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Integral Science: rethinking civilization using the learning universe lens. (Research Paper).


Western civilization is in transition. After 300 years of great expectations leading to stark realities, we are abandoning modernity's machine theory of life and sweeping into the integral era with a brand-new 'web' worldview. Metaphor marks the change. So, where modern thinkers once believed everything from factories to the human body worked like a machine, now integral thinkers are beginning to recast all things as complex ecosystems bound up in bigger webs. Already visible in images of environmentalism, global economy, global village, holistic health and the World Wide Web, every facet of our society--from business and education to science and spirituality--is being re-colored in kind.

This kind of wholesale rethinking, called great change, has happened before, with the medieval to modern transition being the most obvious example. As the circuitous path through the Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment shows, the dangers and opportunities inherent in such transformations are equally real. Under bad news, great change is driven by desperation. In our case, modern civilization is in crisis and faces serious dangers caused chiefly by its own ways of being. Furthermore, because the root problem is cultural, all the troubles we must tackle are inseparably intertwined. Thus, growing calamities in health, education, environment and economics, already convoluted, are but microcosms of a much larger, monumentally complex knot.

Under good news, crisis also drives a learning response. In our case, millions of unsung heroes are already at work, developing healthier ways. Scattered throughout global society, in movements large and small, addressing every issue from democratic reform and corporate accountability to health issues and the best ways to learn, Ray (2000) estimates their number at 50 million in the United States alone. Furthermore, while most workers in this vast span focus only on the thread in front of them, many of their insights mesh. Together they actually form one grand tapestry of change and the quiet beginnings of a more durable and ennobling web of life, called integral society.

Yet, right now integral insights are still disjoint. Pieces are spread all over the map. The scope is daunting, as is the diversity of language and concerns. The challenge before our society as a whole is to get this disjoint jumble to crystallize into a powerful, intelligible whole, before crisis turns into calamity--a consequence which, as we shall see, has happened to many societies before us. Luckily, the catalyst we need is also at hand (Figure 1).


With Systems Theory and environmentalists leading the way, web-thinking has been taking root in virtually every field of science--from anthropology and brain research to genetics and mathematics--for decades already. Thanks to the popular press, many people know one or more pieces of web science, say Gala, Chaos, Complexity or Quantum Mechanics. Many other facets of the web revolution have not reached lay ears, including ecological economics, and the web view of genetics, evolution and societal collapse. The term integral science refers to the union of web changes emerging across disciplines. Apropos of a web worldview, it is this alliance that offers us hope, not any one facet as is so often claimed (Figure 2).


I believe integral science can crystallize integral society by uniting many existing fragments of reform into one, intelligible whole. Unlike traditional paradigm shifts that offer single-field proscriptions, integral science mobilizes the entire grassroots movement by providing a framework that helps each of us organize and make sense of what we already know.

Together, the million silent saviors and the integrated new science form the single greatest hope for surviving our times--a unified, motivated mass of grassroots people with a solidly grounded vision and a keen new sense of direction. My goal in life, therefore, is to arm the quiet heroes in each field with this clarifying and unifying framework so that they can organize themselves. This is the first in a series of books and articles aimed at that end. Five other books written by colleagues address business, education, medicine, the perennial philosophy and sustainability, respectively. The purpose of each is to help reformers see how integral logic can unite fragments of insight and effort in their field into a powerful whole. This article summarizes how the integral framework radically revises our understanding of today's transformation including why it is happening and where it is headed.


Integrating integral science starts by expanding our thinking, particularly in the realm of evolution. Thus, while web-thinking is already a cliche in ecosystems and as computer networks, to unify discoveries from physics to anthropology requires a scientifically sound explanation of why various facets connect, including why the cosmos really is a web and what laws guide its operation. The only theory capable of showing such connections is a story of evolution. To link physics and anthropology, however, the term 'evolution' must now be writ large. Genes and survival of the fittest are not enough to explain either the origins of life or the latest cycles of civilization. Instead, the new story of evolution must see both life and civilization as outcomes of a much older, more pervasive process.

This evolutionary process must be based on natural dynamics of the physical world, yet it must also explain why human beings use worldviews to shape their societies or it won't be useful to psychologists or anthropologists. It must fit all the known facts of various fields while, apropos of a web worldview, explaining why developmental change is wound up with the connected nature of the cosmos. The theory of evolution that accomplishes all this is called variously General Evolution (Laszlo, 1987), Cosmic Evolution (Chaisson, 2001) and Dynamic Evolution (Goerner, 1999). I will use this last (Figure 3).


This expanded view is based on a deep understanding of how energy and the natural 'web' dynamics of an interwoven universe creates the order and organization that we see all around us. Since the entire tapestry of creation is the natural product of energy flow, our cosmos follows universal energy laws. The texture of creation is also shaped by web dynamics, the pull and push of feedback loops, linkages and interdependencies of all kinds. Because web dynamics weave intricate order into every fiber, our cosmos also exhibits universal patterns that repeat at all levels of existence. Analogies are easy to find because energy flow and web dynamics create regular patterns across the entire cosmic span. Sound analogies actually reflect universal patterns and principles at work.

Furthermore, because energy provides the basis for information, intelligence and learning become natural parts of the physical world. Because energy also drives self-organization, dynamic theory leads to a vision of mind and body that are not only integrated, but which co-evolve into fractally nested, collaborative learning systems (Figure 4). The upshot is a physical explanation of why human societies are collaborative learning systems that follow natural laws and exhibit universal patterns of development. Here, the fact that worldviews shape human behavior makes perfect sense, as does the idea that society's structure, culture and consciousness co-evolve.


Thus, ironically, after years of linking fragments of web science into a evolutionary whole, I now believe that the insight that will finally break mechanism's grip is not web-thinking per se, but the vision of a learning universe that emerges from it. This learning universe lens recasts our sense of human kind from the current 'self-centered species' of Darwinian dreams to a collaborative learning society that thrives by pooling information, building better mental maps and rearranging our lives in kind. As this rigorous, powerful and hopeful understanding takes root, it will reshape everything we do--not by providing a laundry list of 'to dos', but by teaching us how to learn as a civilization.

The next section's goal is to show, simply and concretely, how dynamic evolution leads to literal understanding of humankind as a collaborative learning society that must periodically rethink its worldview to survive. While the physical side of this story is primarily about energy, I believe the best way to explain the human relevance is by giving all three threads of evolution equal footing. They are: (Figure 5)


* structure, natural patterns of organizational growth and development;

* intelligence (mind), as an integral thread throughout life;

* collaboration, as the main avenue by which living systems survive and become more complex.


