Societies founded in traditional vertical “oral” transmission of culture found the outside world threatening as a potentially disruptive yet all pervasive source of uncontrollable change. Indeed, the basic theory of social movements and structural transformation of systems rises out of these basic “traditional” considerations of religious based, inherently conservative worlds.

Societies founded upon the rise of diagonal “broadcast” transmission of culture from one or a few to a great many, are societies that substituted tradition with convention, and essentially replaced religion with socio-structural ideologies framed mostly in terms of the super-organic “nation-state.”

In these societies, the threat of change arose not only from patterns of deviance leading to radicalization from within in the competition for authority and power derived from so many different multiple sources, but also from the geo-politically competitive threats of other nation-states often sharing a common unsettled border or competing within a larger world system for finite resource pools and reservoirs.

Now, in a post-historical, posit-ideological global world order in which socio-structural interdependencies within a global system renders state and non-state operators and competitors increasingly aware of their ties of mutual interdependence and common stakes in a concept of the global commons as a worldwide resource ocean, the threat in a globally horizontalized society comes not from the break down of national identities directly, but from the competition of infinite alternative virtualized realities and alternative plausible worlds that arise in a structurally open global society.

Ideologies become flipped on their heads in which what matters most are the party and partisan policies and platforms that control elections and determine the reigns of control of government in a global context. The competition is for credibility, control over global change and development, and in the context of increasing finite resource scarcity and rising human resource demand, the reemergence of a “survival of the fittest” collective sense of virtual reality running into the absolute wall of actual world limitations.

With rising social-global environmental circumscription, we will come back full circle to a world not dominated by a single modern dictator or political-economic tyrant or demagogue, but rather by the increasing rise of the war of all against all played out daily on the Internet and in the World Wide Web with false promises of utopian enrapturing and salvation and future unlimited prosperities.

The rise of these virtualized alternative worlds—half real and half make-believe—will challenge basic identity and socialization processes that venture to radical extremes beyond the normal boundaries of the self in traditional or conventional identity processes.

Sense of solidarity and belonging to traditional or conventional constructs may become increasingly challenged by new forms of identity and socialization processes that hold for the individual equivalent in-dubious or non-discrepant subjective inevitability and sense of plausibility of social reality.

Traditional and conventional forms of solidarity and authority will thus yield itself to the contagion of crowds and the narcissism of individual ego among like-minded people who may come from around the world.



We may becry the general loss of fundamental literacy skills, in referencing, research, critical writing and critical reading, that seems to be occurring as a result of the global digital transformation of human knowledge transmission and storage systems.

The movement away from books to hard-drives linked by software into systems of translative articulation, has necessarily entailed a substitution and displacement of emphasis away from critical conventional literacy skills toward greater Internet and computer technical skills.

But the move away from conventional forms of print-based literacy to forms of computer literacy linked to gaming, word processing, web-surfing and technical computer literacy seems as inevitable as it is probably historically and developmentally irreversible.

We can reference in the more gradual former transformation from oral-based primitive systems, which nonetheless provided frameworks for cultivation of unusual cognitive skills and styles relating to long-term memory for “singers of epic tails” and perhaps forms of cognitive integration not found but rarely in the modern world, toward increasingly “book-wormish” orientations of the lonely-writer in his writing garret.

We are moving from a print based erudition and mastery of a language like English (or any of the other world dominant languages) that largely defined a style pattern of a world civilization connected with its knowledge contexts in traditional forms of literature and oral tradition, toward a mastery of landscapes of a virtual world that is dynamically growing and changing from minute to minute and that is virtually unlimited and which only coincidentally maps to the real world.

But there remains perhaps another level of cognitive functioning in which different forms of literacy may come to play a critical part, and this relates to the reality testing or critical function to distinguish truth from the untrue, and the actual reality from the virtual reality. This is a kind of critical cognitive capacity that does not belong alone and only to digital literacy, but which has been evident in the influence of important tests upon the believe and behavior of many people.

It is the inability in such contexts to not be able to distinguish truth from fiction in the symbolic mediation function of means and alternative modalities of information transmission. There may be occurring in advanced digital literacy the critical incapacity to distinguish what is actual in the world unmediated by computing knowledge systems, and what is virtual and made real only through the mediation of such computing systems.

The rise of literacy of whatever functional forms and transformational effects of its embedding cognitively in the personality of the literate individual, has been the foundation in our shared history for the rise of public knowledge as a global secular worldview in which scientific factuality and rationality has played a critical role in the transformation of human systems.

