How to flee from WeaponWorld? That might seem like a simple problem, in theory, but well nigh unsolvable in practice. Past peace practice has been more or less lame. Given the depth of our weapons indoctrination, a present-day struggle for World Peace might appear to be naïve, impractical and illusory—in other words, “utopian.”
Let’s compare the faculties of a cat. Its sensory input and muscular output operate in such harmony and its senses feed its brain with such precision, that its intellect and musculature maintain a flawless balance. As a result, the cat’s dance is a delight to behold for all except its prey.
Let’s shift back to pre-industrial times. Only super-wealthy philosophers could dispose of enough spare time and instruction to condense the sparse data content of their day. If they wanted a ditch dug, they could order costly slaves to sweat it out over primitive tools. If they craved exotic knowledge, they could wander the world at enormous expense and peril. Over the course of a brief lifetime, they could come across rare wise men and records collections within a few hundred miles of home.
The skills of that ancient philosopher had advanced somewhat beyond the cat’s—let’s say by thousands of times. Others would obey his commands, even beyond the range of his perception and control. Cats ignore such imperatives. Spoken and written commands, slaves and primitive tools multiplied the philosopher’s muscle power much more than his mental power. He could maintain a balance, of sorts, between muscle-power and brainpower, but this task would have become more and more uncertain.
A philosopher today can read and converse all her life which is somewhat longer. Enhanced transportation, communication, and memory devices supplement her skills. Thanks to these gadgets, she can sort vast sheaves of information with relative ease. All this input takes time, however, quite a lot of it, compared to our only slightly lengthened lifespan. And all too few of us are doing it. Though the human population has grown explosively, the competence of philosophers has not kept up. We keep mangling the platitudes of antiquity, the way a cat might toy with its prey, awaiting its shock-coma to tear it to pieces.
Just as weapon religions once paralyzed private thought, weapons ideologies freeze our mind today. When it comes to doing good and uprooting evil, we resemble track stars frozen in our cleats but anticipating a burst of speed.
When it comes to muscle power, we’ve made real progress. As to brute mechanical strength, we can out-muscle most of those ancients by a thousand times. A brief day’s journey to the other side of the planet costs less than two weeks’ average wage. We can hoist tons of building material two thousand feet and even into orbit. From their perspective, only gods could contemplate deeds of strength we consider routine. And our foremost developments are still those of war. Sitting behind a machine-gun today, any weakling could batter their triremes and elite armored phalanxes – the most brilliant expressions of their social and mechanical skills – into so much driftwood, scrap bronze and chopped meat.
Can you spot the imbalance here? The cat has a cat’s brain (x cerebral power) in a cat’s body (y muscular power). For all intents and purposes, x = y.
Our ancient philosopher could call on thousands of units of brainpower and a million of muscle power: ~1,000x = y. Currently, each of us disposes of a million units of brainpower (much more concentrated in memory aids and communications devices in addition to improved (?) education; about the same basic smarts) versus a trillion units of muscle power. ~1,000,000x = y.
Assuming the cat’s faculties were in balance, our civilization acts like an elephant’s body under the control of a cockroach brain—or a fritzing network of six billion miswired sub-brains in “control” of a global elephant cemetery.
A beast with such a disproportionate muscle mass compared to its tiny brain would sicken without knowing it, break bones while out on a stroll and starve to death in a farmer’s market. It couldn’t shield itself from the slightest threat. Its organs would glut or starve out. You must admit that the whole world is built along those faulty lines and reacts just as poorly.
Worse yet, its cockroach brain would be too preoccupied with momentous crises to address its underlying problem: the widening gap between its insectile brainpower and Bigfoot brawn.
Having managed to solve one or two problems with convulsions of violence, it would be tempted to solve futures one with equivalent applications of brutality if not more vigorous ones. For a man equipped with a hammer and nothing else, every problem becomes a nail.
We refuse to fine-tune our Learning (nerve) networks to fit our mechanical (muscle) capabilities. Thus, the balanced dialogue between a cat’s musculature and its nervous system degenerates into a Riot Act read by loudspeaker from Olympian institutions to the crushed proletarian mob.
One solution appears to be more promising: implant an elephant’s brain in the near-empty skull of the elephant—and watch it dance! Rewire the world for higher intelligence (another term corrupted by weapon mentality into its opposite: “corrosive military and corporate secrecy”). We’ll be amazed how much smarter we become, how many big problems shrink to smaller ones and how many smaller ones will disappear once we rewire the planet to make us smarter.
“Intelligence”: another term perverted into its antonym by weapon mentality: “corrosive military and corporate secrets.”
To our utmost ability, we must harmonize the global dialogue between nervous input and muscular output. Tremendous new efficiencies could emerge once these perceptual networks start overseeing large-scale (superhuman) activities. Such networks could improve beyond imagining our laughable standards of living.
What does this mean in plain English? Multiply a thousand-fold peaceable dialogs and reduce warlike talk proportionately. By puberty, grant almost every child on Earth a Master’s Degree in self-directed studies. Adapt to this task all the modern communications systems we've perfected for mutual slaughter. Multiply this new peace technology by thousandfolds.
“The preferred militaristic way of utilizing the mass feeling of insecurity, is by raising a scare, preferably that of a threatened invasion and maintaining that a danger exists which none but expert generals can gauge. Since history is not written along such lines, it cannot be said how often the raising of such a scare has reason behind it. But it can be said that it is a permanent trick of any permanent military bureaucracy, early or late.” Alfred Vagts, A History of Militarism, Greenwich Editions, p. 341.
