Explaining the Paradigm Shift
Steve McDonald discusses the causes and implications of the current global paradigm shift in this two part video series, with PostScript host and founder of The Arlington Institute, John L Petersen. Recorded at Berkeley Springs, West Virginia (September 2016).
Transcript of Steve McDonald talking with John Petersen on PostScript, Part 2 (second video).
Key to the stage/colour code/name of the evolutionary stages:
1. Beige: Survival
2. Purple: Tribal
3. Red: Egocentric
4. Blue: Absolutistic
5. Orange: Multiplistic
6. Green: Relativistic
7. Yellow: Integrative
8. Turquoise: Intuitive
Transcript begins at 3:00 minutes
SM: Imagine humanity as a conga line of people moving forward through the evolutionary process. Some are way ahead of the others; there’s a bell curve; and some are way in the back. There are signs that around the early 1900s there were people already starting to move into Yellow, stage 7, which is across this big shift in consciousness. We saw the emergence of thinking like quantum mechanics, developmental psychology (which is what this model is). There were early signs of those things way back then. So we can look at what’s happening right now and find small pockets of the future, in terms of how people are thinking and behaving.
JP: I did a talk in Shanghai a couple years ago, and I went there with this image of the Communist Chinese. And I found myself, to my amazement, in a room full of these enlightened Buddhist folks who were so different than that image I was carrying. What I’m taking away from this is that you’re seeing these kinds of new perspectives and levels of consciousness showing up all over the world, moreso in some placces than others, but nevertheless it’s a broadly based phenomenon.
SM: Exactly. William Gibson said, “The future’s already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”
JP: Build the last few levels, so we can talk about the future and where this might be going.
SM: The dominant global paradigm is breaking down, not capable of solving our problems. What happens with each of these stages is, as an individual or a society behaves according to the characteristics of a particular stage, it naturally goes through a process of flowering and then decay. Simply by living in its own way, the decay happens naturally. That’s what we’re seeing. Each stage produces more complexity, and the more complexity it produces, the more it starts to fail to cope.
We’re seeing that now with Stage 5, a multiplistic way of thinking. People would recognize it as the scientific, industrial, corporate mindset that’s dominating the planet. We’re seeing that it’s produced all this amazing technology, it’s connected us, and now that we’re all connected and there’s so much more communication and interaction going on, that these systems, that were actually designed way before the internet, are not coping. They’re failing.
JP: That’s right; industrial, by definition.
SM: Exactly. Mechanical in nature. So what’s happening is a two-fold process. On one hand, these old systems are decaying, and on the other hand, new systems are arising, because the complexity is pulling consciousness up, which is bringing new inventions, new behaviours. We’re seeing the emergence of things like digital currency and blockchain technology as great examples of something that’s going to be more effective in coping with complexity.
JP: Ken Wilber talked about this transition process as being holonic. It’s a holon, and by that he means that it includes some of the past, such that it’s familiar enough, but it transcends into some new space. If you take too big a step; if you just transcend; then it really is highly disruptive to the existing ability of people to make that kind of adaptation. You’re describing a currency, but now in a dramatic new way, and those kinds of things are happening across the spectrum, almost everywhere. In terms of energy production, education, and a variety of places.
SM: Yes, that’s right. Because the communication technology allows us to spread ideas so quickly, we’re seeing a compression in time of the change process. Whereas if you look at the agricultural revolution, it took thousands of years to spread around the world. Now what happened in thousands of years can happen in decades.
JP: In part, I would argue, facilitated by the internet, which just increases the metabolism of the whole thing. The distribution and collection of information, and to be able to aggregate. The way you find solutions on the internet today is kind of amazing.
SM: Whereas the mainstream global paradigm is doing a shift from multiplistic stage 5 to relativistic stage 6, which is taking us from individuality back towards collective thinking again, we’ve got smaller pockets of people who are transitioning further up the Spiral. So we’re seeing the emergence of amazing technology which is off the scale. That, of course, feeds back into the lower level changes. You get this technology trickle-down effect where technology that’s developed by a more complex way of thinking then becomes available to people who are thinking in more simple ways.
With the compression of time, it’s bringing our species to a critical point. While it’s true that the dominant global paradigm is shifting from stage 5 to 6, after stage 6 we’re looking at a quantum leap in human capacity. It’s going to require considerable evolutionary tension to cause such a large shift. That means big challenges for our species. Problems arising that are so far beyond our current capacity to solve, that we have to change massively, in a natural evolutionary way, in order to survive as a species.
So we can expect with the emergence of stage 6 as the dominant paradigm, it’s a very permissive, very connected way of being human. And it’s going to make all of these previous ways and levels of thinking more obvious, and give them more access to global influence, which is just going to create a rich, complex, chaotic mix of activity and rapid change on the planet. And it’s that tension that’s going to alchemically transform human consciousness into something way beyond where it is now.