According to dynamic theory, evolution proceeds in vast stages, each of which involves energy flow creating a new level of organization by fusing smaller bits. For instance, during the Big Bang, energy condensed into the first subatomic particles that, in turn, fused into atoms, molecules, gas, dust, galaxies and stars which baked even bigger molecules. The recipe for life was similar. The fiery conditions of early earth created a bubbling vat of chemical soup which gave rise to chemical hyper-cycles that coalesced into the precursors of life--metabolism, membranes, amino acids, etc. These precursors eventually combined to form the first living cells which eventually joined together to form multicellular organisms, which eventually joined to form families, herds and societies. Researchers call this overall pattern of simpler units combining into more complex wholes increasing complexity. It has been documented from the first moments of the universe down to the latest cycles of civilizations.

Illya Prigogine made energy's penchant for driving organization into being famous in the 1970s by documenting the underlying process. This process, called self-organization, can be seen in a simple fluid experiment called the Benard cell or, more colloquially, boiling water. So, imagine a container with water in it. When you turn up the heat, the water molecules begin moving faster and faster until they quite literally cannot go any faster in their current pattern of random collisions. Since the system can go no faster (i.e., it has reached a limit), but heat (energy) still pushes it on, a crisis sets in. The system becomes unstable and more sensitive to perturbations. This context allows little bits of naturally occurring diversity to have a new effect. In this case, little pockets of relatively hot molecules that have been coming together and moving apart all along, begin to float upward (because they are lighter and more buoyant than their surroundings). Eventually one pocket rises all the way to the top, loses its heat and sinks back down, pulling other molecules in its wake. This motion triggers a change. The entire region erupts into a coherent, circular motion (Figure 6).


In self-organization, energy pressing to flow faster produces a new form of organization to accomplish the task. This process demonstrates several key energy principles. We see, for instance, that self-organization requires three basic elements:

* pressure caused by an energy build-up (a gradient or a 'pool');

* diversity, naturally occurring differences that open a path to a new pattern of organization;

* a complete circuit (a whole path) along which energy can flow.

Self-organization also follows a standard S-curve cycle of development. (Figure 1 shows this cycle in a societal case.) In stage one, diversity taps an energy pool and coalesces into an upstart organization. Successful upstarts grow rapidly by pulling in energy but, in the beginning, their diminutive size also makes them fragile and easily ruined. If the upstart survives its infancy, it grows into the solid adult phase. The challenge here is to build enough infrastructure to handle demand and enough energy reserves to weather normal ups and downs. Unfortunately, inertia also grows with size. Eventually all patterns of organization reach their limit and enter the dinosaur stage. The organization has lots of momentum, but less and less ability to respond to changing times inside or outside itself.

As growth stretches the bonds that hold the system together, the system enters a period I call 'the fragility zone'. On the positive side, this new fragility makes the system more susceptible to small nudges that would never have budged it before. Thus, the fragility zone represents a window of opportunity because some of these nudges represent diversity attempting to bubble into a new way. If an appropriate alternative takes root, the system will reorganize and enter a more intricate stage of life and a new curve of development. Unfortunately, if an appropriate bubble doesn't open a new pattern, then the system will reach the top of the S-curve where the crisis becomes acute. This leads to the downside of fragility, as seen in super-purified fluids. If one removes all the impurities from a liquid, one also removes all the natural seed crystals of change. When a super-purified fluid reaches the crisis point, it explodes.

So, while pressure pushes a system to change, evolution doesn't always go forward. If any of the elements of self-organization are capped or suppressed, then pressure will turn the top of the curve from a learning opportunity into calamity and possibly demise.

The Benard cell also shows how pressure creates a recurrent cycle of development. Hence, our story of boiling water also isn't over. If the fire is still high, the whole process will repeat. Molecules will move faster in the new circular motion until they can go no faster. The system becomes unstable and some quirk of natural diversity will seed a new, faster cycle. The system will reorganize itself into a more 'intricate' pattern, something like a Figure '8'. We say the pattern is more intricate because it consists of smaller, tighter, interlinked circles of flow. Table 1 shows that the connection between intricacy of organization and speed of energy flow holds across evolution, from the massive swirl of the Milky Way to the concentrated intricacy which is the human brain.


The push toward intricacy teaches us that 'it's not how big you grow, it's how you grow big'. Nature prefers small circles because they are tighter, which makes them faster. Furthermore, as an organization gets bigger the bonds holding the system together also become strained until the system finally reaches a breaking point (literally). The only way to grow past this point is to break into smaller circles that then reconnect. Add nature's tendency to go through cycles of getting bigger by keeping small groups bound up in an ever-growing meshwork of connective tissue and you see why intricacy is nature's definition of smart growth. Like a lace tablecloth, an ecology's strength and resilience come from keeping energy flowing through millions of small circles bound in fractal nests in an ever-growing meshwork of connective tissue.


Evolution's second great thread, intelligence, also rises from energy, this time in the guise of information. The self-organizing side of energy produced the basic cellular framework--metabolism, membranes and amino acids. Yet, the first living cells were strikingly different from their non-living precursors because they had to find food to survive. Thus, the most obvious difference between living organisms and non-living organizations like chemical networks is that non-living organizations are tied to their energy source. Take heat away, for instance, and water stops boiling. Take away a living organism's energy source (food), however, and it will search for another.

In dynamic theory, intelligence started with the first cells finding food by responding appropriately to incoming information. The metabolic activity taking place inside these early cells gave them enough energy to move, but to find food cells also had to respond to hints in the environment about where food might be located. These hints originally came from little trails of patterned energy, perhaps a few photons of light (seeing) or a few energized chemical molecules like those we now perceive as 'smell'. Yet, responding to these little prompts amounts to responding to information, a hallmark of intelligence! Over time, such behavior gave rise to the kind of self-directedness we see in ourselves. Understanding energy's role, however, shows how bodily processes like metabolism and mental ones such as response to information were always linked. Observing the primal unity between responding appropriately to information and survival, biologists Umberto Maturana and Francisco Varela summed up the situation succinctly: 'To live is to cognize.'


Forming the third great thread of evolution, collaboration within and between species plays two distinct but equally important roles. Symbiotic collaboration forms the connective tissue in ecosystems and it is the major means by which living organisms become more complex. Let us start with connective tissue.

