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Part 4 — Six Key Dimensions Broken in Democracy: Synergistic Democracy Is the Next Step

“We need a new declaration of independence together with a new declaration of interdependence. Not only are all human beings created equal; all human beings are born creative and all human beings are irreducibly unique. In that precise sense, the unique creativity of every human being for her own sake and the sake of the whole is the purpose and joy of a human life. This realization moves us from the democratization of governance to the democratization of enlightenment.”

A Note to the Reader

This is part 4 in a series taken from a spontaneous live talk given by Dr. Marc Gafni on the weekly broadcast One Mountain: Many Paths, founded by Gafni and his evolutionary partner Barbara Marx Hubbard . This is an almost unedited and unplugged version of Dr. Gafni’s talk. Thus, the style of the piece is the spoken word and not a formal essay.

In this series of short excerpts from Dr. Gafni’s talk we explore the deeper meaning of Independence Day and more importantly of the existential challenges to Democracy itself, in this crucial moment in our history.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 here.


1. Voters Don’t Understand the Complexity of Hyperobjects

The world of early democracy that our Founding Fathers lived in, no longer exists. It’s been completely evolved and in some ways destroyed by the technologies of modernity. One of the implications of this new hyper, vast and infinitesimally intricate world, is that we now live in a world in which voters have pretty much no idea what they’re voting on. The issues are simply too complex to understand. That is why we deploy actuarial tables and machine intelligence algorithms to approach so many issues.

We live in a world in which the issues are so complex, that meta modernism calls them “hyperobjects.” Hyperobjects means that there’s too much interlocking complexity to be able to make sense of it through any natural linear process. It means that there is too much subtly interlinked cascading causation for an individual to track, without a guiding algorithm. There’s so much interconnectivity between sets of highly complex issues. Only a very, very, very small cadre of experts, often aided and abetted by machine intelligence can get a sense of what is unfolding in real time.

And even these experts disagree with each other on major issues of policy across fields like education, governance economics, health care and so much more. How should we approach jobs in a world of artificial intelligence which is moving to obsolete jobs? How should healthcare be structured? Or the major issues around how defense should be related to social investment. How should we handle the interconnected economies of China and the United States? What does it mean for the dollar to be the standard of world currency? What did Nixon change in this regard some decades back? How do complex financial instruments work and directly affect our own lives? How does the stock market and its linkage to six or so major investment behemoths impact in thirty other seemingly unrelated domains? Why does that matter? How to correlate federal reserve policy and the implications of fractional reserve banking with numerous issues that seem unrelated? How does inflation really work and what is money actually and why is that so impactful across almost every dimension of reality? Virology. Gain of function research. The list goes on.

In other words, every major issue here is so sophisticated and complex that the non-expert really has very little clue what is really happening. These are called “hyperobjects” that are often too complex to understand, even for the experts [and as we already noted the experts themselves seem to be divided along partisan lines].

But one example, even the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, wondered out loud how he could possibly participate in voting on the infamous Brexit referendum in England. When he went to vote about whether Great Britain should stay in the European Union or leave, he said something like: “This is absurd. The level of complex issues involved in the Brexit vote are beyond my pay grade. This is not my area of expertise. I don’t really get the nuances. The economics, the monetary flows, why am I voting on this?”

We have a new situation where voters don’t really have the capacity of expertise to grasp many of the key issues of the day. We’re asking people to vote on that which they fundamentally don’t understand. The understanding of those issues is hijacked — by the nature of necessity — by groups of experts. These groups of experts fundamentally disagree with each other. We have in the last 15 years been unable to create virtually any significant common ground in most democracies around the world. We live in a moment of virtually sealed social silos and polarization. What it would take for an individual human to be able to vote in an informed and serious way, is not available to the average human being. To be able to wade our way through the available information is nearly impossible for almost all of us. So why are we voting? How can we trust the democratic process to deliver good decisions on core issues of catastrophic and existential risk? Or on anything that truly matters?

2. The Key Issues of Our Day Are Not Being Voted On

The second reason why our current democracies are failing is that the key issues that affect our lives are no longer voted on by democracy.

For example, how many people voted on the internet? Show of hands please! Who voted on the internet? Who voted on whether we should have an internet, what kind of internet it should be, how the internet should be structured?

