Peak Trump: A Forecast of Accountability

To honor July 4th, the American holiday of independence, this study took up what seems the biggest threat to democracy — Donald Trump and his supporters.

The results below are shown in bar charts followed by comments from 20 participants — David Zalkind, Ian Browde, Margherita Abe, Phil Sisson, Kent Myers, Jacques Malan, Mike Marien, Owen Davies, Steve Smith, Hellmuth Broda, Douglas Cullison, Steve Hausman, Victor Motti, Ted Gordon, Peter King, Young-Jin Choi, Clayton Dean, Gerry Stoopman, and Clark Capshaw.  TechCast is grateful for these valuable contributions. 

The Data

The data and comments below are fraught with uncertainty and doubt, yet an analysis of the results, along with new developments, suggest the days of Trumpian fantasy are fading and likely to end in the next few years. 

The bar charts show a 55% probability that Trump and his key associates are likely to be charged with serious crimes in the next 2 years. The data also show that a moderate (59%) backlash is likely to follow these indictments, and that Trump’s support among GOP members is likely to fall from today’s 80% levels to 47% or so. 

The Doubts

While the data are persuasive, this study also finds several sources of uncertainty that must play out in ways could surprise us. As the comments make clear, our respondents worry that the DOJ, under Merrick Garland, has grave concerns about provoking political opposition and riots from diehard Trump supporters. Respondents also think a staunch wall of silence by his political partners will discourage further confessions. They hold doubts that a jury would convict the former president,  and they are uncertain about the possible decline of Trump’s popularity. 

Confirming Events

These doubts and uncertainty are dispelled to a great extent by striking events that signal a turning point is being reached. The first signal was sent when the House Jan 6 Committee heard the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, and prominent figures claimed this amounted to a “smoking gun” on Trump. The Hutchinson testimony was soon supported by  White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who largely corroborated Hutchinson’s testimony.

Shortly after, there was a distinct switch in the media to a growing sense that Trump’s support was starting to decline. This was then confirmed with news that roughly half of GOP members no longer favor Trump as their candidate for the 2024 election. And GOP stalwart Peggy Noonan, exposed the “big lie” in the Wall Street Journal (June 16, 2022), breaking the silence of Trump enablers.

Abroad, the Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, lost the confidence of his party and was stepping down, while Trump’s idol, Vladimir Putin, is discrediting autocracy by invading Ukraine. The lesson for Americans highlights how leaders can lose power by striving to serve their own interests rather than the state. Parallels to the US are obvious and seems to be taking hold.

Peak Trump

TechCast thinks the overall sum of this evidence suggests that the illusion cast by Donald Trump is being exposed. All lies must inevitably fall. Although the 55% probability of an indictment is slim, we made an even tighter close call on the 2020 election and successfully forecast that Biden would win. The same choice seems justified here, as the first bar chart shows a bi-modal frequency distribution. Both modes cannot be correct, and so the bulk of evidence shifts to the dominant mode, with a mean of 71% probability against lesser mode of 18% probability.

TechCast thinks the DoJ is likely to indict Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani and other Trump collaborators first to begin holding those responsible for planning the attack on Congress. These trials would then produce new evidence further implicating others and preparing the public to accept the gravity of the insurrection. Finally, the former president himself is likely to be charged with sedition and other crimes sometime in 2023 or early 2024 before the national election.  If this happens, the impact on American politics could be profound. A major problem would remain, of course — how to absorb the rest of Trump supporters into the mainstream.

Beyond Autocracy

This conclusion that Trump’s power is peaking is of great significance because the US has long served as a beacon of democracy. If Americans can shed this aberration, the world is likely to urge nations to abandon their autocrats as well, possibly ending the global rise of autocracy and opening up to democratic change. At last. All the worries over the sad state of the world could then prove to be a detour in the evolutionary path noted in our previous study forecasting the rise of global consciousness about 2030 +/- 5 years. Also see Beyond Knowledge below.

 

Results
 

Question 1. Indictment


Probability that the DOJ will indict Trump and some associates before Merrick Garland’s appointment ends in 2024. (0 to 100%)

                        

Comments

David Zalkind

Garland seems more concerned with backlash than with justice.

Ian Browde

Trump hasn’t given the DOJ anything substantial, that I am aware of yet, to indict on and none of those close to him like Meadows, Cipollone or Giuliani will turn on him. Also their ability to get a jury that is impartial is going to prove too hard.  

Magherita Abe

Given what is now public knowledge, with worse disclosures to come, it is hard to conceive that Trump will not be indicted…In addition there is also the issue of interference with Georgia elections as well..

Kent Myers

Staff at DoJ will run out of time. Years later we will learn that they had indictments prepared but just couldn’t stop ‘preparing’!

Jacques Malan

Zero chance of success, though I suspect they may try.

Owen Davies
I do not believe Merrick Garland has the stomach for such a prosecution. To rationalize this, he will tell himself and any interviewer he subsequently talks to that it would require too much of DoJ’s funding and manpower with too little probability of success to justify the commitment. Add a side order of not wanting to destabilize the country for a case he likely would not win. There is a modest chance that he will act after the election, explaining that he did not wish to influence voting. 

Douglas Cullison

I think the administration is inclined to look the other way because of the coming wave of republicans to congress after this election.

Steve Hausman

It’s more likely that some associates will be indicted and less likely that Trump himself will be indicted.

Victor Motti

They have already been collecting and requesting the documents from the Congress committee on 6 Jan. Most probably they are not to use the documents for reading only. 

