| This new forum, launched in June, is intended to be a creative marketplace for exchange of new ideas, insights and perspectives. The views expressed in this forum are those of their authors and are not intended to represent the official position of the World Academy. All Fellows are invited to send in contributions (500-1000 words) for publication in this newsletter or on the Academy’s SEED IDEAS website. Comments by Fellows on contributions will be published on the website and in subsequent issues of this newsletter. Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Establish World Democracy & Redefine Values – Orio Giarini Toward Inspired Responsibility – Ljudmila Popovich Super-bug that starves creativity to death – Deepak Kaul Ten Big Questions for 2100 – Michael Marien |
Establish World Democracy and Redefine Values Orio Giarini, Member of the WAAS Board of Trustees; Director, The Risk Institute. The establishment of a world democracy, based on real federalism and the priority of law at all levels (from the local village to the world institutions), should be the long term goal. In the short term, we should concentrate on efforts to reinforce the United Nations, an issue that Francesco Stipo discusses in his book United Nations Reorganization: The Unification of the UN System. The present policy toward national debt being pursued in Europe is, de facto, a move toward renationalization of the Euro, a victory for nationalism over the progressive unification of Europe. Europe must absolutely overcome the present situation where the national debts have de facto renationalized the Euro (a victory of nationalism against Europe). The next positive step should be the creation of Eurobonds. The failure of Europe to continue its effort toward unification may be very dangerous and open the way to increased conflicts and wars elsewhere. The world needs to understand that the basic economic, social and even cultural issues have a linkage with the end of the Industrial Revolution cycle. The “Limits to Growth” discussed by Club of Rome signal the end of a two century cycle of economic development based on industrialization, not an end of growth per se. Economists, philosophers and all those who pretend to “think”, should concentrate first on what today is the real source of the “wealth of nations”. The services sector has replaced industrialization as the basis but economic thinking remains fixed in the old paradigm. There is also a pressing need to redefine what we mean by value. Economists need to revise measures to reflect the fact that not all economic activities add value to human welfare. Many economic activities, such as those which pollute the environment or consume scarce raw materials, may actually diminish overall welfare and should rightly be deducted rather than added to measures of growth. In addition, the concept of economic value needs to be expanded to reflect non-monetarized values which positively contribute to human welfare but are not reflected in monetary transactions. It is absurd that in a world with so many advances in science and technology, positive visions and projects are limited and so many humans live in socially unacceptable situations. This is largely the responsibility of inadequate culture and improper organization. A new era is looming, with the possibilities of tremendous disasters (nuclear, etc.), but also of great, unique advances. As Aurelio Peccei said, “it is a question of human quality.”
|Toward Inspired Responsibility Ljudmila Popovich, Junior Fellow, WAAS; Comparative Literature, University of Colorado 1.Between Punishment and Reward: Catastrophizing, Distraction, and Slow Violence Looking forward to more hopeful ways of engaging people without threatening them into action, this is a call for a change in the way we communicate critical issues. Change is needed in the paradigm of public interaction that has always resorted to inflaming threat and conditioning people to react and act only between the poles of reward or punishment and only to the most explosive issues of the day. Repeated catastrophizing about our terrible modernity has been leading to militantism, panic, despair, or numbness. Furthermore, focusing primarily and aggressively on critical issues of spectacularly catastrophic events also underestimates and neglects various forms of what Rob Nixon calls “slow violence,” a gradual and unregistered violence that has a long term effect with detrimental significance revealed only over time. As the inhabitants of the developed and trend-setting centers oscillate between mobilization and distraction, the greater part of humanity exists in deprivation of both sustenance and basic understanding of the issues that are decided upon in their name and, most often, at their expense. The global issues at stake are calling for an alteration not only of our material conditions but also, and most importantly, for a transformation of our consciousness which has the capacity to envision and create comprehensive changes. Our goal should be individual expansion rather than extension of global control, which has a short-term effect and only results in having to re-invent means of damage control in the long run. Such course necessitates an essential change in values and requires a formulation of a new cultural environment based on those. In that name, this is a call for transformation and redistribution of wisdom, wealth, and well-being starting from subverting the intimidation / distraction governance pole. Crisis needs to be rethought from the breaking point to a turning at which we realize that recoveries, regenerations, and reinventions hinge upon and start from the attitude which we choose now. The role of crisis should be evaluated in the greater scheme of human social evolution; while crisis causes ruptures, it can also create breakthroughs. Both ingenious creativity and solidarity arise and greater possibility for self-determination is spurred in times of crisis. 