So many of us live in a democracy. We all vote. But how many of the people that vote, voted on the internet? Nobody.

Or how many people are voting on how we should handle Artificial Intelligence, one of the most essential issues of our day? Who’s voting on artificial intelligence? Nobody. Here’s another example. The COVID-19 pandemic is now considered, according to many utterly mainstream figures, to have been caused by “gain-of-function research” done in partnership between the United States and China. We’re not sure how the virus exploded, but it’s pretty clear today that it didn’t explode just through someone eating a bat in Wuhan, China. It’s pretty clear that the virus was developed intentionally by what’s called “gain‑of‑function research”. We’re not sure if it got released accidentally or if it was released intentionally. This is unclear. Probably accidentally, but this is far from fully clear.

How many people voted on “gain-of-function research?” Who voted on whether we should be doing gain-of-function research? Which means intentionally creating viruses in order to then vaccinate them? It’s a very controversial form of research and there’s enormous financial incentives that are driving that research. How many people voted on that? Nobody. When was the last time you voted on any key issue involving nano tech, bio tech, info tech, robotics, machine intelligence, data etc. And again the list goes on and on.

So the second reason why democracy is failing, is that the key issues of our day are not being voted on.

3. We Are Voting Within the Context of Our Nation State When the Real Issues are Global and Require Global Address

In the previous point we said that what democracies are voting on today are not the fundamental issues that challenge us. They are not the issues that threaten our existence. They are not the issues that challenge our existential reality, our very being on the planet. We vote about the border issues between countries, but not about cyber warfare or about key climate issues, or about data sharing or anything else that really matters. The issues we vote on are not the issues that are going to cause catastrophic or existential risk. We are not voting on the key issues that — if we get them wrong- are going to cause massive unnecessary suffering of enormous intensity to the least privileged among us. The issues we are voting on are overwhelmingly decoys. We are not voting on key issues.

The key issues are global. None of the issues are handled by any one country. They are being decided not by nation states but rather they are being decided by international investment or equity funds, venture capital and research teams that choose what project to take part in, in large part based on what will be funded in the most dramatic fashion. Now why are we not voting on the issues that are causing the obliteration of the future? Because we’re not in a world today in which nation states are controlling the future of the planet. And we do not have a system of global governance that would allow for nation states to work together in any effective democratic fashion. And as it stands now a world government would have too much power almost by definition. Remember Palpatine and the republic in Star Wars. That did not go well.

The future of the planet is controlled or determined by a set of interlocking issues. Those issues interlock at a global not local level. Whether it’s climate change, control of rogue, terrorist nuclear threats. Whether it’s peak phosphorus, dead zones in the oceans, artificial intelligence or digital dictatorship. Whether it’s dealing with an international refugee crisis of an insane proportion.

None of these issues are local issues.

A hundred years ago, a pandemic in Wuhan would have been a local issue, not even a Chinese issue. It would be an issue of a very particular local province of China. But we now live in a world which maximizes efficiency over health and safety with jet travel and instant mobility. Because we now live in an interconnected world, that virus in Wuhan became a pandemic instantaneously.

In order to deal with global issues effectively, we need global coherence. By not having global coherence, we increase the death threat by the second and third order cascading effects of the pandemic, closing down whole areas to jet travel. So therefore, you couldn’t provide agricultural needs. So therefore, you’re causing cascading starvation for tens of millions of people and killing more people through the second and third order effects of COVID, than through COVID itself. That’s just one example.

“We live in a global world in need of global coherence.”

We live in a global world. The technologies that have been developed in the last 120 years have made local decisions essentially irrelevant to the catastrophic and existential risks that we face. So we can only affect decisions by having a genuine degree of global coherence. Without global coherence, you can’t address global issues. Nation states can’t vote on the most essential issues. Not only are nation states not voting themselves on the local expressions of the essential issues. Nation states can’t actually deal with the essential issues. Because the essential issues are global, voting in a nation state is all but irrelevant.

All the issues that affect the essential existential and catastrophic risks — which define the future of our children and grandchildren — are international. They’re not local. They require global co‑ordination, but you can’t globally co‑ordinate through local democracies that are fighting with each other in the win/lose metrics between states.

So the third reason why democracy is failing, is that we only vote within the limited context of our nation state. But the issues that cause existential risk are not local issues, they are global issues.

