Sunday, September 30, 2018

Zhergish memetic transformation

Memetic transformation

Our efforts to change the world for the better take many forms. We can speak in general terms, and say that every moment is an opportunity for positive manifestation and transformation. We can also categorize our efforts/manifestations/transformations in various ways. The following categories aren't necessarily exhaustive, mutually exclusive, or rigorously defined.
  •  Internal: exploring the universes within; changing ourselves from the inside out
  •  External: engaging with others, with the environment; social communication and cooperation
  •  Intra-institutional: operating in the context of existing institutions
  •  Extra-institutional: operating in the context of less formal or newly emerging systems

(There are times when an appropriate/optimal course of action entails modifying or replacing our institutions. These actions can be intra- or extra-institutional, depending on the extent to which the institutions provide serviceable and accessible mechanisms to facilitate their own modification/replacement. Sometimes, when institutions are due, or overdue, for change, and their workings have in the meantime become markedly outdated or onerous, an optimal course of action may entail evading or countering those workings.)

The above is a fairly arbitrary list of some categories of actions that can have positive effects in the world. The main point of listing these is simply to emphasize that such actions come in many varieties.

The Zherg project employs a strategy for effecting positive change through what we could categorize as memetic activity. Memes have acquired a reputation as a relatively frivolous form of communication. But the word "meme" in its original sense simply refers to the uniquely human modalities by which information replicates and evolves. So memetic activity is a very broad category, no more or less inherently worthwhile than any other broad category of activity.

When we're operating internally, constructive actions may include meditation, introspection, dreamwork, and the cultivation of parapsychological abilities. Some potentially worthwhile external activities might be conversation, intimacy, various types of cooperation, etc. Examples of positive intra-institutional efforts can include participation in established economies or markets, voting, and so on. Extra-institutional tactics could include demonstrations, occupations, vigils, autonomous zones, etc. And in memetic modes, we perform the valuable actions of formulating, spreading, and building upon, chunks of information, also known as memes.

For a long time, there's been the idea that some key memes might emerge, which could facilitate rapid and comprehensive transformations of our psycho-social landscape. Let's look at the Z3 Paradigm Framework as a candidate for fulfilling these expectations.

The positive components

Very broadly speaking: Religious and spiritual frameworks have often emphasized bigheartedness, universal love, valuing and respecting everyone, etc. But such frameworks have often emphasized uncritical acceptance of, or adherence to, specific constructs, and have sometimes explicitly downgraded the role of the intellect or the mind. Scientific and secular philosophical frameworks, on the other hand, have often emphasized a clear-eyed pursuit of truth, but have often downplayed or ignored heart/ethics/morality/values, or have fallen short of an all-embracing ethical viewpoint.

The positive message of the Z3 framework clearly and succinctly emphasizes the importance of both heart and mind in equal measure. Each of these relates to one of the two enumerated positive components of Z3. Thus we have a balanced outline, on a very general level, for a radical restructuring and optimization of our lives and our civilization. It can be treated as "formal," in the sense that it can be explicitly adopted by individuals and groups as a creed or mission statement and can replace formal systems based on money and hierarchical authority, but it doesn't bind us to any structure, any rules, beyond a bare minimum set of principles. These principles are fairly easy to agree with, though truly, deeply implementing them may require time and effort. Explicitly adopting them can help focus our efforts in that direction.

