APPROACHES TO THE TELESPHERE
It is tempting to go straight to the last chapter of a book, expecting a
summary of its conclusions. This chapter is not such a
summary. Furthermore, when each topic involves a particular perspective, and the general argument flies in the face of present reality, a considered appreciation requires the reader to programme himself back to START.
The future system is a global society, expressing a kaleidoscope of tastes
within a common ethic, eschewing imposition (chapter 2); serviced by a
multi-directional web of computerized (chapter
1,4) electronic technology and macro/micro transportation (chapter
1,5); living in a milieu where centers cease to be primarily physical locations; governed by a structure passing to decentralized-unity (chapter 3); and unfolding as a transcendental organism dialectically both collectivist and individualistic in capacity. The future system is not a prophecy; it explores a possibility which would take decades to unfold; though certain factors may hasten change more rapidly than present awful reality would indicate. The future system is no more utopian than the delusion that our present system can preserve mankind. The future system is not a utopia; it is a stage in a continuing process of challenge and response.
"Architecture" and social patterns
There is no guarantee the electronic web (and
transportation system to a lesser extent) will be structured as visualized
in the previous chapter. The orbiting satellite can be used as a broadcast
loudspeaker, transmitting one basic message, centralizing in its social
intent (even if not, as we have seen, always having the effect intended). The same satellite, used as a link in a switched circuit, may instead be used to facilitate communication between person and person, cultural fragment with cultural fragment, group to group. Whether the total system will be as multidirectional as technology now permits is a matter of political choice, predicated upon our value systems. Furthermore, the technological capacity to gather information on a country-wide, real-time basis still leaves us with the limitations of human capacity to consider and make decisions based on that information. The computer may send tax-forms to millions, but the determination of tax rates requires extended discussion in the arriving at a compromise between the claims of equity and incentive. This is the basic reason why all political structures evidence features of decentralization (the commune, city, et cetera) and why such decentralization would be inevitable in any integrating world. The development of electronic technology, and particularly the aggregative capacity of the computer, does however now make possible the globalization of some "routine" administration, and the scrutiny at global level of general problems and major points of friction within society of mankind.
This would, of course, require the emergence of some measure of a global
ethic or value system, as mentioned in our section on Federalism: the
ultimate solution? where we noted the existing elements of that
(65). An important question, one not
permitting easy answer, is whether
the architecture of the electronic/transportation web will in itself tend
to promote a common value system. Very obviously, the architecture of our
homes, places of work, and legislatures has a direct relationship with our
style of life (66). A row of pews facing a
preaching, or the throwing of objects at the preacher. A round table facilitates informal group discussion, and makes it difficult to evade the eyes and ears of others.
The floor plan of the House of Commons may well have had an effect on the
evolving style of British parliamentary government. The two facing banks
of seats is a legacy of the antiphonal choir which sang in St. Stephen's
before it became the meeting place of the Commons. Given a relatively
united society, but with two somewhat variant leanings (Whig/Tory; Labour/Conservative; et cetera), the antiphonal concept of Government and
official Opposition emerged to a degree which is not found in the United
States, and which is explicitly rejected by the coalition systems of
continental Europe. It is impossible to say whether the architecture of
parliament merely coincided with an existing antiphonal tendency, or whether it facilitated it. But the latter is possible, and some similar process may be significant if the global structure emerges along the lines discussed in the previous and other chapters. Certainly, the emergence of a common value system will be hampered -- if not actively negated -- by the confines of closed networks, the censoring of news and comment in such a way that peoples around the world fail to realize the common feature of their travails, and the domineering effect of unchecked
superpower communications impact.
Even an equitably shared and controlled communication system does not necessarily comport other dimensions of integration. The "hot line" between Washington and Moscow does not remove the rivalry of these two
superpowers. Ready communication may in fact permit tempers to flare rapidly; whereas slower communication might insert a cooling period. On the positive side, however, no soldier need die in combat weeks or months
after the cessation of hostilities has been declared. Accidentally ambiguous positions can be readily clarified. And a process comparable to the "show, not fight" of most other species could be facilitated by electronic
information-gathering. Thus, when members of the same animal species meet
to decide territory, they rapidly survey the entirety of their competitor and calculate whether it is wiser to withdraw. Unlike other species, Man's
technology prompts him into believing that one group, one race, can
effectively grasp unlimited territory for eternity (white South Africans
operate on this philosophy) (34). Surveillance
technology now at least
permits one country to accurately gauge the strength of another. Recent
dispites -- Israel, Bangla Desh -- are fought in days rather than the years of past history (and perhaps are the painful prelude to a world of more settled
jurisdictional demarcations in a future process of federalization). The electronic web makes us aware, as never before in history, of the pains of the world. We can either be inured to them; or react with that deep sorrow from whence flows the desire for profound reform.
