Reports from the Knowledge Labs about our recent findings, research topics, and interviews with lifestyle leaders who are creating their own futures.
How to stimulate your own powers of foresight. Consider the following thought provokers. Ask yourself, in these categories what are the brand new trends and forces? Which are the ones growing in importance? Which current forces are loosing their steam? Which have peaked or are reversing themselves? Which are the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future? POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL thought for food: Electronics, Materials, Energy, Fossil, Nuclear, Alternative, Other, Manufacturing (techniques), Agriculture, Machinery and Equipment, Distribution, Transportation (Urban, Mass, Personal, Surface, Sea, Subsurface, Space), Communication (Printed, Spoken, Interactive, Media), Computers (Information, Knowledge, Storage & Retrieval, Design, Network Resources), Post-Cold War, Third World, Conflict (Local, Regional, Global), Arms Limitation, Undeclared Wars, Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Governments (More/Less Power and Larger or Smaller Scale), Taxes, Isms: Nationalism, Regionalism, Protectionism, Populism, Cartels, Multinational Corporations, Balance of Trade, Third Party Payments, Regulations (OSHA, etc.) Environmental Impact, U.S. Prestige Abroad. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC Food for thought:
Labor Movements, Unemployment / Employment Cycles, Recession, Employment Patterns, Work Hours / Schedules, Fringe Benefits, Management Approaches, Accounting Policies, Productivity, Energy Costs, Balance of Payments, Inflation, Taxes, Rates of Real Growth, Distribution of Wealth, Capital Availability and Costs, Reliability of Forecasts, Raw Materials, Availability and Costs, Global versus National Economy, Market versus Planned Economies, Generations: Y, X, Boomers, Elderly, Urban vs. Rural Lifestyles, Affluent vs. Poor, Neighborhoods and Communities, Planned or Organic Growth.
The Journal of 2020 Foresight
Sunday, August 25, 2002
The Mind Swallowing Up the World
Chapter One: Basecamp
By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Basecamp
Chapter Two: The Ridge
Chapter Three: The Outpost
Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories
"The science of the late twentieth century asks man to understand himself in the light of his own reason detached from history, geography, and nature, and also from myth, religion, tradition, the idols of the tribe, and the dogmas of the fathers. It offers likenesses of nature, not nature, and it suggests further that nature is a project created in part by man. Culture is an artifact and probably a game, and what happens in it is the result of human rather than divine will. If reality is a game, a similar spirit in modern science is reflected in the naming of quarks and super-strings and self-squared dragons. The names are playful because play is an essential part of the activity that gives rise to them. If science is a human creation, we have caught the mind in the very act of swallowing up the world ... we have witnessed nature in the process of disappearing."
OB Hardison, “Disappearing Through the Skylight”
Journal of 2020 Foresight: We already talked about how the way we think about and even perceive our world today has been greatly influenced by our past. But, you also said teams have broken down the past into time periods, as well. Tell us about that.
Trailblazer: Well, let’s start with the observation, by Charles Piller, “that for centuries, scientists have sought to explain the natural world—from the rotations of galaxies to the spin of subatomic particles—with mathematical equations.
From Isaac Newton's epiphany about gravity and a falling apple to the building of the atomic bomb, the arcane abstractions of calculus have been the key to the universe. ”
J2020F: So math has been the reductionist’s universal language.
TB: But that language has its limitations. Its methodology is to take something complex or whole – like a rock – and break it down into fragmented little pieces. Then, you reassemble the pieces in a neat equation that explains the whole.
Lost Eagle: If you could model how something worked through mathematics, then you were well on your way to understanding it.
TB: Piller says, “But math falls short when it comes to describing the soft-edged diversity of the natural world.
Scientists could fill all the chalkboards in all the universities in the world with equations and still fail to explain the brilliant spots on tropical fish, the contours of wind-blown sand or the shifting shape of a plume of cigar smoke.
Mathematics is even more inadequate when it comes to simulating intangibles such as the economy, let alone the vagaries of human thought.”
J2020F: Through the centuries, then, the theoretical scientific mind has swallowed up the world with each new discovery.
Eagle: From the 1500s when Copernicus proved the Sun and not the Earth was at center of the universe through the mid-1800s when Darwin upset the creationists with his theory of evolution.
TB: It takes a different perspective to realize how hidden the technology mindset has become – to view it from out of right field, as it were.
Eagle: I know where you are going. To the basic premise of “The Absence of the Sacred”, right?
Eagle: A learning expedition is exploring the seemingly unrelated connections between the “technology juggernaut,” the subjugating of indigenous peoples and discounting their stewardship relationship with nature.
