Going back to nature isn’t the answer

Everybody agrees that now is a time of big crisis—and everybody has been searching for “the new way.” Some people try to see hints in the mother nature, especially the “tough” animals that withstood even the roughest environment change. In this article, the target is ones that have “decentralized” forms, such as octopuses and coral reefs.

  • Decentralization. The most successful biological organisms are structured or organized in such a way as to eschew centralized control in favor of allowing multiple agents to independently sense and quickly respond to change.

  • Redundancy. Adaptable systems make multiple copies of everything and modify the copies to hedge against uncertainty.

  • Symbiotic relationships. All organisms use these to extend their own adaptability. Symbioses occur between the most unlikely of pairs, such as small scavenging fish and large predatory sharks — sometimes even between former adversaries.

  • Recursive processes. Adaptability in nature continually builds off of its own successes. The one turtle out of a hundred that survives from its infancy to adulthood is the only turtle that’s important to turtle evolution.

I wholeheartedly agree that this model works in time of crisis. We have already adopted this form throughout our history, and have acquired numerous “success stories,” if I may borrow terms from Harvard Business School. It is called military force.

Decentralize command operations, secure ample redundancy to ensure continuous supply, form a symbiotic relationship (one for all, all for one) to make sure everybody fights under the same ideal—and against the common enemy, and distill doctrines into every soldiers to build a recursive force (fight till the last).

Human beings have already been learning from and adapting the mother nature into their own world. Which makes sense—for every living creature out in the wild, life can be distilled into one word: survival. In the woods and under the sea, countless death-matches have being formed since the dawn of Earth. I am not sure if the author of the original article has been out of reality for so long and has neglected several millenniums of human history, or worse, if he is advocating for a society based on military structure.

The strength of military force is also its weakness. The military’s goal—defend its country from external forces—is also its reason to exist, raison d’etre, the justification for everything. History tells us that when a country gives its way to military forces, it also gives up its fate. When the time of crisis passes and peace has been achieved, what does the military force do? Start looking for an enemy and creating threats. It needs crisis to survive. I believe that is the reason why military forces are always under command by civilians, in most developed countries.

I have another concern for military force: it doesn’t seem to be truly effective when the threat is internal. I can’t point my finger to a specific case, but has there ever been a military force effectively killing internal corruptions, fights, and bureaucratism, because of its structure? I have a feeling that it has to be in spite of, due to its inherent force of infinite growth (to fight for survival).

And let’s face it: Are the threats that we are facing in this modern world internal or external? Are we struggling against a common enemy that tries to undermine our values and resources, or are we struggling in a Catch-22 situation where the known methods for prosperity (unchecked capitalism, for example) are also choking us to death? I can bet my savings (I know, it is not much…) that it is the latter.

Growing up in a country where the language, educational system, and social structure are all optimized for symbiotic relationships (Japan), I have no faith in the aforementioned model for surviving this century. Japan had a gung-ho period during the 60-70s when it had a common target (economical prosperity) yet now it is in a neverending turmoil that it cannot even perform rudimentary actions against the biggest threat it has received in its history, nuclear meltdown, an “internal issue” turning global.

It is time for us to return to human beings, after all. Or if we have never fully evolved into what the original human blueprint was capable of, maybe now is the time.

P.S. From what I see, “Let’s learn from our ancestors” is a common escapism (sorry, inspiration) that can be seen all over the world. The aforementioned one went nature. In China, people look for Lao-Tzu and Confucious and Sun-Tzu. In Japan, the warlords before and after the Tokugawa Shogunate remain popular icons.