Weapon mentality claims dominance by crying wolf about massive threats that loom just beyond the home membrane. The solution? Get rid of most of those membranes and substitute them with a single one that houses everyone. Fewer threats will endure if no battle elites remain outside, eager to break in. Any remaining ones would become police problems calling for thoughtful responses less militaristic.
Constructive overheads instead of destructive ones—simply smarter and less clumsy. Do you follow?
How? Again, the key lies in communications. Where one telephone line exists, install a network. Where the mail comes once a week, once a day. Where public libraries already exist, double their funding and merge them into global information networks. Where they don’t exist, build superior ones.
Every nation’s government should sponsor a free web page that would translate any text to and from its native language. This would require selective translation and re-translation several times until the translation re-translated mirrored the original text. Otherwise, retranslate it in a different way.
Let us converse in peace like civilized beings instead of tearing at each other apart like dumb beasts. The worse the neighborhood fighting, the greater the need to multiply local communications. In the meantime, ethnic and religious antagonists should be subdivided politically into separate states until they resume the civilized habits.
Note the converse – replacing worthwhile media with monologue propaganda communiqués of lesser worth – in populations rich and poor alike. American cities (if they’re big, rich and lucky enough) have only one daily newspaper in print, when almost all of them, big and small, used to have several. Community radio broadcasters are hunted down like criminals or tangled up in red tape, while corporate mega-casters consolidate their media monopoly thanks to federal giveaways. Access to overpriced computers shrinks for the poor, even as the rich build up the Internet and prop up obsolete video networks with expensive, state-of-the-art broadband technologies. Well, “state-of-the-art” is a relative term. Given current rates of technological development, once you build it, it’s already obsolete.
The Federal Communication Commission’s love affair with HDTV is a good example. Conversion to digital TV hardware and software will force prices to soar on both the broadcasting and receiving ends of the information pipeline. Independent and community TV broadcasters will go under. The quality of content will go down in favor of more and more insistent commercials. Only giant network corporations will stand to gain from this cultural decay. Media monopoly by a few corporations and their opinion spinners – their profits doubled and redoubled by surcharges to private subscribers of cable and satellite services, as well as those imposed on corporate advertisers – these problems will only worsen, thanks to the FCC’s top-down imposition of a new-fangled technology that’s redundant, at least until overall content has been renewed in proportion.
If we clog these high-tech media with nothing more than the promotional garbage we’ve grown accustomed to, every communication breakthrough will go to waste. Optimal communications systems welcome the best content available, not just the latest broadcast hardware. Divergent opinions should be welcomed, serious reflection should outweigh conventional propaganda. Eccentric ideas merit a fair hearing. From where else can you expect progress? Cultural stagnation is guaranteed otherwise.
Every tribe and nation should gain access to political expression and self-determination. These rights should become inalienable, based on constitutional guarantees backed by overwhelming force and maintained irrefutably by a global consensus. If we do not do this from a sense of fairness, we should do so to reduce negative fallouts from “revolutionary liberation movements” that no army can eradicate.
No weapon state merits sovereignty based on nothing more than its monopoly of local firepower. In this case, as in most others, we should deliver justice—simply because it would be easier to administer in the long run, safer and more profitable than its denial for whatever reason.
We could establish Learning Casinos: lavish recreational facilities where game masters, programmers, graphic artists and contestants would gather to create and play video arcade games, virtual reality simulations, gambling, card and board games, theatrics and interactive simulations in forms transcending current understanding.
Those whose talent would be to assemble and manage these scenarios, will find all the adulation and reward they seek—much the way painters of the Italian Renaissance did, playwrights of Shakespeare’s London, the classical music composers of Vienna and cinematographers during the 20th Century. For a preliminary sketch of these new games, see Marc Prensky’s book, Digital Game-Based Learning, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2001.
Social problems will be played-through for innovative solutions. Political simulations will familiarize voters with complex social issues. Learners will sign up for critical judgment scenarios―personal or sociological, mundane matters or those of life and death, on micro, macro and cosmic scales of play.
According to a Chinese proverb, it takes ten thousand war dead to establish a general’s reputation. Contestants at these new Casinos will deepen their understanding at far lesser expense: their ruinous mistakes will only produce “paper” consequences. Virtual reality software and interactive videos will simulate a vast array of alternative probabilities. Outlandish social proposals will be gamed publicly to review long-term outcomes in detail. Players will root out weaknesses, misconceptions, unintended consequences and miscreant loopholes. All their results will be matters of public record, subject to scientific research.
Learner Casinos could run a “probability stock exchange” (first described in John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider: one of many of his proposals included in Learner). There, as part of the world’s rewired neural network, contestants would predict social trends as a profitable spectator sport. Such Casinos may coordinate their activities with Learning Networks, World Militias, Renaissance Learning Centers and other Administrative functions: some suggested in this book and many more yet to come.
True prosperity is a pipe dream until everyone expects personal abundance and dependable security as a matter of course. The poor among us deserve a comfortable existence and the yearly income it would take. Honest people should feel safer and more secure every day. After that, the most ambitious people may supplement that modicum by five to fifteen times (or perhaps more) without additional harm. Communal wealth could multiply indefinitely, provided it were shared more equitably.
Once global peace innovations overtake prior weapons investment, the price of essentials will drop simultaneously. Great surpluses of capital will be left over, with which to turn the Solar System into a gigantic industrial/technological/science park and the Earth into Eden: an ideal setting to learn to dance.