Games are wonderful things. Usually we think of them as fun activities for children to distract them from annoying us adults. Of course they have benefits for the kids too, because they learn all sorts of useful skills, like getting along with other people with whom they are in conflict for the duration of the game. Some games create the need to understand the thoughts of other people; both your partners’ and your opponents’ thinking needs to be understood to play some games well. Games like American football require great assets of native physical ability, great mental knowledge, flexibility of thoughts, cultivated skills, and competitive spirit for each of the many positions. All of this is admirable for cultivating a culture of advancing economic growth, and it has served humanity well for developing those skills necessary to dominate nature and other people.
Humanity is now entering a new phase of what is being called the anthropocene era. It is a period of time in which humans are the dominant force in changing nature, and it will leave a record to be seen in future geographic strata. Humanity is moving from the role of dominating and using nature and its products to husbanding them. The whole world has become like a farm that must be maintained by man, rather than a wilderness upon which we prey like any other wild animal. If we are to create a human culture that is resonant with the role of balanced husbanding of the world, we need to raise our children and cultivate our adults into a new personality. We must create a new kind of common person set within a new kind of society. That may sound outrageous, but only because it is spoken of in clear terms, rather than in the style of political rhetorical spin to which the public has become accustomed. I see this as less manipulative of an individual’s life and rights, and more of a change of the rules of compensation for personal behavior. The idea is to reward people for taking the whole processes of society and the world into their monetary transactions, in such a way that those entities also benefit.
How might games, and business too, be structured to generate kindness and mutual growth as opposed to the current paradigm of maximizing personal profit? Nowadays, a business transaction is designed to maximize the profit of the various parties concerned, but the situation needs to be changed to one that includes maximizing the health and sustainability of those not directly involved in the transaction, and it must be something more than obeying socially imposed laws, with their enforcement and punishments of violators. How can the transactions of the world be conducted in such a way that those outside of a private transaction also benefit by the transaction? That would somehow have to include the maintenance of the world environment while enhancing their own. Adam Smith’s analysis of this problem suggested that each transaction that benefited both parties also benefited the whole society; it was called the hidden hand of commerce, and that has worked well enough for generating world wealth. The unfortunate side effect is that it has worked so well for promoting human wealth, and so poorly for maintaining the world’s ability to provide long-term largesse.
I don’t know how to generate a system that is more productive than the evolutionary business model where those who are best overall at producing good cheap goods succeed, and others fail. That idea was developed by Smith, but now that we are approaching the exhaustion of the resources to maintain that style of supplying goods to people, we need to consider a system that sustains rather than conquers. Perhaps that isn’t possible; perhaps it will always be the short-term winner who survives for ever and ever, always the winner of the current battle. It’s a tragedy of the commons writ large enough to cover the whole world.
To begin this process we need people raised from childhood with the practice of kindness as a virtue.