environmentally-friendly, and speaking their minds loudly, particularly in public places, using whatever media is available. Make an effort to encourage life. Let people learn. Give people choice. To me, this is the future of cool.