November 25, 2007
Integrated Patterns of CivilizationBy D. Bruce Merrifield
Facts and data are the fundamental building blocks of intelligent thought and action, but in themselves, have little value until first, they are vertically integrated into patterns of useful information, and then second, these patterns of information are further vertically integrated into useful knowledge. Value rises exponentially with each degree of integration, and sometimes -- when accompanied by a bit of experience and intelligence -- a bit of wisdom can result.
Unfortunately, partial integration of limited facts data and information can sometimes be misleading and fail to identify the full significance of a number of important issues. Several issues of great importance currently exist, and integration of the relevant facts involved in each can result in exceedingly positive consequences.
For example, the recent integration of fragmented data from diverse paleontological and archaeological sources has revealed a remarkable interrelationship between reoccurring periods of global warming (none of human origin), and the periodic emergence, and then demise, of many rudimentary forms of civilization. About every 100,000 years, great ice-age ending periods of global warming have made the Earth temporarily more habitable for life. The Earth currently is involved in the most recent of these 100,000-year periods.
However, sedimentation data from the Sargasso Sea now reveal that a subsequent set of shorter term periods of global warming (also not of human origin), have occurred for the first time ever, during just the last 5,000-year era. This is a remarkable phenomenon, which is apparently unique in the earth's history. The result has been that an advanced civilization has finally been allowed to progressively evolve past a rudimentary agrarian stage, to the point where a possibility now exists that the current technology-based culture might even be sustainable through the next ice age, and allow the continued evolution of the human species. It would seem important that this unique civilization not be allowed again to disappear.
However, perpetuation of civilization and the continued evolution of the human species, even through a next ice age, will be dependent upon the elimination of our current capability for massive self destruction. The dangers of weapons-of-mass-destruction are multiplied by the fact that they are readily available to rogue segments of the 80 percent of world populations who live in politically unstable under-developed countries. The accelerated economic development of those countries could be critical for survival of civilization. Fortunately, remarkably successful independent strategies for coping with control of WMDs and for acceleration of economic development are available, and their mutual integration into a coherent strategy for survival, also is feasible.
Global Warming Patterns:
Global warming has recently emerged as a critical societal issue, although it has been periodically recurring for many hundreds of thousands of years. The integration of recently developed data and information from mutually supportive, but very diverse sources in the scientific literature, has unexpectedly resulted in the realization that this phenomenon is perhaps of much greater significance than currently realized. (1) See also here.)
The reason is that an adventitious confluence of circumstances over the last 5,000 years has, for the first time, allowed an advanced form of civilization to emerge on Planet Earth. This might have happened a million years ago (but did not). Integration of data sampled from ice cores in the Antarctic Ice Cap and the Sargasso Sea, from stalagmites, from ocean up-wellings and from the shells of crustaceans, now reveal the unique set of circumstances needed for an advanced civilization to have developed.
Evolution is a fitful process. It has been intermittently accelerated by periodic 100,000-year great ice age-ending warming periods, each of which has also been coincident with enormous surges of carbon dioxide and methane (2) from the ocean waters. (3) These surges, lasting about 15,000 to 25,000 years, are massively greater than those currently generated from fossil fuels. Each of these ice-ending phenomena have temporarily made Earth's life more habitable, allowing rudimentary hunting and gathering civilizations to repetitively appear and disappear.
Currently, the Earth is involved in the latest of these 100,000-year warming periods. But uniquely, over just the last 5,000 years, it also has been involved in a number of shorter 200 to 300-year periods of warming, (also not of human origin). Of even greater importance is the fact that each of these shorter warming periods has been coincident with the rise and decline of a major civilization. Fortuitously, the spacing between these sequential warming periods is of inestimable importance, since advances made in one civilization have not been lost to the next. This set of conditions apparently has never occurred before.
We now are about 20,000 years into the most recent of the 100,000-year warming and cooling cycles. This one peaked about 10,000 years ago, and has since been cooling. These cycles are coincident with the earth's elliptical orbit around the Sun. As the orbit moves closest around the sun, there is an associated increase and then decrease of solar radiation hitting the earth. (4) As the Earth cooled from its most recent peak to about 8500 B.C., an incipient Clovis civilization was snuffed out. However quite unexpectedly, about 5000 B.C. a new great surge of methane into the atmosphere (5) reversed the cooling process. The renewed warming period was coincident with the beginning of civilization in the Nile, Euphrates, and Tigris River Valleys
Remarkably since then, each subsequent surge of greenhouse gases has also been coincident with a period of global warming, and also surprisingly, with the rise and decline of each of our major civilization.