At the same time, we can see in the symbolic reification of religious systems of belief and practice, expressed and justified primarily through religious texts, many of which are treated as sacred and thus above the world of humankind and beyond their capacity to adjudicate for veracity and superstition.

As a new form of digital electronic literacy may arise, particularly what we might call a form of long-distance “conversational” secondary literacy, there may be occasion to worry whether or not there are third party interests involved in the impersonal manipulation and systematic distortion of computer-based information to foster credibility and suspend systematically critical faculty.

We have only to look at the widespread influence of untestable and unproven conspiracy theories, largely the product of wild imaginations, to foster, encourage and thus create a widespread band-wagon movement that can become armed and dangerous as a mechanism of manipulation and narcissistic control.

Such a world can even take scientific worldview and received truth and distort it and discredit it to create plausible alternative counter-scientific versions of reality that are in the final analysis anti-scientific and ideologically closed and self-fulfilling.



My life has been defined by books, and now as I approach my senior years I find books no longer serving the main purpose or values (of print-literacy, knowledge storage and transmission) that they did sixty years ago. Well can I call myself a bibliophile ever since I was a young child. A trip to the local public library to browse the shelves and borrow some interesting titles was the major event of my week, far more fulfilling than an evening spent watching a black and white television set.

There will still always continue to be books printed and published for special purposes, fulfilling niche markets or even regular best-seller bandwagons, but the book as a primary agency of literacy and knowledge transmission has fallen by the wayside as a niche publishing industry, displaced and supplanted more and more by the lucrative, boundless market of the personal computing system connected to the Internet.

Volunteering a decade ago at the friends of the library, in the back sorting room bringing in all the donations, my main job was to haul out several times each evening in a couple of shopping carts all the books selected for culling out in the public dumpster at the rear of the county library.

Old encyclopedias now may become collector’s items, but few people if any are still using them consistently as a source of valid or reliable information on some esoteric topic, while any information they may need is but a click or two away on the worldwide web. My old dictionaries now serve the main purpose of being bookends on bookshelves rather than as a first reference at my writer’s desk.

Book publishing itself has undergone a critical transformation in which anyone can now print a book out or even have a computer-based “chat robot” create a book that can be printed “shake and bake” on demand, with next to no formal copy-editing or proofing, and readily put on a global book market within a matter of minutes or hours rather than an old-fashioned of days, months or years for snail mail based services to catch up with dynamic book markets.

I have been a cultural anthropologist who has focused on the esoteric field of the so-called “anthropology of knowledge,” and so in witnessing the tragedy of the books it seems appropriate that I should seek to more objectively understand the anthropological background to this global transformation of human systems.

Through all of human prehistory and throughout much of early human protohistory, the main mechanism of cultural transmission, upon which all human systems originally (and aboriginally) have depended for their successful survival, adaptation, reproduction, and integration, has been the oral-based vertical “folk” transmission that occurred inter-generationally from parent to child. In such a world, parents held absolute authority. Such a form of oral transmission is called vertical, being passed “down” from one parent to one child, or one to a few, through the generations.

Human history has largely been the written, recorded history of writing systems, from early pictographic and logo-graphic systems, through the invention of syllabaries, and then alphabets. Transmission and cultural transformation which depended primarily on vertical inter-generational transmission, could then become increasingly diagonalized from one to many, or a few to a great many.

This process increased in diagonalization of the exchange process with increasing rates of cultural transmission and change that became ten or a hundred times more rapid than was possible with oral based systems.

With the advent of computer-based literacy, with the rise of systems of information and knowledge communication and transmission that is increasingly horizontalized (one to all and all to one instantaneously), rates of transformational change have increased exponentially and is now rapidly approaching a global singularity of relatively infinite information instantaneous processed and transmitted and stored, within a single generation.

Oral vertical transmission systems still happen throughout the world, but they have become radically modified in their functional purposes and style within an historical era dominated by print literacy and printed records and literature, just as now print literacy remains embedded in all societies the world over, just only now encompassed and engulf within the “anthropo-cybersphere” of digital, wireless information communication and storage, albeit rapidly undergoing radical transformation from the former function of books to inform and record—functions now mainly served and taken over by interconnected computing systems the world over.

