The increasing urgency and global scope of crises like climate change has incited discussions for how humanity can take more more effective action about these challenges. One suggestion was for the common adoption of ‘systemic meta-values’ that would guide decisions (LinkedIn ‘Systems Thinking World’: ‘Can systemic values help overcome the doctrinal blindness…) The suggestion triggered some discussion about the advisability of the idea, that highlighted its importance. The LI format with its length limitations of posts prevented a more constructive and ‘systemic’ examination. So it seems it might be meaningful to develop a more comprehensive look at the range of arguments, on a platform that permits longer entries.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that some meaningful meta-value or values can be identified. To assess whether and how well they / it would guide decisions about ‘more effective actions’ (About climate change or any other issue), questions arise, such as:
A) How would it come about?
B) How would it come to be ‘accepted’?
C) How will we know what ‘more effective actions’ are available that could or should be taken?
D) How would it be established whether a meta-value applies to a specific issue?
E) How would such actions be implemented? More specifically”
F) What, if any, changes in governance (local and global), economic, production and distribution, education, decision-making etc. would be needed?
About A): Possibilities:
a) Meta-Value formulations would be identified and stated (by whom?) as ‘axioms’ — self-evident concepts in their general ‘meta-‘ form and needing no other justification or explanation?
b) Such a concept would have to be ‘constructed’ and ‘aggregated’ from more detailed, individual value judgments about what is good, ethical, etc.?
About B): Possibilities:
a) The concept would (if Aa) have to be presented to everybody; if self-evident, it would be inevitably accepted by everyone?
b) ‘Brain-washing’, indoctrination: incessant instruction, propaganda?
c) Presented as derived from widely accepted and recognized authorities: philosophical, religious: divine commandments; ‘infallible’ papal announcements), other?
d) Imposed by power, with various justification stories a-c; “on behalf of ….” subjects;
e) Involving everybody (at least potentially) in its construction / negotiation, so as to make it everybody’s ‘own’ creation?
a) Building on ‘tried and true’ traditional knowledge in established ‘Knowledge Bases’
b) Using existing and new scientific knowledge to develop new tools and action possibilities, ‘tested’ by ‘calculation, simulation, (controlled experiments at small scale?
c) Other? E.g. Pure ‘exploration’?
About item D):
a) If general validity is accepted, no distinctions and adaptation to specific situation is needed?
b) Must be established on a case-by-case, situation and context base for every issue;
About item E) and F):
a) If the meta-value is indeed ‘self-evident’, would it not be ‘automatically’ applied by everybody in all institutions (which may adapt accordingly without prior re-organization)?
b) Some of all of the traditional social institutions may have to be re-designed in order to make more effective action possible;
c) New institutions will have to be established to replace existing ones?
d) New institutions developed ‘parallel’ to the existing ones, gradually taking over decisions-making and implementation of needed actions that could not be achieved by the ‘old’ systems?
If I were asked to suggest what should be done, based ‘on the best of my current knowledge and understanding’ which I can only offer as a contribution to the discussion, here is my take on those items: I would start out on the following positions: Ab; Be; Cb; Db; E/Fd.
I do not believe we currently have compelling, definitive answers to any of the above questions, that are likely to be globally accepted soon enough for any ‘global’ ‘unified’ solution. I also believe that we are at a stage where people are interested in kinds of ‘pursuits of happiness’ that consist of ‘making a difference’ in their lives — and consider this a part of their ‘human right. This desire will inevitably determine their acceptance and application of values to their personal lives, and issues of global common urgency and concern cannot easily be exempted from this aspect. I also believe that — even for such global issues as climate change — there will be so many different local context conditions that overall unified meta-principles would have to be adapted in many different ways. To the point where the top-down adaptation process would not look much less complicated than a bottom-up ‘construction’ process.
I agree that there will have to be some global decisions, agreements — I like to use the model’ of the rules of the road: we will have to agree on which side of the road we’ll drive on for all of us to reach our different destinations. But we do not yet have a platform on which proposals and concerns, arguments can be shared, and decisions reached that are based on the merit of the contributions to the discussion. This is the most important collective task we face, in my opinion.
I have sketched my suggestions about the steps to be taken in some essays, books and papers. Briefly, they consist of the following ideas:
1 We should encourage and support all the different experiments, initiatives, ‘alternative’ developments that are proposed and already going on. The emphasis is on difference, not unified action: They may be based on different, even contradictory principles. We need to know more about what works and what doesn’t before embarking on ‘unified’ global systems. The meta-value I might suggest, if any, for this aspect, is: Support collective decisions to make as many different initiatives possible but compatible. The condition for that support and tolerance is twofold:
a) the mutual agreement not to ‘get in each others’ way’ (hurting, destroying, limiting, unnecessarily constraining); and
b) agreement to openly share their experience — successes and failures — for increasing our global knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.
2 These experiences as well as proposals for ‘global’ agreements should be brought into a ‘global’ platform I have tentatively called ‘Planning Discourse Support System’. which should be developed with urgency. It must have a number of features that are not currently part of the international ‘platforms’ such as the UN, EU, ASEAN or similar governance models, or the various ‘social media’ networks. Mainly: wide public access and participation, better means of providing overview of the core of information being assembled, systematic means of assessing the merit of contributions, and decision tools that are transparently based on that merit, instead of traditional ‘voting’ modes. (I have developed tools, e.g. for the systematic assessment of planning arguments, and ideas for the design of such platforms, for discussion. Most of those are available on Academia.edu or on my WordPress blog AbbéBoulah.com.).
The platform should be established ‘parallel’ to existing institutions — see item E/Fd above. It should focus on as few necessary agreements as possible. The agenda of ‘projects’ should include the development of means for ensuring that ‘global agreements are actually adhered to — means or ‘sanctions’ that would reduce the need for ‘enforcement’ by, as the word implies, force, coercion’ and the related issue of control of power. One item, overall or part of the task for each of the projects, would be the construction and acceptance of measures of performance and the underlying criteria, values or meta-values as applicable to that project.