THE FUTURE OF FINANCE BLOG

Hell No!

February 28, 2017

PaulPolman

Paul Polman, Unilever CEO (Photo courtesy: Forbes.com; Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg)

 


Sustainability icon and Unilever CEO Paul Polman made his feelings crystal clear on the unsolicited merger offer last week by Kraft Heinz, backed by the Brazilian cost-cutters at 3G Capital and their partner Warren Buffett:  the proposed deal, Unilever said, “had no merit, either financial or strategic.”  Ouch.

I recall early in Polman’s CEO tenure hearing him say there were many cynics watching him and his sustainability quest, hoping he would fail (so their single-minded focus on shareholder value could continue while the invisible hand takes care of complicated global matters like ecological footprint). Right on cue, we see the 3G boot attempting to pin Polman’s head under water for the greater good of short-termism, furthering the scourge that financialized capitalism has become for society.

Unilever swatted away their unwanted financial-driven suitors like a grizzly bear smacks down an interloper if her cubs are close by.  How could the purportedly well-respected 3G financiers — and Warren Buffett no less — fail to understand that Unilever was not just a commodity portfolio of consumer brands to manipulate for a quick short-term profit boost before moving on to the next “opportunity”?  Unilever is, rather, a purpose-driven company on a quest to “make sustainable living commonplace” and show that sustainability can also be good business.  In other words, Unilever has meaning for its customers, its employees, and the world.  It’s a “baby cub” that mama bear – Polman in this case — will protect to the death.  It is hard not to conclude that the 3G suitors – often referred to as mercenaries for their ruthless cost cutting, eliminating 13,000 jobs from Kraft Heinz for example – must have viewed the “sustainability stuff” as little more than corporate waste and soft public relations B.S., and that Polman would have a price for his dream.  They miscalculated, “friendly” offer notwithstanding.

But the fundamental issues at play here are worth more serious reflection than the mere machismo of win-or-lose deal-making in the greed-driven world of finance. We must ask ourselves three questions. First, is a genuine commitment to sustainability compatible with winning in the competitive global marketplace?  Second, is it possible for courageous business leaders to lead this transformation in the face of “market reality,” rather than rely on government regulation?  And finally, how does a company like Unilever navigate the short-term demands of stockholders (and protect itself against the sharks) while at the same time working to effect the difficult, long-term transformation that a genuine commitment to sustainability demands?

I will assert the answer to the first question is, “yes, definitely in the long run, and no large company, including Unilever, is close to being truly sustainable”;  and, to the second, “yes, we had better hope so, and thank goodness for the example provided by Polman, whom business leaders like Buffett and his 3G friends should be studying not stalking.” With respect to the final question, I say, “it may well be impossible to accomplish within the current capital market context.”  Let me explain.

The increasing short-termism driven by so-called “investors” who are simply speculators having nothing directly to do with real investment and the real economy—including activist hedge fund operators, algorithmic “high-frequency” traders and a lot in between—is well understood, with negative implications for the long-term health of the real economy.  But with respect to businesses’ ability to transition their business models to sustainability-focused ones—which is the long-run imperative for civilization itself—this short-termism cancer may be terminal.   Unilever found itself in the heart of this dilemma last week, ironically with none other than the champion of long-term investment, Warren Buffett, sitting across the table on the side of the short-termism opportunists.   We live in confused times.

Both perspectives are valid when looked at through the lens of the speculative capital market paradigm – what’s needed is a shift in perspective to an alternative paradigm, ironically, a shift back toward a more evolved version of the buy-and-hold real investment approach upon which Buffett built his stellar reputation.  In doing so, we discover a third way to address both the genuine needs and desires of prudent investors, as well as the sustainability transformation imperative of the economy and civilization.

The food products business (not to be confused with fresh, nutrient-rich food) is mature, which means little if any growth.  Yet brands like Unilever’s Hellmann’s mayonnaise generate stable cash flow, the classic “cash cow” businesses.  But because they grow slowly, if at all, the stock market rightly values them at a low multiple of cash flow.  So these cash cows become a valuation burden, dragging down the stock price multiple of their parent companies and inviting ruthless (and in part sensible) cost-cutting to generate earnings growth.  But transitioning them to more sustainable products – mayonnaise using non-GMO soybean oil grown using regenerative rather than industrial agricultural practices and paying farmers a living wage – often means higher costs at least in the short-term.  So there is a tension that is difficult if not impossible to reconcile for a company whose stockholders (speculators) hold their feet to the fire with a short-term perspective.

