In an era dominated by postmodernists striving to deconstruct the modern world, it can be easy to disregard our culture and identity as important foundations upon which we build and progress further. Often, this foundation is seen as an inhibitor of progress that needs to be eliminated. By denouncing their foundation, however, societies have time and time again regressed into chaos, degeneracy, and suffering.
Examining culture explains how a society thinks and acts, but discerning why it does so in a particular manner can be a significantly harder endeavor. Cultures have been forged by spontaneous evolutionary forces over thousands of years; we have only a narrow frame of reference while we experience life, and this distorted picture tempts us to prematurely dismiss particular characteristics within our culture as irrational. Taken a step further is the belief that inherited culture and identity itself is irrational, by its own nature of being inherited.
It is true; we have the power to shape our own destiny like never before in human history. The decisions we make as individuals and as a society will affect the integrity of our culture and identity, and our culture and identity in turn will facilitate progress, or destroy it. To be responsible is to take culture and identity seriously, discover the core principles by which humanity thrives, and propagate these values in our thoughts, words, and actions. If we become irresponsible with our power, we will destroy ourselves, and any future we hope to achieve.
TheLibertarianFuturist is meant to discuss how new developments in the world around us will change the way we interact with one another. Before we can do this, we must first establish both the importance of culture to the facilitation of growth, as well as the merit of distinct cultural values measured against a unified purpose.
Some Cultures are Better than Others.
One of the most dangerous postmodernist traps modern humans fall into is the belief in cultural and moral relativism. This trap inhibits the acceptance of any rational value judgment, because any such judgment must necessarily be subjective, and therefore no better than any conflicting judgments. This faulty assumption needs to be explicitly rejected before we can move forward with a genuine critique of culture and describe ways in which culture can be improved to facilitate growth.
This involves standing up to the shame, guilt, and violence thrust upon us by regressive ideologies for daring to claim some cultural practices are in fact superior to others. Cultures can and must be measured against objective metrics of success to discern what values and practices produce superior levels of achievement. When left undisturbed, these value judgments are merely observed and codified by individuals, but are fundamentally determined by spontaneous market and Darwinist forces. When these natural forces impose a cost on less valuable behavior, those who ascribe a piece of their identity to that behavior have a vested interest to use malicious and deceitful tactics to preserve their way of life. These arguments appear everywhere discourse may be had, but they can easily be uncovered if you critically analyze the underlying motives and interests of their purveyors.
As a disclaimer, an assertion of cultural superiority may only apply to a given environment, whereas under different circumstances, certain distinctions in cultural norms and value judgments may be prudent. The benefit of allowing natural forces to determine these value judgments is the degree to which societies uniquely adapt given their circumstances. Also to be considered are the purely aesthetic cultural differences with no inherent incompatibilities. Disregarding a culture merely because it appears to be unfamiliar is a poor excuse to be ethnocentric, especially in an age of abundant information and connectivity. Ethnocentric attitudes are useful when evaluating the beliefs of outside cultures that are incompatible with our own, but this more sophisticated form of ethnocentrism requires genuine understanding of different cultures and interests.
When we finally ignore regressive shaming campaigns, denounce ineloquent, unfounded ethnocentrism, and accept that some cultures are superior to others based on their values, we can begin to explore how culture can be improved upon to harmonize with successful values and reach specific goals. I will then outline the culture I believe we can and should work to build.
Optimizing Our Culture.
Cultures spontaneously manifest to unify people and provide evolutionary group advantages. The cultural practices we’ve inherited exist for a reason; if they survived for thousands of years, they’ve provided a net benefit to our ancestors at one point or another. This doesn’t mean we can’t question cultural norms for the real benefits they provide us in our constantly changing environment, but it means that ideas and practices shouldn’t be thrown out merely because they’re a social construct. Our mission to change and optimize culture should make human interaction more efficient, cohesive, and reciprocal.
Not only do cultures aim to bring us together and reduce social friction, they also shape who we are. Cultural norms actively select for genetic traits in people that thrive in the new environment these norms create. The idea of genetics and culture being separate is dangerous and wrong.
It follows that if our culture has shaped who we are, the culture we build determines who we will become. Decisions we make that may be overlooked can have immense long term ramifications. Government policies, technological gadgets, and market forces can leave a legacy in our genetic footprint.
Thankfully, our consciousness grants us the ability to step outside ourselves and reflect upon who we are. We can think backwards and ask what we hope to achieve as a society, and from there build a culture conducive to reaching these goals by upholding the timeless virtues, recognizing the aesthetic immaterial, and disregarding the outdated roadblocks that exist in our modern culture.
So, what do we hope to achieve? What is humanity capable of, and what can we do to contribute to reaching these goals we set for our shared future?
I propose that although we can’t know how humanity will progress in the long run, our culture should maintain support for continuous growth and prosperity of human society, as well as continuous improvement of our understanding and harmonization with the universe we belong to.
