Cooperative Competition

Transcendence struggles with an ideological impasse between individuals seeking higher forms of humanity through the development of cooperative systems and those believing that our present systems rooted in competition are ideal. The inherent advantages argued for either arrangement often reflect individual preference within the moment, but a dogmatic approach to either fails to develop validity because of their belief that we must have one or the other. We already understand that values and systems that encourage cooperation and competition are not mutually exclusive. Embracing cooperation as the foundation of transcendent spiritual philosophy isn’t an attempt to eliminate competition, but it is a reassessment of its value in governing our relationships through law and system. This view is incorrect and a misunderstanding of the relational universe we inhabit. Developing cooperative systems in alignment with the single truth allows for the expansion of competitive systems of outcomes and merit while at the same time ensuring pathways of security and agency for those who prefer alternative frameworks of being. Here we explore why radical cooperation is the most effective method of encouraging individual and collective development while noting how competition can play a role in society that doesn’t trap the individual within the frameworks of access and agency they were born into.

Before we dive into framing the meaning we give to competition in a cooperative society, it’s best to define what our objectives are not. Self-actualization in the age of crisis is not a quest for equality of outcomes. Organizing our systems to produce equal outcomes for individuals is out of alignment with the single truth. In a universe of perpetual change, whatever is understood as equal within the immediate present will certainly not be considered equal in future time experiences. The provision of equality of outcomes through systems requires all aspects of the structure to perform according to predictions. It places the security of those inhabiting the system at significant risk of cascading failures due to technological or process disruption from within the organization and outside of it. Equality of outcomes contradicts core elements of individual actualization such as the active soulcraft of developing habits and practices that create intrapersonal meaning. 

No system we create will be able to adequately compensate for the disparity in outputs between the novice and the master; nor should it. To claim a vision of humanity without distinction between those willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve expertise and those who have not yet committed is willful ignorance that attempts to resist the relational universe. Hierarchies of competency will continue to exist because they are simply an expression of long event chains of focus and energy directed toward a single direction. With that said, our present arrangements do not support equity in the development of competency as they actively exclude groups from access and agency within the world. Our recognition that each exists in unique conscious coordinates within a shared, perpetual, and immediate present provides an understanding of the radical uniqueness of all. Equality of outcomes for the collective is unfeasible because it dismisses our ongoing journey of individual actualization. Politically, crafting a world of absolute outcomes creates information ecosystems that reduce imagination and experimentation. It also restricts our ability to explore alternative methods of working and living, placing arbitrary restrictions on infinite human potential. With all of this said, we should note that the rejection of equality of outcomes is not in any way contradictory to creating a higher floor of cooperative social protections—quite the opposite. The most basic need of individual actualization is security. Security is not an outcome of our efforts; it is a precursor to the imaginative action that cooperative competition inspires. Genuine cooperative competition within society requires that all who wish to participate have the opportunity and access necessary to do so. Anything less is just varying degrees of competitive hierarchies that limit our individual and collective potential. 

Leveraging the power of political technologies such as the city, state, and nation to develop secure and fearless individuals also requires us to reconsider our process for rewarding innovation. Specifically, how do we judge the best outcomes put forth by individuals and groups in a society where all possess the freedom, access, and agency to innovate? In a systemically actualized society, competition within markets of exchange becomes fiercer than any present arrangements. We organize ourselves so that failing in our attempts to experiment and innovate does not risk individual security and well-being. If individuals or groups experiment and fail, there is little if any risk to their personhood and therefore they possess the ability to try again in a new direction as quickly as possible. 

This de-risking of our experimentalism creates contests of ideas where the primary criterion for evaluating new solutions is the best possible alignment with the needs and vision of the moment. As more individuals align themselves with the single truth and shape systems accordingly, the seemingly insurmountable hurdle of colonialism we have inherited will erode at scale. Although many innovations arise that improve established practices and procedures, advancements on the horizon will require us to reimagine the operations of entire verticals. Given the inevitability of rapid and frequent sector disruption, we must also consider how to best navigate the justification of what we embrace and what we reject. To do this, we must ignore the promoters and dogmas of the free markets that claim salvation in the systems drawing us to crisis. How can a global system where 99 percent of global wealth belongs to 1 percent of its population26 ever serve collective humanity? It cannot. Nothing just can come of a system where so few dictate the direction of so many. Today there exists no truly free markets. Cooperative competition changes this for the benefit of all.