But enlightened investors like pension funds should see the opportunity.  They want two things for their pensioners:  stable cash flows purchased at a reasonable price (Unilever’s cash flows are cheap, which is why Buffett and friends had an interest) so they can match the fixed pension obligations they have with less risk than speculating in the stock market. And second, they also should demand products from the companies they invest in that are both healthy for their pensioners and healthy for the planet on which their pensioners and their children need to live.

Drawing on the framework of regenerative economics, we see that “right relationship” – relationships that are mutually beneficial – is the critical principle out of alignment here, and thus a profound opportunity.  There is no “right relationship” between stock speculators and the companies whose shares they speculate in.  There is often no genuine relationship at all.  And a “relationship” with a suitor like 3G that would mean destroying the well-considered purpose of the company is hardly a “right relationship”, as Mr. Polman made abundantly clear with his “hell no” response.  But if large institutional investors like pension funds could see outside the capital markets paradigm, they would notice vast opportunities for win-win “right relationship” in creative partnerships at scale with purpose-driven companies like Unilever.  The Evergreen Direct Investment method is but one of many possibilities for such creative real investment partnerships.

Is this the future of “investor relations” in the transition to a just and regenerative economy led by courageous pioneers like Polman in partnership with bold and truly responsible institutional investors, where retail investors can tag along for the ride to participate in the essential and profitable transition of big business?  Hell yes!

Comment<Back
  • Hi John,

    While we align on many things, there is still a vast gulf between us in terms of the understandings of the systemic incentive sets underpinning economies and life more generally.

    In a very real sense it depends on how one defines the term economy.

    If one uses the widest sense of the Greek root of the systems we use to manage our household (where household in this sense includes all humans everywhere and everything we interact with), then it can work for me.

    If one restricts it, as most economists do, to the use of markets to measure value and whatever metrics one derives from that – be it fiat currency, or any material standard (gold, silver, copper, rare shells or feathers, …) then it doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t work because all market derived values are fundamentally derived from scarcity. Anything universally abundant in a market has no value (like the air we breath, in most circumstances).

    The fundamental thing your thesis ignores is a trend that has been stable for well over a century, which is the exponential expansion of computational capacity. That is doubling every year at present.

    What that makes possible is something impossible in days past – fully automated production (zero cost of production) for an exponentially expanding set of goods and services.

    Markets must value all such things at zero.

    That is a systemic failure.

    If we are really talking about managing our environment, we cannot do so if we have very large numbers of systems using vast amounts of mass and energy that all register at zero in our value hierarchy.

    That is a recipe for failure.
    An absolute guarantee of failure.

    The other major factor we need to put in is life extension.

    When I started telling people in 1974 that we would be able to extend human lives indefinitely and we needed to start thinking deeply about the sorts of social, technical, economic and political institutions we needed to have in place to give people capable of living a very long time (thousands of years) a reasonable probability of doing so in security and freedom – most thought I was completely mad.

    In 1974, as I completed my undergraduate studies in biochemistry, I could see that from a “cell’s eye” perspective, every cell alive today in all organisms alive today would consider itself to have been alive for some 4 billion years. Because from the perspective of each cell alive, whenever it divided, the other other half of the division was the “other cell”.

    So from this cells eye view, every cell alive today in a human being has gone through many cycles of division in a body, becoming either an egg or a sperm, joining with either an egg or a sperm, and being part of another body.

    So therefore, every cell must carry as the default set, the biochemical tools for indefinite life, and all the mechanisms for organ differentiation and cellular senescence (biological aging) must be overlain on top of that. So achieving indefinite life extension is “simply” a matter of understanding that process.
    In 1974 I saw that 4 stages of understanding were required.
    1 Map the entire human genome (2002)
    2 Accurately model protein 3 dimensional folding structure (2008)
    3 Develop useful simulations of quantum chemical effects within those enzyme structures (2012)
    4 Build a digital model of a living cell – in progress.

    We are very close.
    Many groups have now seen the logic that was clear to me 43 years ago.

    Using the broadest sense of economy above, we need systems that can deliver stability and security while allowing freedom (and yes there is a fundamental conflict present in those two, but not as bad as many think).

    Yes, any exploration of the truly unknown contains risk in many different dimensions, and just because we don’t currently know about something, doesn’t mean that the risk from it is an less (we are simply ignorant of the risk – the old “ignorance is bliss” approach – which isn’t actually stable).