I remain wedded to my conventional, increasingly old-fashioned and anachronistic, if now quite obsolete, books. I love my books with interesting covers and titles without regret. As a digital migrant I remain a stranger in a strange new world. No one today refers on a regular basis to a hard-copy encyclopedia, even if some may still collect sets of encyclopedias. It has been a long time since I’ve looked a word up in a conventional bound hard-printed dictionary rather than on the worldwide web, and now my set of dictionaries primarily serve as oversized book-ends on my shelves.

My wife chides me that when I pass she will give Viking send-off on a raft with my body burning on top of all my piled up books. I have been a writer for most of my adult life—a fairly lonely life, but now I have accumulated a large number of mostly digitized manuscripts that I don’t know what to do with.

Since getting into new forms of “on-demand” self-publishing with a global marketplace, I’ve come to the realization that I am casting published texts and titles into a bottom-less digital black-hole. They will be most probably self-published, the majority of my lonely literary oeuvre, but will mostly remain unread and even unrecognized as such in a digitally transformed world. (And I would rather they be cast into such an all consuming digital blackhole than be burnt or thrown out as a part of my estate and my wake.)

Facing in a personal way of my own life-time bibliography and biography the global tragedy of the books, I will in my passing remain content and satisfied that I’ve been a lover of books that will sooner or later become burnt or recycled, knowing full well that I was part of a book-based world never to happen again.



We can afford some measure of chaos in our choices: we certainly do not need a global totalitarian dictatorship to set our priorities for life or death. But we can also afford some degree of guidance, especially if it is rational, sensible, and ultimately most humane.

It has been more than two decades that I have touted and developed the idea and theory of global meta-systems: in a nutshell, human systems of the anthropo-sphere must approach basic global design strategies for the sake of promoting sustainability, adaptability and long-term stability of human systems, and these design strategies come to rest upon five basic sets of problems the solution of all of which promotes such a long-term adaptive global meta-system.

Meta-system refers in this case primarily to a super-system composed of systems and their sub-systems, in which the higher meta-system or super-system level provides a common meta-systemic context within which its systems and sub-systems are logically comprehended and functionally integrated with their environments. Global meta-systems may or may not produce their own synergetic effects, depending upon how integrated they become at the super-system level, but many examples of meta-systems are primarily oriented to the providing of a meta-systemic context in which its systems and their subsystems may function in a stable and, in the case of the earth, an enduring and long-lasting manner.

The challenges of the global meta-system today is that it by and large lacks any deliberate effort at organization, beyond political-diplomatic and human development or aid organizations.

For any global meta-system on earth to become effective in realizing its promise, the following five sets of challenges must be met:

1. At the infrastructural level the development of a solar-hydrogen fuel based global infrastructure and economy becomes paramount to the consideration of the kind of long-term civilization we seek to build. This entails that the wealthy oil producing countries situated primarily in hot, arid desert zones, would do well to turn their sand into glass and produce solar energy that can be converted to other forms of energy and to the production of fresh water. Their glass can also go into production of industrial scale greenhouse operations.
2. At the structural level the development of areas and zones of protection and preservation of eco-bio diversity becomes important, that is free from human encroachment and habitat loss. Important as well would be the inter-connecting of these areas and zones by “human free” corridors that permit the migration of individuals of different species from one region or area to another. This entails that most human agriculture should go to large scale covered greenhouse production, semi-automated to replace large numbers of field workers, as well as the deliberate design and building of human habitation either skyward (upward or vertically,) or else, downward into the earth (or some interesting mix of both,) in order to reduce the overall infra-structural global footprint of human populations.
3. At the superstructural level, a global government is necessary to provide directional integration of the emerging anthropo-sphere, one that is democracy-based and primarily grass-roots (easily accomplished through the Internet,) and this includes human systems development focused upon education, recreation and knowledge systems-based structural and social development. This global government would seek to foster relative health and wealth of a growing human population as well as the provisioning of screens of opportunity for the majority of this growing global population to realize a better life for themselves and for their families.
4. Achievement of technological Artificial Intelligence singularity is critically necessary for human systems integration and entails that a lot of human labor displacing work can be accomplished more effective and more efficiently by machines than people, potentially free people up to pursue more intelligent objectives in their lives living hand-to-mouth especially with menial labor type jobs. The cybersphere that is a result of the increasing integration of computing systems into a collective synergetic system and meta-system, will increasingly interpenetrate and integrate with the human anthropo-sphere, and people will become critically dependent upon these artificial, increasingly autonomous systems.
5. Finally, the quest becomes necessary for travel, colonization, exploration and observation of outer space, deeper and deeper into the extant universe, becomes an important unifying and organizational priority. This pursuit must be made in many directions almost simultaneously or concurrently. It is important to pursue “biosphere” studies both on earth and in Outer space. It is important to develop both observational and communication/transportation hubs and grids in Outer space, presumably first targeting Earth-Lunar spaces and regions, and later branching into Earth-Martian and even Earth-Jovian regions of Space. It is also important to establish and develop semi-permanent human Space colonies as well also to promote the development of technological and production capabilities in Space not possible to develop on Earth due to its gravity, atmosphere, its geo physics, etc.

