The quality of life in the future depends on you
Brain-Mind Bulletin and The Leading Edge.
[quoteright]In his introduction, Frank Hopkins remarked that there were basically three kinds of Futurists: the technological optimists, who think that science will lead us through all perils and carry us forward to Utopia; the sociological pessimists, who think that our problems are steadily mounting right along with our accomplishments and steadily accumulating as a great danger to our future; and the transformationists, who believe that the secret of the future, a satisfactory and sustainable and rewarding one, will be to change our values, our institutions, and the guiding principles of our society.
A number of Futurists adhere to the important transformationist movement, among them Willis Harmon, but the outstanding member is Marilyn Ferguson. Ferguson began her remarks by referring to a request from the editors of Redbook magazine for her to write an article for them (to appear in the fall of 1984) on what the year 2000 would be like for a child born in 1984. She continued:
We all have the capacity to do... models based on our experience, so somewhere your subliminal computer is taking in everything you've observed in the past and is able to make these instinctive projections. You've taken a measurement here and there and put them together as relationships, and you come up with this conjecture that has a certain accuracy...
So what will it be like for the sixteen-year-olds in 2000? We need to look at our responsibility for that future. What has happened in the past is we have a romantic tendency to imagine the future as if we will get there by accident...People say, "The children are our only hope," or, "Our children are our hope for the future." But that is silly: we are the only hope of our children. They are going to inherit whatever future we are preparing for them or failing to prepare in terms of our decisions and choices, and our imagination or lack of imagination, and to have this romantic idea that just because they are young and fresh they are going to be able to get out of things--that we can just do anything and they'll figure it out--is not going to work. In the present moment are the opportunities--and the dangers--that will, in effect, track the future year 2000 to be wonderful or apocalyptically terrible.
People thought The Aquarian Conspiracy an optimistic book and took issue with it. They forgot that I said all this is possible--or we could blow the whole thing. If we don't create catastrophic situations we are moving in a direction of more wisdom, more sensitivity. Humans are getting a lot of good ideas and putting them together, but it is, as H. G. Wells said, a race between education and catastrophe. Let me quote a line from the Club of Rome's No Limit to Learning "Unprecedented human fulfillment and ultimate catastrophe are both possible; what will actually happen depends on another and decisive factor: human understanding and action." We have an unprecedented opportunity to create an incredibly rich, exciting, challenging future--one that we would be happy to be reincarnated into.
We are in an information age on the brink of a quality-of-life revolution, and we are an endangered species! We have an unthinkable national debt, almost as hard to imagine as the dimensions of the galaxies; every minute of this year the nations spend one million [dollars] on
"defense." The problems of resources, of overpopulation, and so on, are stunning...
We are at an interface [between] unimaginable problems and breathtaking technology, and the space between them is will. It is our intention. If in fact we choose to take our best thinking, best imagining, our keenest feeling, and use the technology to tackle the problems, what will happen is that we will make another leap [forward] in terms of our tools, when we really start using them, and using them with energy and caring behind them. So, in a way, we are lucky to be living at the time of the bomb, at the time of these problems, because nothing less would motivate the leaps in evolution we'll go through as human beings. If necessity is the mother of invention, do we ever have necessity! Now we have the opportunity. Do we have the will, the leadership [to solve the problems]?
Do you remember what you were doing in 1969? The year 2000 is the same distance away. Like the inevitable fortieth birthday you don't intend to reach, it isn't that far away. We are already living in the future we dreamt of. Those technologies you used to imagine? They're here!...How do you get people to leave their comfortable old stuffy habits? You have to make the new attractive: it has to be more attractive, more fun, more powerful, more challenging, more exciting, so that you are drawing people away from the old and comfortable.
We don't have to have a really clear goal about the beginning of the 21st century and exactly where we should be in terms of quantifiable things, and so on. What we need is an image-kinesthetic, visual, auditory, whatever--of the quality of what it will be like, and what education is going to be like. Our children will get a psychophysical education that is the training of the human instrument. Our brains are versatile; a person with poor attention or poor coordination can be trained out of it, and this must get into the educational system. Business will help; the marketplace is suffering from the mediocrity of the schools. All of us are responsible; the schools won't provide what we need...