It’s not to say we shouldn’t have democracies. It just means that the democracy structure of nation states, as they exist today, are literally obsolete in terms of meeting the global challenges.

4. The Preposterous Nature of Voting

Another reason that democracy is being undermined is that the free choice of the voter is being insidiously undermined by invisible micro targeting — behavior modification by any other name — of groups of undecided voters.

It’s an open secret that Facebook can affect the results of an election through split testing and campaigns. In 2011, Facebook did a campaign to 61 million voters. They were able, through sharing faces of Facebook friends who had voted, to affect the voting pattern directly. All of this happened beyond the awareness of those people who were being affected in key districts.

Alex Pentland at the MIT Media Lab reports this Facebook experiment in his book Social Physics as a grand success. He’s ecstatic about it. Shoshana Zuboff, in her book Surveillance Capitalism, reports this same Facebook experiment as the potential death of democracy. Do you understand how two responsible reporters are seeing something completely different? Pentland is correct in terms of the efficacious nature of the technological grid in causing action. That’s what he’s ecstatic about. He doesn’t understand what Zuboff correctly points out: the implications.

The implications are that you can use micro targeting of undecided voters through split testing to throw an election and no one will even know it happened. Split testing means you carefully test how you sequence an ad in a particular way, in order to cause a statistically significant result among a particular pool of the population. So Facebook, Google and other platforms have the ability to do that beyond the realm of the awareness of the voter. In terms of the individual voter, that has relatively little impact. But in terms of statistics — in other words, percentage points — you can swing any election and no one’s aware that you did. So we have technologies at play that have the capacity to undermine the very structures of democracy. As a number of key writers have pointed out, they’ve been deployed around the world in democracies. They are in all probability already undermining democracy directly. Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google directly ran the micro targeting campaign of undecided voters for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. The public remained largely unaware that this even happened. It was one of his proteges that four years later ran a similar campaign for Trump via the British group, Cambridge Analytica. This caused an uproar but everyone had forgotten that this was not Trump’s sin [there are plenty of those], but more insidiously, has become part and parcel of a largely undermined free voting process.

5. The Win/Lose Structure of Democracy Undermines Democracy Itself

Another reason that democracy is failing is the essential win/lose structure of democracy itself. How does this work? Let’s say that there’s a problem that needs to be solved. One group of people has enough power to formulate a law. That law favors one set of values and one set of people. That group of people then uses all of their power available to vote their law.

Let’s just take the United States as an example. The United States is split pretty much 50/50 between two large blocks. So if one block wins, that means the entire other block has been defeated. This way voting becomes a win/lose form of aggression.

More problematic still, in our a win/lose democracy you’ve got to win every four years. That means you can’t do any long‑term planning. But every existential and catastrophic challenge requires long‑term planning.

Democracy doesn’t have the ability today, in its current form, to do that long‑term planning, because it’s always involved in a win/lose metrics. Every Congressperson and every senator, every state representative, are all in a continuous win/lose game, in need of financing. We live in a polarized world in which voting has become an act of war. Voting is a function of a win/lose democracy. Win/lose democracy is a function of the win/lose metrics. Win/lose metrics is the reigning story on Planet Earth today. Win/lose metrics means rivalrous conflict. A success story governed by win/lose metrics. Naturally all of the losers will be polarized against the ostensible winner.

For all of these reasons we live in a world of radical polarization, which destroys the basic movement of evolution, which is synergy.

Synergistic Democracy: the Evolution of Democracy

Synergy means there’s value on both sides. It means we inhabit each other’s values. We listen to each other. We use mechanisms of technology to create synergy. Synergy means a whole greater than the sum of the parts. In America for example, there is a whole greater than Republicans and greater than Democrats. Greater than left and greater than right. Greater than interest groups. Greater than lobbyists.

We need to inhabit the values on each side of polarities and come to higher integration. We call that: “She comes in threes.”

“She comes in threes” means there’s always a polarity: a thesis and an antithesis. Hegel talked about a thesis and an antithesis: a polarity. Then, if we have good information and we inhabit each other’s values and perspectives, that thesis and antithesis synergize at a higher level of consciousness.