This sort of framework can help us clarify and resolve many chronically intractable controversies. Let's consider abortion. A zhergish approach would entail concern for the well-being of all beings, including fetuses, but would recognize that our world teems with life, all kinds of life, continuously emerging, living, and dying. Even the most loving, compassionate, thoughtful, creative actions will involve damaging and even destroying some forms of life. We must use our wisdom to make optimal choices, always considering the long-term interests of everyone. We destroy animals' lives by including meat in our diets, but this seems to be important (at least historically) for optimally, or adequately, nourishing human beings, who may play a key role in helping all life on Earth to migrate into space and flourish in realms beyond Earth. This could be key for allowing Terran life to survive when the Sun turns into a red giant in a few billion years. Likewise, in the full moral and planetary context, it makes sense for a being with a complex, highly-developed intelligence, a member of a technological species, to be able to decide whether or not to undertake the risks and rigors of giving birth, and for her to be supported in her decision. To argue otherwise seems to entail arbitrarily or dogmatically privileging beings with human DNA over other beings and disregarding pertinent attributes and circumstances. As technology advances, we can look forward to new solutions such as high-quality artificial meat and the transplantation of fetuses into artificial wombs.

The negative components

The two positive components of Z3 seem to be, in many ways, the most important parts of the framework by far. These are the components that actually describe the structure of the new paradigm. It may seem unnecessary, inadvisable, or suboptimal to include the "negative components," the parts of the current paradigm that are to be discontinued. Why not just focus on the positive and allow the old, obsolescent components to recede when they're superseded by the new? Might we be "giving power" to these negative components by naming and discussing them - exactly the opposite of the desired effect? Might we simply be feeding negativity and resentment?

One reason to include the negative components is that the positive components, while definitely crucial, may not by themselves provide a satisfactorily compelling picture of the proposed transformation. Each of the two positive components reflects familiar ideals, to which humans have aspired for so long that they may at first glance appear clich├ęd, worn out, anodyne, banal, bromidic, trite, platitudinous, etc. To finally, truly live up to these ideals will undoubtedly be utterly transformational, but so much skepticism, cynicism, and fatigue have proliferated with respect to these ideals, that some additional components seem important in order to vividly communicate the shape of the proposed change in a way that overcomes people's habitual reactions. By mentioning that the change will entail growing beyond some specific, very prominent aspects of our present psycho-social reality, we can build a more complete and relatable picture of the paradigm shift.

These aspects, what we're calling the negative components, have been so prominent that without explicitly naming them, it may be difficult for people to imagine doing without them. Even much of the theorizing and advocacy that's widely regarded as highly radical, and much of the science fiction that's widely regarded as highly speculative and far-out, often include one or both of these aspects of our current reality in the future scenarios they describe.

We may, as we're still in the process of shifting the paradigm, participate in or encounter projects, trends and trajectories with zhergish characteristics. Without a zhergish framework as a reference, the fact that these phenomena lack the components of hierarchical authority and/or quid pro quo transactions may be held against them. The historical prominence of hierarchical authority and quid pro quo transactions may engender the automatic assumption that their absence is a sign of dysfunction. Movements may be criticized for lacking specific leaders, or for providing ways to function without buying and selling in competitive marketplaces. By explicitly detailing a vision of a new paradigm that doesn't include these components, we can help create space for such phenomena to flourish.

By including exactly two negative components, Z3 seems to strike a key balance. Many philosophies, frameworks, systems of thought, etc. have attempted to define one component that subsumes all, or most, or at least vast amounts, of the undesirable phenomena of the world. A single "enemy," whether conceived of as an actual being or as a more abstract entity, has been the focus of the negative aspects of such theories. ("evil"... "money"... "money in politics"... Korzybski seemed to lay quite a lot of blame on "identification"...) Such an approach often seems to oversimplify matters. On the other hand, when a theory includes larger numbers of negative components, it runs the risk of simply creating a laundry list of complaints without getting to the real roots of the problems.

When we apply a serious analysis, the two negative components of Z3 readily emerge as two major aspects of our current paradigm that are intimately connected to the fact that we haven't satisfactorily implemented the two positive components. The negative components, which we could roughly express as "money AND politics," have often been seen as adversaries, as two competing centers or systems of power and influence, but upon deeper analysis, we can see them as two sides of one pre-zhergish coin.


If we want to build a world that incorporates a healthy, ever-evolving approach to truth and values, then let's embrace models like Z3 that can help us do that. Cheers!