The Football of Time
Why Globalization Isn't Working
- Volume II in the Millennium Orienteering Trilogy -
116 pages, available online from
© 2002-13 Timesizing.com, Harvard Sq POBox 117, Cambridge 02238 USA 617-623-8080 -
The Football of Time is a small printing of 100 for preview purposes of Vol.II in the "Millennium Orienteering Trilogy." It serves as one of two backgrounders (2002) for Vol.III, Timesizing, Not Downsizing (1998). The "football" in Football of Time refers to Buckminster Fuller's metaphor of human progress as a football game where the most advanced human team in each historic period is the one in possession of the ball. This metaphor raises questions like: In each era throughout the past up and right into today, who's "carrying the ball" and "running with it"? Who has most recently "fumbled it" and why? Who's currently trying to "intercept"?
The main point we make in The Football of Time is that the world is not mainly different geographic zones but different social-evolutionary time zones and world population is not all in the latest zone or stage as political correctness or even avoidance of the charge of Racism! would require us to believe, or act as if we believe for when we consider the "Mudmen" of New Guinea or the tribes of the Upper Amazon the difference is obvious. In fact, human populations around the world are strung out all the way down the backward path of social evolution so that world travel is actually time travel. (And let us set aside for purposes of this book the consideration that several or all of these stages co-exist like tree rings within each and every one us, however modern and however harmonious or not.) Even Shimon Perez was groping for this realization when he said, "In the Middle East, the conflict today is a matter of generations and not of cultures," though the generations have certainly formed the cultures. you want to live in. --> It is the height of naivete that we have been assuming, especially in our "first-world" immigration policies, that the whole world is in the same modern time zone as we are in, and it is only at our great peril that we keep doing this.
But now the challenges and questions fairly jump off the page: There is no generally agreed number or nomenclature for what must obviously have been a series of social-evolutionary stages between the dawn of our species and the "advanced" West of today, even though some scientific consensus is emerging on the stages that brought us from apehood to humanhood. So what would be the most agreeable number and naming of these stages? What are their primary distinguishing features? Are there least-controversial answers to these questions?
This booklet also makes the point that within cultures, the most severe problem across long-term social evolution is the inadequate sharing and spreading of value, such as leisure, money, skills, or inventions, and the long-term tendency for the most valued possession or measure of each era to gravitate, concentrate, collect, coagulate and congeal among a vanishing percentage of its members.
Why is this a problem, when we're constantly experiencing subliminal messages that our own era's most valued possession is money and that we can concentrate limitlessly large amounts of it in limitlessly small numbers of our own population with only good results because we need the ability to make large investments and all that money will "get right back to work creating jobs" and right back into circulation via wages? The answer is all in the relative scales. It is possible (and it regularly occurs) for the concentrated portion of the money supply to get so enormously huge, and the population that has it so infinitesimally small (e.g., "the 1%" - or even 1% of the 1%), compared to the leftover unconcentrated portion and the large population (e.g., the 99%) that's left with it, that the 1% gets all the decision-making power while insulating themselves from any negative consequences of those decisions (ergo, no system feedback). Secondly, though still large, there is too little money left in circulation to maintain its monetary value, which after all, is all based on symbolism that must be mutually agreed upon in the act of exchange.
Thus further concentration of the money supply (usually inevitable) eventually becomes self-destructive and suicidal for the 1%, corrosive to the host system and greatly diminishing for the 99%. For example, the superwealth of the aristocrats triggered the French Revolution and got them all killed. The superwealth of the English monks triggered the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.
So the most important challenge of each era is to evolve, develop or design a mechanism that centrifuges and shares the era's highly concentrated value-dimension and spread it out across the entire population, first locally, then regionally, then even more extensively. Now that humans are aware of this process, they can speed it up by consciously and repeatedly designing and implementing the next great centrifuge mechanism in the series.