    There is a very real sense in which knowledge of risk allows us to develop risk mitigation strategies.
    And there are always two fundamentally different approaches to risk mitigation:
    1/ eliminate the source of the risk by some means or set of strategies;
    2/ develop resilience to recover rapidly from the event.

    Having just had a 7.8 earthquake near my home, with a loss of the major road and rail corridors for our nation (Kaikoura, New Zealand), and being my district representative on the Restoration Liaison Group, I am very conscious of the many levels of strategic incentive sets in play in this process, and the sorts of pragmatism that one must adopt in the face of such complexity (David Snowden’s Cynefin Framework for the management of complexity is very much in my mind, as are Jo Ito’s principles).

    I don’t see stability in evolution.

    I see evolution as a process that eternally explores new domains of possibility.

    There are many different types of danger in such explorations.
    Chaotic systems are dangerous, as by definition one cannot predict what they will do next. It seems that there are potentially infinite classes of such systems.

    It seems that there may in fact be infinite classes of variations on themes of the “Halting Problem” that threaten all computationally based entities such as ourselves.
    Evolution seems to have equipped us with many different levels of “hacks” to avoid this sort of problem – and each one comes with a set of costs as well as benefits.

    It seems that it may be possible to have a reasonably stable transition period as we move from market based systems (based in scarcity) to abundance based systems (based in fully automated production and distribution).

    It seems that some form of universal basic income offers the most stable approach to transition (at many different levels).

    That UBI would need to be universal (all people, all places).

    In terms of values, it seems that a minimum set of values is:
    1/ universal respect for individual life; and
    2/ universal respect for individual liberty.

    And both of those carry implicit responsibilities.

    Exactly how we put in place systems that limit risk to life while maximising liberty will be an ever evolving set of conversations.

    There can be no hard answers, no clear boundaries, no absolute predictability when dealing with such complex, and in many aspects fundamentally unpredictable, systems.

    One of the deepest problems with the human brain is our tendency to find pattern, even where pattern does not exist. We find genuine chaos hard to see, or accept.

    And evolution can give us some clear guides to the sorts of systemic approaches that work.

    The principal you give of “edge effect abundance” is, I would suggest, incomplete in several fundamental and important ways.
    One of the principal factors in such systems is a high level of external (to population) risk, that actually incentivises and rewards cooperation over competition. When survival probabilities are largely governed by within group competition, then evolution favours competitive strategic sets.
    When the dominant source of risk is outside of the group, the evolution strongly favours cooperative behaviour at all levels. And games theory is clear, that cooperation requires attendant strategies (to remove cheating strategies – all levels) to be stable. So as human beings we are very complex strategic entities, with about 20 levels of cooperative systems at work within us; and we also all have our competitive sides if the context calls for it.

    In terms of long term security, this can only be achieved in a fundamentally cooperative environment, and we now have some very powerful tools to explore and develop new domains of stabilising strategies to maintain cooperation. Fully automated production and distribution (genuine universal abundance) of all essentials of life and liberty is one such strategic set.

    And such cooperation does not require equality, and it does require a high basic standard of security (in terms of all essential and most optional goods and services) and freedom (in terms of opportunities available for movement, education, communication, etc) for all (every individual, every town, every country, anywhere – on this planet or beyond).

    Biological systems are characterised by massive redundancy, and resilience at every level. So long as it remains cooperative, every cell in our bodies has all its needs met.

    Balance is a part of resilience, and resilience goes much deeper.

    Sometimes conditions get so rough that you cannot stay on a unicycle, sometimes (like in a 7.8 earthquake, or a 100 knot wind – both of which I have experienced here in Kaikoura) you cannot even stand up.

    Preparedness means having strategies in place that work for everyone, in all predictable probable circumstances (not simply the ones common in the past, but any likely in the future). It isn’t good enough to just optimise for the best of times, one needs to be ready for all of the reasonably predictable worsts of times as well. (And we can reasonably predict the occurrence of very large earthquakes and volcanoes as two examples.)

    All such things involve ongoing explorations of an infinite set of infinite domains.
    They demand of us engagement in ongoing conversations, and the exploration of multiple levels of multiple sets of simultaneous strategic responses.

    Accepting liberty as a value, demands of us a tolerance of diversity, and respectful engagement with cultures and paradigms that are fundamentally different from our own.
    That can include accepting doing things that no one else can see any value in at the time.

    That can be difficult for all concerned – at many different levels.

