|Surviving Human Nature|
The character of the 21st century will be dominated by unsustainable population growth and migration, conflict, climate change, accompanied by shifts in wealth, power and influence. Recurrent human conflicts appear to be inevitable and challenge the most intelligent humans who imagine relief from a long history of the human abuse of humans.
The 21st century philosopher's task is to update our descriptions of ourselves to accommodate burgeoning scientific knowledge and an increasingly sophisticated understanding of human behavior, the brain and complex systems in general. We have new and revolutionary knowledge about human beings, their languages, arts and culture; about information gathering, storage and retrieval; about computation, communication; about the transformation of energy and materials; about molecular biology, genetics and the evolution of life on earth. We have to re-examine what we care about and advance new vocabularies that allow us to proceed into new domains of thought and understanding.
There is a lag in the assimilation of new knowledge into the culture and a rapidly widening schism separates the few who know how things really work and the majority who do not. In this 21st century the rapid development of science, communications and culture exchange is unprecedented in the history of the planet. The smart, kind-hearted subtype of humans has flourished despite the persistent presence of crude-thinkers and killers. The smart kind-hearts have powerful tools to shape the future in a constructive manner. Scientific American posted this message in January 2017:” Advances in science elevate all humanity, but science and journalism are under siege. Special interests distort facts and evidence to serve narrow economic and political goals. Pseudoscience and falsehoods are widely disseminated through a pernicious amalgam of tweets, fake news and bluster.”
The notion of a "World Order" had a semblance of credibility in the latter half of the 20th Century. Gorbachev supervised the dissolution of the Soviet Union generating some hope for a more coherent and peaceful world order. International Institutions proliferated and meetings of "global leaders" were common news items. But little was accomplished in resolving conflicts and environmental degradation.
Sanders wrote:" Gorbachev’s new world order became, simply, the existing world order: a world built on a broad agreement among most major countries that democracy and liberal economy were desirable goals; a world with only one superpower; a world where international institutions could govern trade, monetary and financial affairs and military conflicts; a world in which poorer countries gradually adopted the values and institutions first popularized in the West; and a world dominated by the United States, its military and its dollar. As the UN once again convened its General Assembly (Sept 2014) surprising words emerged from the speeches of Iranian, Chinese, Russian and American leaders – there is a profound sense, among many observers, that the world is once again reordering itself. The old certainties have collapsed or faded, and new threats challenge them... Old-style nationalism, from China to Scotland, has become a force once again. And international institutions have failed to solve some of the world’s most damning problems, notably fossil- fuel-driven atmospheric change. "[i]
The hope for World Order was replaced with World Disorder as conflicts flourished in many regions, diseases evolved and spread, air pollution and its progeny, climate change, threatened large populations with dislocation, disease, famine and increased conflict over shrinking resources. Horodelski wrote a morning business newsletter, full of data and more importantly with the insights and perspective of an experienced observer. She stated:" The World Economic Forum released yesterday their five global risks in terms of likelihood (interstate conflict, extreme weather events, failure of national governance, state collapse or crisis, high structural unemployment) and in terms of impact (water crisis, rapid spread of infectious diseases, weapons of mass destruction, interstate conflict with regional consequences and failure of climate-change adaptation). In terms of what is the most likely to happen – interstate conflict with regional consequences is the number one global risk. So build your bunker. [ii]"
Actions needed to solve most obvious problems
Regulate resource depletion
Reduce burning of fossil fuels and forests
Eliminate poverty and malnutrition
Stop habitat destruction and extinction of fellow creatures
Defend against emergent diseases
Stop climate changes
Eliminate nuclear weapons
Eliminate biological weapons
Stop humans killing humans
Promote civil societies
Develop renewable sources of energy
Rebuild energy and communication infrastructures
[i] Doug Saunders. Five schools of thought about where the world may be headed next. The Globe and Mail, Sep. 26 2014.
[ii] Frances Horodelski. Build your bunker. BNN Morning Newsletter: January 16, 2015