Monday, April 27, 2020

We Need a Zion Economy

Humans won't need humans

As humans are less and less necessary for meeting human needs, we could foreseeably all be out of jobs. With improvements in emotional simulation and response, we could even become unnecessary for "human" emotional contact. I do not think we will choose such an extreme future, but once technology is out, there's really no putting it back, and most of us don't want to. What do we want the future to be like if humans aren't needed to meet most human needs?

Wealth driven capitalism is dystopian

An economy driven by the desire for wealth and power will ruin a future where humans don't need humans. Those with money and power will be able to use it to amass and maintain even greater wealth and power, and they won't even be dependent on human workers to keep their position. Capitalism that considers wealth, but considers more broadly human flourishing is a possible alternative. How do our economic choices impact human health and happiness, sustainable living on our planet, and the well being of all stakeholders, not just shareholders? A world of Benefit Corporations might be a way forward.

The Star Trek Federation shows part of the Zion ideal--people work, but not for money. No one goes hungry, uneducated, or sick without treatment. Or as Hugh Nibley put it, the lunch is free, but we must work.

Without a shift toward a utopian economy like this, all the dystopian futures seen in shows like Blade Runner or Altered Carbon, where the wealthy have everything and the rest have misery, are plausible futures. Or we will just wipe ourselves out. Building Zion is not simply a utopian dream--it is an existential necessity for much, perhaps all, of humanity.

Building Zion

For me, building Zion is a practical task of daily life. I ask, how will my life get us there? I'm certainly hoping on help from sources I don't know or understand, but I have little hope in finding a Zion ready made for me, or finding Zion without a lot of other people trying to build it with me. Here are some thoughts that roll around in my mind from time to time.

How will we get people to work without fear of poverty or the allure of wealth or power?

Can psychology, social engineering, or pharmacology help with this? I think so, but I'm not sure how, and not sure all of the possible tools are ethical. Certainly just making sure everyone has food, shelter, education, healthcare, and other necessities for a healthy, happy life will get us a long way toward our goal. Can you set up a society where the incentives make most people want to work for a shared good, while also fostering variety, diversity of thought, and individual liberty? I think so, but it will definitely take more trial and error. Money and power over others are not the only, or even the major, motivators for much of what people do.

How can adaptable diversity live peacefully?

Diversity of thought and experience breeds creativity and innovation--things we need to adapt to an ever changing world. Diversity also brings tension between both desires and needs of different people. This means we live in a dynamic system. Dynamic systems are only stable if they are regulated to stay in a small, stable region. The more dynamic the system, the more regulation it needs, so it seems natural to me that a more diverse society needs more regulation. With insufficient regulation, people can't get along and work together, and the society will break into nations, tribes, etc. With too much regulation, or poorly designed regulation, the society can be pushed toward other instabilities, like the kinds of inequality we have in our nation and world, today. We can also defile our own living space to the point that many people fear for their livelihood and safety.

But a lot is known about how to help diverse organizations flourish, how to live sustainably with nature, and how to foster peace, and how to empower individual decision making that will benefit us all. Every day and every year we have a chance to test the teachings of the prophets who are telling us how to build a world without rich and poor, without sickness, without war and fear, with freedom, with diversity, and with a oneness of heart. No single person has all these answers, but there are a lot of people who understand little bits very deeply, and some with broad visions of how we might make the answers work together.

Zion is a revolution

I'm certain that the arrival of Zion will be a revelation to everyone--some for good and some for sorrow. We may head toward Zion with small, incremental changes, but the only way there for most of us is going to be with some large leaps of faith. Perhaps the biggest will be giving over power and control to people who are different from us to help them govern their own lives and solve their own problems. The rich and powerful can't build Zion without giving up their wealth and power. The proud can't build it by making everyone be righteous like them. If we truly want Zion, we might have to do like Jesus and trust the poor, the sinners, and the unorthodox to build the kingdom we need.

God Didn't Make the World--He Won't Make the Next

If you've been Mormon long, you know this story. God didn't make the world. He told Jehovah to make it, and He got a bunch of other people together to do the real work. We made the world.

We had instructions, sure, but it seems they weren't exactly like a blueprint. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the instructions were more organic. There was an element of agency involved that we don't typically think about in construction or in art. Our materials do what we make them do, but according to Joseph's revelations, the gods watched their creation to see that it obeyed. And then they reported back and told God that they had done it! We had created a world where we could live and progress into the next phase of existence. We could grow beyond the the confines of the spirit world that the Gods first welcomed us into.

Now think about the implications of this for a minute. We've already created at least one world. Now we've progressed even further than before we came here. And we expect God is going to make the next world for us? I can make up reasons He might--the veil over our memories being first among them--but it smacks of rationalization, to me. Brigham Young especially taught that we are responsible for preparing the earth for the millennium. It's our job to make that millennial world. It doesn't seem like a stretch to me to expect that God's going to make us build our next home, too.

Yes, I can see Mom and Dad taking us back in for a while if we are having a hard time figuring out what exactly we should be doing now that we've graduated from college, but they won't make us be kids forever. So let's make the world we want. Let's hang onto our ideals of Zion and believe it can be done--no rich, no poor, of one heart, beating swords into plowshares, and living the promises of at-one-ment. And beyond this social creation of the next world, I won't be surprised to find that we are responsible for its physical creation, as well. I know I might be relearning things that I already knew, and somebody already knows what I'm learning now, but I'll keep studying creation. Maybe I'll be ready to do my part in making the next world. In the meantime I'll enjoy the beauties of this one more deeply.

For some fun videos, graphics, and explanations of how cells might have first formed, check out It only presents one set of hypotheses, but there's a lot of delightful science behind it.