For 50 years a small but solid cadre of biologists have been pointing out that collaboration is everywhere. The simplest forms occur when living organisms of the same or different species develop lifestyle arrangements that help both organisms thrive. Bees, for example, cross-pollinate and many types of plants cannot live without them. Microbes live in the digestive systems of most higher animals, where they are crucial in breaking down food. Baboons and gazelles congregate for safety because baboons have superior vision, gazelles have superior smell, and each species responds to the other's warnings. Then there is cleaning. The tickbird cleans the rhinoceros, egrets clean various cattle, and dust mites eat dander from humans and pets that would otherwise fill up your house. These forms of symbiosis complete life cycles, move necessary material from one organism to another, and provide the veins by which energy circulates through the web of life.

Yet, collaboration can also turns into something more. Occasionally cooperative enclaves become so entwined that they meld into a unified, larger organism. The Portuguese man-of-war, for example, looks like a single jellyfish, but it is actually a highly coordinated enclave whose member cells have taken on specialist tasks. In other words, the man-of-war's life functions--feeding, breathing, moving, etc.--are performed by specialist cells working as tentacles, gills, guts, etc.

Thus, Lynn Margulis (1981) of Boston University and a number of other biologists now believe that new, more complex forms of life most often emerged from previously independent life forms that took on specialist roles in a larger, more complex, integrated organism. The first nucleated cells (eucaryotes), for example, appear to be a fusion of simpler non-nucleated (prokaryotic) bacteria. Similarly, land plants probably emerged from the symbiotic coupling of lichens and photosynthetic bacteria living at the edge of ponds. Hence, the dynamic process of smaller parts combining to form bigger wholes continued in biology, but here it is called 'serial endosymbiosis'.

In both the strong and weak form of symbiosis, working together for mutual benefit is more than just a nice way to be. In fact, every living organism depends on millions of other organisms linked in a vast circulating web that passes matter and energy between and among them all. This is true both within and between organisms at all levels of existence. Thus, if the various specialist cells in your body didn't work together for the greater good, then you would die very rapidly indeed.

This basic fact of ecological life leads to a very different definition of evolutionary fitness. While looking out for number one is crucial in the moment, to survive long term each organism must also take care of the larger web as well. Hence, as Ulanowicz (1986) puts it, in an ecological world an organism's long-term fitness is measured by its ability to play a coherent role in the web of processes. The other way to understand this is that self-interest only works when it also serves the greater good of the entire web.


It is now time to see how these three threads work in tandem to create the promised path to humankind as a collaborative leaning society. The basic premise is this. After the first intelligent reactions began, natural selection played an obvious role in progress thereafter because every chance improvement of intelligence enhances survival by definition. Yet, as living organisms became more complex, another issue also came to bear. This one has to do with the importance of maintaining collaboration amidst the complexities of growth.

For instance, the first single-celled organisms processed information alone, but collaboration requires communication. Thus, the specialist cells that make up a multicellular organism must send signals to one another in order to stay in sync. If they don't, the organism dies. For instance, if you are a caveman chasing a rabbit for dinner, your lung cells must know what your leg cells are doing because running requires energy which requires more oxygen for metabolism (this is why we breathe faster when we run). Cells coordinate their activities by exchanging chemical and electrical signals and limbs; lungs etc. can only do their job properly when signals are timely and correct. If lungs don't get signals from legs, they won't breathe in more oxygen, which means metabolism can't speed up, which means the legs won't get enough energy to catch the rabbit. Our caveman starves. Thus, failure to communicate properly inside leads to death just as fast as failure to perceive what's going on outside.

Hence, in an organism built of collaborating cells, growing apart is deadly. Yet dynamic theory tells us that growth always leads to pulling apart. Consequently, the pressure to stay collaboratively connected has played a major role in increasing intelligence from nerves to brains to civilization.

For instance, since the first multicellulars were small, communication was easy because all their cells were either touching or in close proximity. Unfortunately, since signals dissipate over distance, as bodies grew bigger internal cells began to lose touch with each other (literally). Specialist cells began to fall out of sync. Because breakdowns in communication are deadly, the evolutionary pressures grew. No doubt, many organisms died as collaboration began to fail. Others stopped growing and settled into a safe niche. Yet, eventually, through some quirk of diversity, some organisms developed a new way of staying cooperatively connected. A new type of specialist cell emerged whose job was to carry signals between distant groups. We call them nerves (Figure 7).


Nerves allowed organisms to grow more sophisticated in mind as well as body. Living organisms with nerves became vastly more complex because new cellular specialties could develop and still stay in sync. Still, evolution was not through. In simple forms of life, such as the giant sea slug, a single nerve cell often serves a whole organism. But as life became more complex, the same pattern of growth and crisis played out again. As bodies grew bigger, collaboration began to fail. Pressure to stay connected grew.

At first, nerve cells multiplied, forming multilane information highways, as it were. Nerve highways brought signals from all over and spread information throughout. Where nerves overlapped, signals from many directions intermingled. At dense cross-roads, a new kind of cell began to emerge: a brain cell.

Positioned atop a cross-roads with information pouring in from many directions, the information brain cells received was rich and multidimensional. As a result, they began to respond to extremely subtle patterns in complex streams of energy (information) which, in fact, meant they were beginning to respond to conglomerate pictures. Complex pictures helped the brain's owner make complex choices by showing how any bit of information fit in a larger whole. For example, an organism with a brain is able to see that food and a predator means something different than food alone. As brains learned to synthesize ever more complex pictures, the nuances of how bits 'fit' grew complex indeed.

The genius of brains is that staying connected and 'in sync' produced a whole new stage of evolution. Sitting astride mixing centers allowed brains to coordinate incredibly complex response patterns involving all parts of the body. Thus, brains are what brought life out of the ooze and allowed multicellular organisms to locomote with legs and fins. Organisms with brains became great sorters of information who chose paths based on subtle patterns.

Freed from knee-jerk responses, animals with brains began to explore the world, learning lots of new lessons as they went. These lessons were not stored in genes, of course. They were stored in the brain of the beholder, in neural circuits etched by experience. Storing lessons in the brain allowed organisms to learn faster and to learn without having to die. Mind-like behaviors also began to take the forms we associate with minds today--choices, contexts, significance, meaning. Learning, adaptation and survival all flourished with this wondrous new invention, the brain.

Still, the brain did not become the sole arbiter of intelligence nor the controller of everything underneath. This is a machine-age image. Instead, nature built new levels of intelligence while keeping the old. Local cells don't just send information to the brain and wait to be told what to do. Most bodily responses are handled locally and a lot of processing is done at various stages from bottom to top. Processing information at lower levels increases the speed and often the appropriateness of the response.