The demand for liberation
In earlier chapters we have emphasized the relativity of such terms as majority and minority, exploiter and
exploited, center and hinterland. We have seen systems within systems, and
systems overlaping systems. With each assertion of liberation, we are
obliged to seek the new minority within, right down to the most
fundamental (in many senses) minority of all -- the individual. The
achievement of "sovereignty" by units in the lower range of our
scale (chapter 3), raises as many questions as it answers. Even the
"sovereignty" of those in the middle range is a farce when they
are subject economically and culturally to the manipulation of the
superpowers (25). Nevertheless, the demand for
"sovereign" independence within the present system, on the part of such countries as Canada and Eire (whose economy in the pre-EEC era has had much the same relationship to Britain as Canada's to the United States), is paradoxically a healthy prelude to world federalization. Voluntary association, valid contract, rational intercourse within society, calls for mature individuals. From a position of autonomy, one can more genuinely enter into cooperation with one's fellows. In the context of the present world, the autonomy of
subjugated peoples is a prelude to future marriage. On the other hand, there are some practical limitations on the
number of micro-states (which, if sovereign, could play havoc with international aviation outside the Chicago
Convention, for example), and their viability in a shrinking world.
Perhaps some other dimensions of liberation would help ease the general
question. In Voluntary systems
and activities we acknowledged the problem presented to non-tolerating
jurisdictions by cultural minorities, and suggested one partial
solution. In Electronic dispersion we
visualized the capacity of technology to
translate presence from physical to audio-visual terms; which facilitates
the presentation of the sermon even if it cannot administer the
sacraments. The intervention and censorship of the state is
understandable when a physical location draws a crowd which may turn violent, or is an establishment distributing intoxicants to minors. This type of intervention is less justifiable where the participants are electronically, rather than physically present, and where parents, for example, can directly control media presentations received in the home. There is no
"harm to third parties" justification for the banning of erotic and like programming on a subscriber-controlled dial-up system. A multi-channel system of mass programming, specialized audiences, and minority inputs can permit a tolerance of cultural minorities not possible in earlier, more location-bound times. The question for linguistic and similar minorities need no longer be answered exclusively in terms of whether population warrants the construction of institutions operating in that language or philosophy. An alternative might be electronic linkage
(CAl, etc.) to facilities existing elsewhere. In this manner, the CBC's
repeater stations bring network service to
isolated communities, anglophone and francophone, throughout the Canadian North. In this manner, distant schools are linked to the CAl facilities of other systems (e.g., those of Simon Fraser university).
Integration -- not homogenization
Notwithstanding the contemporary scene, nearly all of which points to group assertion verging on chauvinisn, the long-term effect of increased human mobility and communication should be to decrease the significance of the
accident of birth into a particular race, nation or religion. Technology
has already diminished many aspects of the influence of geography on
Man; we have air conditioning from tundra to jungle. It could increasingly
diminish also the influence of one's immediate social environment as
contrasted with other electronic-social and mobility-social
environments. The result need not be the dull levelling of human cultural
existance (67). It could mean instead that
together, electronically and physically, in accordance with the differing tastes
and values derived from individual psychology.
Electronic technology makes possible the simultaneous interpretation systems of international conferences. The future evolution of a world language, or second language like Esperanto or Basic "English", does not require that we meanwhile suppress Dutch. On the other hand, common values must evolve which alone would permit the
survival and well-being of the whole. "Without a common humanistic
world culture there can be no common world." Such is the challenge
thrown to us by youth. Youth may offer simplistic solutions; but
"come together, right now" means by mutuality and consent, and
it is a true song (68). It is the reflection
of a world, shrinking in its
physical dimension to the global village, but having the capacity to expand in others.
McLuhan's expression "global village" should remind us that life in the village can be brutal. The film,"Zorba the
Greek", portrayed the pitiful life -- and death -- of a village
woman. Already the Pierre Sevigny's and Edward Kennedy's of our times have
to suffer global-village stares and gossip. Some public figures are entertained by nymphets in France, and the whole Western world raises its eyebrows. There is need for the privacy of households in the global village. The village is of households and streets, not one vast dormitory, and the mobility of transportation and electronic communication does not have to render life of one common cloth.
It is a mistake to assume that the evolution of global values in one
dimension -- that necessary to equity and civil peace -- inevitably leads to homogenisation of all other values. Value systems can, in different aspects of existence, accommodate quite divergent leanings. A generally conservative person may be very liberal about a particular facet of life, and vice versa. A phenomenon may be acceptable to a community until it is affectively
labelled. Thus, the founders of the utopian community of Fairhope readily
accommodated themselves to the prevailing racism of the Alabama they found
on settlement (69). And contemporary residents
of colony lands,
conservative Republicans and Dixiecrats, express no unease with the
arrangements of their community until one specifically identifies it to
them as socialism with respect the factor of land (70).
All that is needed, in the process of global integration, are minimal common values which permit the emergence of the process of federalization.
