The future will be sociocultural evolution

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According to Wikipedia:  Sociocultural evolution, sociocultural evolutionism or social evolution are theories of sociobiology and cultural evolution that describe how societies and culture change over time.

I believe the future will be a process of natural evolution.

When I saw things from the top down in the 1960s, as a bureaucrat-planner, I did not recognise this was how things were. I thought the local authorities who employed me decided the future they wanted, and I did what they asked for.  

I did not realise that our mindsets determine our decisions. An unconscious process; I was so wrapped up in planning for growth, climbing the layers of bureaucracy to further my ends, that I did not realise why I did it.  

It was a “natural” process of evolution at a time when our thinking was grounded in growth. The organisation and its employees were at one with each other, and outsiders seemed happy with the outcomes.

I did not notice that our economy was evolving as it grew, with essential markets and spending dominating daily life in the immediate post-war years. An economy that at that time was too small to accommodate any discretionary (non-essential) needs.

Then as the economy grew, discretionary activities emerged, and the economy developed into a mixture of essential and discretionary spending. Organisations became more complex. Specialist professional disciplines emerged and evolved to improve decision-making. Departments of landscape architects, social workers, transportation planners, sub-regional land use planners, economists, and so on.

It was organised from the top down – a characteristic of growth-based social system planning.

As Wikipedia points out:  Sociocultural development traces processes that tend to increase the complexity of a society or culture; sociocultural evolution also considers process that can lead to decreases in complexity (degeneration).

Sociocultural evolution is “the process by which structural reorganisation is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure that is qualitatively different from the ancestral form”.

The UK is now transitioning from sociocultural development to degeneration with decreasing complexity. But not yet recognised as such  

Decreased complexity implies delayering – taking out an increasing number of the layers from bureaucratic organisations.  

Organisations stuck in growth-based mindsets in a society which is degenerating will be unable to cope with what is going on. The NHS is an obvious example.

It is time to dismantle these organisations by removing the discretionary elements added during growth to decrease their complexity.  

Looking back to my time as a transportation planner provides an example of what has happened in the last half-century.

In 1966, Southampton City Council appointed me to plan their road system.  With no relevant experience, I spent two years talking to land use planners, the bus transport general manager, the police, the City Treasurer and Southampton Dock Authority staff.  Telling my boss, the City Engineer, what I was doing as things came together.   

In 1968, the city council published its Outine Transportation Plan. That was how things were then throughout UK cities.

Today umpteen local authority staff in specialised departments and their consultants are assumed to be required to plan a city’s roads.  

We have reached peak complexity. We must now learn how to simplify our culture – evolution from the bottom up.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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