Thus, mind and body are not only integrated, intelligence is actually distributed in nested subgroups, all the way down to the cellular level. Each level has its own type of intelligence and its own functions. Each actively communicates with many other groups without waiting for the brain. The whole thing appears to work on a subsidiarity principle once used by the medieval church, namely, 'decisions are made at the lowest level possible'. This kind of 'holographic' organization is crucial. Without it, life would be too slow and inept to survive.

In an integral view, therefore, mind and body are both built on a fractal principle of groups working within groups working within groups. Everything is social and communication is crucial. Since each system consists of communicating organisms working together, neurophysiologist Walter Freeman calls them societies of mind. A brain is a society of mind which is integrated into a larger ecology of knowledge called the body, which is organized into smaller working groups, like lungs and liver. Information flows through the whole binding many parts into one. Other common names for such systems are collaborative learning systems or knowledge ecologies.

Increasing intelligence also did not stop with brains. Brains created a vast leap in intelligence, but the lessons stored in brains were lost when the individual who owned the brain died. The next great evolutionary leap came with the ability to preserve lessons by passing them between individuals and across generations. The two big agents here were signaling and role modeling. As life progressed, animals began to congregate in families and herds because cooperation helped individuals survive, often by working together, communicating and learning as a whole. Thus, signaling between animals evolved for the same reasons cellular communication did. Whether a honey-bee dancing directions to a cache of nectar or a deer signaling the approach of a predator, communication between members of a group is a time-honored way for individuals to survive better by working together. Modeling added an important second piece. When young animals observe and mimic the behaviors of older animals, they are actually learning appropriate responses gleaned from years of experience. The combination of signaling and modeling allowed learning accumulated from many members to be preserved over very long periods of time. The whole herd was now working on patterns of perceiving and acting. The herd was also learning faster and more thoroughly as many individuals added their unique experiences.

In human societies the pattern blossomed into truly awesome forms. We communicate by speaking. We preserve lessons by writing. We collect information from billions of human beings over tremendous stretches of time and we process it using huge machines as well as billions of brains. This means global civilization is a vast 'society of mind'--a budding planetary brain, if you will.

We have just arrived at the promised new view of human societies. What is most unique about human beings is that, as a collective, we gather, digest and apply information to help us survive and prosper like no other species. This is our evolutionary strategy. We are not swift of foot, sharp of tooth or clever in niche finding. We pool information and we are very good at discerning patterns. We then change our behavior as we change our beliefs. Worldviews, scientific theories and cultural milieus are all a product of this process. Our survival and prosperity depend directly on our collective intelligence and our ability to keep on adaptively reinventing our ways in the face of an ever-changing world.

In short, humankind bet its survival on behavioral flexibility and the pursuit of better pictures. In the process, we gained dominance of the earth. And, the single most overlooked fact is that now, as in the primordial past, creating better ways of knowing is a profoundly social event.


The tight links between intelligence, collaboration, self-organization and intricate structure lead to a new definition of social fitness as diversity bound in symbiosis and intricately organized for social learning. Diversity--individual talents in all their quirkiness, subtlety and glory--are needed to fill niches and find new ways. Yet, while diverse individuals must be free to find their niche, they must also be committed to mutual benefit (symbiosis) if the overall system is to work as it should. Intricate organization is needed within symbiosis for robust flow of resources and information, and for the maintenance of strong, natural bonds. The resulting ability to learn is necessary to keep pace with a changing world.

The deep question for human survival is: 'How well are doing at this form of fitness?' The answer lies in the later stages of human social development and why we are stuck in our current adolescent stage.

Dynamic theory also applies to the evolution of human societies, of course. In this view, social evolution has most likely proceeded through a series of S-shaped cycles of pressure, response, limit, crisis, reframing and rebirth. Because societies are energy webs, all their facets--economic focus, social structures, political systems, religious beliefs and mainstay technologies--tend to co-evolve in slow, sloshing steps, punctuated by periodic crescendos. Major new stages stand on the shoulders of older ones that recede, but never fully go away. In this way, human systems become more complex while at the same time preserving the main lessons of earlier ages.

From this perspective, our current transformation is but one of many evolutionary cycles, some much larger and some much smaller. Over the eons, this evolutionary process has pushed humankind as a whole through at least four major stages. Spanning over a million years of evolution, these stages are as follows (Figure 8).


Loose, foraging, pods ~2 million BC to 100,000 BC--The earliest hominid groups roamed the countryside in loose bands. These early humans probably developed shared meaning easily in the course of constant contact, despite the fact that, judging by jaw development, they probably did not have complex speech.


Organized hunting/gathering bands ~75,000 BC to 20,000 BC--From Neanderthal through Cro-Magnon, speech, tools and complex patterns of cooperative behavior began to co-evolve rapidly. The most notable of these new patterns was the organized hunting band. Like wolf packs, humans began to work together to capture their prey. Unlike wolves, human bands made increasingly elaborate plans such as herding animals over cliffs or into traps.

Partnership Villages

Trading, agriculture and specialist professions ~18,000 BC to 4000 BC--By 18,000 BC, human groups in the Indus valley, Old Europe and the Near East began to settle down in one spot. They also began to trade with other groups, to take on specialist professions and to grow their own food. This so-called 'agricultural revolution' produced the first villages and most of the mainstays of civilization, including domesticated animals, crafts from weaving to metallurgy, and technologies such as wheels, boats, looms, plows and writing. New social specialties from policeman to priest emerged along with the first laws. Where hunting bands had been led by a chieftain, now collaborative councils became the main governing body.

These first civilized societies appear to have been highly creative and relatively peaceful for understandable reasons. People who live by growing and trading cultivate harmony among themselves and the larger world because they need each other and the world. Thus, anthropologist Riane Eisler (1988) calls them partnership societies. She lists their characteristics as follows:

* Social relationships were cooperative and there was a solid sense of being in the world together. Roles differed but they were definitely more egalitarian than exploitative.

* Since everyone worked, the fruits of the earth were seen as belonging to all.

* Land and major means of production were held in common.

* Social power was viewed as a responsibility, a trusteeship used for the benefit of all.

* People worshipped the life force at work in the world.

This partnership mode of civilization arose in several places in relatively similar time frames. Some such as the Indic and Minoan cultures eventually reached vast complexity, with paved roads, irrigation works, tiled baths, fine art, etc.