In 1000 B.C. a 200 to 300-year surge of greenhouse gasses was coincident with the rise and decline of the Babylonian civilization. Five hundred years later in the next warming period, the Greek civilization rose and declined, and four hundred years after that, the
Roman civilization became dominant and then declined. The rise of each civilization has been coincident with a warming period, perhaps because warming periods are conducive to longer growing seasons, and a much increased availability of food.
The Dark Ages followed over the next 1,000 years, during which no surges of carbon dioxide or warming periods were observed. However in 1000 A.D. the Medieval period was initiated by another great surge of greenhouse gasses, coincident with a period of global warming, (much warmer than now). During this period, the great cathedrals were built, and the arts flourished. But this period also was so warm that the ice and snow melted in Greenland, and for 200 years, the Danes farmed Greenland until it froze over again. (7) (There are no reports of rising seas inundating sea ports during this period).
The next surge of Greenhouse gases occurred around 1500 A.D. coincident with the Renaissance in another warming period. Finally, the current 20th century warming period (five hundred years later), has been coincident both with the latest surge of greenhouse gasses, and also a sustained 100 year rise in solar radiation. (8) Every surge of greenhouse gasses has been vastly greater than the amounts currently being generated by burning fossil fuels.
However, in retrospect the most important observation is that the intermittent periods of rise and fall of each civilization were sufficiently close together, so that the cultural advances made in each did not die out. Instead, they became the cornerstones on which following advances were made. Such a fortuitous sequence has never occurred before in any of the previous 100,000-year warming periods. The result has been that the extraordinary advance of civilization to its present state in the current era, may be unique in the process of Earth's evolution, and perhaps in the cosmos.
Also in retrospect, it is clear that all the great incremental advances in the human condition were made during these sequential periods of global warming. Innovation is also primarily a process of integration, in which earlier incremental thoughts and discoveries, are creatively combined into new important tools of learning, communication, great art, music and the creation of innovative products, processes and services. Archimedes, Gallileo, Guttenberg, Watt, Edison, Newton, Bohr, Mendeleef and Einstein are some of the great names enshrined in history. Remarkably, in this most recent warming period, about 90 percent of all scientific knowledge has been generated during just the last 30 years. (9)
The primary forcing agent appears to be the periodic rise and fall of several independent and interactive solar radiation cycles, since the rate at which solar energy hits the earth every second is about 1,000 times greater than all concurrent world consumption of energy by humans.
An unexplained little ice age unexpectedly occurred between about 1600 and 1750 A.D. (9) when Europe was covered with ice and snow, and the Venetian canals were frozen over. (10) This period was coincident with the Maudlin Solar Minimum, when increases in solar radiation completely ceased. Subsequently, measured radiation again increased (coincident with the current warming period).
Most remarkably, since 1988, all (net) measured increases in carbon dioxide and methane into the Earth's atmosphere have abruptly ceased, and warming has also terminated. (11) This cessation of warming is coincident with NASA observations of an abrupt peaking and apparent beginning decline in total solar radiation, evident also in the polar icecaps on Mars and Neptune as well as on Earth. (12)
It will be important to continue to gather and integrate data from these diverse sources, and to further quantify the degree to which solar radiation as been the primary forcing agent driving the intermittent process of evolution, which now has allowed the emergence of an advanced civilization on Planet Earth. The beneficial contributions to warming by solar radiation and by the greenhouse gasses (of whatever origin), also needs further study. Unfortunately, human control over the forcing agents seems to be very limited at best, and it may be important to take advantage of the current beneficial warming period, to consolidate both economic and sociological conditions for sustainable habitation on Planet Earth... before another ice age surely will intervene.
