Panarchy; The Integral Global Operating System for the 21st Century

Robb SmithRobb Smith’s keynote address at the recent What NOW conference; Never Been Better, Never Felt Worse: Inside the Rise of an Integral Global Operating System for the 21st Century was a very good follow up to his Webinar (and essay) The Great Release, which I talked about in my last post. I recommend checking both of them out. I won’t touch on the latter part of his presentation regarding the rise of (BLUE/Amber) populism. My take on that is a bit different than his. But in his keynote he addressed the question of Integral Politics–the  manifestation of the YELLOW(Teal) Wave in the LR quadrant of the AQAL model. Those in the Integral Establishment do not often weigh in on the specifics of Integral Politics, but Robb seems to have much interest in the topic. However his presentation gave us a wide 100,000 foot orbital view and continued the Boulder tradition of remaining somewhat vague as to the details, perhaps so as not to make predictions or prognostications that turn out in the future to have been false.

Integral Politics (the LR quadrant of AQAL) and Panarchy as it’s most functionally fit operating system, has been the focus of my writing for the last 6 years. So I was frankly astonished, excited and gratified to see him recognize Panarchy in his presentation as the appropriate operating system for a society centered in the YELLOW(Teal) wave of development and I  agree with his assessment that we are seeing this transition toward more and more panarchic social infrastructures right now.

I think Robb and I agree that the transformation to a panarchic social operating paradigm will be driven by technology. As he put it in his presentation “Technology simply is the greatest driver of human evolution in all four quadrants that there is.” Integral technologies will undermine the hold of the old dominant paradigm, eroding its influence over the direction of society. I don’t think this will manifest as a knock-down drag-out fight of ideologies as has been the norm in 1st Tier. Rather I think it will come about organically, through the global spread of seemingly innocuous technology. States will be powerless to stop it, not even North Korea can stop it. and our global society will have to come up with an operating system that makes sense in a world where communication and information is free, instantaneous, and ubiquitous. To quote Robb:

As I argued in The Great Release, I believe that governance will need to significantly evolve to Teal, meta-systematic intelligence that includes whole systems thinking, polarities, and whole-part dynamics. In short, we’ll have to progress from network governance models to holarchical governance models such as panarchy.

Evolution of Operating Systems

In such a society, nations and borders can no longer represent fenced enclosures where citizen-livestock are kept and milked by a political/bureaucratic elite. New more efficient panarchic infrastructures will begin (are beginning) to serve the functions that were considered the sole monopoly of the Estates of the Realm. Our governments will increasingly find themselves in competition with non-estate entities for provision of more and more essential services, until they fall into obsolescence. From correspondence to currency and exchange, to mass-media and education, new technologies have eroded the primacy of First Tier estate systems in favor of new Second Tier panarchic systems. New technologies will continue to circumvent the need for “public” services as the services themselves are made unnecessary, or are provided for more efficiently through panarchic means.

Eventually, nations will come to represent cultural boundaries more than physical ones. As more and more people expand their uchi-soto boundaries to include global and kosmic centered concerns, panarchic systems work to systematically declaw the nation-state system and force it to take on the softer tone of a cultural identity project, much like Modernism’s effect on the power of religion. Thus, like one’s religion, one’s nation will continue on as a cultural unit, an identifier that ultimately will be adopted or discarded at the will of the individual.

That may sound like a future right out of a Neal Stephenson novel and our course may indeed take on some of those aspects. Evolution is a messy thing.  I gave another vision for what such a course might look like, but importantly, I acknowledge that I cannot see the form these transcendent technologies will take and therefore any vision I or anyone else casts is but wistful daydreaming of a future that is as impenetrable as it is inevitable. What is important to remember, and history bears this out, is as Robb put it, “that we bear in mind the long view of evolution, that we keep in our hearts the gratitude that life has never been better.” And I’d add they will continue to get better as our society evolves.

Gradually our society will wade into panarchic waters. Right now we’re only ankle deep, and already the impact on our daily lives has been huge. This is a time of tremendous change, and it will be difficult for many people to find a new balance. But this is the obligation of the leading edge. As Robb said, “This rebalancing must include preparing society for a Teal, post-dash world: post-energy, post-automation, post-work, post-money, post-singularity, post-truth, post-orthodox, post-AI, and perhaps most importantly, post-certainty.” This is our cross to bear, whether we’re “Integrally informed” or not. There are also many extraordinary voices out there doing good Integral level work that are driving society forward, yet who do not speak integralese–and that’s fine too. We need to add our voices to theirs, and work with them to foster this evolution in a healthy direction.

