A first draft of a new essay (a) by Vinay Gupta.

From the introduction:

Technological acceleration is simply that our underlying capacity to manipulate and control matter and energy has been on an exponential curve since the industrial revolution or a little before. 20 years ago a terabyte is an unthinkable amount of storage, packed into a raid array of 250 gig drives. Now you can have it as a MicroSD card, and that single drive is 16 gig. Brain scanning. Genetic engineering, solar panels, self-driving cars, drones, you name it. Rocket ships and VR gear. Even retina displays. Every year that the machine keeps running, more innovation in these kinds of areas. Each generation of gore-tex is a little better, a little more nanotechnology, a little more amazing.

We have no capability to understand, much less manage, most of this change. Even if you try to keep up, it’s too much innovation over too much front to really keep an eye on. Even if you watch self driving cars like a hawk, what’s happening in immunotherapy? Have you seen the unthinkable transformation in cancer treatments?

Limits to growth is as easy as pie: an average American puts out about 15 tons of CO2 per year. Best guess at a sustainable emissions level is 3 tons. If you emit more carbon than the sustainable level, the world gets warmer every year, and eventually that starts to reduce your ability to do things like grow food. This story repeats for basically every natural resource. There are some high quality of life, ultra-low consumption enclaves in the world: Kerala in India is below one planet of consumption, and has demographics right in line with Europe. Cuba is another famous example: they were forced to decarbonise at the fall of the Soviet Union when their oil supply got cut off and built an extremely lean and efficient society as a result. We all know these examples exist, for hundreds of millions of people, but there’s very little interest in scaling them. The world has not exactly beaten a path to Kerala’s door saying “how did you do it?”

Why not?

The invisible hierarchy of abuse is the answer to most of these questions, but it’s a little harder to see: consider this question. “How much child abuse goes on in boarding schools?” That’s your Etons and Harrows I’m asking about. Is the answer “none?” I don’t think so. Once in a few years, an awful story will break: a sports coach, or a choir master, or a headmaster. And that’s just the staff. Non-sexual student on student abuse is practically an institution in many of these places, and one does not assume those lines stay strictly drawn. Why is it invisible? Why don’t we have some kind of measured dialogue on these issues?

Well, I’m typing this on a Mac that I know for-damn-sure involves actions that I would consider criminal: no labour organization allowed in that supply chain, and the ever-present worry of conflict minerals down the chain there too. Never mind that my dinner will contain meat, and I know damn well where that came from.

This ability, to turn a blind eye “because we have to” is what makes the hierarchy of abuse invisible. It’s what allows a game which is almost entire made of losers to continue to be played by everybody, as if they were winning.

And this, from later on:

Now, this is not to say that it’s impossible for Californians etc. to study with the South Americans and learn their ways over time. I’m sure there are good teachers and good students doing diligent work over decades to achieve an intercultural spiritual understanding of depth, integrity and deep mutual respect. But these brave few people are lost in this vast swamp of corrupted idiots trying to wash their hands in a river of nonsense just because they saw a vision of a better world on a bunch of drugs. If the drugs can ship that kind of change, they would have already. Clinical use to treat PTSD and depression is a paradigm with clinical data to support it. But mass awakening? Progress towards that goal should be visible by now if it worked, and it just isn’t. The test of spirituality is what people do: not what they see, not what they say, not what they tell you is coming. California has been steeped in hippie values and every drug, drug cult, and drug culture known to man for 60 years, two full generations, and there is absolutely no sign of mass awakening, as you can see from the treatment of San Francisco’s homeless population. 
If there is no human solidarity, then no awakening has occurred.
It’s a simple and utterly reliable test. Whatever San Francisco got from 60 years of the Great Awakening Myth, it was not awakening. 
If you would like evidence of what Awakening looks like, I direct your gaze to Kerala, one of the poorest populations in the world (60 million people) with a near-100% literacy rate, and life expectancy and birth rates right in line with Europe. They manage this by actually taking care of each other. One of India’s most respected spiritual leaders, Ammachi, has enormous cultural influence there, and one could suggest that her values are part of why Kerala has such good sustainable development results. I will defer to experts on Kerala on that issue, but from a distance, it sure looks like there may be some impact there. Amma has a very large follower base in the State.





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I wrote up a steelman summary of Gupta's position on another thread after someone pointed out that capitalism is just a coordination mechanism (and one that is overall better than the other coordination mechanisms we've tried).

Here's the summary:

  • Western society used to be pretty bad at coordinating, but had a basic meaning-making orientation (Christianity) and functional methods of laundering personal responsibility (e.g. Catholic confession, e.g. Protestant predestination). 
  • With industrialization, and then again with the computing revolution, western society got a lot better at coordinating.
  • Alongside industrialization & modernization, western society began to lose its meaning-making orientation and its methods of laundering responsibility began to lose efficacy.
  • So now we're in a place where we're much better at coordinating than we were before, but we don't have wholesome targets to coordinate towards, and we're for the most part operating as though our legacy structures of managing personal responsibility are still intact. 
    • This is bad.
  • Lately some of our coordinating power has turned towards "colonizing" spiritual practices of other cultures, i.e. it's trying to adopt a version of them that could replace our legacy personal-responsibility-management structures. 
    • This isn't going very well, because the spiritual structures we're interested in are a fundamentally different shape than the ones we're trying to replace, and we're more interested in shoehorning the new (from our perspective) structures into the legacy forms rather than adapting our expectations to the new structures (adapting our expectations would be much harder).

This all rhymes with Vervaeke's stuff (though I haven't gone deep down the Vervaeke-hole yet).
Also rhymes with The Wizard and the Prophet (Gupta is a hardcore prophet, in that framing).