A Sustainable Global Village
The remarkable set of coincidences that has allowed civilization on Planet Earth to advance to the degree to which it has, also creates the intriguing possibility that this civilization might even be indefinitely perpetuated. However, the possibility of catastrophic self destruction must first be eliminated. The ready availability of weapons of mass destruction is amplified by the fact that some 80 percent of the current world's population still lives in politically unstable under-developed countries. Rogue elements exist, energized by the continued disparity in quality of life between these 80 percent and those in developed countries. This is both striking and dangerous.
Unfortunately, the history of civilization is one of continual political instability and strife. But the horror of World War II, which cost the lives of tens of millions of people, finally has generated an informal consensus for preventive action among the developed nations. This has resulted in a strategy which has prevented warfare in several theaters, and one that now, if effectively implemented, may lead to the final termination of global strife.
General George Marshall is noted for his famous economic assistance "Marshall Plan" commencement speech at Harvard in 1947. However, less appreciated was his "Stalemate Strategy," which George Kennan called "containment." General Marshall pointed out that we made a serious mistake after World War I by pulling our troops out of Europe, and allowing strife to be renewed. Prevention of large scale fighting must never again be allowed, he said, and the developed nations must collaborate in its prevention. Unfortunately, prevention is a multiple step process of transition from dictatorship to a democracy. It usually takes generations, and involves a sequence of stages.
The critical stage is "stalemate," which requires the immediate availability of a superior garrison military force, to be used if needed. Stalemate can then encourage a process of negotiation, which in turn can allow initiation of the decades-long process of evolutionary change into forms of participatory democracy. General Marshall declared that we must keep our troops in Asia and Europe to prevent further fighting ever again.
As a result, the Korean War was the last gasp of fighting in the Pacific Rim, and in retrospect has indeed resulted in stalemate there. President Truman was heavily criticized for the U.S. intervention, but half a century later Japan and the other Asian Tigers (after 60 years) have developed thriving capitalistic democracies. China is behind the curve, but is rapidly developing its own stabilizing middle class, and the troops will still be there as long as necessary to discourage rogue behavior.
In Europe, stalemate in the form of "Mutual Assured Destruction," or MAD, finally resulted 40 years later in the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communism, and a de facto stalemate with Russia. The NATO intervention, which installed garrison troops in Kosovo, now has ensured that fighting will be permanently stalemated in Europe for the first time in all of its long history.
The Middle East remains the last remaining theater where large scale fighting persists, and it is important that effective stalemate be understood as the ultimate objective in that theater. When U.S. troops entered Iraq, they overran four underground facilities, two of which were empty. These facilities had been watched on satellite, as the contents of one were loaded onto three cargo planes and flown to a deserted air strip in Libya, and the other loaded into trucks and driven into Syria. (13) Under threat to enter and retrieve the nuclear weapons in Libya, Qaddafi agreed to release them (and become our ostensible friend). They were retrieved and flown to Oak Ridge. The agreement reached has "stalemated" Libya. The chemical weapons carted into Syria also have been "retrieved," but stalemate there is still in the future.
In Lebanon, the Israeli "intervention" failed to do as much damage to the Hezb'allah as had been hoped, but much more importantly, it finally forced the United Nations to provide garrison troops in Lebanon, which, as in Kosovo, now could maintain stalemate conditions in that country for an indefinite number of years (a stunning potential development when seen in this perspective!)
A stalemate process also is now finally unfolding in the remaining areas of strife in the Middle East. In each of the Arab countries, some 50 percent to 70 percent of those populations are under age 25, with no jobs. They are very vulnerable to violent regime change, and urgently need stability in their territories. Iran's economy also is in serious trouble, with declining oil production, and very active back-channel negotiations now are in process to reach a ceasefire final settlement. The terms of stalemate will take time to be worked out.
In retrospect, General Marshall's Strategy for Stalemate has been remarkably prescient. When the records of these individual successful operations are seen as an integrated strategy over their six decades since first articulation, the significance for the Middle East becomes apparent. Once political stability is assured, the opportunity also then also exists for developed nations (in their own enlightened self interest), to accelerate the process of economic development of these and other developing countries. Fortunately, an important model for doing this also has inadvertently already been developed.