Now we consider how cooperative competition fills gaps in our systems of progress more effectively than our present arrangements. Earlier we explored how the expansion of public ownership of specific verticals helps raise the human condition for all. Embedding this form of cooperative arrangement into society is not an attempt to dictate what flourishes and what doesn’t. With a higher floor of unalienable social protections, state and global verticals can approach supporting productive possibilities with a higher degree of indifference. Personal connections and networks become less valuable than the merit and scope of the experimentation. Contrast that to our immediate present, where the influence of the private sector on political decision-making strongly supports the maintenance of the status quo over disruptive innovation. From 2010 to 2020, corporate lobbyists spent 36,890,000,000 dollars27 on encouraging (bribing) United States political actors. When individual security is intertwined with productive occupation, those controlling existing productive verticals possess the power to dictate what does not progress in collective society. For example, in the same decade the fossil fuel industry spent 1,467,730,000 dollars lobbying Congress in favor of policies protecting existing energy extraction and lobbying against investment in new green energy alternatives. The politico attempts to justify the purchase of their vote through excuses and false narratives such as protecting jobs or national industry, conveniently ignoring the considerable damage being done. They fail to imagine alternatives because it is personally lucrative to embrace the path of least resistance. 

This example highlights a logic spread throughout present-day democracies. We struggle to become more under the weight of what is. Societies embracing cooperative competition differ in their ability to approach emerging technologies unrestricted by those seeking to maintain personal power at the expense of collective progress. Governments open themselves up to actively filling access gaps unaddressed by the private and social sectors. They extend credit, technology, knowledge, and talent under frameworks of law that force a more agnostic and equitable approach to supporting innovation. Infusing the ethos of cooperative competition into our systems creates new pathways to opportunity that rejects the two most popular national models of economic governance available today, the top-down imposition of economic direction imposed by China and the laissez-faire regulation of businesses popular in the United States. When we organize the state to support higher degrees of cooperative competition, we do so in a decentralized and pluralistic way, encouraging participation and experimentation within a wide variety of productive verticals of society. 

In 2019, I ran for State Assembly in my home state of New Jersey. A central theme in my campaign platform was infusing state and local institutions with knowledge economy principles and practice. This included frameworks of statewide system development designed to help small- and medium-sized businesses infuse a more cooperative form of competition in their practices and insulate themselves from present and future disruptions. The plan included creating the platforms and pathways necessary to pool resources, people, and ideas while still competing on overall value delivery and service. Consider the following example. Within a five-mile radius of my residence at the time were fifteen pizza shops, each operating independently. Imagine an easy-to-use purchasing collaboration platform where these shops could pool resources to purchase basic ingredients such as sauces, flour, yeast, cheese, and more as a single unit. Each participating shop now leverages the bargaining power of all fifteen in negotiating price points for their standard material costs, the net benefits of which are passed back to the owners who would now enjoy lower operating costs, freeing cash for staff and experimental growth. Their determining factor of favoritism would still be who makes the best pizza, but each would benefit from more liquidity, which could be shared amongst owners and the team. 

This type of cooperative exercise leverages the power of the state to organize individuals and groups in ways that are unlikely to occur through the standard operational and competitive frameworks present today. Drawing from our understanding of inhabiting an informational universe experienced through relationships, we focus on creating strategic opportunities for cooperation within competitive models to encourage innovation. The example above also illustrates what we mean when defining our approach as agnostic to the individual. Systems create collective benefit for all who participate but do nothing to save those whose total value offerings are not enough to generate sustainability. Proactive cooperative models replace reactive bailouts as the primary philosophy of state economic support. 

