All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

A thought provoking documentary series and I agree with a lot of the underlying ideas.

I think they’ve missed the main point though. Humans, societies, just like animals and the ecosystem, are inherently very dynamic and unstable systems. Left alone, nature is very good at adapting to gradual change but in the process will exhibit extreme instability. The result is a tough life for individual components (wild animals, plants, cells) but the persistence and success of the system (living creatures on planet earth) over a very long time, billions of years, and a very diverse environmental landscape. They got this part right. What’s left is to realize that human civilization has continually tried to fight and calm this instability, primarily driven by those with power/wealth that wish to protect status quos. The result appears to be long periods of stability followed by large conflicts and economic disasters. The conclusion should not be to throw up our hands and say we can’t handle the challenge, but to try to understand it better.

Left to their own devices, humans and societies of humans will behave in the same way as any natural system because fundamentally the former is a subset of the latter. The turbulence of civilizations is the natural state of our system. This instability should also be visible in our economic systems, which has certainly been the case as far as recorded data is available. We need to consider some of the contradictions between some of our moral/ethical ideals and the behavior of self-stabilizing (in the long run) natural systems. Modern liberal democracies seem to have accomplished a utopia where individuals feel like they have freedom and control but rather have allowed themselves to be hijacked by political and corporate power centers. This is not a coincidence, we as a species are simply not intelligent enough to be able to successfully self regulate a large network from the inside.

The problem arises from the feeling that humans have of being special. We hold the individual as sacrosanct, we defend with our lives the ideals of individual freedom and equality. At appears to me that, at least with current technology and knowledge, there exists direct trade-off between the worship of the individual and our ability as a species to adapt and continue improving, to thrive in the long run.