JP: How does it come together? What are the indictors that suggest what the direction might be?
SM: How it comes together remains to be seen. What we can look at is small pockets where the transformation has already occurred to some extent. Looking back to the 1960s we see an early wave of what we’re seeing now, threatening to become the dominant paradigm. But when the 60s happened, it was without the internet. So there was no scaffolding for it to hold onto. But now it has the scaffolding of the internet, so it’s most likely going to stick. So we’re going to see a big backlash initially — we’re already seeing it now — against the scientific, industrial paradigm. So organizations like Occupy, Anonymous, and the like… we can expect more of that backlash against the dominant paradigm. Supported by the emergence of new technologies which can supercede our current systems. The blockchain technology is one of the most obvious, which threatens to really replace our current economic system in a different way.
JP: I’ve been saying that there’s going to be some kind of breakthrough that integrates a whole lot of different functions, in the same way that every other kind of complex technologies come together that are integrated and more capable. That’s going to suddenly drive you into a space where people can find each other, whether it’s projection, holography, or whatever it turns out to be, that you can suddenly start to replicate people and relationships and conversations in community for that matter, in aggregate, information in augmented reality, such that your capabilities become so much more greater. It also empowers individuals, I think, in rather significant ways.
SM: I agree. If we look at places where the relativistic stage 6 has emerged in an organizational sense, we’ve also learned so far that it’s extremely permissive; it likes to create a level playing field, and it likes to dissolve hierarchies. So while everybody gets a say in what is an attempt at a very equitable process, we also know that it has weaknesses in an organizational and leadership sense. Where, if no single person is taking responsibility for a decision or process, often it can get lost in the communication process and be devoid of effective action. That’s what the early signs of the management style of stage 6 is telling us. It remains to be seen what that’s going to mean on a global scale. We’ve seen the European Union as some sort of attempt to try and create a situation like that, which is starting to look wobbly…
JP: So how would a company, for instance, operate in that kind of space?
SM: If you think of a committee-driven process, with committee members around the table who all have the same value set, all thinking from this stage 6 relativistic place, that can work. Although they tend to put more focus on the process of communication rather than the outcomes.
JP: No kiddin’!
SM: Because it’s all about human to human connection; that’s the motivating factor. What that means in a productive sense is that sometimes the outcomes aren’t there. However, you’ve also got to factor in how other aspects of society are changing. For example, 3-D printing is going to completely transform the manufacturing world. We’ll no longer have this thing sent away to be manufactured in China and have it shipped back, we just email the plan to the local 3-D Printer a block away, and go pick it up.
JP: Or do it on the counter in your kitchen.
SM: Exactly. That, combined with other emerging technologies promises to reduce the cost of living significantly.
JP: Ahh… and the number of jobs.
SM: And the number of jobs. Exactly. I think we’ll see a diminishing of this rat race that’s been created by stage 5, where everybody’s got to work hard…
JP: So it’s going to free up a whole lot of time for people? It’s going to change the whole notion of work, and what individual value is…
JP: So you don’t get compensated necessarily for your economic contributions, and that’s this emergence in places in the world where they’re trying to do a minimum basic income…
SM: Exactly. That extra time should see a flourishing of the arts and all of those sorts of things as well. So it’s potentially the emergence of a very very different society that’s not driven in a way that stage 5 has been driven.
JP: This is quite interesting. If it’s dramatically different, driven by creativity and inner development, and lots of free time, and the reduction of pressure to be productive and so on, that’s a really different, interesting kind of world.
SM: It is, yes… somewhat utopian, even.
JP: Yes, but you can see the indicators, the pointers.
SM: Absolutely. I live in Byron Bay in Australia, which is a big alternative lifestyle centre, and we can see the seeds of that happening already. There are local growers producing food that they sell in a local farmer’s market, and it’s a wonderful community hub, you can see the seeds of this coming.
The tricky bit is, as I was saying about this conga line, you’ve got a kind of bell curve. So it’s all well and good for the folks who are up at stage 6 to be living life this way, and if you can create a bubble effectively, then that’s fantastic. But you’ve got to interact with the rest of the world. You’ve got to interact with people who are still living in countries where the life conditions are poor, they don’t have access to clean water, they can’t get fresh food, they’re being bombed, those sorts of things. This is where that extra tension is going to come from, which is going to slingshot us up to the seventh stage.
JP: How does that play out?
SM: How I think it’ll play out is that you’ll see the emergence of bubbles of this new way of living, this stage 6. As far as folks on the other stages, well, humans interact. So we’re already seeing this now. You’ll get folks travelling to other countries and blowing things up in order to bring attention to their plight.