What are the values which permit us to come together? The first must be an internationalized concept of
equity -- political, cultural and economic (65). This is not the same
thing as a facile internationalism whereby one country dominates the economic and cultural life of another. The barriers must come down, but on a basis of multinational reciprocity. An internationalized equity abhors the imposition of dominating centers and exploited hinterlands. It sees centres as switching points, rather than as exclusively the location of hierarchic pinnacles; and systems as feedback mechanisms allowing participation as well as command.
The individual, organization and government can no longer take drastic action without considering -- as the computer/human symbiosis makes more possible -- the detailed ramifications of such action. The time is past when activities can be launched without consideration of their consequences to others around the globe.
Short of the colonization of outer space, an internationalized equity
requires not merely population stabilization but preferably some actual
decline to a more manageable level, by mechanisms less brutal than those
of Nature (71). It requires evolutionary
change in the nature of Man away from
homicidal, fratricidal, and suicidal aggression towards problem-oriented dynamism. It requires the emergence of a leadership ethic in which one group member is acknowledged for function A, another for function N, and there is a measure of rotation.
No assumption is made that such evolutionary change is inevitably coming,
or will come easily. But the possibility exists, and it is the hope for
Mankind. Teilhard de Chardin suggested that we are indeed coming together. In terms of evolutionary time, our individual and collective travails are the growing pains of a new dimension in the Universe. In his Future of Mankind, Teilhard suggested that life is the marvellous organization of energy-matter which alone, in the planet and universe known to us, through the technique of reproduction, fights
back against entropy. The essential characteristic of the evolutionary process, at its leading edge, is
an increasing complexity of structure which, paradoxically, produces a
more direct and embracing consciousness. With Julian Huxley, whom he quotes, Teilhard agrees that Man is "evolution becoming conscious of itself." Teilhard speaks not of the evolution of supermen, but rather of the emergence of superMAN, a "hyper-conscious arch molecule", a "stupendous thinking machine."
Teilhard's is a primarily metaphysical construction. Perhaps he was unconsciously influenced by the centralized,
"hierarchic" electronic network of his generation. We are further into the process, and our present and potential
technology permits us to see the future in terms which are dialectically
both centralized and decentralized, hierarchic and participatory,
collectivist and individualist. In short, we see the Noosphere --
sphere of conscious thought -- as an electronic web within which (with no blasphemous intent) we "live and move and have our being." Noosphere rests upon Telesphere.
In this respect, the evolution of Man can escape the fixity of component parts and the fore-ordained restriction
imposed by the specialized function of those parts which has characterized past evolution. From the generalized
"anonymity" of the early embryo, human cells develop into specialized brain cells, muscle cells, blood cells, etc. Consciousness is a characteristic of the organism-as-whole. We do not know, or even consider, whether brain
cells are any "happier" or more "self-satisfied" than liver cells. But individual cells have only the role assigned to
them by the genetic code of the organism. In the super-organism of Man,
the individual is free to move, to change his function, to have his personal consciousness and interests within the consciousness and interests of
A complex organism has nerve-centers which give instructions to portions of the body, and which regulate inter-relationships within the body. A supreme center, the frontal brain, directs self-conscious steering. It is much too simple to transpose this pattern to Man, and to say that multi-level governance and the electronic web, when completely woven, will consist of a hierarchy of inter-related systems culminating in a supreme center directing the parts. This will be true, and not true. A quantum leap in evolution may evoke a transcendental quality
(one cannot predict the "wetness" of water from an observation
of its component gases). The difference will surely include such factors as that, for example, centers need not be so tied -- as in past systems -- to physical locations. Even in the Seventies, legislative committees do not have to meet in Washington and Ottawa. Legislators do not have to maintain their principal place of residence in such cities. We already have the capacity for committees to "meet" electronically. We have some measure of capacity for individuals to pass a portion of their lives as "brain cells", a portion as cells in some other function of the body of society.
The human participants in the decision-making process need not be the hereditary elites visualized by many of our science-fiction writers (though we might be disturbed by the number who postulate neo-feudal societies, if we accept the dictum that artists paint the future). With a decrease in population growth, and an ethic which discourages the genetically-malformed from indulging themselves in reproduction, we can emulate the ancient Greek communities in which all citizens participated, from time to time, in the process of government; and, unlike the ancient Greeks, ensure that all who live amongst us are indeed citizens. In short, unlike Teilhard who visualized superMan, we can visualize a superMan of supermen.
One concluding observation, repeating the caution of our opening words: the evolution of the electronic web, and its political-structure equivalent, requires individuals, organizations, and governments at all levels to exercise restraint as to the number, duration, and priority-generating character of the messages and commands put into the system. This is a vital principle, qualifying any attempt to establish a multidirectional, participatory, electronic and governmental web. Our problem is not so much the incapacity of a computerized communication system to transmit and store the vast flood of messages moving in many directions in such a system. It is the relatively lesser ability of human beings to deal with them, whether they be invitations or orders, one at a time. Men must have time to think. Supermen (and survival itself requires we act as and become such) will need time to superthink.