In order to get to synergy at a higher level of consciousness, we need to have good information. So we need new structures of voting in which we are informed. Maybe we need to have elected representatives who vote for us on issues that we don’t understand. Maybe we need to be informed on issues, in order to exercise the right to vote. Maybe we have to have conferences all over the country, new town halls online and in person, where we dialogue directly. Where we listen deeply and inhabit each other’s perspective and values. And then together create proposals for synergy.

However we do this, we need to evolve democracy itself. We need synergistic democracy, which is the evolution of love, which is the evolution of democracy.

6. Synergistic Democracy Only Works with a Shared Grammar of Evolving Values

You can only get to synergistic democracy if we have a shared grammar of evolving value. When I say a shared grammar of value, I mean we have a shared understanding of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. A shared understanding of what it means to be a human being. Not in a dogmatic way. Not in a way that eliminates diversity. Not in a way which is totalitarian. In a way in which we’re all part of the same musical score and each playing our own unique instrument in that score. We become what we call a Unique Self Symphony. It is only a Unique Self Symphony in which everyone plays their unique instrument within the larger collective intelligence of the musical score, that can generate Global Intimacy which in turn catalyzes global coherence.

Every religion is a Unique Self. Every country, every nation state is a Unique Self. Every region of the world is a Unique Self. Every race is a Unique Self. Every discipline of knowing is a Unique Self. Every cultural or political view is a Unique Self. Every populace is a Unique Self. Every thought form is a Unique Self. Every school of psychology is a Unique Self.

We need all the Unique Selves, but we need to be playing the same music. We need to be part of a Universal Grammar of Value and that value is evolving. It’s not owned by any one system.

It’s only if we have a Shared Global Story, which creates global intimacy, that we can create shared sensemaking that enacts global coherence. All global challenges require global co-ordination. But you cannot get global co-ordination without shared ordinating values. You can’t have Synergistic Democracy unless, within every democracy, there’s a shared story of value that’s intrinsic to Reality.

By value we mean not static unchanging value. But rather eternal value — value that is beneath time but always evolving in time. That value is evolving. Which means that it’s always taking in new information. It’s always widening its field, but it is value. It’s intrinsic. It means we’re in the Tao. When we’re in the Tao, when we’re in value, we can hold paradox. We can hold polarity. We don’t divide over paradox. We don’t divide over contradiction. We don’t pick up one value and say, “This is my value and your value’s wrong.” So therefore we can create synergy. Synergy which emerges from resolving the Hegelian dialectic at a higher level of value can only take place from the conscious realization that we are in the Tao. And the Tao can synergize every contradiction into a paradox that becomes part of a larger whole.

Being in the Tao means that you’re in the shared story of value. You understand that we’re part of a Seamless Code of the Universe — interior and exterior — and that all values are expressions of the larger Eros of Kosmos. Only then we can inhabit each other’s value. Then, we don’t polarize. Then, we can hold paradox. We can synergize.

That’s synergistic democracy. That is the next stage in the Evolution of Love.

We need global coherence in order to do shared sensemaking between the nation states all around the world. If we can’t do shared sensemaking between the nation states around the world, we can’t generate global coherence. If we can’t generate global coherence, we can’t create global action. So we’re living in what we might call a Global Action Paralysis. Or a Global Action Confusion. And we can’t move beyond it unless we overcome our Global Intimacy Disorder and generate Global Coherence. And we can only create shared intimacy when we are living into a shared story of value. Post post-modern eternal evolving value. An evolving perennialism that becomes the matrix for our shared intimacy rooted in our shared story.


In the fall we will be publishing a book, which is part of the Great Library that unpacked these themes of CosmoErotic Humanism in depth. Together with dear friend and colleague Zak Stein and the entire gang of thinkers, scholars, creators, and ontological activists, each more profound and wondrous then the next, the men and women that form the Office for the Future, and it’s sister structures, One Mountain, The Center for Integral Wisdom and Barbara Marx Hubbard’s Foundation for Conscious Evolution, we are deep in this conversation together. Join us please. Here is how you do it.

[This blogpost is almost all direct quotes from Dr. Marc Gafni collected from the raw transcript of the featured clip below, which is created from the free weekly broadcast of One Mountain, Many Paths, happening live every Sunday at 10 am PT]

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Six Key Dimensions Broken in Democracy: Synergistic Democracy Is the Next Step


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