I want my f%$!ing head back

Warning–integral/SDi/Wilber stuff ahead… I suspect I’m intuiting some stuff from the next book of the Kosmos Trilogy.
Wilber harps on the Mean Green Meme a lot, and I think he’s not entirely wrong, but I don’t think he’s using his model in as complete a way as he could in the critique.

Let’s look at lower-right quadrant Green. What techno-economic mode corresponds to a Green consciousness? It seems pretty clear to me that it’s an information economy. An information economy emerges out of a strong Orange-Green institutional context. Orange due to the science and engineering necessary, and the competitive dynamic at play in the marketplace–remember, Moore’s Law is only half about technology. Green because the industries have to operate out of an industry-wide consensus model. You can’t build a network without agreeing how the pieces will talk to each other. Information economies also leverage sharing, ala the open source movement–a very Green pattern.

So they build all this equipment, and sell it to a hungry world, to anyone with money (and some without–see the One Laptop per Child project) beleiving they will change the world.

And they do. In lots of good ways. Some of which I hope I participate in myself. But this isn’t about the good ways.

When you provide this technology this way, you empower every voice. Everyone from my Zen teacher to the American Nazi Party to Al Qaeda uses Internet technology and websites. In other words, it’s the material correlate of the Mean Green Meme. Information technology empowers every voice indiscriminately.

This can cause problems, but it isn’t where the evolutionary rubber meets the road–at least in the foward direction. Here’s what I see: when you empower every voice, you create quite a din. A chaotic mediascape so full of distraction and indulgence you can’t really think. It can be quite overwhelming. How deep is your Netflix queue? How many feeds do you have in your Bloglines account? How many hours of video on your Tivo? How many hours can you spend in World of Warcraft or Second Life?

How much can you absorb? How much can you spew? How much can you comment? And how much do you really get done? Because that same medium is where buy your plane tickets, communicate with your friends… for more and more people, it’s where you work, too. It’s where I work.

At some point you do have to recoil. I mean, I love the Internet. But I have to manage my self at some point, on a level and with a discipline that I think is rare. Just to have a meaningful life.

If you want to identify a specific evolutionary pressure that could produce the Yellow meme en masse, this is it. It’s not understanding that “The MGM is destroying the structures that lead to development blah blah blah…” that sounds almost like Green trying to out-Green itself. No, it’s “I can’t think anymore, I can’t finish a damn book, I can’t get anything done, I need to retreat, but I can’t go cold-turkey with the Internet, I won’t be able to do much of anything… AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUGH!! I’m trapped!”

This creates the need for Yellow capacity, in a very personal and immediate way. I need a mind that can operate autonomously, and get things done without getting distracted by the increasingly shiny baubles of this world. A mind that handles its own internal distractions, knowing when to honor the amygdala’s fight-or-flight impulses and when to set them aside. A mind that engages this world on its own terms.

We see primitive versions of this impulse in things like GTD methodology, and even websites like Lifehacker–though for me it’s as much a part of the din as anything. It’s the pursuit of flow, of basic detached focus, of a sense of mental autonomy, a mind that manages itself. Which is probably exemplary of early Yellow, or one road into Yellow. Not necessarily even a unique mental state, but a mind with the capacity to manage state.

The next question that leaps to mind is “What does that mean intersubjectively/ethically? If I demand this for myself, what does it dictate in how I treat others? What new version of the Good emerges out of this desire?” Perhaps that’s a topic for another post…


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