Cooperative arrangements like the previous example lay the foundation for greater degrees of innovation in how our government technologies can support individual experimentation. As we become more open to building systems around the values of cooperative competition, we can begin to expand our experimentalism into foundational laws such as property and contract. We can visualize this through the following example. In the United States today, healthcare and video games operate under the same foundational rules. Technologies and processes are all confined to identical intellectual property laws. Creators own these innovations for extended time periods and no others have access, even in the case of health care, where the majority of innovation begins through the public funding of university research initiatives. This model of operation contains several flaws. When innovation is confined within sectors, it always leads to extreme concentrations of wealth and power within those industries. 

Those organizations or groups with the most capital can leverage their liquidity to continuously invest in innovation, while the majority of competitors lack these opportunities. As a result, a single organization establishes a virtual monopoly and becomes the de facto influencer of policy changes surrounding the vertical. Once this monopoly is established, the focus turns from expansive innovation to financialization, and our best companies become rent seekers as they mature. Considering the video game industry, we may say this is an acceptable model. Entertainment is so varied and dependent on individual imagination that even a small independent studio can produce a product that achieves viral popularity. The question then becomes, does it make sense to apply the same theory of legal governance to our medical industries as we do for entertainment? If our primary concern is humanity's collective well-being and progress, the answer is no. 

The alternative is to rewrite property and contract laws to be vertical-specific, redefining access to resources and technology based on the direction of our focus and energy. How we frame this sharing of resources is flexible and can be determined by various stakeholders within the verticals to ensure that groups have opportunities to dissent from the dominant opinion. For example, we may choose to reimagine the meaning of ownership in medical verticals by eliminating technology and process patents. For both the individual and the collective, the highest possible benefit from our shared creativity is advancing our medical capabilities in all directions. Therefore, a redefinition of property specifically for these advancements furthers our shared agenda of creating a more transcendent humanity. We address the common rebuttal about the private capital that supports private drug developments post-research through several alternatives. In the case of a clear innovator, we might award limited-time exclusive manufacturing contracts to ensure that their costs are recouped. Alternatively, societies may decide that the costs of supporting said development should be socialized alongside access, whether paid retrospectively after successful completion or proactively to trusted groups and organizations. This approach also helps the experimental group of researchers and scientists avoid the drug and health monoliths dominating our present landscape. The mechanics of how we specify access are not as relevant as the theme of transition. We seek to give more people access to markets and resources and the capacity to innovate. The first step toward manifesting this vision is our individual alignment around the belief that cooperative competition lays a foundation for experimental progress presently unavailable within our inherited systems of social and economic organization. 

When we surround ourselves with systems that encourage cooperative competition in alignment with the single truth, we open the door to possibilities presently unavailable to us. This embrace of a more flexible philosophy surrounding our laws and the lifestyles they reinforce lays the foundation for a reorganization of systems that support broader experimentation across all sectors of society. Earlier, we explored how radical cooperation is the most direct path toward individual freedoms. The evolution of human spirituality from frameworks prioritizing competitive hierarchies to cooperation-centric models allows for deviations from the popular modes of living. Individual actualization brings with it the understanding that in order to best express uniqueness, one must be open to others expressing theirs. So long as these differing forms of life do not restrict, violate, or oppress the latent potential of others, they are in alignment with the single truth. Cooperative competition is a philosophy of self-organization that leverages collective systems to inspire individual creativity in nearly all verticals of life. It frames the competition of ideas and groups so that all are encouraged to participate, unafraid of material devastation for failing to meet their objectives. Individually, it aligns us with the relational universe and our belief that together we are much stronger than we are alone. Collectively, we believe that no system we create is sacred; all is subject to change. Cooperative competition is one way of organizing ourselves and society to navigate this change while simultaneously maximizing individual freedoms. It is an aligning of new forms of value and meaning with our systems so that humanity might yet unleash our imaginative potential onto the universe. - Cooperative Competition
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Cooperative Experimentation
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