    • John Fullerton

      Greetings Ted!
      Thank you for that extensive reflection, much deeper than my little blog about corporate raiders at the gate! There is simply too much here for me to try to respond to, but I will say that I see much of our thinking in what you say, as well as a lot of thinking that I have never considered! such as living a thousand years. But even that fits my understanding depending on what entity it is we consider to be “living”. For now, I can only say that when I tackle a “current events” topic like a possible takeover of a large public corporation, in 1000 words or less, I try to engage in the presumed understanding and insert a nudge toward a regenerative framing. Nothing more, but nothing less. I will make sure my colleagues see your thoughts and we will need to ponder scarcity vs. abundance more deeply. You must have seen Rifkin’s latest book on zero cost society. When I (partially) read it, i must say i didn’t fully embrace what he is saying, having loved his “empathic civilization”…

      more to discuss! sorry to hear you were so affected by the quake. Yes indeed, life does not evolve toward stability! Ordered chaos however is different than mere chaos. The song “Riders on the storm” comes to mind… let’s keep riding. And a unicycle is perhaps not the ideal (resilient) vehicle for the journey! But NZ feeling more resilient, quakes and all, than many parts!

      • Thanks John,

        Can ask no more.
        Yes – NZ is far more resilient than most, and we need it. We are fully loaded for both major vulcanism and major earthquake. What we had here in Kaikoura is but a tiny foretaste of what must come at some time in the not too distant future.
        I understand that – in ways few others do, or are even capable of conceiving it as a possibility at present.

        Not sure I want to be chasing Jim Morrison’s devil cattle for the rest of eternity, and I can take my turn as outrider on the herd from time to time.

        When one actually understands and internalises exponential technological trends, then issues like global warming and floating cities and fresh water, and global high speed train systems, all become trivial engineering projects in a very real sense, just a couple of decades from completion.

        What is fundamentally non-trivial is the coexistence of paradigms so antithetical to each other that communication is almost impossible in anything but the most basic of analogies, and the most basic of agreed values – like life and liberty.
        Creating the possibility of consensus in that environment is an eternal challenge.

        Arohanui

  • A very deep question Gary.

    One answer is through conversations such as this.

    Another answer is through active choices in all contexts to build an awareness of the possibility of abundance, within whatever paradigms are available in the contexts of the moment. Building networks of trust and relatedness, and working with the levels of shared awareness present in those instances.

    Another answer is building networks.

    Another answer comes from database theory, that shows that the most processor efficient search is a fully random search. The really difficult part of that is that human brains are so readily entrained by pattern that achieving anything that even remotely approximates the random is often very difficult. Recurs that to whatever level you wish. Every distinction is a trap in this sense.

    The response to the rebuild of the road and rail networks north of Kaikoura is fascinating in this context. The project will involve a couple of billion dollars, and is being done using “best practice” guidelines – which is driving most people on the project to the limits of their tolerance. The bureaucratic systems required to meet all the legal and internal systems demands, mean that results are often the exact inverse of what is wanted.
    Sure they are high risk areas.
    Mountains are high risk areas.
    Simply living in Kaikoura is high risk in a sense, and the rewards for such risk are the beauty present.
    People in bureaucratic institutions are trying to apply universal systems to limit risk to life on the roads, and are generating risks to life in many other domains as a result – but their legislatively mandated myopic focus on road risk blinds them to all the other aspects of risk, and to the levels of competence present that make most of their systems impediments to progress, rather than aids to progress.

    I am not at all in favour of anyone being commanded to go into those high risk zones, and I am very much in favour of those with demonstrated competency (in practice, rather than in any sort of theory), being given the reasonable choice to take on whatever level of risk they are comfortable with. And that is the complete inverse of traditional top down hierarchies.

    It is all about the bits of paper people have, the courses they have attended, rather than the practical experience they have doing stuff in reality. Both are important, and practical experience wins every time in dangerous situations.

    Responsibility needs to devolve down completely to the folks at the “sharp end”.

    That just isn’t happening.
    The systems are too siloed.
    Too much patch protection.
    Too much economically driven constraints.
    Too many legal and bureuacratic systems that have evolved to give such projects to the large corporates – and prevent access by smaller operators – that is the prime purpose of legal systems in today’s world.

    And I can see reasons for all of it.
    The risks are many and very real – many different levels.

    And the process is working in a sense.
    It is actually achieving reasonable outcomes, but very slowly, and at huge cost both locally and nationally.
    Lots of people are employed.
    Lots of money being spent.
    But little of it local.
    Local people are experiencing a lot of frustration. They see vast sums of money being spent doing jobs they could have done for a tiny fraction of the money – but the processes present are not incentivised to do that.

