Unlocking the Power of Synergy for a Thriving Future


Why We’re Stronger Together: Breaking Free from Hyper-Individualism

Michael Shaun Conaway
Publishing Editor
April 6, 2023

The “WE” Moment: Israel Protesters Stand Together

This week in Israel massive protests halted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s push to weaken Israel’s judiciary. This notable event is underpinned by the coalition of groups that protested these changes together. For the first time protestors from the right and left joined to resist what they felt was an anti-democratic policy, setting aside the contentious issues that would normally keep them apart.

The success of the protests proved the axiom, better together.

As we look forward to generating a desirable future, it’s clear that we have to find ways to work together for the clear wins. In terms of climate change we have to move from the not-in-my-back-yard protests and actions, to a collective action for global common sense reforms to carbon producing industries, especially the oil and gas and the farming industry. Common sense because of peer reviewed science. Global and collective because we must make changes that are shared by all nations on the planet otherwise the tragedy of the commons will insure that someone will find it beneficial to fight against the collective good.

To have a future where we humans thrive, we must find the means to determine this collective good. It is a challenging concept. British philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill in the 18th and 19th centuries developed Utilitarianism, a consequentialist ethical theory that argues that in order to determine the elements or conditions of the collective good, we should be focused upon each element’s ability to maximize happiness and minimize suffering.

There are many objections to Utilitarianism but the biggest is that there are morally objectionable actions that may be morally justifiable in maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering. For example if a doctor had five patients who each needed an organ transplant: eyes, heart, lung, liver, pancreas and one healthy patient, according to Utilitarianism it would be morally justifiable to take the life of the healthy patient to save the lives of the five who were ill.

Still Utilitarianism has led to or underpinned effective public policy decisions made by democracies across the world, albeit often resisted by libertarian and far right ideologues. While flawed, consequentialism points us in the right direction as we grapple with the choices that we must make to generate a desirable future. I am personally participating in fellowships that are searching for conditions that lead to the desirable future, to a world that works for all.

This top down approach to creating conditions and design principles must be met with grassroots ground up actions, like the one this week in Israel. In these cases the fundamental question is:

What is the best common good?

In order to realize the common good you will have to confront the strained relationship most of us have in the modern world to the collective. We have been raised on a steady drumbeat of the primacy of the individual, my happiness, my prosperity, my Tesla, my billions, my bunker to ride out the end of the world. Now, more than ever we need to challenge the me-first narrative.

To do that we need to get some insight into how ultra-individualism came to be. The idea of the autonomous individual starts with 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, the leading voice of the Western Enlightenment. In his essay, “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), he called for people to: Think for themselves and rely on rationalism and critical thinking.

To respect individual rights through his term, categorical imperative, the idea of treating individuals as an end in themselves, rather than as simply a means to an end. To be personally responsible for the development of their moral and intellectual capacities. To promote democratic values, giving individuals the freedom to participate in political decision-making.

These ideas formed the foundation of our liberal democracies today. But somewhere along the way, individual autonomy, with its foundation in critical thinking and moral development turned into a self-centered pursuit of personal gratification. With Kant in mind, it’s clear that we do not want to return to a pre-enlightenment idea of individual responsibility and autonomy but to get to the root of the hyper-individualistic problem, we have to look at Kant’s ethics called Deontology, which points to the duty of the individual, rather than by the consequences of the action.

So as long as I abide by a moral code, I am moral even if the outcome of my actions is negative.

Think of the morality of an executive of an extractive business, like oil and gas. As long as I uphold my duties as a leader of the business, as long as the business conducts itself inside a legal framework, the impacts of the business are not immoral. The same can be seen on the personal level in the example of religious fundamentalism where following the moral code is primary over the impacts of that code. God says, I do without considering the impacts as that is God’s role.

Moral codes have evolved over the two hundred and fifty years since Kant, from Victorian societal ethics to personal moral codes. Luke Skywalker is an example of a societally moral hero. He fights for good as determined by a good for all ethics. Han Solo is an anti hero with a me first morality that includes making morally congruent decisions, like fighting for Luke against the Death Star.

The problem with personal morals is that they are in service to the person who holds them. Think of the ambiguous morality of Elon Musk. Sometimes he seems to be a hero, building the electric car industry against all odds. Sometimes he seems to be the villain, removing the moderation of posts for disinformation, child exploitation and fraud from Twitter. From his hyper-individualistic perch, he declares that both choices are moral for different, personal reasons, regardless of how those reasons stack up against analytical reasoning.

Thus hyper-individualism, driven by a confluence of cultural, economic, and political factors, all deeply influenced by Kant’s notions of personal autonomy, has undoubtedly created unprecedented progress and innovation. It has produced a society teeming with isolated, lonely people navigating an increasingly fragmented world. The relentless pursuit of our own self-centered desires has us living together in communities of one. Our isolation from people is reflected in our isolation or separation from the natural environment. Thus, unthinkingly we exploit natural resources at an exponential rate and have woken up to a world with catastrophic climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion.