What have we done to create ourselves to get stupid so we have to get smart? How did we get fearful so we have to trick ourselves to be brave again and willing to take risks? We must establish trust by telling the truth and trusting each other to tell the truth. It doesn't mean things will go right all the time, but just trusting that we'll handle it, no matter what happens...We are teaching ourselves to become more intuitive because it is becoming popular. Everyone wants to be more intuitive, so what we have to do is overcome certain assumptions about how things work, and the most helpful thing we can do is realize what modern science is bringing us in the way of the verification of the mysteries of nature. "Nature has no bottom line." [Consider] melanin, which exists in the nervous system. The stuff that colors your skin is melanin, but there is also neuromelanin, and all the crucial brain regions are black with this melanin, and it turns out that melanin is not only incredibly light-absorbent but also a hundred or more times [more] sound-absorbent than any [other known] substance. There is a theory thatvit is the organizing principle of living systems, that the melanin molecule, which is composed of neurotransmitters, is like "command central" for managing the nervous system, and that it has the mathematical properties of a black hole. It seems to have some properties of a superconductor, which is an unthinkable phenomenon because superconductors should exist only at [very] low temperatures!
Ferguson then listed the tools we need now:
Context: How large a context can you hold at one time? How many pieces can you keep in mind and juggle at once? Try to see figure and ground at the same time. People need to be taught context so that news is not fragmented.
Emptiness: The meaning of zero and subtraction. How to keep relevant information and let go of the other kind. Be gymnastic paradigm-shifters; don't fight the new until it is inevitable.
Communication: We need it internally and between each other. Teilhard de Chardin said, "When man has discovered the power of love he will for the second time have discovered fire." When we have discovered each other and what we have to offer, we will for the second time have discovered fire.
Boldness: George Leonard said, "Not to be bold may prove to be simply irresponsible..." And what do we mean by responsibility? Partly, it is a sense of timing--not yesterday or today or ten o'clock--but what the Greeks designated as kairos being in the right place at the right time.
Choice: We need to be trained for choice. Frank Burns had a favorite quotation: "If you continue to act as you always acted, you'll get what you always got." And, if you continue to think as you always thought, you will act as you've always acted, and you'll get what you always got. If you continue to take in information as you always did, you'll always think as you always thought, you'll act as you always acted, and you'll get what you always got.
She continued: "So I take responsibility for myself, for how I hear, for how I communicate, for how I put [information] out. The final aspect of self-education is self-expression. No matter what you think, even if it is not [completely] clear, be willing to put it out there. We won't get more articulate until we try; it is in the struggle that we will get it.
One of the ideas going around [today] is that for World War IV, if you have it, you won't need World War III. Don't start it until everyone is on your side--then you are guaranteed winning. [Reference was made at this point to a series of nationwide gatherings on 5 August 1984 (Hiroshima Day) to make proclamations and issue manifestos indicative of the feelings of the people involved in these groups. ---P. H.] [It will be] a war on our illusion of helplessness, on what makes us feel separate from each other. This is a time of unlikely coalitions and partnerships-of business helping schools, government agencies becoming entrepreneurs, art helping students of science, groups of so-called enemies getting together as people and trying to find the ancient roots of conflict. We have long understood "yes" and "no" in human relations; now is the time to understand "and."
Anyone interested in either the Brain-Mind Bulletin or The Leading Edge can get them through Interface Press [now Brain/Mind Bulletin] in Los Angeles, PO Box 42211, CA, 90042 (213) 223-2500. Both are published every three weeks, are four pages in length, and cost $20 per year.
[2007 ed. note: Remember, this info was current in 1984 and may be out of date.]
Paul Healy attended the June 10-14, 1984, meeting of the World Future Society and has written a report on it that began in the August Ecphorizer. This is the second and concluding part of that report.
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