Now let's try a linguistic introduction to this booklet. Ever notice how truckdrivers and lawyers can say exactly the same thing in totally different words? There seem to be job dialects within English, and other modern languages. But what if some of them are more important than others? What if there's a pecking order, and at the top, power dialects? What if there are power dialects within English? And what if they have taken turns in center stage, succeeding one another across long-term human evolution and giving substance to the idea that we are advancing and progressing, and not just going round in circles with ever more technological toys, weapons of mass destruction, and heroic medical measures for extending low-quality life and worsening over-population and the stress on our hopefully not fragile (yeah, sure) biosphere?
But what would these dialects be? Is there a list somewhere? Could they provide a key to human history and prehistory and help our understanding of what's going on in this crazy world better than Toffler's three "waves," or Hegel's "thesis, antithesis, synthesis," or Newton's "action, reaction," or Maslow's hierarchy of being, or de Chardin's pneumenological scheme, etc.?
Our best candidate is the list of "social sciences" found in any dictionary. Here's the American Heritage Dictionary's list: sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, and history (recall that history and geography were called "social studies" in elementary school).
What if these social sciences are each parallelled by a great invention in human evolution, inventions that linearize them into rough chronological order something like this: anthropology - language itself; sociology - counting (arithmetic), as in the agricultural calendar; geography/history - writing; polisci - parleying, economics/psychology - problem-quantification (mathematics); ecology - extending self-interest to whole system. And what if these great collective inventions cue the power dialects that have rolled across human tongues with slow acceleration over the two or whatever million years in the evolution of genus homo:
language - anthropologese,
agricultural calendar - sociologese,
writing - geographese/historese,
parleying - politicese,
quantification - economese/psychologese
Notice the one common thing-that-is-being-shared here throughout is change-motivating feedback ... or in Darwin's terms, adaptation-motivating feedback.
So "The Football of Time" linearizes the major social sciences and treats them as eras or stages of human evolution, stages that are getting shorter and shorter as human population increases and humans become more adaptable.
Naturally, they just congealed into "social sciences" in the last 100 years or so. But, to take the first example, the focus of anthropology is humanity itself and its major distinctive feature, language. So those who spoke "anthropologese" across the hundreds of thousands of years between our emergence as genus homo and our development of agriculture may well be regarded as those with heightened language skills - those such as wise women who could make up words and tell stories round the hearth. The respect in which they were held was so great that there were plenty of survivals into later eras, like the blind poet Homer among the early Greeks and the AngloSaxon bards with their "word hoards," and even today's generally sidelined poets, playwrights, script-writers, speech-writers, novelists, lyricists and librettists, with their one remaining hold on power, the 30-second TV-spot scripters.
But what are these inventions that give focus to the social sciences and their sequence of power dialects? What do they have in common? What if this series of great collective inventions traces the critical achievements in human evolution and progress because they have all been systems for sharing, for allowing us to be more available to one another in harmonious ways? What if they're like the major upgrades in our social software? What if they are all centrifuge mechanisms that spread around the concentrations of advantage or power that develop over time in every culture, society or civilization and gradually become so huge that they destroy their host culture or doom it to the sidelines. How? By bogging down whole-system feedback and strangling the free exchange and fine-tuning of ideas and resources - such as money, once it was invented. Therefore, what if our major social software over the very long term always focuses on one general problem, the over-concentration of power, and always functions as a centrifuge of that power, and advantage, and value? If so, all the major upgrades - we count five so far - have been some kind of centrifuge mechanism, each one an improvement on the previous. And what if this repeatedly upgrading social software, this better and better centrifugation of power, has been the major source of our unique human versatility and power?