TB: Jerry Mander wrote in 1991, that he set out to publish two separate books – one on the technological revolution and one on native oral cultures. As he investigated both, he discovered the connection.
Eagle: He provided the provocative premise that tantalized our learning expedition. Briefly he called into question the hidden assumption that a technological society is something higher than what came before.
J2020F: So, I can see a connection with Hardison and McLuhan’s position that how the technology culture operates is largely out of view. If it’s out of view, then how can it be challenged?
TB: Mander pulls no punches. “The Industrial Revolution is about a century old, and we have had ample time to draw a few conclusions about how it is going. It is not too soon to observe that this revolution may not be living up to its advertising, at least in terms of human contentment, fulfillment, health, sanity, and peace.”
J2020F: So Mander is basically a Luddite?
TB: Not quite. He managed to use the two different mindsets to view the other. From a native, natural perspective technology and innovation-driven cultures don’t have a great track record.
Eagle: It is surely creating terrible and possibly catastrophic impacts on the earth. Technotopia seems already to have failed, but meanwhile it continues to lurch forward, expanding its reach and becoming more arrogant and dangerous.”
J2020F: Is he saying that in the name of the industrial revolution, and Western progress, I guess from as far back as in the 1800’s with Westward expansion from the US East Coast – with Manifest Destiny at the heart of the American Dream -- native peoples have had to lose in order for us to win?
PF: It operates at a very basic level, outside of our awareness.
Eagle: Mander described it this way, "It is this attitude, and its corresponding belief that native societies represent an earlier, lower form on the evolutionary ladder, upon which we occupy the highest rung, that seem to unify all modern political perspectives:
TB: It is such a rooted assumption that except for political movements as bioregionalism and Green politics, which have at least questioned the assumptions underlying this attitude, Mander says, “most people in Western society are in agreement about our common superiority.”
J2020F: So it becomes okay to humiliate -- to find insignificant and thus subject to sacrifice -- any way of life or way of thinking that stands in the way of a kind of 'progress' we have invented, which is scarcely a century old.
PF: In fact, having assumed such superiority, it becomes more than acceptable for us to bulldoze nature and native societies. To do so actually becomes desirable, inevitable, and, if you believe Mander, “possibly 'divine.'"
J2020F: So what you describe operates almost on a “DNA” level in our Western society
Eagle: Our learning expedition unearthed the Western archetype formulated within the context of this history.
J2020F: And how does that play out?
Eagle: We want to make the big leap.
TB: To achieve the big breakthrough.
PF: To chase the impossible dream.
Eagle: The stuff of heroes. You know – shoot-first-ask-questions-later.
J2020F: Which squares with Joseph Campbell’s myth of the hero.
Explorer: Bill Moyers interviewed Campbell and in the course of the discussion describes how the “knights of the Round Table are about to enter the search for the Grail in the Dark Forest, and the narrator says, 'They thought it would be a disgrace to go forth in a group.
J2020F: I recall the interview. Moyer emphasized the fact that each entered the forest at a separate point of by choice – oh, so right-brained.
Explorer: Campbell had interpreted that to express the Western emphasis upon the unique phenomenon of a single human life -- the individual confronting darkness."
TB: Right. And you’ll remember how Campbell adds, “it epitomizes an especially Western spiritual aim and idea, which is, of living the life that is potential in you and was never in anyone else as a possibility.”
Explorer: Campbell elaborated, “This, I believe, is the great Western truth: that each of us is a completely unique creature and that, if we are ever to give any gift to the world, it will have to come out of our own experience and fulfillment of our own potentialities, not someone else's.”
TB: Contrast that with the traditional Orient and in most grounded societies, where the individual is cookie-molded.
J2020F: By that you mean?
TB: Campbell said, “His duties are put upon him in exact and precise terms, and there's no way of breaking out from them. When you go to the guru to be guided on the spiritual way, he knows just where you are on the traditional path...”
Explorer: What we’ve discovered about the archetype then, for good or for worse, is the preferred American approach to solving a problem or making improvements, or changing the process requires creativity, innovation, and a new approach. It allows us to reach a goal by totally unpredictable means.
TB: So, we’re hardwired – or at least unconsciously driven towards the big breakthrough. We’re attracted like moths to a flame to what is new, progressive, open-ended, revolutionary, risky, and even dangerous.
J2020F: A kind of attitude that thumbs its nose at the established order and the naysayers.
TB: And for good or for worse, it lets us prove how good we are -- especially, at swallowing up the world.
J2020F: How does this mindset play out in economics?
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