Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Imagining the Eco-Matrix

My friends, this may be my final sermon here at TDR, my ultimate attempt to explain why anyone concerned with the fate of humanity and our planetary biosphere should be in favor of continuing our civilization’s technological push forward, rather than wishing for its collapse. Ready?

The key point is this: continued technological progress will enable us to transition to a post-industrial age — to reduce our global ecological footprint by localizing manufacturing, harnessing eco-friendly energy sources and moving more of our activity into “virtual reality”. To see this, let’s try to imagine a different world: the world of the “Eco-Matrix”...

Imagine a world where you work from home rather than driving a CO2-spewing vehicle through traffic to an office. Imagine spending most of your time in a dwelling powered by off-grid solar energy stored in super-efficient batteries. Imagine growing fresh, healthy food year round in indoor vertical gardens, using fiber optic lighting optimized for plant growth and plants genetically engineered for lower-power light spectra. Imagine making items you need with desktop manufacturing units ("3D printers"), using designs downloaded freely from the Matrix, rather than having them shipped from China. Imagine being able to experience any adventure imaginable via your fiber optic conduit to the Matrix, rather than going out into the world and consuming things. Imagine economic and political systems that function more like the peer-to-peer internet and less like a centralized industrial state. Imagine all knowledge, all culture and billions of potential friends at your fingertips. Ready or not, this is the world we are moving into!

People in the industrialized world are already spending much of their time in the mentally created worlds of social networks, the blogosphere, massively multiplayer role-playing games and infinite free digital entertainment on demand — the Matrix is becoming their reality.  Green energy technologies and 3D printing are being aggressively pursued worldwide (see examples here and here), and seem certain to catch on in a big way as they ride the exponential development curve. A good example of the new paradigm in action is google, which is both creating the architecture of the Matrix and developing the green technologies to power it. Another is the work of John Robb, who discusses ideas for resilient, network-centric communities at his brilliant blog, Global Guerrillas. Bright people like these, who presumably care as much about planetary life as anyone, are going to be the leaders of the future world of the Eco-Matrix.

The other key point, which I hope I have made abundantly clear on this blog, is this: the alternative to the Eco-Matrix which many doomers seem to favor — total industrial collapse — would be much, much worse for humanity and the biosphere by almost any conceivable measure. Try to imagine the horror industrial collapse would entail. Imagine the wilderness stripped bare of fauna and flora in a Malthusian struggle for survival. Imagine global famine, rampant disease, unspeakable crimes, bodies piled high in bonfires and cities burned to the ground. Imagine apocalyptic resource wars, barbaric tribal conflicts and a return to medieval religious ignorance. Imagine an end to all progress, science and civilization for a thousand years or more. This is what the sudden end of the industrial age would mean — it is a true apocalypse.

Terence McKenna said: "It is the imagination that argues for the Divine Spark within human beings. It is literally a descent of the World's Soul into all of us." Imagination is my greatest gift, and what the World’s Soul is telling me is that there is no alternative: we must keep pushing forward, to make what Terence called a "forward escape" to the world of the Eco-Matrix. If you don’t believe me, use your own “Divine Spark” to explore these questions and tell me what you see.

Even more than imagination, though, facing the future requires faith — faith that human beings are more than animals, faith that we have come this far for a reason, and faith that if we listen to our higher selves and imagine a better world, we can bring that world into existence.


  1. Mankind isn't allowed to create the apocalypse. We just follow a divine plan. Not much you or the powers that be can choose. Research Carl Johan Calleman

    a women has her periods every 28 days, our mother Earth every 5125years.

    How can we be working with more people than 50 years ago (world population doubled), while many of the tasks back then are automated by machines? Why do governments want to keep us "employed"? Why do economies need to keep growing? Kids don't keep growing either, doesn't mean they fail when they stop growing.

    I have faith in the future. In a 90% natural die-off/correction of human species, with an educated 10% survivor with the knowledge, education and intuition to create a better world.

    The only way technology can bring us back to nature is to stop using it.


  2. Yes but in a 90% die-off scenario the world is a total ruin -- there won't be anything left for your educated 10% to inherit! And to say human beings must stop using technology is to say that we must cease being human beings and become animals. I have nothing against animals -- in fact I'm the world's biggest animal lover -- but I also recognize that we are a uniquely gifted species who should not strive to emulate the rather dismal cultural achievements of every other species who never "left nature".

    If there is any divine plan for humanity, it clearly points in the direction of greater knowledge, greater power, better technology and the evolution of mankind toward godhood, does it not?

  3. Things will stay pretty much the same. Grandiose views of the future have been around forever. Imminent doom views also.

    Things stay the same when you add it all up.

    We lose in culture and happiness what we gain in tech. Less connected local communities but more social networking. Fewer secure jobs but more welfare. Etc forever.

  4. Ya gotta start somewhere. Heard Dickson Despommier speak last week about urban vertical farming. Yes, it is a challenge to fund such a concept right now, but all good ideas receive criticism at first. I agree: greater knowledge, greater power.

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