War-based, hierarchical civilization ~3000 BC to present--Somewhere around 4000 BC partnership culture was replaced by the hierarchical system we use today. Early city states like Sumer, which had once operated on partnership principles, became increasingly devoted to war as a means of conquest and subjugation (empire-building). The entire structure of society changed in suit. The main inventions here were kings, classes, bureaucracy, taxes, professional armies, slavery and the subjugation of women. Eisler calls this dominator culture (I will also call it imperialist society). She lists its main characteristics as:

* a hierarchical social structure dominated by strong-man elites;

* a central focus on war and militarism;

* private ownership of land and means of production;

* accumulation of wealth for status;

* coercive social power including slavery, human sacrifice;

* the reduction of women and children to the property of men;

* the worship of violent, vengeful Gods, usually through a bureaucratic priesthood directed by an autocratic head, often the king himself.


Anthropologists can only speculate about the pressures that drove these various transitions but the new logic is easy to apply. For example, new beginnings are often fueled by 'energy pools' such as plentiful game and crises occur when the ensuing pattern of life reaches a limit or constraint. Less obviously, social transformations are also driven by the old rule that growth periodically pulls organizations apart.

Thus, the evolution of social systems bears a striking resemblance to the evolution of nerves because human groups also depend on cooperation and, as in biology, growing apart makes communication difficult. Early hunting bands, like the first multicellular organisms, for instance, would have developed shared understandings easily in the course of constant, close contact. The early partnership enclaves would also have developed strong shared beliefs because the early villages were small.

As villages burgeoned into cities, however, the old close weave unraveled and cohesion became harder and harder to maintain. Many anthropologists believe that the hierarchical social structure still dominant today was pushed into being by the ensuing crisis. Thus, sprawling, poorly knit agrarian villages would have been easy prey for marauding tribes envious of their wealth. Unable to act together, many would have simply died out. Others survived by inventing a new means of maintaining coordination. Thus, a king with a bureaucracy serves the same role as a brain and nervous system: they help a complex collective act as a fast-moving, highly coordinated, far-seeing whole. One man deciding for all and using an efficient system of enforcement allowed societies to mobilize rapidly for defense. Sitting atop a hierarchy with information flowing up from all sides also helped people at the top build a more coherent broad picture.

Still, the imperialistic type of hierarchy humans use is quite different from nature's usual kind. The nervous system, for instance, is hierarchical but it relies on distributed intelligence and subsidiarity--decisions are handled at the lowest level possible and most processing is done at the bottom. Furthermore, the head of the body's hierarchy, the brain, is a servant of the whole. It coordinates, communicates and develops a big picture solely to aid the greater good. Civilization, on the other hand, uses coercive hierarchies based on elitism, privilege, exploitation, coercion and top-down control. Far from being servants, the heads of such hierarchies regularly sacrifice the lives and needs of workers for elite power-lust and greed.

Why did our ancestors invent such a system and why haven't we learned our way out of it yet? While learning is our saving grace, our species also has a clear tendency to stay locked in status quo patterns long past their time. There are some natural reasons for this. For example, in the early hunting days, the best hunters would likely have been elevated first to leaders and then to heroes for their ability to track and kill the needed game. Ideal guides for developing ever more complex hunting gambits, these men would have been saviors of their societies--right up to the point where the game died out completely. At this point, however, the tribe needed people who could think outside the 'hunting' box. Alas, adored for a skill that no longer served, the head hunters would be the least likely to envision a change such as putting little seeds in the ground in order to grow food. Their usual response would be to squelch the crazy farmers and push harder on new hunting techniques because that is what worked in the past.

Imperialist societies also face an additional obstacle to learning because their leaders usually have a vested economic interest in ways that are parasitic, not symbiotic. Anthropologist Robert Carneiro (1987) believes that these exploitative/ subjugative aspects of civilization grew from imperialism, which in turn grew from pressures caused by constrained space. Fitting dynamic theory perfectly, Carneiro's theory starts with the observation that hierarchical civilizations originally emerged in regions with desirable land but constrained space, such as the Tigris-Euphrates, the Indus and the Huang Ho river valleys and the mountainous valleys of Peru. Evidence suggests that the earliest societies in these regions began as peaceful partnership enclaves, but as populations swelled the desirable land filled and social patterns shifted with a jolt. While early villagers were generally peaceful, they no doubt also quarreled with their neighbors from time to time. Still, as long as land was plentiful, if a fight was particularly bloody, a tribe might simply pick up and leave. As populations grew, however, moving ceased to be an option. So, as the desirable land filled, the goal of war began to change from revenge and prestige to controlling space (land).

At first, crowded tribes probably tried to annihilate their opponents, thus eliminating threat and opening up new land. Eventually, however, someone concocted the idea of subjugation. A defeated village was allowed to remain on its land, but its people were forced to become slaves (servants) of the victor. The most successful warriors were then given the task of administering the new areas. They mobilized work groups from the now plentiful slaves and used them to build roads, irrigation works and fortresses. These administrators also collected tribute (later called taxes) that allowed them to concentrate community wealth and apply it in focused ways. Since warlords (later called aristocrats) made their money by coercion at home and conquest abroad, they tended to pour community resources into the 'war for profit' game. The result was a punctuated pattern of increasing complexity from chiefdoms to kingdoms to empires--all of it made possible by coercive hierarchy's amazing ability to mobilize masses and concentrate resources.

In short, conquerors made themselves kings and created bureaucracies and classes to manage the people they enslaved. The result was a system designed to concentrate power in the hands of a few and to encourage those few to pursue selfish interests regardless of the cost to those below. A thousand now familiar human habits emerged and insinuated themselves in the human psyche. Among them was the now famous antagonism between elite interests and what is best for grassroots workers. Since administrative classes lived off the work of others, they constantly pressured the lower classes to produce more, often using cruelty and coercion to do so. Because power is concentrated in the hands of the few, however, this pattern of selfish interest over common cause has been very hard to stop.


So, the imperialist form of civilization rose through subjugation and we keep it because coercive hierarchies mobilize masses and concentrate power much more effectively than the small partnership societies they overran. Then too, imperialist thinking has spread like a cultural virus, for obvious reasons. Societies that want to survive either develop warrior hierarchies of their own or else succumb to subjugation. Yet, societies that are coercively controlled and internally conflicted do not learn very well. Think of Nero fiddling while Rome burned or Marie Antionette saying 'let them eat cake'. Consequently, though imperialist culture proclaims itself the central tenet of evolution and the main source of progress, imperialist societies are actually famous for grandiose rises followed by disastrous declines (an S-curve cycle). The typical cycle shown in Figure 9 comes from a complexity study group headed by British archaeologist Sir Colin Renfrew. As befits integral theory, the end appears as a snowball of interlinked crises that either ends the society outright or greatly reduces its power.