2. Reconfiguring the Language, Rearranging Desires Change in values has to take into consideration human needs and desires as the most powerful drivers and the understanding that we inherently desire ever-greater things. Along those lines, Gayatri Spivak calls for the uncoercive re-arranging of desires as a way of redirecting our focus on the most critical concerns of global well-being. Of the utmost importance here would be to develop means of recognizing what is critical to one in relationship to another on all levels of social organizing, taking into consideration that our well-being is intrinsically relational and socially defined. Thus, we align our human preoccupations and needs and invest personal energies in the understanding of the interconnectedness and interdependence of our microecologies, supporting them by inspired action toward greater good for a greater number of people. 3. Deconstructing Control, Deactivating Crisis We have been learning in the neoliberal, capitalist societies that, rather than enforce direct control, the most efficient means of controlling has become indulging certain desires or creating them (marketing systems are experts that way). Understanding this, we can start from creating new and different desires which are already present in the human potential. With that understanding and the knowledge that the sharing individual is a happier individual, with a deeply seated need for community (sharing in communication and communion), we can re-focus people’s desires toward means which will support both their need to connect and share and their will to self-motivated decision-making and action. Crises, much like forms of control, may not be eradicated, but they have within them a possibility of their alleviation and refinement of solutions. We can transform crisis into contrasts that give rise to inspired impetus for change rather than desperate decision-making. It is in the hopes of transforming critical destruction into creative deconstruction that we recognize that what constrains, limits, and pressures also gives a point of departure, a platform and a contrasting springboard from which to initiate more refined desires, visions, and ingenuity. 4. Global Governance and Governmentality Reforming global governance requires transformation of governmentality (Michel Foucault’s term; translation of the French gouvernementalité), as governing mentality, and re-distribution of power. Re-defined governmentality through internalization of social authority would quicken self-governing individuals supported by the transfer of power from the institutional regulations toward personal responsibility. Through a re-arranged and re-thought individualism that recognizes that the self is more than one, the individual is validated as a co-creator whose well-being resides in sharing of the self and the world. While the logic of global unification arises amidst self-serving politico-economic trends, it is simultaneously motivated by our increasing desire for greater connectivity, equality, and mutual affirmation. That impetus should lead to greater individual freedom and our greater collectivity as intertwined and mutually dependent. In the present times described as skeptical or extremist, we need perceptive faith (observant neither in renunciation nor in submission but in higher critical appreciation) engendered by belief in the human potential and our intrinsic desire not only for more but also for the better. Via the shared need for greater safety and through a sense of responsible interconnectedness, continued transformational education leads by fine-tuning us into sympathetic vibration. Tracing our individual growth from the struggling survivors to political subjects to self-governing individuals, and into the co-creators, we rise along the consciousness scale of our own capacities and our responsibilities to ourselves, each other, our planet and beyond. Click here to read the full article with references Super-bug that starves creativity to death Deepak Kaul, Fellow, WAAS; Professor & Head, Dept. of Experimental Medicine & Biotechnology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, India The paradox of our time in history is that we have acquired more knowledge less wisdom; more free-dom, less justice and social equality; more defense expenditure, less peace and security; rapid popula-tion growth, dismal economic security and prosperi-ty; more parasitic tendencies, less ecological sustain-ability; high technology, low scientific-creativity; steep pharmaceutical growth and less well-being. Sustained human welfare and well being can be achieved by integrating art and science through the enrichment of creative mind. Both artists and scien-tists seek knowledge through an imaginative thought process that ends up in creative