How effectively can the culture we build guide efficient, cohesive, reciprocal human interaction while also shaping humanity to become the best version of itself? How would we describe a culture which most effectively nurtures this process? What values should we live our lives by in order to even build such a culture and combat disintegration? Fortunately, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we must begin by having the tenacity to define for ourselves the world we want to create. The culture we must build to wholly nurture our continued growth, prosperity, and expanded awareness is a genuine culture of innovation.
A Culture of Innovation Explained
A culture of innovation is a culture that values uninhibited human expression of healthy, unneurotic thoughts and feelings as well as creative solutions to the obstacles facing its people. In every sense, a culture of innovation looks to what improvements can be made in order to increase efficiency, health, and prosperity in human life.
It isn’t focused on domination of others or the world around it, but in harmonizing itself with the universe it belongs to. The question of competition versus cooperation becomes widely recognized as a false dichotomy as both synergistically challenge, grow, and connect people. The imaginary conflict between individualism and collectivism evaporates, as people understand we aren’t helpless dependent animals or independent, omnipotent gods, but that we are interdependent; autonomous and sovereign, yet inseparable from each other.
While this culture may allow for free expression, association, and creativity, it is not pacifist or tolerant in the face of aggression, neuroticism or regressive mindsets. Respect for the differences of others assumes an underlying property ethic is upheld by all interacting parties. No due respect is owed to barbarians who choose to disrespect the core values of the culture. Neuroticism and pathology in general will not by itself be met with violence, but will fail to become accepted as a norm in a culture that consistently reflects upon its well-being and strives to improve the human condition. Regressive mindsets will be invited to participate in the free market of ideas, if only to be challenged, protested, and made a mockery of.
A culture of innovation is a very colorful and diverse place, although it maintains a deeply rooted, powerful connection based in respect for property rights, growth, and reciprocity. It holds no obsession over forcing integration or segregation, but allows for total freedom of association. In such a culture, all relationships and interactions have the highest capacity to be genuine and reciprocal. These relationships can be as minimal as an unspoken agreement to not initiate force against a complete stranger, or as involved as a marriage, gated community, or business partnership. Thus, relationships among communities and individuals are optimized by and adapt to market forces. Concerns over how society self-organizes are not met with calls of artificial correction, but with reflection into their root causes, and how those affected can proactively shift to a more favorable position if they choose to.
Genuine innovators ask themselves what pressing issues need to be solved and what it will take to solve them, not what issues can be solved with their current capacity, no matter how trivial or useless. In its innovation, this culture is not means centered, but ends centered. Thus, a culture of innovation is constantly questioning its nature, its desires, its course, and its destiny. It will entertain artificiality, but will recognize these fictions for what they truly are, and therefore won’t be afraid to step outside the narrow boundaries of compartmentalized thought. Thus, the tendency for this culture is to question authority and resist methodological orthodoxy. No one group or person will enjoy a monopoly over the thoughts and actions of their fellow researchers, artists, or business owners, because they will have no means of doing so; there are no politicians holding absolute power to pay off, no edicts to reign supreme outside the fundamental property ethic, and no centralized conglomerates with the power to censor criticisms of the aristocracy.
A culture of innovation embraces serendipity. The world is constantly changing, and this fact of life is celebrated, not feared. The unknown is meant to be explored and pondered, not shunned and ignored. This culture is vigilant, willing to embrace calculated risks, and antifragile when the unexpected results in less than favorable outcomes.
Why is it Worth Building?
A culture of innovation brings out the best in its people, who are free to dedicate their lives in any facility that aligns their interests with that of humanity’s interests. It is a culture that facilitates the continued process of evolution in a manner forcing us to grow, explore, and increase our perception of reality. As an individual progresses through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to become self-actualizing, so does a culture of innovation; it is a culture that has met the basic needs of its people to reach an optimal state of expanding capacity, increasing perception, and improving health. It is a catalyst for continued human evolution; why wouldn’t it be worth building?
What Conditions Does a Culture of Innovation Depend On?
A culture of innovation displays five crucial attributes which must be maintained for its continued, long term success. A culture lacking any of these characteristics is not operating at its maximum potential for innovation:
- Vibrant markets and healthy money
Economy is the lifeblood of any culture. If an economy cannot provide a society’s basic needs, this society will see its culture destroyed, its nation delegitimized, and its people degenerated. Basic human needs cannot be adequately met without markets guiding the allocation of resources. Markets are the spontaneous organizers of human interaction, and are the most authoritative and effective judge of value. Without markets, innovation is impossible, because the market is innovation’s channeling mechanism in an era where evolution is shaped by culture and human interaction.