Stage 1: Common-Cause Upsurge

The typical cycle begins with a relatively egalitarian partnership society whose population is growing mostly in the countryside and small cities. These communities start off tightly bound for reasons of mutual need, as, for instance, banding together against external threat (invaders) or simply because working together makes everyone's life better. Societies that become great also have what Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorotkin calls a 'spiritual spur', meaning an inspiring, common-cause philosophy that points to a higher purpose to which people willingly dedicate their lives. This spiritual spur is usually a partnership premise that encourages everyone to work for the greater good.

Stage 2: Growth Spurt and Golden Age

Stage 2 begins with a leap in urban population. The society's spiritual spur seems to be paying off. Rivals are conquered, threat reduced, and a golden age of relative peace, prosperity and creativity ensues.

Stage 3: Social Evolution Heavily Shaped by Powerful Elites

In Stage 3, urban populations bulge as city wealth and opportunity attract more peasants. As the population swells, however, social distance grows. Communities splinter and elites become increasingly separate from the commoners they theoretically protect. Elites also become more powerful as taxes increase to cover the cost of war (bastions, armaments and retainers). More wealth moving up the ladder then tends to increase ostentation and a desire for more in the upper classes which, in turn, creates yet new means of extracting wealth from workers. Money also increases power by buying arms, henchmen, influence, property, slaves and soldiers loyal only to the noble and increasing power leads to more influence and more self-service. The cycle accelerates as powerful elites begin to recast social beliefs in a way that serves their own interests, but not the common good.

Stage 4: Worldliness and Greed (Self-Absorbed Elites and Rapid Decline)

By late Stage 3, concentration of power and dwindling sense of community lead to an elite class that is out of touch with its own people. Suffering from tax burdens and other abuses, the quality of peasant life begins to plummet. Increasingly obsessed with the moves of their rivals, elites also fortify their power with complex webs of strategic alliances. Arms races blossom as local elites become increasingly concerned with defending and controlling their markets and keeping rivals at bay. To impress and defend, elites pour money into big armies, impressive castles and impressive adornments which symbolize their power. They pour money into pay-off schemes, like bread and circuses, which help salve local discontent. Elite well-being climbs sharply, while lower-class well-being drops precipitously. Overworked land fails. Famines and floods increase. Yeomen farmers lose their lands and the middle class evaporates. Wealthy lords buy small farms and create vast plantations run by slave labor. Powerful elites use their influence to pass more laws that favor themselves. Punishments for the lower class become harsher while pay-offs to the wealthy class becomes more pronounced. New conquests are used to bolster elite power and to compensate for the failing home ecology. Soon the snowballing series of interlinked crises begin to roll. Elites become so embroiled in their rivalries that they bleed their home system until it crumbles.

Renfrew's study group lists the signs of failing times as follows:

* Elite power and well-being increase and are manifested in displays of wealth. Castles and palaces rise in the times of kings, churches in the times of faith, and commercial buildings and private homes in the times of imperialistic business.

* Ecological disasters increase as greed and short-term focus push ravenous exploitation of resources. Forests are razed, land is worked to exhaustion and floods and famine ensue. Having exhausted local resources, elites seek conquest and exploitation farther and farther afield.

* There is an increasing gap between the haves and have-nots. The middle class shrinks and banana republic numbers blossom, with the top 1% of the population often controlling 8090% of the wealth.

* The quality of life drops for most people. The misery index mushrooms--witnessed by homicide, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and increasingly senseless and horrific internal violence. Outbreaks of disease become more massive and virulent as malnutrition, overcrowding and poor hygiene increase. Lifespan decreases.

* Elites become heavily focused on maintaining a monopoly on power inside the society. Laws become more advantageous to elites. Privileges become more pronounced and penalties more violent.

* The sense of belonging to a community diminishes. Patronage arrangements replace social and economic systems that were previously based on common cause. Cynicism about the honesty and intent of major social and political institutions grows.

* There is a resurgence of conservatism and fundamentalist religions. As signs of crumbling begin to grow, elites attempt to bring back the society's golden theory in order to ward off disaster. Unfortunately, the theory is usually in a corrupted form that serves primarily to preserve status-quo power relationships.

* The system becomes much harder to manage. Long-standing social patterns end. Chaotic dynamics emerge, marked by wild and unexpected social and economic swings.

We have come to the stuff of which class warfare is made. The golden age wanes as founding theory conflicts with daily reality at ever increasing turns. By late Stage 4 elites begin to see that something is wrong, but this discovery usually happens too late and their efforts are too haphazard. Many elites, fully believing their own propaganda, push harder on old ways--more control, more coercion, more discipline! These conservative remedies usually contribute to descent instead of countering it. Like lead hunters, elites push harder on failing ways because these worked well for them in the now outdated regime.

Stage 4 is not inevitable, just common, as are the other phases of the cycle. This cycle has played out in classical Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Valley of Mexico, middle and late Roman Antiquity, early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms and China, to mention a few. It appears to be playing out today.

What happens to imperialist civilizations? Destroyed social root system? Fragmentation and fraying bonds? Competition, concentrated power and greed among the few? Yes! The end of an advanced imperialist society is usually a complex affair in which everything seems to go wrong at once. Ecological disasters such as dustbowls and flooding meet social disasters such as epidemics, riots and malnutrition. So, the actual answer to 'what goes wrong' is: everything. Structurally speaking, however, the cause is fragility. Underneath elite self-praise, the society's natural and human ecology are growing ever more brittle.

Integral logic also adds a bit more detail. Thus, dynamic evolution suggests that social fitness is a matter of unique individuals bound in symbiosis and intricately organized for social learning. Because societies are part of the broader web of life, they must also live in harmony with the rest of creation upon which all life depends. From the integral perspective, therefore, sustainability stands on four legs:

1. Ecological fitness: Harmony with the natural world.

2. Collaborative fitness: Harmony in human relationships. Widespread dedication to common cause is necessary because civilization is a collaboration in which each of us depends on our fellows.

3. Structural stability: Well-knit social fabric. If social intricacy isn't sufficient to support a sound civil society, then the society will be prone to dysfunction and collapse.

4. Social intelligence: The ability to learn in the face of changing times and from one's own mistakes. Learning depends on nurturing new ideas bubbling up on the fringe and leaders that see evolution and collective well-being as part of their job.

