The next several generations will have to manage a much more complex matrix of social, political, economic and environmental disruptions exceeding anything the human species has ever had to manage in its history (short of, I suppose, the great Ice Age.)
~dramatic population growth global
~significant urban growth globally
~competition for food and natural resources ~increased global tribalism, fractured national & ethic identities
~competition between nations for political dominance and economic hegemony
~climate change & extreme weather variation
~greater concentration of wealth & extreme income inequality
~profound & rapid technological change ramifying throughout global societies
~robotics and corollary social and employment impacts ~ubiquitous IOT/near-term AI singularity
~cyber-warfare & cyber crime
~personal privacy exposure
~challenges to energy production & distribution
These and many other disruptions and challenges will be the new “normal” which our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be impelled to come to grips.
All of these disruptive impending systems and events are the result of human activity arising from a preoccupation in short-term self-interest that ignored or minimized the future impacts of that behavior. Though short-term interest has always been an element of human nature, the “mergers and acquisitions” movement of the 80’s and 90’s compressed the horizon for determining the value of the investment (whether equity or personal capital) from a long-term view (years) to very short-term (nano-seconds). This doesn’t leave much room for reflection on the ramifications of this behavior or any long-term planning which could clarify the impacts of this behavior. As such, the current vision is has been hyper-focused on the very near-term benefit of self-interest versus long term benefit of the greater good and issues of existential viability.
This form of thinking is very much out of sync with the mechanisms of natural processes and global sociological movement, phenomena which are not easily visible in the short-term but evolve out of much longer-term process.
The financial costs associated with anticipating near-term change and modifying the antiquated existing systems will be profoundly expensive; far in excess of what they would have been if addressed in a timely manner. Impact mitigation, crisis management, economic dislocation, and lost opportunity and reconstruction of damaged capital and structure will be enormously expensive, consuming substantial capital investment that could have been allocated for a broader social benefit and the general welfare of the local, regional and global communities.
[The debate over funding the Social Security System and imposing debt on future generations seems so trite and divisive in the face of these much more profound and burdensome debts that will have to be shouldered by future generations.]
The wonder of humans is their capacity to adapt and creatively solve problems. The future of human cultures and civilization will be defined by this ability and how well it is carried through in dealing with the profound changes that are happening now and will continue to happen in the next few generations.
The past two generations, in particular those of the wealthy western societies who had the greatest opportunity for positive action, have demonstrated a profound self-absorption and possessiveness, lack of forethought and a cohesive concern for their children as a generation.
Exacerbating this thoughtless and irresponsible vision of the future, the present generation (baby-boomers in particular) has been preoccupied with maintaining the status quo, that of relative comfort and has done little to coalesce behind a clear vision of what the future could look like nor adequately anticipated the means to mitigate impacts through modified behaviors.
It is the typical generational and perennial handoff “gift” to future generations. However, the breadth and negative ramifications of the ”gift” are geometrically far greater than any previous handed down to another generation. This is the “gift” of the “revolutionary ‘60’s/70’s boomers who were going to change the world; the Age of Aquarius!!
It is rather a pathetic circumstance that humans are a reactive species; I suppose all animals really are. Thoughtful planning and deferred gratification to act on a creating a shared vision of a future greater good is not really a universal human trait. The United Nations has been a noble attempt, with some real success. However, various national self-interests have inhibited its fuller actualization. It is particularly sad that in “first world” nations, nations with the capital and resource flexibility to engage in this sort of existential exercise, have been so incompetent in coalescing behind a greater good vision of the future.
However, it is now more important for these new generations (Millennial and Z- Generations) to project their energies into the future to develop a shared purpose in the interests of a greater good to not defer anticipating the dramatic changes that are rolling rapidly into our lives and to apply their intelligence and adaptive creativity to realistically come to grips with these near-term and long-term profound changes. The World isn’t flat. It is profoundly complex and requires novel and sustainable strategies ways.
It is a challenge of monumental proportions, not to be avoided (for existentially, there is no avoidance possible) but vigorously confronted, with an animation and a sense of optimism of “the possible”- humans can find mutual purpose and commonality in the challenges of the future finding personal opportunities and a sense of hope in the future.
But there can no longer be a short-term vision. Education must be purposeful and learning must optimize the broadest range of creative thinking and dynamic action. Silos of thought and silos of self-interest are simply the ostriches of human behavior which have little social merit and should be relegated to the heap of failed human endeavor.
Think deeply, reflectively and collaboratively. With our 10,000 year old brains, it is time to shift the way we live and care about our future and our children, and their children’s, children’s, children…….