pursuits. Although artistic research employed the technique of contem-plation, scientific research originated mainly though the art of concentration both leading to creative expressions necessary for sustained human welfare and ecological balance. Knowledge sought through an imaginative thought-process governed by parasitic tendencies gives rise to passion which ends up in the force of “fear”, whereas knowledge gained through an imaginative thought-process governed by prudential tendencies gives rise to “patience”, which leads to evolution of force of “faith”. Creativity arises when an act ends up in a play and it ceases to exist when an act becomes a game. This is because a play inculcates faith whereas a game implants sense of fear. The interrelationship of creativity with the forces of “Faith” and “Fear” can best be explained by the hysteresis phenomenon illustrated in the figure. As the force of inner “Faith” increases, creativity also gradually increases to attain its highest sustained level. When the force of “Faith” drops to zero-state, there still exists remnant creativity. However, when the force of “Faith” is transformed into a force of pathological “Fear”, creativity starves to death. “Faith” arises when any selfless prudent action is performed without fear of its reaction and eternal joy is felt in our hearts, whereas “Fear” arises as a result of conceived/ perceived reaction to self-centric passionate action. Hence, “Faith” and “Fear” cannot co-exist in a given space and time. Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that “Faith” can act as an antidote to “Fear”. “Fear” has the inherent capacity to act as a super-bug to destroy the creative-mind leading to rising levels of socio-economic inequality, unemployment and insecurity in all its dimensions (be it physical, political, social, mental, economical etc). In order to attain global human welfare and well-being, it is of importance to evolve stimuli that can restore our “Faith”, a pre-requisite for attaining high degree of inner patience and creative expression thereby creating a new world having all the shades of free-dom, justice, socio-economic equality, peace and ecological sustainability. It is needless to mention here that our present “Fear” of gain or loss in exces-sive materialistic wealth will have to be replaced with “Faith” in achieving the wealth of cultural creativity and productivity which will thereby evolve a global perspective governed by “Scientific-spirituality” based upon an integral-bond between “Faith” and “Logic”. For example, existence of air or curd & cheese in a cup of milk etc. testifies to the fact that “Faith” and logic can coexist like two sides of the same coin. It is the definition and evolution of this apparently paradoxical bond between faith and scientific-logic that can turn the wheels of history in the proper direction to ensure sustained human wel-fare and well-being in all its hues.|
| Ten Big Questions for 2100 Michael Marien, Fellow, WAAS; Director, GlobalForesightBooks.org A single scenario of what life might be like in 2100 is a fun exercise. But it is also an escape from addressing the many huge un-certainties of the early 21st century and the unfolding Global Mega Crisis. Even several scenarios are way off the mark, because there are thousands of possibilities, depending on when and if the Mega Crisis is largely resolved, and how.|
Facing the uncertainties and complexities about environment, resources, population, society, and technology sooner, rather than later, will likely make life in 2100 better for most or all people, and improve our chances that we will even make it to the 22nd century.
Consider these ten big and overlapping questions-surely not the only ones to ponder, but good candidates for a short list that should be widely circulated and continuously updated:
How Much Global Warming is Ahead? The world has already warmed by 1oC over pre-industrial levels, and there is near-zero chance of stopping warming at 2oC. Many climate scientists now think that a worrisome 4oC warming is most likely in the 2050-2100 period and that a disastrous 6oC or more is possible. Some scientists, such as James Hansen of NASA, warn of possible tipping points leading to runaway global warming “out of humanity’s control.” Will Methane Eclipse Carbon Dioxide? Methane in the atmosphere is only about one-fifth of CO2 in volume, but is 20-25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas, although not as long-lasting. In addition to other sources such as livestock, it is now being released in large quantities by melting Arctic permafrost-a process likely to accelerate. If large amounts of methane are also released from clathrates on the ocean floor, catastrophe is likely. But there are no estimates as to what could trigger how much release, or when. Adding to the methane threat is nitrous oxide, about one-tenth of CO2 in volume, which is 300 times more effective than CO2 in trapping heat. How High Will Sea Levels Rise? The conventional projection of sea-level rise by 2100 is currently about 20 inches (0.5 me-ters). But check out The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change (MIT Press, April 2011), especially for the 70 striking photos of melting ice. The authors warn that “in the fate of Greenland lie clues to the fate of the world” and that “uncertainties dominate on the bad side.” Based