# Reason for our Existence
Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29)
This document sets out the reason for the existence of Life Itself. It uses the structure of “situation, complication, question, hypothesis (SCQH)”. This is a methodology we have found useful and powerful for diagnosing problems and hypothesing solutions. (If you are unfamiliar with SCQH please see http://playbook.datopian.com/scqh (opens new window)).
The SCQH sets out why we exist and, implicitly, our theory of change. It is intentionally very short and therefore highly distilled. We are working on a commentary that expands on some of the key points in greater detail.
Like most key documents our SCQH continues to be reviewed and revised. Thus, as well as the most recent version (2019), we have also included the previous version (2017). We have also included the SCQH that is specific to our ‘Transforming Societies’ stream of work, completed in 2020.
# 2019 SCQH
Over the last century global population has quadrupled to 8 billion and our world is more complex and intertwined than ever before. Unprecedented technological advance has brought great material wealth, but even the rich are still not truly satisfied, happy and at peace. There is a fear of the future, a lack of visionary hope and we distrust ourselves as a species and our capacity to manage our world wisely and address collective challenges such as climate change, inequality and self-government.
There is a growing intuition that something is deeply the matter, that we can be radically weller and wiser than we are today – both personally and collectively. However, our current culture, which is grounded in materialism, technology and individualism, will not bring about this better future; in fact, it presents clear and present dangers both on a personal level in terms of loneliness, acquisitiveness and anomie, and on a collective level in terms of environmental destruction and runaway technology (e.g. AI).
Achieving a radically wiser and weller world requires a breakthrough in individual and collective being. Though simple, this is hard because we “believe together” and it requires reaching (at least partial) consensus on foundational views and values such as the possibility of transformation (hope), the nature and primacy of (inter)being (rather than the primacy of technology or structure), and an interest and trust in big visions and collective action.
What are the foundational views and values, and, separately and relatedly a big vision, and how do we bring forth a culture based on these foundations within our lifetime and the next six generations that is a) radically better than today in its capacity to generate flourishing communities and individuals, both within that culture and also more broadly in society; b) engaging in powerful, practical action on collective challenges; and c) pragmatically utopian in its commitment both to being wise itself and in causing a wiser and weller world for everyone.
# Issue Tree
⚠️ Unfinished ⚠️
Within our lifetime and six generations hence, we will develop a federation of resilient, flourishing communities based on a shared culture (views, values and practices including the possibility of transformation, the primacy of (inter)being and getting stuff done). These communities will engage with broader society and ally with like-minded groups to foster a culture of wisdom and awakening  that can transform society and will be committed to practical action, including large scale political efforts to address collective challenges.
# Hypothesis Tree
⚠️ Unfinished ⚠️
# 2017 SCQH
- The original blog post: https://lifeitself.us/2017/12/05/foundational-scqh-situation-complication-question-hypothesis/ (opens new window)
- The logic for our purpose and reason for our existence slide deck: https://lifeitself.us/2017/04/20/logic-of-our-purpose-and-reason-for-our-existence-scqh/ (opens new window)
In October, we met on the beautiful hills of Tuscany. We reflected on our intuition that something is deeply the matter, and on the need for a big vision as well as practical actions to realize it (including the development of a large-scale political movement).
Here is our SCQH: Situation, Complication, Question, Hypothesis
There is a growing intuition that something is deeply the matter, that, despite so much material progress we are not truly satisfied, happy and at peace; there is a fear of the future, a lack of visionary hope and we distrust ourselves as a species and our capacity to manage our world wisely; as the world has become more complex and intertwined it requires patience, rigour, qualitative observation, emotional honesty, deep-thinking, creative application and collective action and very few groups do that.
There is a distrust of “big visions”, of any solution that isn’t material or technological; bold and powerful visions of the future are subject to knee-jerk dismissal or destructive debate which prevents their proposal and realisation; we need a breakthrough in individual and collective “being” but a breakthrough here is hard as it requires a consensus on foundational values and views including belief in the possibility of transformation [hope] and the nature and primacy of being.
What are the foundational values and views, a big vision and its associated roadmap; and how do we facilitate consensus on these and their implementation in the next fifty to two hundred years?
Develop a community of people based on a shared culture and shared views that include the possibility of transformation, the primacy of being, getting shit done and [tolerant universalism]; and with a focus on the development of a big vision and committed to powerful, practical action to realise it [including the development of a large-scale political movement] [on the timescale of our lifetimes and those of our children].
Rufus Pollock, Sylvie Barbier, Liam Kavanagh, Ninon Godefroy
# Transforming the Narrative SCQH 2020
Our default onto-socio-politico narrative – i.e. individualistic, technocratic materialism for individual and collective wellbeing – is exhausted (no-one thinks doubling GDP will double contentment) and/or not working (e.g. climate change) and there is growing sense of crisis.
There is no clear, powerful alternative replacement narrative that is widely vocalized (and accepted) – and even the need for this is debated (cf the culture wars)
There is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction but without an alternative this does not lead anywhere and results in a sense of resignation or reaction; and finally, there is a general disdain for politics and collective action.
The default is a continuation of the current trajectory and that has major issues – it’s unfulfilling and risks catastrophe (climate crisis).
We could address this (e.g. take collective action), we could create new narratives … but we’re not.
The crisis story and associated fear and resignation freezes us, or leads to reaction (or techno-magic). And we have a lot of existing beliefs/assumptions which limits space for imagination (“blindspots”).
The new narrative is onto-socio-political in nature (not technological), and that is harder to envision and share – and less directly enrolling (but it is possible).
People have to be able to hold that new narrative at the same time as being in the current one which is hard. Plus: a) be able to see a path to here to there b) whilst still being anchored in our old beliefs and blindspots c) and this a collective problem and so this involves a switch in belief-equilibrium which is not easy and is complicated by the need to co-exist / evolve within the existing paradigm.
Finally, we imagine (and believe) together and so we need a space/group in which this kind of imagining can happen and be taken forward into action and there is no obvious group/space for that at present. (And it needs some strongish “guidelines”/principles that shape that space both to spur creativity and limit destructive debate – i.e. consensus on some foundational values and views).
How do we create conversations, initiatives and projects that shift the big vision conversation [i.e. for a socio-cultural-political paradigm shift] with core principles of wise action, in the most effective and skilful ways possible and cooperating with and enrolling others in this program such that a wiser and weller socio-cultural-political paradigm emerges and is widely adopted.
# Issue tree
See Plans - Transforming the Narrative for the Theory of Change representing our hypothesis.
In The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies, political scientist Robert Lane writes:
Amidst the satisfaction people feel with their material progress, there is a spirit of unhappiness and depression haunting advanced market democracies throughout the world, a spirit that mocks the idea that markets maximize well-being and the eighteenth-century promise of a right to the pursuit of happiness under benign governments of people’s own choosing. The haunting spirit is manifold: a postwar decline in the United States in people who report themselves as happy, a rising tide in all advanced societies of clinical depression and dysphoria (especially among the young), increasing distrust of each other and of political and other institutions, declining belief that the lot of the average man is getting better . . . a tragic erosion of family solidarity and community integration together with an apparent decline in warm, intimate relations among friends. 44
Via Hedges p.138
Half of all bankruptcies in America occur because families are unable to pay their medical bills.
Hedges p. 144
# Appendix: 2019 SCQH Additional Materials
Some of the original brainstorming.