    And in a sense, I guess this is all part of the process of awareness building.

    • I think the capacity of each of us as human beings to relate only to a very limited number of other people, perhaps 300 or so, in a socially and environmentally intelligent manner is the crux of the problem. Money allows us to interact with many more people but with very little if any social intelligence or environmental awareness of the consequence of the supply chains. This missing information at the personal level when money is the primary driver of decisions is what results in so many socially and environmentally destructive actions. So the destroyed roads and highways may get rebuilt but at what social and environmental cost? When we multiply this by the myriad of monetary only transactions that happen every day, we find ourselves in the current rapidly deteriorating situation where the life systems of our planet and our society are being degrading at an ever accelerating rate. I agree with you entirely about the need to raise awareness of these conditions and their root causes as widely as possible in order to increase the possibility of viable alternatives emerging. So far, I have not personally arrived at any better solutions but I am always hopeful which is why I asked. Perhaps a better version of money is possible that somehow incorporates into our global relationships the missing social and environmental intelligence we all seem to posses in our personal and local relationships? Whether we eventually arrive at a better alternative to our monetary market economic system or not, systemic change is already happening and is unlikely to stop until a new stable paradigm emerges, hopefully one that is still reasonably beneficial and sustainable humanity.

      • Hi Gary,

        I think that Dunars number (our limit for stable social relationships) is largely a function of memory fidelity and trust networks (which are related issues).

        It seems to me that technology offers the possibility to extend that number past anything our sun is capable of supporting with digital memory and distributed digital trust networks.

        And the picture is more complex than a simple reliance on Dunbars number would indicate, as there actually seems to be quite a wide distribution in the number of people in networks. I have about 900 in my phone, and substantially more in my email lists, and about 2,000 I know on a first name basis in this community, and about 50,000 elsewhere.
        So the distributions and network effects are far more complex, deeply skewed towards outliers like myself in a sense, that deeply link many otherwise largely independent networks.

        • I have little doubt about the complexity of shared social networks across humanity. It is certainly why we find ourselves where we are today. Are you suggesting that those networks are in some sense hierarchical? I think I would agree with that assessment also. I think what I seek to understand are the mechanisms by which higher levels of organization can emerge.

          From the perspective of individuals, there exists a deficit of needed information to inform rational decisions within existing economic interactions that allow us to reach a sustainable higher level of organization of global human civilization. Monetary economics, in its present format, is a social network inadequate for meeting the needs of long term sustainability for a global humanity. Aware individuals are capable of making much wiser social and environmental decisions than is happening across the monetary economics network.

          The question I would like to see answered is how we can scale wiser decision making processes to sustainably meet the needs of a global humanity. Since the problem resides within the monetary economics network, I seems to me that the solution must leverage a similar or superior network. How can we accomplish that within the limits of individual human nature to allow the emergence of a higher order life sustaining super organization? Can it be built around higher connection hubs in some way, as you suggest?

          There also exists a highly interconnected political network of humanity. The nodes in both the political and the economic networks are often the same, though it seems to me the economics derives from a much more fundamental level of relationships grounded more firmly in the natural world than the political network that is more concerned with relationships between humans and groups of humans. The connecting link between the two networks seems to be money, itself an abstraction of the human social imagination. This is where I believe the flaw resides within the overall system.

          Money is not a close enough expression of the actual relationships between people and between people and nature. Actual relationships are infinitely more subtle and refined than allowed for by monetary exchanges. The missing information in monetary transactions leads inevitably to the many unsustainable perversions in the global economy. The misaligned human behaviors generated by the use of flawed thinking at every level derived from monetary rationalizations is the social network engine driving the suicidal behaviors we see manifesting today. Social, economic and political decision making all draw water from the same polluted well.

          This train of thought inevitably and consistently leads me back to examining the core idea of money. What is the flaw in the ‘theory’ of relationships represented by money? Does a superior theory of relationships exist? Yes, it does, in systems theory itself! Given systems theory understandings, how can we practically leverage those understandings with an equivalent or superior level of simplicity as that embody in the very popular social idea of money? Can humanity agree upon an idea of relationships superior to that of money? If so, is it possible for that better idea to catch fire and spread across all human networks with enough speed to help us avoid the worst consequences of today’s unsustainable behaviors like the next World War now beginning to unfold around us? Most of us, if not all are unlikely to survive. Is the human family really so dysfunctional that we will end by killing one another and destroying our only home?