Imperialist societies fail on all four counts. They ravage the natural and human ecologies; they breed inequity, injustice and betrayal; they grow fragile by growing apart while massively concentrating resources in the hands of a few; they become entrenched and socially stupid because of all of the above.


I've come the long way around to demonstrate a simple truth. While there will always be individuals who violate their social contract, one only gets a major crisis when the culture itself encourages malfeasance. Imperialist culture does exactly this. Because it grew out of conquest and subjugation, it pits concentrated power against the grassroots societies, at home and abroad. Imperialism is not a genetic trait, nor is it the sole province of men, whites or any given nation. It is a cultural system replete with supportive social structures, beliefs, training and plans.

Modern society's deepest problem, therefore, is not the machine metaphor, but the imperialist metaphor that lies underneath it. Imperialism encourages everyone to view life through the lens of 'war for profit'. Because coercive hierarchies concentrate wealth exploitatively, even societies that start with a spiritual spur eventually devolve into the usual corruption. Modernity's unique contribution has been to force the war metaphor down to the personal level. America, in particular, has become a society of atomistic individuals, parties, classes and companies each scrapping for themselves.

So read the signs of failing times and weep. They apply to us. On the other hand, there is an up-side to this dismal situation. While imperialism now dominates the world, partnership never went away. As with all major stages, the earlier pattern simply receded to a background role. To this day, most societies are schizophrenic, with dominators taking the lion's share of reward for work produced by people who are still basically linkers. Underneath, in small corners and inspiring words, partnership mores are nurtured still.

Furthermore partnership has slowly pushed forward with periodic bursts. Even the most cursory scanning of history shows a series of back-and-forth sways with dominators trying to conquer and subjugate and partnership people trying to set up a society that is free and fraternal. Since fragility grows in lock-step with imperial grandiosity, reformers periodically find a window of opportunity and partnership principles gain new ground. Each new dawn is always spurred by a partnership dream. Early Greek democracy is an example of this, as is Rome's early Republic and early medieval Europe's vision of God's Design. The early American democracy with its huddled masses yearning to breathe free is a case in point, as is eastern Europe's recent struggle to restore democracy after 50 years of iron-fisted communist rule.

So, though domination seems monolithic, history actually reflects a long, oscillating struggle between our two deep cultures--with partnership slowly, but surely, moving back to the fore. Gandhi, Mandella, King and thousands of others have said it and the recent return of democracy in Eastern Europe and South Africa confirms it. Once upon a time, partnership was at the center of human societies and eventually it will return.


Modernity, like all societies for the past 5000 years, actually contains both sides of the equations. Unfortunately, thanks to coercive hierarchies that concentrate power among a few self-serving folk, we are now facing a classic choice. We can relearn partnership ways and live--or cling to imperialist beliefs and die. Which way will we choose? Today's concentration of power is immense, but grassroots frustration is tremendous. We seem locked in a self-destructive tumble, yet learning has begun in countless fields. The human and natural ecologies are already fragile, yet the Internet connects us and integral science now shows how various pieces fit.

Beneath these competing trends, the integral science now reveals magnificent opportunity in the making. All three evolutionary threads are coming to crisis in a nexus of massive proportions. Structure, collaboration and new ways of thinking are all making way for new partnership day. If we pass the impending test, then the integral age may represent not only the end of modernity's 400-year cycle, but also the end of imperialism's 5000-year reign.

The crisis brewing in our institutional structures is easy to see. Coercive hierarchies have been developing new ways of maintaining control for thousands of years, but the frenzied pace and vast complexity of modern society are now forcing a change. We all know the problems. The larger and more conventional the organization, the more information is lost on the long dissipating trip, up and down the chain. A few people at the top can no longer manage the complexity of the whole and the pace of change is too rapid to wait. Bonds break vertically and the top becomes effectively disconnected from the bottom. Absurdity is common. So is disproportional gain and, with it, tremendous resentment. Distributed authority would increase speed, initiative and intelligence, but most modern hierarchies still use command-and-control principles instead of subsidiarity. As a result, coercive hierarchies are now breaking down on all sides. Big companies remove mounds of people flesh and work piles up on ever more skeletal frames in a process the Wall Street Journal calls 'corporate anorexia'. Even countries such as the old Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have broken into smaller, more closely knit clans.

The burgeoning interest in collaborative learning suggests a partnership return is gathering momentum. The explosion of NGOs (non-governmental service organizations) working for better social, political, economic and environmental ways signals the same. Today's partnership return swing, however, is also about to get a unprecedented boost from a unheralded economic shift brought to us by the information age.

While the idea that the computer networks now snaking the globe will provide the neurons of a planetary brain is important, there is a less mentioned but even more crucial implication. Because computers can keep track of mountains of information, they are opening the door to a radically new type of economy, namely, making money by high-quality, customization of goods and services. So, where high-volume industrialism drove prices, wages and quality down in a frenzied drive to make cheaper uniform goods, thanks to computers the best way to make money today is through quality customization. The fastest-growing truck, rail and air freight businesses, for instance, meet specialized needs for pickups and deliveries worldwide. The highest profits in software come from customizing services to particular businesses and individuals. The most profitable segment of steel-making is no longer in long runs of steel ingots, but in particular alloys with particular properties that serve particular needs such as heat resistance in turbines or flexibility in helicopter blades. Whether the industry is old or high-tech, service or manufacturing, the pattern is the same. The industries that are thriving in today's fast-paced world are shifting from mass production to serving unique needs. It is the computer's ability to handle vast amounts of information that makes this switch possible.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (1991) calls this a switch to high-value capitalism, which will replace high-volume industrialism as global civilization's central hub. In this simple and growing trend, all things change. High-value businesses are lucrative because customers are willing to pay a premium for goods or services that exactly meet their needs and because high-quality goods and services cannot easily be duplicated by cheap-labor competitors around the world. So, where mass production tends to spin white-hot into misery and gluttony, in high-value capitalism wages, quality, profit and society all stay sound as quality, integrity and innovation become the biggest differentiators in a vast economic web filled with an endless array of specialty slots.

This silent economic shift also holds a profound cultural implication. Where the high-volume factories of the 19th century demanded unthinking drones, now the high-value capitalists of the 21st century are rediscovering the benefits of high-quality human input. Because high-value companies thrive on creative collaborations, they form a powerful ally in the fight against imperialist culture. Old-time industrial workers were urged--even forced--to be blindly obedient. Customization, on the other hand, requires people who can rapidly envision and build new things. It requires diverse perspectives and fast, flexible collaborations because breakthroughs most often come from combining insights from different fields. Workers must be able to think critically and act responsibly with a great deal of autonomy because speed is of the essence. Consequently, high-value collaborations are no place for people who have a puffed-up sense of importance or who have a need to control. In short, where armies of obedient workers and their coercive overseers used to be central, soon human capital--the knowledge and creative skills of workers--will become the key to prosperity.