The unlimited concentration of money is the most obvious example. Rich people pamper and coddle themselves. They slooowly, graaadually get all the little "money sprinklers" in the economy turned from "spray" to "stream" and pointed up to themselves (like the easing of Glass-Steagall on them and the toughening of the bankruptcy act on everyone else), and slooowly and unnoticeably they insulate and isolate themselves more and more - yet they still have all the important decision-making power. The wealthy don't want anything to change (except maybe a little bit more in their own favor). Basically they want everything to stay the way it is, because the way it is favors them sooo much. But over time and without much awareness of the cumulative results, they keep making myriads of little adjustments in their own favor, their holdings get unimaginably astronomically large, for example, Bill Gates, formerly a regular nerdy guy, is now hovering around $50-60,000,000,000, and Warren Buffett around $42B, etc. And they were already spending all they cared to before the last billion arrived - if they were even aware of its arrival. Thus the value in the system consolidates and coagulates at the "top," its overall dynamism in terms of the velocity of circulation of the currency slows down, and the whole system gets kind of arthritic, meaning less and less flexible and adaptive - and less competitive and sustainable and survivable. Finally, like a big old tree, it blows down in a storm. So, what if the populations that have done best in the storms posed by environmental pressures over the centuries have been the societies at each point that have been furthest into the next great invention in human evolution, per our list above: language, agriculture/counting, writing, negotiation/diplomacy, quantification?
The social sciences themselves constitute a collective invention that provides the key to what has really been going on in human evolution at the most general levels. So what's been going on? We believe that we've been coming up with a series of better and better sharing systems that allow us to be more available to one another in positive, constructive ways and cooperate more easily, and that prevent the astronomical concentration of resources and breakdown of whole-system feedback that accompanies the self-insulation and -isolation of the wealthy. We believe that this is the way the world works in the very long term.
These successive, repeated upgrades in our mechanisms to centrifuge power have spread our whole-system "nerve endings." They have repeatedly enhanced whole-system feedback and shortened the response time in given populations, making them more adaptive and competitive. The names and central topics of the major social sciences seem to be an invention of our collective subconcious to mark off these repeated upgrades and divide history into helpful stages or eras:
Given these five clues, what's next? Given these five power dialects that have taken turns bending the ear of rulers, what's the next vocabulary that will upstage these five and increase humanity's critical variable? The fifth one is definitely getting into a self-destructive stage with its new downsizing madness, in direct contradiction to its own lipservice to Growth. People sense that we need a new integrating principle, a new basis for common interest. We're betting on a new science that transcends the social sciences and integrates them back into the natural sciences. We think it's going to be:
- Anthropology - language, starting with hunting signals; sharing immediate needs, wants and fears; reactions (impulses, articulate feedback), intentions (plans), and feelings; enabling the development of art and dance
- Sociology - agricultural calendar (settlements based on domestication starting 13000 BP of plants = fixed societies based around granaries, 9000 BP of animals, for food, then power (plow and transport, and in the horse, mobility); sharing sun-demarcated daily and moon-demarcated monthly and tree-demarcated seasonal chores and rituals; counting moon phases); the difference between the Anthropological Era and the Sociological Era is also marked by the contrast between "uncivilized" or "savage" and "civilized," as shown, for example, in the "taming" of the American West and the whole mythology of the Oregon Trail; the contrast between "pagan" and "Christian" tends to reflect a wider contrast between the Anthropological and Political or even Economic Eras (this is Jared Diamond's first program, "Out of Eden")
- Geography/history => Territoriality - writing, starting with territory marking (hand-in-hand with reading, and rereading alias religion, which functions in human evolution as a literacy campaign, motivating people to learn to read: thereby sharing experience and 'facts' across generations from our ancestors to our descendents, from the dead to the unborn; compare David Lowenthal's 1985 book "The Past is a Foreign Country," and Jared Diamond's TV series in the second episode ("Conquest [of the Incas]") of which, as an aside, he mentions the development of writing and the printing press that enabled generals, for example, to pass along a repository of dirty tricks that they had been doing to one another across Eurasia for thousands of years, in particular, Cortez's story about his Aztec conquest, passed on to Incan conqueror Pizarro (copy in Salamanca University), whereas the Incas never received the Aztec writing system and didn't have any idea what a book was when confronted with one; Diamond does somewhat develop the game aspect referred to in our title, "The Football of Time" - the Europeans competed with germs from their four domesticated animals and thereby gained a devastating invisible ally; Diamond also refers to the weapons race in Europe throughout the Political Science Era - see next paragraph; but he does not develop it into tracing exactly our own evolution and the stages thereof, and therefore our ability to assign every population in the world to some point, or mixture of points, in our own evolutionary lineage)
- Political science - sharing partial disagreement using words not swords for better feedback and adaptibility and survivability, and the political arts that derive from that activity (parleys (as in "parliament," including the political arts of loyal opposition (assuming at least BIpartisanship; informal form=constructive criticism), negotiation, compromise, diplomacy, courtesy, free speech, voting, secret balloting, referendums, initiatives... Answers the question: "How do I disagree without getting killed, shunned or exiled?"
