practopians

The Society for Practical Utopians

Working together to shape a brighter future for humanity

Index

Calling for a US Sustainability Initiative

Looking back over the history of the United States, it’s easy to see in hindsight a series of events and actions that have either united or divided us.

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A Broadcast Consciousness

Let me take you on a little journey of thought exploring some hitherto unconsidered aspects of our common cultural evolution.

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My Advice to Young People of All Ages

Today I’d like to change my focus and offer some advice for what people can and should do to improve their own personal lots in modern life. I have only a few recommendations, and they’re rather brief and straightforward, although I won’t claim they’re easy.

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US Political Observations for October 2018

In this brief respite between primary season and the general US midterm elections in November, I thought it might be fitting to offer up a few suggestions to those of us who will be participating, whether as candidates or as voters.

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Our Societal Disconnect

I was thinking recently about my own upbringing in Annapolis, Maryland, back in the sixties, and it occurred to me that there were several aspects of my experience there and then that I took for granted, but that are no longer very common today.

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Why I Call Myself a Practopian

I suffered a crisis of faith a few years ago: a crisis of faith in my atheism.

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A Twenty-Six Legged Stool?

A few years ago, when I was teaching software development, I often invoked the image of a three-legged stool, with each leg representing one of the essential leadership roles: leave out any one of them, you see, and your project is liable to fall over. The human mind is pretty good at understanding these sorts of visual analogies, and is also pretty good at working with short lists of important things. This limited numeric range is, perhaps, unfortunate, because, as far as I can discern, there are no fewer than twenty-six essentials that modern humans must keep their eyes on in order for us to keep civilization as we know it moving forward on a reasonably even keel. Ignore or devalue any one of them, I maintain, and it is human society that starts to fall over.

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What To Do About Big Business?

Has business gotten too big? Rather than trying to answer this question directly, let’s start by reviewing the fundamental architecture of all modern societies.

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Humanism

The first Practopian core principle states that “We are humanistic: we are focused on human concerns and human potential.” The primary intent behind this statement is to signal that we don’t claim to represent any authority other than our own very human selves, and that we focus on the interests of ourselves and our fellow humans. However, there are a whole host of Humanist organizations already in existence around the globe, representing a Humanist movement of sorts, and so it may be helpful to comment on how I see the Society for Practical Utopians in relationship to these other brands of humanism.

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Talking Openly about Hierarchy

I sometimes think that at least half of the confusion we currently experience in our civil discourse stems from our inability to speak openly and honestly about the nature of hierarchy.

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The Unraveling of The Common Good

I’ve recently read The Common Good by Robert B. Reich, and can recommend it heartily. It’s a lovely little book that can help remind us all that we have obligations to the societies in which we live and work, and that contributing to the common good should be a daily calling for all of us. Still though, I can’t help but feel that Reich’s description of the unraveling of the common good in the USA is incomplete, and so I’d like to offer something of an addendum with the words that follow.

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A Traditional Remedy for the Facebook Problem: Competition

Facebook has been in the news lately due to renewed privacy concerns, and many observers have called for various solutions, including pledges from CEO Mark Zuckerberg to do better, as well as increased government regulation. But there seems to be an obvious and somewhat traditional remedy that is not getting much consideration: good old fashioned competition.

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A Practopian Approach to Gun Issues in the US

The recent Florida school shooting has again propelled issues surrounding gun violence into the forefront of our national dialogue. The Core Practopian beliefs may seem very broad and general, but I’d like to illustrate how they can be usefully employed in a specific debate such as this one.

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Technology Education for the Youth of Today

I came across a couple of things recently that got me thinking about the value of technology education, and what that training should look like. The first item that caught my attention was Kirk McElhearn’s blog post about “The Tech Industry’s Tunnel Vision about Coding and Language.”

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Art and the Eye of the Beholder

I’ve noticed that Big Thinkers – people like Ken Wilber and Yuval Noah Harari – tend to get confused about art and why it matters. Unable to find a neat place for it in their developmental models of civilization, they end up citing that old chestnut of “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and leaving it at that, as an entirely subjective experience. Everyone’s idea of beauty can be different, they say, and they’re all equally valid. Of course, I’ve never run across an actual artist who sees things this way.

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Help! Help! The Robots are Coming!

Many pundits today are predicting a future of robots equipped with artificial intelligence so powerful that they will essentially render great swaths of humanity obsolete. Let me just make a few points concerning such imaginings.