The Inadvertent American Miracle
Stalemate is the critical first step needed to create an environment conducive to entrepreneurial initiative, and to accelerate the essential process of economic development for all under-developed countries. Currently, some 80 percent of the 6.6 billion people on earth live in under-developed countries, many of them in fragmented tribal societies. The disparity between their lives and those in the developed nations is both striking and dangerous. Disparity can generate hostility and rogue elements exist which can acquire access to weapons of mass destruction.
Fortunately, access to satellite television and the Internet has also created a growing awareness among the developing nations of the potential for achieving an increased quality of life to which they now aspire. China and India are already at the leading edge of this phenomenon, and others are beginning to follow. Unfortunately, an environment for entrepreneurial initiative often is lacking.
However, the United States has inadvertently created a model for entrepreneurial initiative, new small business formation, multiple job creation, and accelerated economic development, for which history has had no precedent.
This model, in modified form, also has been introduced into a number of developing countries with remarkable success, and can be replicated wherever political stability can be sustained. As the Peruvian Hernando deSoto has pointed out, based on his seven year study of Latin American economies, the primary definition of an under-developed economy is one where entrepreneurial initiatives are not allowed. The entrepreneurs are always there, but are relegated to the underground and black market economies. (14)
The U.S. model, which inadvertently created such an environment for entrepreneurial innovation, was initiated in the early 1980s. Ironically, it could have been created decades earlier, but a special set of conditions was required for the enabling legislation to be put in place. The subsequent implementation of these legislative changes, and the resultant economic growth, has since catapulted the U.S. into a position of unintended world leadership, with important responsibilities for assisting other nations to also realize their potential. (15)
The deep 1980-1982 recession was the primary motivation for enactment of the U.S. enabling legislation. This period saw interest rates rise above 20 percent, inflation to over 13 percent, and unemployment surge to 10 percent. A sense of panic then allowed passage of the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, in which the critical factor was the reduction of the capital gains tax on investments to 20 percent (it had been a punitive 49 percent two years earlier).
Concurrently, a number of barriers to entrepreneurial innovation were also removed. The U.S. antirust laws were modified to allow U.S. companies to collaborate in development of a number of disruptive next-generation technologies needed to counter the Japanese MITI subsidized "Targeted Industry Strategy." Individual U.S companies alone could not compete with this strategy, which already had captured most of the consumer electronics businesses, about 90 percent of the mass memory transistor business, and had made major inroads into the steel, shipbuilding, automotive and other business areas.
At this time also, the Technology Transfer Acts released about $100 billion of Government funded advanced technology for private sector access (the seed corn of innovation). The Limited Liability Corporation model for organization and management was created, the Flexible Computer Integrated Manufacturing legislation was enacted, and the Intellectual Property Laws were strengthened. Oddly, these changes were initially designed to help large businesses renew themselves... but few did.
However quite unexpectedly, the reduction of the capital gains tax almost overnight generated several hundred million dollars in venture capital (billions since then), and jumpstarted the formation of multiple new small businesses several-fold to 600,000 to 800,000 each year thereafter. The unanticipated result was the generation of a small business revolution (16) which since has become self-energizing and self-sustaining. It has produced an unprecedented explosion of new businesses, new jobs, new wealth and an increased quality of life, far beyond any expectations.
Since 1982, a net 25 million new businesses have incorporated (up from 4.6 million in 1982), and about 95 million new jobs have been created, most in small businesses. These have more than offset the loss of about 45 million jobs in downsizing and restructuring many large companies with famous corporate names, over the same period. Over 95 percent of all U.S. incorporated businesses have fewer than 100 employees, but they now account for a rising two-thirds of the U.S. GDP.
Over the same 25 years, American household wealth has increased an astonishing degree, from about $3 trillion in 1982, to $58 trillion in 2007. Household wealth continues to increase about $3 trillion every year.
Household cash savings also have increased 10 fold since 1982 to $5.3 trillion, when investments in IRA's 401-K's, money market funds, treasuries, mutual funds and stocks are counted (home equity not included). Over 50 percent of the U.S. population is invested in the markets, and the Dow Jones Average has exploded from about 1000 in 1982 to hit 14,000 in 2007.
All sectors of the population have advanced in well being, living longer, healthier, and more comfortably, with rapidly rising college enrollments.
