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Why we don't have an Institute for Societal Systems Change

Wouldn’t it be rational for humans to try optimizing the societal systems that they have to deal with? After all, we are trying to improve our technology all the time, why not the same for the societal systems at large? Why isn’t there an officially supported organization whose sole task it is to improve our systems where it’s possible? Wouldn’t a country that had such an institution have a competitive advantage above countries who don’t?

The situation becomes even weirder when you compare our political systems to software. We have been running on basically the same operating system for about 200 years. Sure, there have been different versions of the base software, sometimes we do minor upgrades and patches, and install other applications, but we haven’t even attempted moving towards a big next version of the operating system. Transitions to other operating systems have been done repeatedly, but in a very unsystematic fashion in the form of revolutions. That general mechanism doesn’t make sense, unless your highest values are stability and backwards compatibility: Never change a running system.

People are usually averse to change on the basic level of the societal operating system (SOS), unless their situation becomes unendurably horrible. And even then do people have to fight to their deaths for a real SOS change. So, wouldn’t it make sense to implement a societal institution that makes revolutions obsolete by developing new SOS versions in advance and creating a smooth upgrading plan? Of course, this institution would have to be respected and supported by the current SOS, otherwise it would be brutally suppressed, because it would act as destabilizing agent of the current SOS. This seems to be a plausible reason for why we don’t have an Institute for Societal Systems Change: It would be deemed undesirable by the forces who are currently in power!

Also, any improvement of the current SOS is interpreted as disruption and destabilization by those who don’t profit by the change initially – or more correctly: By those who think they won’t profit by the change.

But all this merely means that such an institute can’t easily exist with the support of the forces currently in power. However, it could exist as opposing force that is likely to be attacked and suppressed. So, we can’t expect that such an organization would be supported by governments or large corporations, at least not under normal circumstances. Therefore, the task of upgrading the SOS falls in the hands of the people directly. It needs to be a direct and networked effort in order to maintain its integrity. Governmental or corporate support would corrupt it. Large donations by organizations or wealthy individuals would likewise threaten its independence.

This means, our organization would have to be described as Societal Operating System Upgrade Network (SOSUN). Its task would be develop a new version of a SOS, and especially think big and apply systems thinking. If its participants are ideologically diverse, they will probably come up with different visions for an upgraded SOS. So, they SOSUN would naturally partition itself into subnetworks which form themselves around specific visions, if not ideologies, which make collaborative work towards a common goal possible.

So, if the “real” work happens in the subnetworks, what would be the task of the SOSUN? It would act as portal to the subnetworks, as common resource base, and hopefully facilitate wide societal discourse about the respective benefits, dangers, and problems of the visions of the subnetworks.

Should the SOSUN itself stay neutral with respect which visions and subnetworks it favours, or should it come up with a ranking, or a clear favourite? That’s a tough question. On one hand, neutrality would provide a friendly platform for all kinds of alternative visions of the future. On the other hand, an absolutely neutral SOSUN would have little power to support visions who are favoured by the people.

Could the Fractal Future Network become the starting point for a SOSUN? Would that even be a good idea?

Is there already something like a SOSUN? There are certainly some “subnetworks”, with one of the most popular being the Zeitgeist Movement, which envisions a so-called “resource-based economy”. Other subnetworks would be various think-tanks and movements, but few of them target complete and holistic systems change.

Is it time for a change of change?