Deep Change (video 4 minutes)
Deep Diving into Deep Everything
“Deep” describes change so complete that we lose our reference points to the past, and struggle to understand. We may have to dredge up unarticulated assumptions about how the world works, and we can’t question beliefs so deep that we were unaware of them. The adjective “deep” is coming to mean any change that mandates resetting deep human beliefs and values. Deep doo-doo rolls over our mental boot tops.
Because understanding everything in detail is impossible, Deep Change can’t be fathomed by reasoning alone. We can never go deep enough to find bottom, or certainty, but have to go as deep as we can.
An oft told, oft juiced story from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy illustrates our limitations. Deep Think, a colossal computer, bigger than the biggest black hole, and denser than the densest, was assigned to reveal the deepest secret of the universe, its grand purpose, sucking in every bit of information from billions of light years around, self-generating algorithms unfathomable to mere humans, and grokulating for 7 ½ million years at speeds orders of magnitude faster than the speed of light. After eons of Deep Learning, Deep Think belched out its colossal conclusion – a single two-digit number, 42.
Deep Learning describes processes for harvesting artificial Intelligence from Big Data. Well-developed (many projects aren’t), artificial intelligence reveals deep insights hidden in the data. It’s also revealing that it can’t seem to self-generate its own ethics. Surveillance Capitalism chronicles the use of AI to persuade and deceive us for commercial and political gain. Applications include cute items like killer robots – controlled by who or what? Most technical development is still narrowly focused in projects to detect, classify, optimize, or predict patterns, but the ethics of project purposes and their potential for disastrous unintended consequences are ringing alarm bells.
Ethics, doing the right thing, can’t be narrowly focused. They must consider a broad range of factors, including the possibility that “it all depends;” that ethical values might not be clarified or codified in fixed rules. (Should a speeding driverless car take out a mother or her child?)
That’s true of other changes too, technological or otherwise. Both AI and pressures increasing of the environmental should be pulling ethical considerations to the fore of human consciousness, but they are not. We numbly keep racing along.
Deep Medicine describes the impact of artificial intelligence on health care. It’s opening breakthrough insights into the tangled feedback loops of biology. But as Eric Topol notes, AI should force us to rethink what is really important in maintaining human health. Long run, that could be crucial to human welfare – as well as planetary welfare. But we are not used to seeing progress as a mixed blessing unless something bites back hard. Our economic system does not encourage it.
Deep Ecology is a gut feeling that one is inseparable from all nature; that we are a part of it and it part of us, in mutual interdependence. Indigenous peoples feel this – but that has not stopped them from yielding to the temptations of convenience in a consumption-driven economy. Indigenous people drive vehicles and use cell phones. Maybe they do because they can’t survive in a money-dependent economic system without them.
Billions of people cannot live today as indigenous peoples lived back when human populations were much smaller. Nature cannot provide the bounty for billions of people to live as hunter-gatherers. Billions of us cannot survive on pre-industrial agriculture either. Deep Ecology has to motivate a new balance with nature. We are as dependent on nature as the indigenous peoples were, but living abstractly from nature dulls our senses of that fact.
We need to do better than blindly hoping that a few tweaks can keep the present system going – that our company or our job will continue. Techniques to live better with nature are known, but not widely deployed, and better techniques can be learned. But Deep Ecology must motivate us outside the present economic system, so that we do not work just for money, or profit, or our benefit alone, but for mutual survival of us and our close companion, nature. That’s Deep Change. The “Principles of Compression Thinking” point toward Deep Change.
Deeper and Deeper Change
Many other “deeps” color our language: Deep Cleaning, Deep State, Deep Transformation, Deep Fakes… One of them relevant to Compression is Deep History, discovering how all earth and mankind have evolved from the big bang onward, seeing from a different perspective what we are, really, and how we got into our present state. Another is Deep Education, stimulating students to explore interests in depth and synthesizing that knowledge, rather than confining them to a prescribed curriculum. Deep Education spills outside classroom settings. Many terms allude to it: learning by doing, self-discovery, serendipity, life-long learning, continuing education, and continuous improvement, but each of these suggest a smaller stage of action than Deep Ecology, awareness of nature and of other people in everything we do.
Deep Fakes is artificial intelligence aiding the ancient practice of deceiving others. Deception is part of nature, of tricky animals escaping predators, for instance. Ancient tales are classics of human deception, the Trojan Horse being a well-known example. Before digital photography, film developers tweaked images, but Deep Fakes takes deceit to a new level by fabricating screen images of people doing or saying something that didn’t come close to happening. A well-known Deep Fake shows Barak Obama giving a totally made-up speech; 100% fake. If you tire of screen fakery, shut it off and watch nature. Your own eyes may fool you too, but at least you are seeing the real thing without any distortion from intermediary media.
Broadening and deepening learning is the intent of one of the “principles” of Compression Thinking; “Organize for Learning, not for Efficiency.” Learning is never complete. You can learn erroneously, and often do. You can learn a narrow topic in great depth, and to do that, you need firsthand experience with it. When learning through human media, books or on-line images, beware of inevitable biases, from those that don’t matter much to totally fabricated Deep Fakes. But if imbued with Deep Ecology plus a desire to verify facts, you will seek how all that we do affects the natural world all over the globe. To the extent that you can observe nature with your own eyes, you are at least attempting to perceive undistorted reality.
But our deepest motivations lurk in the depths of our oceans of uncertainty in which we make gut level decisions. is how to change our deepest motivations. How can we Deep Change large numbers of people toward Deep Ecology; toward long-term survival through longer-term thinking using “principles of Compression Thinking,” or something akin to it. Specifics vary so much by locality that no operations check list can work for each.
Few of us like deep philosophical contemplation. If we do change our philosophy intellectually, we may not change what we do – don’t connect the two. Most of us adopt a new worldview only after experiencing something so contradictory to our old one that the clash is unbearable. We are more likely to change our values when we first learn to do differently. For example, a company beginning to make operations lean doesn’t start with lean concepts – philosophy. They adopt new work patterns – actually doing differently. In time, the why of it all, the “lean philosophy” sinks in. And converting to lean is much less jarring than converting to Deep Ecology.
Deep Change affects everything, micro to macro. What I can do individually is micro, seemingly insignificant countering the big onrush of consumption and pollution, but compressing your own consumption footprint is something. Don’t buy bottled water. Shop with reusable bags. Buy few clothes – and durable ones. Recycle. Don’t buy that extra vehicle. Resist keeping all the lights on and the wiles of commercialized convenience. Learn to recognize what this really is.
How can we deeply change our worldviews, our daily habits, our desires, and our work – all of it. We’re convinced that weaning people from their distractions to enter a change this deep is not impossible. In public discourse, anyway, the major distraction is that perceived social injustices are felt more immediately than environmental degradation far removed in both time and distance. Social injustices fester in tribal divisions. Those divisions will not disappear, but perhaps we can form a “tribe for the whole” to deal with the changes necessary to preserve all our tribes.