When did the Political Era begin? The democracy of Athens and the republic of Rome decayed into dictatorships. The Judeo-Christians split completely with the Pharisaic Jews. But Christ gave Christianity enough of an integrating force to withstand the split in their leadership between the accepters and rejecters of society, the clerics and monastics, priests and monks, and in the tension between their diverging lifestyles and literary traditions, the political arts evolved to new heights: diplomacy, courtesy, neutrality, dedramatization, negotiation, compromise.... The split started in 291 AD when Anthony of Thebes "hit the desert" of Pispir to live alone ... only to be frustrated by crowds of followers. The ultimate two-party system was identified by Thorstein Veblen as the plutocrats vs. the engineers aka technocrats, the quantity or money motivated and the quality or job-satisfaction oriented, or as we would say in developing the Timesizing Program and its successors, the inflationary and the deflationary incentives, the wage-workers (just put in the time) and the piece-workers (get the job done).
- Economics (and psychology) - sharing partial agreement for better orientation and feedback (quantification of problems; data, statistics). Answers the question: How do I provide divergent feedback on a more divergent and nuanced (percentage-based) basis than allowed under a clumsy two-party system or even a multi-issue yes/no feedback system?
When did the Economic Era begin? When Dr. William Petty, Cromwell's chief medical officer in Ireland, saw so much suffering there that he resolved to discount matters of opinion unless they were backed by arguments based on things that could be weighed and measured. In short, he replaced the lingering inflammatory rhetoric of politics (qualitative) with a new wave of neutrality and dedramatization, based on quantification and mathematics as a second language. The book he wrote as a result of empathy with the other side (the Irish) and frustration with his own side (the English) defines "economics" in its title, The Political Arithmetick (1690).
So each power dialect represents a step forward in the "technologies" of human sharing, agreement-building, construction&cooperation, variability&versatility, survivability&security. Each has a definite period of years during which it was prevalent. Each successive period of years is getting shorter that overall present a definition of "progress." Thus this book illustrates the acceleration of progress in the progressive shortening of the dialect periods from first to sixth.
- Ecology - sustainability (extended self-interest, programming for very long-term homeostasis;
designing for automatic repeated deconcentrations of power to maintain whole-system feedback
and of money to maintain system-wide production-consumption equilibrium)
One might assume that an explicit design process to program for sustainable homeostasis is unnecessary - "Oh, the market will take care of it." But this is to ignore how far technology has gone today with mechanization, automation and now robotization, and how things really work in terms of entire factory systems with no employees except someone to drive around and read the charts once a week and someone to deliver raw materials and remove finished products. The urgency of this design process is driven by the threat of blowing up the world on the puppetstrings of the weapons lobby, or poisoning it at the behest of the nuclear power industry, or flooding it by global warming in support of the automotive industry. Ideally, the sustainable homeostasis we design and program would include a new integrating principle on which to base a deeper and more flexible common interest.
