2. Needs

Needs – “A fast growing awareness”

“Can our society double up its mind-capacity? It must do so or die; and I can see no reason why it may not widen its consciousness of complex conditions far enough to escape wreck.” Henry Adams (1838 – 1918)

via fc02.deviantart

In CWM, H.G. Wells proclaims that human knowledge is “unused and misapplied”.  We can’t seem to grapple the “urgency of adaptation”.  For Wells, the world is in a race between education and catastrophe and “catastrophe is winning”! Wells sees our choice being either “the evolution of a new more powerful type of man” or “the extinction of our species”.   From Wells’ point-of-view it’s clear, we either learn to evolve, or we die.

In CWM, Wells regrets how policy makers are “over worked” and “overloaded with information”.  He is also stunned by the “urgent failings of the teaching profession”.   He blames “intellectual impatience” which he admits is “making discordances worse” due to a “particular spasmodic conception of the change needed”.  Wells imagined educational and governmental institutions becoming part of a world community that could both address these challenges by engaging in “lively and continuous invention.”

In CWM, James Lovelock tells us we need a “guide book” that is “written in clear and simple words [and] driven forward by science”.  Lovelock envisioned how society would organize around this book “in the same way European society organized around the Bible.” CWM points out how this “culture of the book” would stand apart from the mainstream media.  Lovelock goes on to suggest that such a book could counteract “the single minded view of the specialist or persuasion from talented lobbyists.”

Today a ‘culture of overload’ is overshadowing a “culture of the book”.  In the NYT cultural commentator Robert Wright’s piece titled Building One Big Brain he highlights Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows.  Carr suspects the Internet “is chipping away [his] capacity for concentration and contemplation” and he fears the web is turning us into “chronic scatterbrains”.  Wrights questions if “the incoherence of the individual mind leads to a coherence of group minds” and if the point of evolution has been to create “social brains” that gradually weave into “a giant loosely organized planetary brain?”

global intelligence via athenadr

In Jeremy Rifkin’s book Empathic Civilization – The Race to Global Consciousness in World Crisishe argues that as societies advance and “bring diverse people together” we experience “heightened empathic senility, and expanded human consciousness”, but that ironically this presents what he calls an  “empathy/entropy paradox”.  Maintaining this planetary empathy requires extensive amounts of energy and resources.  The resulting environmental entropy presents a catastrophic impact which he sees the critical test of our species necessitating “a fundamental rethinking of our philosophical, economic, and social models.”

Jan worries that humanity has yet to realize that their notions of progress are a “technological accident”.  He is aghast by the effects humans are having on their environment, often calling it “ecocide”.  He laments how “the worst case scenarios are already happening: starvation, over-population, and toxic environments.”  Jan says a “world heart” must awaken the world mind and that progress should “just stop”.  By letting go in this way, he images we can begin to live our lives “in a way that the next generation can live too.”

Next Page: Components


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