Friday, April 18, 2008

A Theory of Power

Last night I came across an earlier and far better developed version of Blackmore's Gene-Meme-Teme proposition - applied in the abstract - to the current world problematique.

The free booklet is called A Theory of Power. It appears that its author Jeff Vail (who blogs here) was well ahead of his time with the thesis of the booklet. While I've only skimmed it, I see nothing on the face of it with which I fundamentally disagree. In addition to A Theory of Power and the Rhizome blog, I also found a summary of the theory posted at Energy Bulletin a couple of years ago. (I disagree with a few things the reviewer states in his own theory of communes and social organization, but I find the summary and review itself most helpful.)
* The best representation of our world, of what 'is', is not matter, but the connections between matter.

* These connections define 'power-relationships' -- the ability of one entity to influence the action of another.

* The 'law' of evolution can therefore be restated as: if new patterns of forces can survive their impacts with one another, if they tend to hold together rather than tear apart, they then represent a stable collection of power-relationships which survive, self-replicate, and mutate into further new patterns which are in turn subject to the same law.

* This law applies to physical (matter), biological (gene) and cultural (meme) patterns; all matter and life and consciousness, and their evolution, are 'creatures' of their/our material, genetic and cultural constituents, created for the perpetuation of these patterns and sustained through their stable power-relationships.

* Because of the evolutionary success of memes (due to their ability to adapt and change much more quickly and successfully than genes), culture has come to play an increasingly dominant role in our planet's power-relationships.

* Most significantly, the advent of agriculture, which was provoked by climate change (the ice ages) brought about a necessary power shift from the individual to the group in the interest of memes' survival, to the point the individual became largely enslaved to the culture, and the survival of the civilization culture now outweighs in importance the survival of any of its members or communities.

* A consequence of that has been the advent of the codependent cultural constructs of market and state, and, as agriculture has enabled exponential growth in population and created new scarcities, egalitarian societies of abundance have given way to hierarchical societies of managed scarcity.

* This hierarchy has been further entrenched with the cultural evolution of technologies that enable even greater self-perpetuation of the memes that gave rise to it, and have led to the 'efficient' subjugation of the human individual to technology -- that's the power-relationship that most supports the survival and stasis of the culture, and under it even those at the top of the hierarchy become slave-hosts to the memes and culture.

* These memes and culture can now self-perpetuate and thrive more effectively with technology and the artificial constructs of market and globalizations than they could with inefficient and unreliable human hosts, so technology growth is now even outstripping human growth, to the point that humans are becoming commodities and could even become redundant.

* So: if we are now becoming slaves to the machine-powered perpetuation of memes that are outgrowing their need for us (to the point that although catastrophic global warming and human extinction now seem inevitable, this is not something our meme-culture 'cares' about) can we, the human slaves, thanks to the genetic and memetic evolution of self-awareness, 'liberate' ourselves and defeat the meme-culture before it destroys us? In other words, can we consciously, collectively take control for the first time over power-relationships, and establish new power-relationships that put the genetic survival of the human race (and, hopefully, the survival of all other life on Earth on which that genetic survival depends) ahead of the reckless survival of the Frankenstein 'civilization' culture we have created?
I believe that successful rhizome instances can only be established organically. In other words, you have to engage with others around project oriented efforts that give rise to a sustainable framework for interpersonal communion, cooperation and collaboration. It's a lifestyle choice after all, not simply a theory of "how then shall we live?"


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