It is my main argument that these are the five main lines of effort necessary to be accomplished, if the social-environmental and primarily political-economic hurdles to achieving global developmental civilization are to be overcome. Without achieving any of these five problem-design sets, it is likely that human adaptation on earth will continue to fight an up-hill battle and risk global failure. Whatever our contemporary complex loyalties and identities, whatever the patterns of organization and stratification of current and near future human social systems, these considerations must find productive and human-based compromise with the global requirements and challenges that humankind now faces building its future in terms of global civilization.

The biggest risks humankind faces during the remainder of the 21st Century is its own antiquated ideas of political-economic stratification, self-serving ideologies and nativist chauvinisms. The greatest risk is that relatively minor sets of unpredictable events, regional or interregional environmental-social circumscription, triggered by large scale natural disasters or pandemic outbreaks of new strains of virus, cascading to the declaration of war between states and their people, and escalating to use of weapons of mass destruction in contexts no longer clearly governed by the dynamic balance of external powers or mutual detente. We run these risks as much in the next decade as we do in the next Century, because human development of civilization, becoming near completely horizontal away from its original vertical modality of transmission, no longer counts chronological, historical time as a critical constraint in the same manner that human systems did even half a Century ago, when information transmission still tended toward the diagonal.



Binary choices are not usually a good way of looking at the world, but general global trend-lines of climate change, urbanization and human population growth seem to be driving us to meeting the challenge of some tough either-or kinds of choices. In this case Buckminster Fuller summed it up succinctly: Utopia or Oblivion?

The challenge from a systems perspective is not only to understand what human systems are and how they work, but to understand workable design frameworks that would assure systems that are in essence “human-proofed” and reinforced by available back-up systems. A key trend, paradoxically, is the universal promotion of human development, and those primary lines of effort within human development that lead to greater realization of human health, happiness and realization of fundamental needs and requirements. But this key recipe of human development is not nor could it ever be unlimited development, and we are now within a couple of generations realizing the kinds of constraints to our own development put upon us by our requirements of long term adaptation to a global ecology.

Transitional energy forms, if done to economic scale and affordability, are a step in the right direction in moving humankind away from carbon compound producing fossil fuels. But this new grid of energy production must ultimately face to the requirements of hydrogen burning systems that have sufficient energy density to power large and heavy mechanical systems in an efficient manner: to operate heavy machinery, to fly supersonic aircraft, and to power large scale sea vessels, for instance. Hydrogen energy, cheaply produced, and with price falling with increasing production, reverses the trend the global economy has been facing towards the inflation of the petrol dollars and rising costs of fossil-fuel energies pumped from beneath the ground or mined from coal and shale extraction, that result not only in a carbon-compound based greenhouse effect leading to what is becoming drastic and rapid global climate change, but also which tends to drive the cost of manufacture, transportation, and maintenance that in turn drives ever-higher the average cost of living: of food, of water, and of the material goods and products that we have learned to depend upon in maintaining our everyday suburban “just in time delivery”-based lifestyle.

With a post peak oil global scenario, we cannot now think of any trend-line in human systems that would invert the formula of getting less by paying more into the reverse formula of paying less and getting more, except through the deliberate design development of sufficient alternative fuel infrastructure based ultimately upon hydrogen production and solar energy capture and conversion to ample and available storage facilities. In this regard, a purely electrical power-generating grid and infrastructure may work, but not if it primarily depends upon electrical energy production through fossil fuel stockpiling and burning.

Transformation of human systems begins from the bottom up—if you change the infrastructure then adaptive social structure must also change to follow suit. Political, military and religious forms are slowest and most resistant to such change, but the campaign to win hearts and minds always proceeds from the top-down though it must be driven from the ground up.