Money is not the root of all evil, as many leftists would have you believe. It is a tool, and one of man’s oldest, most valuable tools. Its true utility is often overlooked, since it has become so deeply embedded in our daily lives. What must be understood about money is it is a language; money is a communication of value. Profit communicates added value, whereas loss communicates a waste of resources. Throughout history, sovereign currencies have been controlled and distorted to steal value from the future in order to fund boondoggles of the present. This is problematic for (at least) two reasons. If the projects being funded aren’t feasible unless the entire system of money is depleted, then it isn’t a worthwhile project to be funded in the first place. Secondly, stealing value from the future exhibits a high time preference (preferring gratification sooner rather than later) and discourages innovation in the long term. An incorruptible system of money is imperative if market incentives are going to maintain a long term, growth-centered orientation.
- Stable rule of law and strong communities
Rising from the wealth created by vibrant markets, common protocols and shared identity form to create a safe, nurturing environment for continued growth and sophistication of human interaction. Stable rule of law offers peace of mind and valid long term assumptions that can be used to plan for the future. These principles scale from the practices one shares with his family, his community, his nation, and his civilization. When safety and identity are systemically threatened, attention turns away from long term growth and prosperity and toward short term survival. Again, we find a distinction between low and high time preference depending on a society’s ability to operate on stable principles, remain secure from foreign and domestic threats, and maintain a shared sense of identity.
- Open access to information
In order to take full advantage of the available stock of human capital, opportunities need to exist to allow for merit based advancement and increased collected awareness. Censoring information creates artificial scarcity and diminishes our ability to make educated choices about the world around us. As a collective organism, this is how society embraces serendipity; it gives anybody with the talent, work ethic and passion the chance to create a multi-billion dollar network, the next hit song, or a media channel with millions of podcast downloads. Keeping access to information free and open prevents our thinking from becoming too compartmentalized and narrow, since anyone is capable of contributing ideas from a fresh perspective.
- Freedom of expression and individuality
In order to manifest creative thought into word and action, it is crucial to proactively and explicitly build an environment that doesn’t burden this process. One must feel entirely secure their thoughts, ideas, and creations won’t be met with artificial resistance, or resistance outside that of the marketplace. This doesn’t mean bad ideas won’t be shut down, people won’t be ostracized, or that ideas don’t need to prove their validity by demonstrating value; it means that ultimately, the individual has the choice to think, say, and do as they wish as long as no physical harm is brought upon others. Maintaining this principle builds confidence and capacity in innovators to dedicate time, energy, and talent to what they value most.
These four conditions, while necessary for a culture of innovation to manifest, are not sufficient conditions. Like any culture, it must arise spontaneously as a growing population becomes self-actualizing after the satiation of basic needs. It is up to the individual to initiate this personal and societal transformation, which leads me to my last condition:
- A population of self-actualizing people
Each condition leading up to this final point structures an environment where the self-actualizing process in individuals is nurtured. In fact, the astute observer will notice the first four prerequisites are loosely modeled on Maslow’s hierarchy applied to a society instead of an individual. To continue this process, it is up to the individual to take advantage of their nurturing environment to become a healthy, problem-oriented, spontaneous, and passionate innovator. These are the men and women who remain antifragile in interesting times and define a culture of innovation.
How Do We Compare?
Although it isn’t perfect, the Age of Enlightenment in the Western world has provided a solid framework from which this genuine culture of innovation can be achieved. The West has embraced and spearheaded an unprecedented acceptance and expansion of the five basic attributes listed above, which has been the driving force behind its miraculous success and many contributions thus far. As it stands now, a culture of innovation will evolve out of Western traditions of philosophy and science.
While our world isn’t as bleak as an Ayn Rand novel with only a handful of self-actualizing innovators producing and pushing the limit on what society is capable of, most people never reach their full potential, a result of both systemic barriers as well as lack of will.
We have certainly come a long way over the past 200,000 years, let alone the past 6,000 years of civilization, or even the past 200 of industrialization. However, the social institutions we build to facilitate progress often become corrupted through parasitism, foolishness, and fear. These corrupted institutions serve a minority interest in the short term, but inhibit long term growth, and even become violent forces of regression when allowed to exist unchallenged for too long. Reforming, or in some cases totally disrupting these institutions is crucial if we are to build a culture of innovation. Luckily, the modern Western world gives proactive thinkers a chance to do just this, and I very much look forward to discussing these events in detail.
These systemic barriers won’t be breached if it isn’t for a constructive use of willpower at an individual level. This means we must first build a culture of innovation within ourselves, and then uplift the world around us with our newfound strength. As we gradually transform our beliefs, capacity, and outlook, this culture becomes easier to visualize and manifest. We have the tools and information at our disposal to shape the world in any way we see fit, if only we can muster the courage to recognize this power and responsibility.
We have a lot to learn, a lot to remember, a lot to discuss, and a lot to create. May you live in interesting times, and may you recognize the opportunities you have for greatness.