We are usually optimistic about the future, and that is just in our nature as humans. But if we are serious about making our future better, we should not be satisfied by just making marginal improvements. Most of our progress builds on our history and current reality. We react to the problems that come our way, we solve them, and that constitutes most of what we mean by progress. But the final result may not be ideal. With this incremental approach we also carry a lot of the baggage of the past which traps us into older thinking paradigms. The result of such an approach is all around us, today we are not living that ideal state that mankind hoped for 50 years ago.
Whether the future will be an adaptation to the current reality, or something closer to what is ideally possible, is dependent on how we start out. To pursue a vision of an ideal future we may have to forget a bit of where we came from. Making a decision to visualise the ideal future and willing to question everything will merely be the first step to the great social re-engineering project that we could embark on, the path gets harder as we go along. We will need to be willing to adopt a mindset where no questions are considered blasphemous, and there are no holy-cows that cant be slaughtered (metaphorically speaking).
WHAT IS THE IDEAL FUTURE
Is there just that one ideal future for mankind, the perfect state against which all other states are sub-optimal? The criterion for the success of any ideal future would be that it would further the happiness and potential of each individual. Such a system will ensure freedom for all in all forms – freedom of expression, of Choices, of beliefs. But such a system also has to be fair to all so that people dont impinge on others happiness while exercising their freedom. We have designed rules/ laws for this, and have struggled with enforcing them since the birth of civilization when we all decided to live together as a community.
Traditionally the foundation of enforcing the rules are is based on penalties. So we have laws, and police, and courts and Jails. The entire justice system is built on punishing the deviant behaviour. Our adaptive thinking has made us go down a path where more people are being put into prisons, laws are being made tighter and meaner, Police is getting better equipped, prisons are getting bigger and better to handle this load etc. But we may be building the wrong model that we have inherited.
What if we had no prisons? What if instead of penalising people, we rewarded people for good behaviour by a large scale social point based system, so that people get noticed when they do good rather than when they do bad, and that became the new class-system of the society. Such incentives would make people chose the right thing to do. The news headlines may then be filled with the number of social points/ badges that were handed out today for good work, rather than the crimes that got committed. We may still need to figure how to handle the deviants, but maybe that line need not be as tight as we are trying to make it. Everyone makes mistakes, and maybe the system could be geared towards helping people get back on the correct path, but with much more tolerance for deviation built in. We are now talking of a future where there is tangible value in being good. We arrived here by merely changing the paradigm in which we are operating.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT THE CHANGE
It is one thing to visualise change, and another to implement it. There are number of issues that come in the way, and maybe our current social systems need themselves to be questioned before we can think of implementing any change – and as I said, there are no holy cows when we should be able to questions everything.
Leaving change to Individuals and collective vote dosnt always give best results. Individuals are poor at making decisions for others – our minds lack objectivity, we have biases, we have cognitive limitations to process all factors to arrive at the best decision, and even the decision criterion are subjective too. So to leave such decisions to judgements of such a collection of individuals is dangerous. It does go against the ideal of democracy, but democracy is merely a solution for the problem of governance, and maybe not be suitable for all circumstances – e.g. corporations are social systems that are not democratic, but are thriving and people within them are prospering too. Also, the elected representatives are not experts in their area of expertise – say a minster for airline may not know anything about engineering, or operations management, or even running a business. What is the value s/he can add to improving that sector? There is a case for specialists who can guide us, and who are not subject to the whims of a popularity contest, which is what democracy tends to get reduced to.
Governments are unable to implement important changes because they need to stay in good books of people, especially the more powerful ones who are threatened by any change in status quo. We may at some stage need to accept the limitation of our governments and decide what aspects of our life do we want to hand over to such a mediocre system of governance. We probably need a more stable foundation that works alongside the political process, but which a bit more immune to pitfalls of politics, and with more expert knowledge.
Religious leaders have let the whole world down. They have caused most strife in this world than anyone else by failing to show people the right path. They have failed to re-interpret the parts of their religions that have become outdated, and are holding back the spiritual evolution of Mankind. What should have been the ‘heart’ of mankind, is the biggest problem of today. Ideally, they can give us all the moral compass we may need to negotiate the future, but right now the compass is broken.
We may need a hybrid of all the possible systems – Democratic, expert based, inclusive of spiritual leaders, guided by scientific thinking. Think of a ministry of Religion in the government, or an appointed scientific advisor to religions. There artificial silos need to break for a better system to emerge which can help set the direction for us.
WHERE DO WE BEGIN
Our key tool to move forward is the scientific thinking which can unlock the truth and give us many answers. But Science is famously without a heart. It gives us deeper understanding of nature, and can answer questions we may throw at it, but is very poor in setting direction for what humans should do next, or even telling us what are the right questions to ask of it. It has unleashed the power of mankind, which has been used in all sorts of ways. It cannot also help with imagining the future, but can help with taking us there. Scientific thinking if set free will run into Religion, into cultural practices, into politics – and we need to find a way to let it win in such confrontations too. Science has the right formula and discipline to move foreword, to hold evidence as the ultimate truth, to abandon beliefs without merit. But we also need a heart that can guide it.
Building the future of mankind will start with a search for a heart that can guide us.