It’s clear we cannot live with an ethical system that does not consider the ultimate consequences of our actions. Those consequences are utilized in the post-existential era, where the decisions we make can have the eventual outcome of the extinction of the human race. Talk about a trolly car experiment gone wild.

We must evolve our global ethical frameworks towards the common good being at the highest level. Yes this means that individually we may not get all we want, all of the time. If that sounds alarming, then we might want to look into philosophical systems like Buddhism which places liberation from desire and suffering for all at the center of a good life. Liberation from desire not only benefits me, but a benefit for alll. Moreover the altruism of the Buddhist ideal of compassion, orients me towards the common good and the good of the others I share my life and this planet with. I’ll speak more on this topic in another essay.

Let’s take the case that we need to adopt a model of ethical behavior that takes into account everything that might be impacted by our decisions. Within ecosystems many species engage in symbiotic relationships — mutually beneficial arrangements that enable their survival and prosperity. The output of one species becomes the input of another. Species develop behaviors that protect or help other species, making their lives better together. This elegant dance of symbiosis demonstrates that cooperation, interconnectedness, and interdependence are integral to the flourishing of life on Earth.

By embracing the principles of symbiosis as an ethics, we can begin to counteract the deleterious effects of hyper-individualism.

By fostering a sense of communal purpose and solidarity, we can forge a more cohesive, resilient society that values the well-being of all its members, as well as the environment that sustains them. The first step towards this future is to develop ourselves from autonomous individuals into synergistic individuals, who act in accordance with the ethics of symbiosis.

If we picture the Israelis coming together for the common good of their nation as a self directed and self healing ecosystem, then we discover a path to making the critical changes necessary to realize a desirable future for humanity and the planet. In the generations to come, our time on Earth will be seen as one of the critical evolutionary steps for our society. Given everything that is at stake, we can make the shift from me to we, from hyper-individualism to a new synergistic collectivism.

In the meantime, we’ll be looking for PROOF of a thriving future for humanity.

The Generative Futurist
Editor PROOF

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Proof 42 – Unlocking the Power of Synergy for a Thriving Future:

PROOF in ACTION – A Guide to Becoming a Synergistic Individual

Can you swim with the symbiots?
Can you swim with the symbiots?

To cultivate a symbiotic society where all people collectively are honored, protected and live a life of meaning and contribution, we must at the individual level make the move from a self orientation to synergistic orientation to become a synergistic individual.

We often think of synergy as something that happens out in the world that pleases us or makes our life easier or better, that is the self oriented view. If, rather, you consider that synergy is something that you produce for the world, you can catch a glimpse of a potential seismic shift in society.

Cultivate empathy and compassion: Actively practice empathy and compassion by putting yourself in others’ shoes and considering their perspectives, feelings, and needs. This can enhance your ability to connect with others and promote cooperation and understanding.

Engage in your community: Actively participate in building a strong local community that supports those on the fringe of society. Building relationships with your neighbors while contributing to the well-being of your community will develop interconnectedness and interdependence.

Embrace lifelong learning: Continuously educate yourself about diverse cultures, perspectives, and subjects. This can help you develop a more nuanced understanding of the world and its complexities, promoting empathy, critical thinking, and informed decision-making.

Collaborate and seek mutually beneficial solutions: When working with others, focus on collaboration and finding solutions that benefit all parties involved. This can involve active listening, effective communication, and a willingness to compromise when necessary, in order to create synergistic outcomes.

Practice environmental stewardship: Recognize the interconnectedness of all living beings and the environment by adopting eco-friendly habits and advocating for sustainable practices. This can involve reducing your ecological footprint, supporting conservation efforts, and encouraging others to be mindful of their impact on the planet.

The personal practice of generating synergy then can be combined with systemic changes to usher in a synergistic era, or the Symbiocene. Here are five deliberate steps we can take to build a synergistic society:

Educational reform: By nurturing critical thinking, empathy, and understanding of diverse perspectives, we can empower future generations to engage meaningfully with the world and its complexities.

Political and economic reforms: By championing inclusive decision-making and exploring alternative models, we can create systems that uphold personal freedom while ensuring collective well-being.

Encouraging community engagement and social connections: By fostering a sense of belonging and mutual support, we can reinvigorate the spirit of cooperation that underpins thriving communities.

Promoting environmental awareness and stewardship: By instilling a deep appreciation for the natural world and our place within it, we can motivate individuals to act as responsible guardians of the planet.

Fostering long-term thinking and planning: By transcending the myopia of short-term gains, we can develop strategies that prioritize the needs of both present and future generations.

In this way we can grow as individuals towards a symbiotic society and from a self healing society provide the conditions for individuals to become synergistic.

May this information inspire you to generate a thriving future for humanity and a thriving life for yourself. For more resources please check out our Podcast and Youtube channel.

-The Bold.ly Now Team

BOLD.LY NOW is a movement of co-creative up-levelers who have a burning desire to step free of our collapsing world & take the most daring leap forward to a thriving world.

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The Generative Futures Initiative
Generating a Thriving Future for All

PROOF is a digital magazine published by Bold.ly NOW and the Generative Futures Initiative.  The mission of the magazine is to shine a light on people, organisations and ideas that stand as Proof of a Thriving Future.