Perhaps most remarkably (and contrary to "conventional wisdom"), the reduction of the capital gains tax on investments to 20 percent, instead of causing a decline in tax revenues, jumped revenues from $12 billion on 1982 to $56 billion in 1986! The most recent reduction in the tax to 15 percent has jumped these tax revenues to over $100 billion per year, as increased incentives for investment generate new businesses, jobs and wealth.
A modification of this new business creation model also has been introduced into a number of developing countries with rather remarkable success. However, it has had to be modified, because in a developing country it is difficult to enact the desired enabling legislation in any reasonable time. As a result, small incipient businesses have difficulty growing. They rarely have access to either the capital or to the changing mix of skills and resources needed for continued development, scale-up and commercial operation.
The International Program for Acceleration of Commercial Technology (INPACT) was developed by the Technology Office in the U.S. Department of Commerce to provide the missing capabilities. (17) A small, carefully selected and specially trained group of scientists and engineers with business experience were put in place in each country, charged with searching out and screening new potential business opportunities. A screening methodology was used, which statistically has predicted commercial success 8 or 9 times out of 10.
When opportunities were identified, sources of seed capital were found, and the missing skills and resources were provided through 50/50 joint ventures with large U.S. companies. The U.S. companies also provided immediate access to, and penetration of, the large U.S. market. Often the U.S. companies brought complementary technology to their joint ventures, which further enhanced their value.
The INPACT Program was piloted with remarkable success between the U.S. and Israel as the Binational R&D Foundation (BIRD-F) program, where it since has become the engine of that entrepreneurial economy. Because of its success there, it was replicated in India and several other countries with equivalent success. Each of these countries has since developed a self-sustaining entrepreneurial culture, which also has become the engine of those economies. In India, USAID provided (all of) $20 million over 5 years to seed fund that program, after which it became self-funding. The program initiated the "Bangalore Software Valley" where some one million software engineers now operate a $25 billion business, rapidly spreading all over India.
The conditions required for initiating this model are well understood, and can be widely replicated. Surprisingly, the model requires little up-front seed funding for successful initiation, and the downstream consequences for abating rogue behavior can be very significant.
The integration of fragmented data from diverse disciplines has recently begun to reveal societal patterns of historic significance. These patterns shed light on the fortuitous origin of our current advanced civilization, and also raise the possibility that it might now be indefinitely perpetuated to allow the continued evolution of the human species. However, realization of this historic perspective will be dependent upon a concerted global effort to further implement already successful individual coping strategies to produce global stalemate conditions and the accelerated economic development of under-developed nations.
For the first time in millions of years, a fortuitous congruence of intermittent periods of long and short global warming has resulted first, in the emergence of rudimentary civilizations in the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile river valleys, and then a sustained (if intermittent) development of an advanced civilization on Planet Earth. Each of the cultural advances which occurred during successive warming periods over the last 5000 years, fortunately were not lost, even during the 1000 year period of the Dark Ages. The remarkable set of conditions which allowed this to happen may be unique in the cosmos.
However, perpetuation of a continually expanding civilization on Planet Earth will still require sustainable global peace to allow the process of learning over the last 5,000 years to persist for all time.
General Marshall's Stalemate Strategy has demonstrated that major world conflicts, no longer need to be suffered as inevitable, but can be indefinitely forestalled, to buy time for democracy to emerge.
The accelerated economic development of all under-developed countries also is feasible now, and has been demonstrated, for the first time in history
Protected until now by two great oceans, the United States has been allowed to achieve an inadvertent condition of economic strength which is unique in history, and which in concert with other developed nations, can seek achievement of these objectives.
A permanent stalemate in the Middle East, comparable to those already established in other theaters, must be the top priority. Its realization is a pre-condition for the world's many contentious populations to be allowed to gradually develop their economies and morph into civilized forms of participatory democracy (a very long process, but interminable without stalemate). World peace might even be within reach....before the next ice age intervenes.
D. Bruce Merrifield is Professor of Management Emeritus at the Wharton School of Business, and served in the Reagan Administration as Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology and Economic Affairs.
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17. D. Bruce Merrifield, A Modern Marshall Plan for Evolving Economies, J. Business Venturing, Vol 6, (1991) pp231-6