JP: That’s the negative aspect of it, but in all of life you have these natural cycles of growth and decline, and what you’re essentially saying is we’re seeing the emergence of a new world; and the implosion, if you will, of the old world, as it becomes increasingly dysfunctional, probably, focused on old ideas…
SM: What we know is that the previous paradigms are very persistent. So it’s not so much the implosion, but the slipping from dominance to a secondary place. We’re still going to see these systems that are dominant now, they’re just not going to be dominant. But they’ll be there, in different places. Because you’ve got pockets of societies all over the world which are progressing up through these systems that aren’t moving from stage 5 to 6; they might be moving from stage 3 to 4, or 4 to 5. All of that’s going to continue.
JP: But you argue that it’s going to be accelerated, right, with the internet and so on.
SM: Absolutely it’s being accelerated. The stage 6, relativistic way of thinking tends to solve problems by rebalancing things. So the main strategy is to move resources around on a level playing field to try and rebalance things. The classic example of that is the Food to Africa movement, which has been going on for years. People there are starving, we send food to them; it fixes the problem, but actually doesn’t fix the problem. So we’re going to see that, on a larger scale. Where some of the challenges presented by these different values in societies that are locked in conflict, or locked in poverty, trying to deal with the emergence of this utopian world. We’re going to see attempts to solve that by rebalancing resources, and we’re going to find that, in the long term, that doesn’t work. In fact, it simply creates more complexity; and it’s that complexity which is going to drive us into stage 7.
JP: I’d argue that you’d get decentralization in this process, and you’d get increased independence and sustainability in these “bubbles.” So if you look at Africa, for instance, you’re going to find a development in Africa that’s going to increasingly make themselves sustainable, because in part of some of these new technologies and capabilities coming along.
SM: I agree. There’s a general movement upwards, globally. You can look at rates of poverty, education etc globally and see how they’re trending upwards, for sure. But like I said, the complexity of stage 6 values as the dominant global paradigm, trying to deal with the critical issues happening on the planet at the moment, is not going to bring resolution. What it’s going to bring is greater complexity which is going to slingshot us up to this higher level of consciousness.
JP: What are the relative percentages of the population in each stage?
SM: I don’t think anybody really knows. People have guessed; I wouldn’t guess, personally. I can say that in the last 10 years, some guess that 10% of the global population has made this big leap in consciousness to stage 7; I don’t know if that’s correct.
JP: What’s after 7?
SM: Let me talk just briefly about stage 7. My personal impression of what stage 7 is going to be like is a bunch of first responders arriving at an accident scene or a disaster. Looking at our planet, with oceans polluted, problems with population, migration, wars, water, climate change. And saying, OK, let’s triage this. What do we need to deal with first in order to secure the future of humanity on the planet? This will be one of the driving motivations of stage 7. Clare Graves found this in his research. He found people back in the 1950s who were thinking that way. They were looking (at the time) at the tension between the superpowers and the threat of nuclear war, and worried about the future of our species. So this is built-in to the psychological pattern of stage 7, to have a global concern for survival for the species.
Interestingly, he found this was a repeating theme. So if you go right back to stage 1, it’s about hunter/gatherer survival. Stage 7 is the emergence of this second tier of values which also about survival, but at a global, species level. So there’s a repeating theme there. That then led Graves to look at stage 8 and compare it to stage 2, and he found again a similar theme. Stage 2 was where we first banded together in large tribes to bring greater stability to life, and stage 8 will be at a global level, a new tribal way of thinking of humanity as one tribe.
What that will mean, effectively, is that after stage 7 has done the “first aid,” the next step is to bring stability to the planet. I would expect to see things like the emergence of a kind of global wisdom council that would supercede (JP: a different government?) yeah sure, I think government will be very different. It ought to be arranged according to the consciousness of the individuals involved, because by that time we’ll have a deeper understanding of the levels of human consciousness. So whereas now we get people in government whose capacities are, say, questionable, to put it politely, by then we ought to understand human consciousness enough to know that, say, these folks here are the ones we want steering the ship. And we’ll have a deeper understanding of this connection between the complexity of life conditions and how that impacts human behaviour, and we’ll have a greater capacity to change life conditions around the planet in order to nurture the growth and evolution of societies in a much more effective way than we do now. The outcome of all that will be a more peaceful and more stable humanity.
JP: In a classic understanding of these paradigm shifts, historically, what you conclude is that you’re having a giant kind of shift in an increasingly narrow period of time, and that this produces a reality that is undecipherable, unanticipatory. You cannot make sense out of it from the present reality. What you’re describing is the emergence of a new world that’s going to operate in a dramatically different way, with work in the terms we’ve known it in the past. It’s really quite fascinating and interesting that there’s this framework, this architecture, that begins to point in that direction. You can see the emerging pieces all over the place. It’s been nice having you with us today, Steve McDonald.
SM: Thank you, John.