Power relationships change dramatically in high-value groups because, when one person attempts to own or control such creations, others are apt to jump ship to the detriment of all. In the future, therefore, real power will hinge on one's ability to positively aid the web, not on formal rank. Similarly, leadership will be witnessed by the ability to help others, not by an aptitude for manipulation, visibility and control. Since survival depends on empowering learning at all levels, all those traditional strategies of control and carrot-and-stick rewards will do more harm than good.

From an integral point of view, therefore, world civilization needs a new structural pattern because command-and-control hierarchies have major effectiveness problems. We need a new collaborative system because conquest, exploitation and subjugation are a bad way to do business in a globally entwined world. We need a new system of social intelligence because the pace is too fast and the world too complex to be run from the top down. Following the real laws of fitness would make us not only more sustainable but also more powerful.

Conversely, our brief tour of imperialist cycles suggests our survival depends on learning the lessons of history which say that social health, wealth and wisdom come, not from a self-centeredness and war, but from: (1) well-woven community webs (intricate structure); (2) high-integrity, egalitarian, partnership give-and-take (harmonious collaboration); and (3) an inspiring, common-cause vision that brings forth all that is latent within us by putting a premium on collaborative learning (true intelligence). In this way, integral logic helps us see exactly why the next pattern of civilization must be:

* more networked than hierarchical;

* more symbiotic and equitable than coercive and exploitative;

* more flexible and creative than rigid and controlling.


Systems science, having spawned similar thinking in other fields, can now come of age by joining hands with the entire clan. The united reforms that result provide a crystal-clear picture of where we need to go and much of what we need to do to get there. So, let me review.

Every culture tells itself a story about who human beings are, where we came from, and where we are going. Modernity's myth was grim and inaccurate; integral science improves our spirits and our understanding at the same time. Painting a picture of humanity built of and into energy flows, the real story is of a cosmic learning process with humanity as its cutting edge on earth. This scientific renaissance, with dynamic evolution as its backbone, tells us nothing we did not already know, it merely puts existing pieces into a brand new story. Figure 10 summarizes the switch.


First note that this new scientific worldview applies equally to all aspects of our world. The Integral Science Institute is developing books translating the implications for business, education, economics, medicine, sustainability and the perennial philosophy, to name a few. While the disciplinary details are unique for each, the overall pattern is the same. Because every field is in trouble, every field has reformers who have devoted their lives to struggling with one tiny facet of modern society that was not quite right. These silent saviors are already performing the main task, which is to develop sound alternatives. Because of their efforts, we are now swimming in a vast sea of ideas, all seeking to rectify the failures of the old. Taken together, these ideas amount to a sound, positive alternative to modernity itself. Gathering integral insights emerging in each field and placing them in the integral context reveals how facets connect and how the disciplinary whole fits within the larger integral transformation. In this way, the integral framework helps unify and mobilize the great change, by allowing each of us to reorganize and make sense of what we already know.

The result is not so much a fixed laundry list of 'to dos', as a set of guidelines for using nature's laws to aid our own learning process. This contribution is timely because we need all the help we can get. Thus, in the integral view, great change is a learning process and our times are a test. We have reached the limits of modernity's mode of living. We've been slow to learn and pressure is building, but so are the alternatives. Meetings such as agoras that gather concerned global citizens to begin dialoguing are crucial parts of the process, as is the idea of conscious evolution and a vast number of other efforts in economics, education, democratic reform, environmentalism, etc. The challenge is to figure out how to reinvent ourselves before it becomes to late. This is the standard evolutionary test, now made grave by our ability to self-destruct on a massive scale.

Integral science now shows that to evolve intelligently requires a solid understanding of the rules that govern evolution in a web world. Dynamic evolution summarizes laws of social fitness and harmonious wholeness into one simple rule. Integral society must become a system of 'unique individuals bound in symbiosis and intricately organized for social learning'. To generate creativity, we must nurture diversity and teach each child and adult to value their own unique blend. To breed integrity, we need to reweave our communities locally and appreciate their fractal connectedness to the global and even the cosmic. To cement symbiosis, we need to teach collaborative skills. To come together we need to understand how a web world works; how we fit; and how the laws of fitness apply to ourselves. To harness the talents and intelligence latent in us all, we must replace imperialist beliefs with the mores of a warmly committed, jointly learning collaboration.

The challenge is to make this vision a reality in our all too real world. This is where the ingenious side of humanity comes in. Even with disciplinary details and knowing that the laws of a Learning Universe apply to us, surviving this round will require creating a new pattern of civilization that has never quite existed before. We can draw on partnership patterns of the past and add sophisticated new insights of the present, but the final concoction will be the product of our own inventive nature. This time we must simply make sure our invention is compatible with nature's laws and our own collaborative learning needs.

Finally, when we reinvent ourselves this time, we must remember that this new stage will not be the end-all of civilization, but only a new rung of the ladder. Since new lessons will always lie ahead, the best way to build a sustainable civilization is to fortify our commitment to our own learning nature. Thus, we should not aim for some idealized final society, but for the next great leap in evolution, in this case, the birth of a planetary mind with billions of human beings serving as neurons in a wisdom-making web. Society will never be perfect but it can get remarkably better if we mimic our creative cosmos and learn to learn together.
Table 1. Organizational intricacy and energy flow speed
(after Chaisson, 1987)

Structure                    Free energy cycling
                             speed (in F units)

Milky Way                          1
Sun                                2
Earth's climasphere               80
Earth's biosphere (plants)       500
Human body                    17,000
Human brain                  150,000

This table shows how fast energy cycles through various
systems per unit time and unity density (F). It confirms that
those systems we assume are most intricately networked do
indeed cycle energy fastest per unit of density. Scientists like
Cahisson, therefore argue that energy cycling speed is an
appropriate measure of organizational intricacy. (F is free
energy flux per unit time mass: ergs [s.sup.-1][g.sup.-1]


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Eisler R. 1988. The Chalice and the Blade. Harper & Row: San Francisco.

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S. J. Goerner, Correspondence to: S. J. Goerner, The Integral Science Institute, 374 Wesley Court, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, USA.
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Author:Goerner, S.J.
Publication:Systems Research and Behavioral Science
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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