What is Optionality? (B)
Abstract: This article is compiled from recent discussions.
The article argues that many people talk about freedom, liberty,
anarchy and libertarian ideologies. But each of these concepts is
essentially empty compared to optionality, which offers
a constructive way to tackle politics.
A. What is Optionality?
The concept of optionality is rather self-evident. It is about having options. However, giving any rigid definition of what optionality is supposed to be, is incompatible with the very concept. So, rather than splitting hairs about what the exact meaning is supposed to be, let's look at the following example. Many people will reject dictatorship. They try to achieve freedom, anarchy, whatever. Their method is confrontational, inevitably leading to the use of force. In other words, they turn to exactly the same methods that they dislike in the dictator's behavior. Optionality is different in that it does not seek to conquer opposition in a violent conflict, but instead optionality simply creates additional options. The more optionality, the less dictatorship.
There are many ways in which dictatorship can be tackled. Having more options in the media and telecommunications is a good example. Dictatorship is full of lies. The more options there are, i.e. a pluriform press, multiple radio and tv-stations, cheap access to faxes, the WEB and email, etc, the more likely it is that such lies will be exposed for what they are. This is why dictators are always out to control the media.
Sure, if one is a victim of dictatorship, one may not have many options. But that does not mean that one therefore has to agree philosophically with the dictator. The fact that one is forced to do something does not mean that one agrees with dictatorship. After all, one is forced to do things. The point is, what do you believe in, what do you want instead!
The difference between anarchy and optionality is that anarchy merely opposes government, but does not offer much beyond that. Anarchy will fight government, police, any form of oppression or dictatorship, but it offers nothing beyond this fight. As such, anarchy is confrontational, even destructive, rather than constructive.
Optionality does offer something beyond a rejection of dictatorship. As an example, the article Vision of the Future argues that we are on the verge of what DonParagon calls the Post-Government Era. The ideology that will be most prominent in future times, or - if you like - the belief that will shape future times most, is optionality. Thus, optionality's influence goes well beyond the end of the government as a system that currently controls our lives to such a large extent. This implies that government control will simply fade away in future, as the influence of optionality increases.
Take an issue such as power (electrical, oil, etc). Solar power offers great opportunities, especially if combined with small flywheels that are light in weight, can store large amounts of energy by spinning a huge speeds (thus reducing greenhouse effects), are portable (like small batteries) and can be reloaded from solar panels. At present, such options are dramatically reduced due to the control by governments over electricity, transport, etc. Such issues can be resolved by progress in technology combined with greater acceptance of optionality.
By its mere presence, optionality shows its virtues and opens up further opportunities. Sure, some options will turn out to be bad options. But the point is that they become visible and exposed as such. If there is a dictator or a central government taking all the decisions, then such comparison is hardly possible. Optionality works by exposing bad choices for what they are.
B. Mass Media.
The mass media are a privileged bunch whose joint focus on nationalism, disasters and violence represents a giant call for greater government control. This is no surprise, as the privileges of the mass media are the direct result of such government control. The mass media are out to quench creative thoughts by their deliberate sensationalism, and by appealing on impulse desires and irrational fears. The mass media try to protect their privileged situation by discrediting alternatives to government control.
The mass media will either ignore optionality or regard optionality as another version of anarchy. In the mass media, anarchists are typically portrayed as extreme left-wing, bomb-throwing dreamers. For that reason alone, optionality should be regarded as distinct from anarchy.
Similarly, the mass media are keen to lump optionality together with terrorism, tribalism, chaos and the practices of the Mafia, warlords and drug-gangs. But there are strong indications that more optionality will not lead to more tribalism, warlords and violent revolutions:
- Optionality declares itself to be non-violent, in contrast with many revolutionary movements.
- Optionality rejects tribalism and local teritorialism.
- Some global developments point at other directions. Such developments include political trends towards greater individual freedom, economic and social globalization and the growing intellectual insight that geographic isolationism is economic suicide, ideological nonsense and populist ludditism.
