Note: I know it’s very ambitious trying to introduce a big picture idea (like a developmental anthropology) in a blog format, so I’m using a serial approach. Introductory post (June 30). First in series (July 1).
The advent of Orange [ER] ‘merit‘ values enabled and empowered industrialists, capitalists, and entrepreneurs who then harnessed Orange, rational science and the precision it offered to move economic reality forward in leaps and bounds. Invention and innovation found a BFF in Orange values. Western Enlightenment created an environment in which technology became the key economic driver and instrument for changing society—advancing the quality of life enjoyed by human beings. Has modern technology proven a bridge too far?
Dad: “What’s happened to my son?”
Flo: “I think that’s just what people are like now.” “…”
Flo: “He’ll be fine.”
Dad: “Will he?”
Flo: “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know.”
The technology conundrum is broad and deep. Flo’s final remark is honest and accurate. First, we do not know all the effects that smartphones are presently having, and we, especially, do not know the long-term effects smartphones will have. Second, social media has virtually eliminated the notion of privacy and made cyber-bullying a lethal problem for those victimized by an always-on, social network that invades and interrupts nearly every aspect of our personal and communal lives. Dystopian fulfillment?
I wonder, if while the voluntary nature and form may be a bit different than Bradbury, Huxley, and Orwell had imagined, perhaps profound aspects of their visions have essentially come to pass? I mean, who could have imagined that the “screens”—of “1984,” and “Fahrenheit 451″—themselves would actually turn out to be the society-soothing “soma” that Huxley had envisioned as being biochemical? Yet, artificial intelligence [AI] is now able to constantly monitor us through our portable ‘parlor screens.’ AI is able to feed us information agreeable to our cultural bubble in an enticement to consume something, or antagonize and polarize us for various purposes by feeding us the latest (likely media-generated) overreaching outrage by our political opposites. Add malicious actors in the social media sphere, like bots and memes from Russian troll farms, and the technology mess is nearly complete. Well, AI has an extremely invasive, problematic kind of access to many of us anyway.
Then, too, in addition to those whose privacy has been eliminated are all those who do not have the discretionary resources to gain constant, immediate access to the inter-webs and the educational/social/economic disadvantages that creates. The digital divide adds another dimension to the key dysfunction of our society, namely economic inequality. A smartphone is virtually the price of admission to ER society and the Orange world of meritocracy and market economics. Flip it over again and we could talk about the loss of productivity Orange [ER] faces from lost time in the work place as one by-product of smartphones and instant connectivity.
If only the troubling technology situation were limited to first world problems like the internet of things, social media, smartphones, virtual reality, and AI. We just recently recalled how technology may be appropriated and intentionally misapplied on a large scale as we made our annual, national remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001—a very fateful day in the life of the U.S.A. and the world. That was the day when everything changed as we were clearly shown and forced to acknowledge that even our most helpful technology can be turned and used against our society in dramatic and devastating ways. Modern technology is the product of Orange [ER] ‘merit‘ values. However, an advanced technology is not strictly limited to the exclusive use of a values constellation equipped to understand and ethically apply it. The whole nuclear non-proliferation initiative is an honest, if faint, reckoning with the reality that an angry Red [CP] (ego) ‘power‘ values driven individual, N.G.O., or nation could simultaneously sow and reap the whirlwind on a scale of local to global.
In basic Spiral Dynamics [SD] terms, in addition to moving beyond prior limitations, each emergent, new level of values is in large measure a check on the overreach and excesses of the previous stage. For instance, Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ values are meant to put naïve Red [CP] ‘power‘ (ego) values in check. Traditional religion means to put the excesses and naked willfulness of little emperors in check—to bring the human ego into a sacrificial relationship with something greater than itself. The Blue order of national constitutions and religious sacred texts call the individual ego—the experiential sense of being an autonomous, skin-bounded, solitary agent that naturally resides within each person—into community and purposeful relationship with a transcendent meaning. National and religious identities are ordered by the Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ values that attend the particular community or organization.
Similarly, if Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ values brings individual Red [CP] ‘power‘ values into relationship with a designated community, then Orange [ER] ‘merit‘ values seek to liberate individuals from the authoritarian overreaches of Blue [DQ] community. Blue tends to see persons exclusively in relation to the community that embodies the order narrative—the particular DQ content. Orange [ER] ‘merit‘ values again focus on the individual perspective—as opposed to seeing the person in the context of their Blue narrative. Orange essentially re-orders reality through its vision of a meritocracy. the individual is seen as a unit in terms of marketable skills and utility. Certainly a fair critique of naïve Orange is the blindness of a meritocracy to the particularity and social location of all individuals—we are not cogs in a machine.
Clare Graves discovered a very interesting feature of spiral growth as he looked for patterns in his research. He realized that at each new stage of ascending values, the chief area of concern alternates between the focus on individual and communal perspectives. Beige [AN] survival, Red [CP] power, and Orange [ER] merit values stages (that is vMEMEs) are focused on the perspective of individuals. Conversely, Purple [BO] human bond, Blue [DQ] order, and Green [FS] pluralist/justice values stages (vMEME’s) are all focused on the perspective of the community as transcendent over exclusively individual identification.
Blue [DQ] order—or, the rule of law—is a system of law and institutional norms that represents our communal ability to maintain social responsibility and cohesion. Naïve Orange [ER] merit values tend to bypass the immediately previous, communal-focused Blue level and often leans on the vMEME that reflects the next previous iteration of individual perspective values, or the Red [CP] power values stage—think downloadable, 3-D printable guns as a way to bypass Blue [DQ] regulation. This life condition [LC]—unhealthy Red/Orange collaboration in ER business initiatives (e.g., greed)—in which naïve Orange discounts and devalues the constraints of Blue [DQ] regulation to protect workers or the environment. It is a key aspect of what activated the Green [FS] pluralist/justice vMEME in it’s passion for protecting the earth. Green seeks to use the tools of Blue to constrain naive Orange—e.g., Obama’s Green [FS] vision to protect the environment took the form of DQ executive orders and regulations that attempted to put overreaching [greedy] naive ER in check. Not surprisingly, one of the first orders of business for an administration headed by a person who expresses a very dysfunctional form of Orange merit values was to overturn all Obama’s executive orders and pretty much deregulate business. Laissez faire Orange practice didn’t work and proved destructively damaging in its initial naïve, expressions. Our present regression back to a full embrace of pathological ER is even less advisable or sustainable than it was the first go round. “The Iron Heel,” by Jack London, makes another excellent dystopian resource, particularly here.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?