          Like most of us, I have many more questions that I have answers, but a sincere examination of the root causes of flawed human relationships continues to yield insights and understandings that may eventually lead us down a path toward future sustainability.

          • Hi Gary,

            So many deeply complex systems present.

            Jordan Peterson in his lectures on developmental psychology has one of the best developed contexts for understanding how our embodied cognition emerged in both genetic and cultural terms in an evolutionary systemic context.

            Yes hierarchies are a deeply embodied set of tendencies in the structure of our neural networks, and there are many other possibilities simultaneous present, and the probabilities of expression are very context sensitive. That whole milieu is one aspect of what I am pointing to.

            And there are other aspects also.

            From a games theory perspective (nested in our multi level evolutionary context) the sorts of strategic associations that are stable depend very much on the mix of strategies present and the mix of risk profiles present, and the sources of that risk.

            If the major source of risk for any individual comes from an entity like itself within the breeding population of entities like itself (think both genetic and mimetic populations in this context), then competitive strategic sets will tend to dominate over time.

            If the major source of risk is external to the population, and if there exist strategies that allow mitigation of such risk (from any of the classes – avoidance, removal or resilience) then cooperative systems deliver greater benefit than competition.
            And of course raw cooperation is always vulnerable to invasion by cheating strategies, and requires secondary strategies for stability, and that in itself can become something of a recursive evolutionary arms race.

            For those of us (like myself) who are interested in living a very long time (some approximation to the rest of eternity), then all sources of existential risk become significant.
            So that defines the broader context of my thinking.

            When one takes a systems view of life (and I trained as a biochemist and ecologist, spent 17 years commercial fishing, and 30 years running a software company), and one looks at both the theoretical bases for systems, logics, computational and strategic spaces generally, as well as the details of the sorts of embodied systems we see in biology, culture, technology etc; then one starts to view outcomes in terms of the probabilities associated with costs and benefits in various contexts (for me the cost/benefit metric is survival probabilities, not money).

            Biological contexts tend to measure costs and benefits in terms of energy and nutrient flows and in offspring survival probabilities across populations. Markets tend to use the twin contexts of supply and demand. There are many different ways of viewing the twin supply/demand contexts. One way that is very useful is to see that market value is the result of a mix of many individual determinations of how much they want something and how scarce it is. The more there is of something, the less we are willing to pay for it (generally speaking). Anything universally abundant has zero value (like the air we breath).
            In a context of distribution, that makes good sense.
            In a context of planning, of assigning value to the development of fully automated production systems, having zero values does not produce socially optimal (or even useful) outcomes.

            In the context of the possibility of fully automated production, using money as a planning tool creates systemic failure.

            It is fine in the distribution context, provided that everyone has enough to meet their reasonable needs for life and liberty, but in the planning context it simply cannot produce useful outcomes.

            Our current planning contexts are dominated by market values.

            When one places that into the very complex context of embodied cognition that I opened with, then it does seem to me to be the single greatest source of existential risk facing humanity and most of the other life forms we share this planet with.

            And none of that is simple, and there is a certain level of simplicity that emerges when one manages to encapsulate the key lesson of value and uncertainty present in the complexity.

            How we adopt system that do in fact produce optimal outcomes in terms of both security and freedom is to make the appropriate contexts available to people.

            We have to stop talking about evolution only in terms of competition, and start being explicitly clear that all major developments of complexity in evolved systems are characterised by new levels of cooperation, with attendant sets of strategies that prevent cheating while optimising freedom – and that must always contain uncertainties at the boundaries, requiring both flexible and permeable boundaries.

            We have to be explicitly clear that ideas in our legal system like maximum and minimum penalties and any sort of statute of limitations, are essentially cheating strategies.

            We need to be clear that much of our political, financial and legal systems are dominated by cheating strategies, and have a clear strategic approach to dealing with that.
            And technology can help a lot.

            And centralisation of systems is not a stable answer.
            Any centralised system is vulnerable to failure in many different ways, and the two most common are takeover by some cheating strategy or failure of some key component.

            So we need to follow the biological example of how to mitigate such risk, by using decentralised and massively redundant systems (backups of backups – plans A, B, C, and plan generation systems – avoidance, removal, resilience).

            To achieve a change, we need to change the reality.
            For those at the top, it can mean making the many levels of systemic risk of the current system clear, and proposing a clear set of transition strategies to a different system that delivers greater benefits to them.
            For those at other levels it will come about by change of context creating changes to the probabilities of expression of particular classes of behaviour.

            Nothing certain, everything with uncertainties and with confidence levels.