Current-event journalism is great in exposing the atrocities of fights between local warlords, but in the bigger picture such tribalisms are poor imitations of the biggest gang around, the cartel of civil servants, judges, police and military forces, in other words: government.
In the bigger picture and in the prospect of more optionality, all these hierarchical systems that are out to impose their order and rules in a specific territory - backed up by the threat and application of force - will simply fade away into history as less preferable options. Their lakeys in the mass media, at universities, etc, will go down with them.
As national borders collapse, people will lay down their national identity as a strait-jacket that fits nobody. Government rule will be replaced by optionality, not by tribalism and local territorialism. Violence may enjoy a high profile in speculative journalism, but the mindset that is promoted in the media is extremely harmful not only towards their obvious victims, but also towards those who may misguidedly belief to gain some benefit out of it.
C. The Shape of Future Times.
Bureaucrats typically use words such as structure, building and platform to give the false impression that society is like a building that requires a foundation, skilled workers and an architectural plan. But progress does not benefit from bureaucrats' lust to co-ordinate industries and to coerce people's behavior into specific directions.
Instead, progress is the result of all the smaller and larger improvements that people all over the world make everytime they are confronted with a situation. The most valuable contributions are often the direct results of the brave individuals who choose to trust their feelings, talents and creativity and who improvise rather than follow orders, who follow their dreams against the norms and rules of the bureaucracy, and who ignore any masterplan imposed by dictatorial government.
Not only is it morally and ethically wrong to impose a centrally-controlled organizational structure onto society; any such 'masterplan' is simply doomed to fail, as has been proven over and again in the past. Government control invariably muffles innovation and results in a bureaucracy lusting for power, in corrupt politicians and civil servants, cronyism and nepotism, in wasteful greed, myopia and delusion, and most of all in total and absolute failure. Voluntary actions and interrelations that are based on mutual agreement with an appreciative focus, are superior in all respects to government control.
Instead of developing rigid blueprints of the future, we should continue to describe the kinds of future times we like to live in. There are many things that are wrong, in so many places in the world, in so many events in the past. There is plenty of background material on the horrors of the past and there are plenty of journalists active in exposing atrocities in current events. But few people seem interested in formulating better alternatives for future times. Many people complain about oppression, bullying and coercion, many talk about freedom and liberty, but they only define what they do not want. There are plenty of anarchists and rebels who protest against something, but lack any vision beyond that. Instead of continuing to complain without ever offering better alternatives, it is better to spend some time discussing such alternatives, without falling into the trap of trying to put together some kind of masterplan.
From a political perspective, optionality is the key. By asking for more optionality, the better alternatives will automatically become manifest. Some options will turn out to be better than other ones. But it is hard to decide in advance which are the better ones. Instead, it is better to aim for greater optionality.
This implies a rejection of all the monopolies that currently dominate sectors such as health care, education, security, travel, transport, communications, etc. Politicians are keen to make deals with the media, keen to censor the Internet, prescribe key escrow in encryption, allow a cartel of TV stations to dominate new digital transmission techniques, etc, etc. Communications has the highest priority - after all, for people to agree that benefits will evolve from greater optionality, they first need to hear about the very concept.
Look at the strategy of the IMF, the OECD, the WTO and many similar organizations. They believe they can improve the situation in a given country if trade barriers are lowered, if the respective Government stops subsidizing and otherwise privileging certain domestic producers, etc. But why do they not start with opening up communications? Why do they allow mass media to continue to spread a message that is the direct opposite of their own vision of opening up borders? Furthermore, how sincere are such organizations in their vision? After all, they are organizations that are controlled by nations, they will always aim to preserve national borders.
Politicians, presidents, organizations such as the UN, cannot be trusted in this regard. People should not leave it up to politics to create better alternatives. The beauty of optionality is that it is in the hands of the people, it is not a choice that is enforced upon people by politicians, it is not a political choice that makes people choose one and therefore lose the other. Optionality encourages people to stop acting as a looser. What DonParagon says about optionality is: If you want it, all you need to see is that you need it, if you want to be! (DonParagon, from the song: Vision of the Future).