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Our American Identity: Where To Next?

Like many of my fellow citizens, I’ve been struggling in recent months to understand exactly what it means to be American these days – to identify the central elements of our collective identity that still bind us together as some kind of unified whole.

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In Defense of Balance

When I founded The Society for Practical Utopians, I based it on a fundamental set of beliefs, divided up into principles and values. And the very first value, the one given preeminent position, is balance.

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A Compact, Extensible, Open-Source Belief System for the 21st Century

It often seems that there is little in this modern world that any two of us can agree on.

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Another Way to Think about the US Elections

I was recently puzzling over the still surprising victory of Donald Trump in the recent US Presidential elections, when it occurred to me that there is another way to think about this whole chain of events. What follows is going to require some understanding of evolving developmental levels for people and our societies, so let me start with a summary of my understanding of these.

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Christmas For All

Here we are at the end of another year, well into what many of us call the Holiday Season. As I’ve remarked elsewhere, when it comes to religion, I’m a bit of a mongrel, so my approach to the holidays, while imbued with many of the traditional practices and stories associated with a good Methodist upbringing, does not hew closely to any particular set of Christian dictates. But that’s perhaps as it should be, for Christmas, it seems to me, has always been too big a thing to be narrowly claimed by any particular religious organization.

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Making Sense of What Happened on Nov 8

Trying hard to make sense of what happened last night. Here are my thoughts. 1. Our country is almost equally divided into two camps.

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What We Need After the Election

It may be too early to know who will win on Tuesday, but it’s not too early to assess the major issues roiling the electorate and offer a few thoughts about what needs to happen after the voting is over – no matter who comes out on top.

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Developmental Levels as Evolving Social Structures

As human society has evolved over the centuries, we have developed different types of social structures. None of the later structures replace earlier ones, yet each new structure has been devised in order to confer some new sort of evolutionary advantage to our species – in other words, to help us survive and thrive more effectively.

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Religion, Storytelling and Art

Religion can be thought of as a collection of shared cultural artifacts that provide a sense of meaning about human existence.

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Human Nature

What does it mean to be human? This must certainly be a foundational question for all of us, when contemplating almost any aspect of our existence. And while any brief answer to this question must admittedly be no more than a starting point for further discussion, I think it perhaps worthwhile to provide such a beginning. And so, here they are: the primary traits we share that I think make us uniquely human.

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The Four Quadrants of Human Knowledge

I first came across Ken Wilber’s work late in the last century when a friend handed me a copy of A Brief History of Everything as a birthday present. Wilber has described four quadrants of human knowledge, each representing a different and valid perspective on the same reality.

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Religious Freedom

When it comes to religion, I have to confess to being a bit of a mongrel. My mother was a Methodist. My father was a nudist. And I once called myself an immortalist. These days I choose not to align myself with any particular religious group.

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The Nature of God

Human records indicate that some sort of belief in a God or collection of gods is a feature of almost all human culture. No matter what the continent or age, a belief in powerful, supernatural beings that somehow influence human existence is a near-constant. At the same time, though, many skeptics have persistently questioned the existence of such a being, and beliefs about the attributes of God have exhibited wide variation, with such variations often being so deeply held that wars have been fought to advance one sort of belief over another. Rather than approach the question of God’s existence directly, it seems wiser to ask ourselves how we can best explain the facts above – the combination of a nearly universal human belief in God, combined with so far irreconcilable differences in what sort of God we believe in.

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Reasons for Belief

We often seem to assume that people say things, and come to believe them, because they are true. It seems to me, though, that people take up beliefs for a whole host of reasons, and the likely truth or falsehood of these statements is often the least of the motivating factors at work. Here then, are the multifarious reasons why people may choose to believe something.

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The Systemic Era

We tend to divide up human history into relatively neat periods, and give them names like “The Agrarian Era,” “The Age of Industrialization” and “The Information Age.” When I look at what’s going on around me today and try to make sense of it, I am forced to draw the conclusion that we are deep into an as yet unnamed age that I would call “The Systemic Era.” What I mean by this is that we are now at a point where the human condition is much more influenced by vast social and economic systems of our own collective making than by any natural forces or conditions, or any individual actions we might take, or even any individual intentions we might have.

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Developmental Levels

A number of authors and systems of thought espouse one or another series of developmental levels, in fields of study as diverse as psychology, sociology, economics and organizational development.

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Index

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Index by Title

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