So the key thing about the ecological age is not the design and implementation of an employment-balancing program such as Timesizing, but the design of a general template (such as Timesizing's five phase framework) and building on nature (esp. physiology) and on the design and implementation of homeostatic systems in hitech, surgery, dentistry, aircraft, space, heating/cooling - literally everywhere peripheral, turning at last to the design and implementation of self-balancing systems in the central, core, socio-economic per-person variables/dimensions, of which employment is merely the most accessible and strategically first, to be followed by income, wealth, credit, etc. The first challenge is the generality; the second challenge is to apply it to the much-distracted-from, glaringly INVISIBLY obvious central variables, and then to lock in, build on, and ratchet up from each homeostaticized-dimension plateau when it has raised expectations beyond what it can satisfy, and move on to the next variable/dimension in the strategic order.
Our design is a kind of social software that has designed-in, pre-cued upgrades to keep pace with the rising expectations that it itself engenders.
Note that we're talking about "progress" from the viewpoint of contemporary western humanity, justified by the fact that we need it most since we're doing by far the most non-renewable resource consumption and far more than our per-capita share of global pollution - and there may be some elements in current apparent attempts of eastern humanity to catch up to us that are not just us pushing stuff on them. Indeed, we criticize the simplistic obsession of western humanity with "globalization" for ignoring the fact that the world today is not primarily different geographic zones but different time zones based on the periods of dominance of the five (so far) different power dialects of human history and prehistory. Every previous dialect period is still represented by at least one population somewhere in the world and this represents valuable species-level diversity, any part of which could turn out to be critically valuable for our species survival at some point.
Gung-ho globalizers have little or no handle on this long-term aspect, or on the fact that due to their naivete, some human populations, such as the Saudis, have a dangerously confused time-address, for example, advanced weaponry overlaid on primitive social institutions such as the use of maiming as a standard punishment. Then there are the Israelis, modern in every way except they've gone back to a political design with an established religion (characteristic of the first two periods of the Political Era, monasticism and feudalism, now past). And then there are the Americans, for decades fearfully, constantly meddling with these two anachronisms, Saudis and Israelis, due to their location over or close to non-renewable resources and whose once-touted political design with separation of church and state now seems itself vulnerable to backsliding toward an established religion.
The Shrinking of the Eras = The Acceleration of Change (aka Progress?)
Whether the anthropological age with human language in place started 1 million years ago or 500,000, or only started with the CroMagnon "moderns" around 250,000 years ago, it was still a matter of hundreds of thousands of years.
The sociological age starting with the agricultural revolution and the development of the agricultural calendar started 12,000 years ago and held sway till the development of writing around 5200 years ago, so it lasted 6800 years.
The geographic-historic age started with the dawn of contemporary records in Sumer 5200 years ago and held sway till the political age started 1700 years ago (291 AD), thus lasting 3500 years.
The political-science age started with the split of the Christian professionals into accepters (priests) and rejecters (monks) of society when Anthony of Thebes hit the desert of Pispir to seek solitude c.291 AD and it continued till Sir William Petty's "Political Arithmetick" was published in 1690, so it lasted 1400 years. Note that there were also monklike communities such as Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) prior to 290 but these did not survive.
The economic age started with the "Political Arithmetick" and seems to be continuing to hold off the ecological age to this day, so it's been going for roughly 300 years.
This gives us ages of the following length:
250,000; 6800; 3500; 1400; 300&counting
Rounding, we get:
240,000; 6400, 3200, 1600, 300&counting (to 800?).
Notice the telescoping or acceleration effect.
If the rough halving of durations continues, the economic age will drag on for another 500 years, but human pressure on the ecosphere will probably force it to happen much faster - if "forcing" spurs advance rather than reversal.
The Football of Time - Volume II in the Millennium Orienteering Trilogy (116 pages) is available for US$22 including shipping to US destinations (extra for foreign) from Phil Hyde at:
Timesizing.com, POBox 117, Harvard Square PO, Cambridge MA 02238, USA.
Return to Top | Return to Trilogy Page | Return to Home Page