on past records, it is possible that the Greenland ice sheet could melt in a few decades, raising sea levels by some 24 feet worldwide. Melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet would raise sea levels by another 16 feet. Will We Run Out of Essential Resources? Renewable resources (notably water) and many non-renewable resources (oil, ara-ble land, minerals, rare earth elements) are becoming more difficult to acquire even as demand increases-what Michael T. Klare calls “the end of easy everything,” leading to a global “race for what’s left.” Prices are rising and will surely continue to do so, as companies and nations also scramble to adapt through conservation, substitution, and new technologies. One writer estimates that supply shortfall by 2030 is “nearly certain” for cadmium, gold, mercury, tellurium, and tungsten. How Many People in 2100? Global population projections are pretty much settled on 9-10 billion people by 2100, or roughly 50% growth from today’s 7.1 billion-which is a substantial addition, even as the rate of growth slows. But it may be more useful to think in terms of four scenarios: Sharp Decline due to a global pandemic (quite thinkable by public health experts) or a world war (unthinkable?), Slow Decline where modernization leads to smaller families, Slow Increase due to general im-provements in medicine and health outpacing smaller families, and Rapid Increase due to success in anti-aging and life-extending technologies, made accessible to many people. Demographers never consider this more-than-wild-card possibility, but experts on Bill Halal’s TechCast.org panel forecast life extension to 100 years as probable before 2040 (with .67 confidence). What Quality of People in 2100? Genetic and robotic enhancements may create “better” or at least different human beings, but will these options be popular? Even if widely available at low cost, could these improvements be more than offset by endocrine disruptors and other pernicious chemicals in the environment, taking overdoses or inappropriate drugs (both illegal and legal), and overeating of food (leading to obesity and diabetes)? Will Decent Employment be Available to All? Assuming that livelihoods will be necessary and desirable, will everyone have jobs or self-employment that provides for basic needs? At present, this is a serious long-term problem, especially for younger generations. Any Year-2100 notions about cornucopian futures where governments or corporations provide free food, housing, education, health care, etc. are simply escapist fantasies. Will Inequality and Plutocracy Continue? Global trends to more inequality within and between nations are unmistakable in recent decades and seem likely to continue, as well as the parallel trend to governance by the rich. There is no definition as to when a “democracy” becomes overtaken by “plutocracy,” but, arguably, this is happening or has happened, with no substantial reversal in sight. Will the Energy Transition be a Clear and Rapid Success? A transition away from fossil fuels has begun, and everyone favors energy that is cheap, safe, non-polluting, renewable, and available to all. But this transition will likely take decades at best, and the ultimate mix is highly uncertain: solar, wind, nuclear, biomass, hydro, and geothermal are the known competitors to oil, gas, and coal, but could soon be joined by ocean algae, ultra-deep geothermal, solar power beamed from space, nuclear fusion, widely-distributed LENR (low-energy nuclear reactor) generators, or other technologies not yet on the horizon. The competition is fierce, and a level playing field with public comparison of all costs and benefits will surely help this crucial transition, which, in turn, will mitigate global warming. Unfortunately for sustainable energy, the transition is being delayed somewhat as a result of new and controversial hydro fracking technology that enables easier access to unconventional oil and natural gas. Will Nuclear Weapons or Bio weapons be Our Undoing? The number of nuclear weapons is slowly declining, while bio-weapons-much easier to make-are probably increasing. The Cold War mega threat of nuclear holocaust and/or the follow-on environmental disaster of nuclear winter has lessened, but is still a not-so-wild-card possibility. And widespread global use of bioweapons could keep most or all of us from reaching the year 2100. Much depends on the future of religious and non-religious fanaticism, leading to use of these destructive technologies and/or others. This is merely a starter list of huge uncertainties that we face on the bumpy road to 2100. There will be many surprises ahead: negative (e.g., cyber-war), positive (e.g., nanotechnology fully developed) and perhaps ambiguous (e.g. contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence), as well as many surprises that we can’t even imagine. Global governance and global law are huge challenges, at a time when we can’t agree on governing our nation-states, and the growing distractions of infoglut are formidable.
In 2003, the renowned British scientist, Sir Martin Rees, wrote that “the odds are no better than 50-50” than our present civili-zation will survive to 2100. It’s still a pretty good bet. (Invited essay prepared for The Futurist to be published in Special Issue on Life in 2100, Sept-Oct 2012) Click here to read Op-Ed Issue 1 & Issue 2