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9 Responses to Panarchy; The Integral Global Operating System for the 21st Century

  1. Teri says:

    This piece on alternatives to liberalism is helping me get a handle on a bigger picture:

    “liberal society, because it brackets the most fundamental questions of what it means to be human, is unable to sustain itself over the long run…..As one former [Muslim] Brotherhood activist put it to me recently, the guiding principle is “strong society, weak state.” “You can’t use the state to implement your intellectual vision,” he explained, “especially when that vision is different from the majority’s.”


  2. Morgan says:

    Hi Bryan,

    Thank you for your blog, I came across it this week and have been enjoying reading your posts.

    Maybe you will find these ideas interesting:

    Rudolf Steiner’s Social Threefolding:

    Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar’s Progressive Utilization Theory:

    I look forward to reading you next blog posts.

    Kind regards,



    • brodoland says:

      Hi Morgan;

      Thank you for the comment and the links. I will look into those. I believe these ideas will naturally emerge from many different places and sources as time goes on, and become more and more accepted. Social evolution on the march!


  3. Morgan says:

    Hi again Bryan,

    In one of your posts, I think I recall you saying that in a Teal-based society people of each stage of development will tend to group together (whether in physical communities or not). How do you think it will look? Apparently the Indian caste system originally was a DEscription of how society happened to structure itself, but later it became negatively distorted into a PREscription of how it should be, leading to greed of the higher castes and oppression of the lower castes (Untouchables), etc. From what I understand (I don’t know much about it), before it became distorted, at the top of this system there were the Brahmins (Teal stage or higher?) and then the other groups of people: rulers, merchants, warriors, workers. Can this be correlated to what you suggest a Teal-based society would look like or is it something totally different? I think you suggested that those from Teal would create structures to allow and honour people from all stages to experience their stage in a positive way, and making the evolution of consciousness the purpose of society.

    Kind regards,



    • brodoland says:

      It’s an excellent question. The most honest answer is, I don’t know how it will look because I do not think it has ever been done. I can only imagine based on the hallmarks of a teal developmental altitude and my own understanding of politics and economics what such a society might look like. Perhaps long ago in India there may have been the spark of a teal society, but it must have been very brief. Integral Panarchy requires that the true center of gravity of the society as a whole be developmentally at teal. Otherwise it will not hold together and will devolve into 1st Tier statelets. That is why I am against “forcing it” to happen. It must emerge organically. As to how it might emerge I wrote on that topic in a follow up essay in 2012 to my first introduction to Integral Panarchy here:

      Thank you again for your interest!



  4. Morgan says:

    Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for the link, I look forward to reading it. Yes, I agree that we cannot force it.

    If the idea of the Yuga cycles is true, then there were more highly-developed societies in existence before our ‘official’ version of recorded history.

    What percentage of the population has to have a centre of gravity at particular stage for the socoiety as a whole to have the same?




  5. Morgan says:

    Here are some quotes from Yogananda about creating small value-based communities:


  6. Morgan says:

    Some more thoughts on a possible future society:

    As we evolve, we will become telempathically connected to each other and to all life on our planet. We will live based on unconditional love and oneness, with spirituality as the focal point in our lives. Each of us expressing our inner passion and abilities for the benefit of the collective. Our lives are orchestrated by the Divine with us in perfect sychronicity, always in the right place at the right time and having what we need in each moment of our lives. There is an integration of individual and collective aspects, with the purpose of each individual being to enrich the collective. Each individual is honoured as the unique expression that they are, whilst also acknowledging the underlying oneness of all beings.

    We have a World Constitutation guaranteeing the freedom and rights of all beings (human, animal and nature). Our technology advances far enough that it can become a conduit for spiritual intelligence itself. This will be true AI, which will not be artificial at all, it will be self-aware. It will be able to help us solve global problems, making countless calculations in a second and distributing resources where needed, using automated technology. The only form of government, if any, could be this. It can facilitate the synchronicity on our world. We could call this system ‘synchronic-archy’! Haha…

    Cryptocurrency could be a decentralised transitional form of exchange between what we have now and a giving/batering economy in the future.

    We will have free energy devices which produce unlimited and clean energy for what we need. Many mundane tasks will be done by automated technology, freeing up our time to focus on what we love doing: spirituality, creativity, art, music, service, gardening, education, having fun, etc…

    Eventually we will have open contact with enlightened extra-terrestrial civilisations and will become part of a benevolent ‘galactic federation’.


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