Global Cooperation

News Item: Complexity and Collapse by Niall Feguson

Guest Blog Post – Dennis Bumstead

From time-to-time, Global Cooperation will publish articles by other authors. These articles will have as their common element, an insightful commentary on the state of the world related to that described by Adi Da in his book Not-Two IS Peace
This post is particularly interesting in relation to the “systems” chapter, “Reality-Humanity”, p 213 in Not-Two Is Peace, and more generally in relation to the often asked, often doubting question ‘can radical, large-scale change ( for good or ill) actually happen?’.
Dennis is the General Manager of the Global Cooperation Project – read more at

Complexity and Collapse

Empires on the Edge of Chaos

March/April 2010
Niall Ferguson
NIALL FERGUSON is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His most recent book is The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.

There is no better illustration of the life cycle of a great power than The Course of Empire, a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole that hang in the New-York Historical Society. Cole was a founder of the Hudson River School and one of the pioneers of nineteenth-century American landscape painting; in The Course of Empire, he beautifully captured a theory of imperial rise and fall to which most people remain in thrall to this day.

Each of the five imagined scenes depicts the mouth of a great river beneath a rocky outcrop. In the first, The Savage State, a lush wilderness is populated by a handful of hunter-gatherers eking out a primitive existence at the break of a stormy dawn. The second picture, The Arcadian or Pastoral State, is of an agrarian idyll: the inhabitants have cleared the trees, planted fields, and built an elegant Greek temple. The third and largest of the paintings is The Consummation of Empire. Now, the landscape is covered by a magnificent marble entrepôt, and the contented farmer-philosophers of the previous tableau have been replaced by a throng of opulently clad merchants, proconsuls, and citizen-consumers. It is midday in the life cycle. Then comes Destruction. The city is ablaze, its citizens fleeing an invading horde that rapes and pillages beneath a brooding evening sky. Finally, the moon rises over the fifth painting, Desolation. There is not a living soul to be seen, only a few decaying columns and colonnades overgrown by briars and ivy.

Collection of the New-York Historical Society
The Savage State, from Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire (1833-36)

Conceived in the mid-1830s, Cole’s great pentaptych has a clear message: all empires, no matter how magnificent, are condemned to decline and fall. The implicit suggestion was that the young American republic of Cole’s age would be better served by sticking to its bucolic first principles and resisting the imperial temptations of commerce, conquest, and colonization.

[The balance of the article is available on the Foreign Affairs site at


How FaceBook Can Save The Planet

Superb Tools for Mass Communications

The market-research firm ComScore tells us that in October 2009, together, the big social-networking sites had over 800 million visitors – about 12% of the population of the planet.  FaceBook alone has over 350 million users who post over 55 million updates per day.  Social media sites have evolved a long way since their online community beginnings in the 1990s’s – a mere 15 years ago. They have now become superb tools for mass communications.  And the power of people making their collective voices, and votes, heard is manifesting in other areas too.

Empowered Interactivity

As the finale got under way Wednesday, host Ryan Seacrest said more than 100 million votes were cast after Tuesday’s singing showdown between Lambert and Allen. A record-setting 624 million votes were cast over the season.”

From – May 20, 2009

That’s American Idol they’re talking about. This TV show has demonstrated “Empowered Interactivity” – as in, the people who watch decide the outcome – really!

Marshall McLuhan’s global village is here!

But back to our themewhat does all of this have to do with ‘saving the planet’? And maybe we should address ‘saving the planet from what?’.  Well, as Keanu Reeves responded in the recent remake of the classic sci-fi movie ‘Day the Earth Stood Still’, saving it from us! Or rather, referring to the current real situation here today, saving it from the tribal the conflicts, massive debts, resource depletion, etc., etc. that we have created for ourselves, and for the biosphere.

Adi Da says:

The Earth-world and all of the global human domain have already collapsed far enough. If the pattern of the whole collapses much further, the human life-sphere will not be retrievable. Now is the moment for self-rightening—while the resources that are necessary for the reclamation of the Earth-world and the global human domain yet exist.”

This may sound like a doomsday message, but it should not be oneIF we respond that is. And Adi Da says that the response will be mediated by the Internet:

The necessary and immediate tool and method for the collective organizing of the total human population on Earth is the Internet!”

As we have seen from the above facts about the current levels of participation in social media, and American Idol’s very successful experiment with empowered interactivity, the basic tools and infrastructure for worldwide participation in an ongoing, real-time, collective process, are ready now.

And how is all of this supposed to happen? Adi Da says that it must take institutional form in what he calls a ‘Global Cooperative Forum’.

The Global Cooperative Forum should (and indeed, must) be an Internet-based process, in which everyone on Earth is connected via a single website—and in which, as a practical matter, the “global business” is addressed and organized via formalized and completely accountable representatives of everyone-at-large

Adi Da points out that pretty well every collective we could choose to look at, be it a household, a city, a business, or a whole country, is subject to many agreements and rules, if it is to be happy and successful. Such is not the case, however, for the whole of humankind—there is no overall instrument or body for collective management. And those that address a part of that need, like the UN, don’t work very well. Something different is needed.

What Is The Global Cooperative Forum

Let’s start with what it is not:

  • It’s not a globally extended super-state.
  • It’s not mob power.
  • It’s not about a multitude of delegates coming to the table, each representing the interests of a certain group, religion, race, geographical region, or tribe of any stripe.

But it is:

  • All-inclusive and non-confrontational.
  • A forum where everyone participates.
  • and it will, initially, be made up of very talented people, who are disillusioned with power, and who have the right non-confrontational discipline.

The power of the Global cooperative Forum will come, not from the barrel of a gun, but from the unsuppressible force of everybody-all-at-once. And that force of everybody-all-at-once can well evolve from FaceBook as it achieves ever greater participation from around the globe, and as more and more of the world’s population gain access to the Internet. (As of September 2009 this is estimated to be ~25%.)

Much of the structure and function of the Global Cooperative Forum will need to be created by the initial guiding members. Adi Da has laid down all of the key principles in his book Not-Two Is Peace, available for download from the Da-Peace site.