Ted Gordon

I am an optimist. The mid terms and the presidential elections of 2024 will be the closest watched ever and therefore beyond reproach. Many pro Trumpists will cool (particularly if he is indicted) and gain perspective so he will lose much of his following, I think, but who knows. These are just guesses.

Clayton Dean

I have little doubt that the DoJ, Merrick Garland, et al will  indict Trump.  It’s not a secret and it’s largely a fait accompli that knives are being sharpened for Mr. Trump here inside the Beltway.  Interestingly everyone pretends that we need to know what Trump was thinking – but everyone already knows.  He didn’t want to leave office and was willing to bend, stretch, or exploit any possible avenue.  The real question will be, is there a smoking gun to convince some people on either of the two sides of a divided America, each of which has already made up their mind regarding Mr. Trump and his actions?  I tend to think not. 

It’s ironic that for many ‘average’ Americans the issue of intent, or knowledge of the laws, is NEVER a question in court.  However for the aristocracy the same question of intent is ALWAYS debated, nuanced, and chewed over.  I think Trump will get indicted as surely as night follow day.  And it should be noted the Grand Jury is an easy process to sway towards a desired outcome (something like 99.99% of Grand Juries result in indictments).  The issue quickly becomes ‘what follows’ Trump’s inevitable indictment?

Gerry Stoopman

The likelihood of Trump being charged at the state level (by NY on tax issues and by Georgia for election interference) is probably greater than at the federal level, because of the optics of a Democratic administration charging a Republican former President. 

Clark Capshaw

I think the will is there to do it.   I definitely think that many associates will be indicted.   The precedent of indicting a former President may be enough to deter this action, but I think at least an indictment is likely. 

Question 2. Backlash
 

Severity of the right-wing backlash to a Trump indictment. (0 to 100%, where 0% = None,  50% = Moderate, 100% = Civil War)

                        

Comments

David Zalkind

I see violent actions, but short of a civil war — I hope.

Ian Browde

While I don’t foresee a full-scale civil war, I do anticipate violence around the country. 

Magherita Abe

A lot of this may be posturing by elected officials who use this to attempt to placate their far-right wing base.

Kent Myers

There would be several outbreaks of violence and many varieties of intimidation, but no outright war. The “backlash” would only augment the existing strategy, which is to undermine the system and gradually effect a bloodless coup on the Hungarian model.I think Trump as a person is not the one carrying the support per se

Jacques Malan

I think Trump as a person is not the one carrying the support per se. It is the overall direction of his messaging that conservatives support. That’s why guys like Cruz, De Santis and Paul are also popular. They drive the same message. Any one of them can step into that role (and I surely hope one of them do).

Owen Davies

Professional Republicans will complain that the case has been brought solely for the political benefit of Democrats, then put as much distance between themselves and Trump as they can without enraging the far right. They will thereby give cover for the radicals.

Among mainstream conservatives, to whatever extent they survive, half will agree that the case is political gamesmanship. The rest will be convinced of Trump’s guilt if the evidence is good enough. Some in the first group could come over to their side if the evidence is extremely strong, but I doubt the first group will ever shrink much below three in ten Republican supporters short of an undeniably just guilty verdict; probably not even then. They will influence  right-wing politicians hoping the problem will blow over without hurting them too badly.

The white supremacists and other radicals will remain loyal to Trump and will show their support with armed demonstrations, loud threats of violence, and sometimes the real thing. This group’s masturbatory enjoyment of self-righteous aggression.

I would expect attempted insurrections in DC, Virginia, and and the purest red states. It is likely that these actions will be coordinated. Unless the trouble is put down forcefully–which I believe improbable–it will continue until the first murder prosecutions result in guilty verdicts and the occasional death sentence.

I strongly doubt Trump will ever pay a penalty for his actions. If the case is brought and results in a guilty verdict, it will be appealed to the Supreme Court. The right-wing apparatchiks Trump installed there will either find some pretext for overturning the verdict or sit on the case until Trump dies of a stroke or old age.

Douglas Cullison

The right will try to intimidate DOJ/white house upon the initial inditement (if it happens).

VictorMotti

I cannot imagine how a civil war will start in a nuclear armed country and with access to advanced weaponry in the hands of the armed forces. Perhaps you could include a coup by Trump loyalists in the military?

Clayton Dean

This will play out much as the classic scene in Animal House.  As the Deltas made the case that a few bad apples should not besmirch the entirety of American Democracy, so too will Republicans.  Even as they, perhaps, will find Mr. Trump’s actions distasteful they will be unwilling to damage the larger Republican brand either by admitting to culpability OR allowing too much of a counter-reaction to the impending indictment.

Gerry Stoopman

Although there is a likelihood of the Trump base reacting badly if he is charged at any level, Republicans as a whole will probably have a feeling of “good riddance” after all of the dust has settled on the January 6th hearings and their aftermath. 

Clark Capshaw

There is too much support for Trump that is not based on reason or evidence, but cultivated by his cult of personality.  The true believers will not be convinced by anything; and the right-wing media will continue to stir the pot, looking for political advantage.  

Question 3.  Political Support


Level of GOP support for Trump if charged and found guilty. Trump support now about 80% of GOP membership. (0-100%) 

             

Comments

David Zalkind

His base will remain strong, others will be less afraid of him. See Trump rally interviews which make me think that his fervid supporters will not waiver in the face of evidence or anything else.

Ian Browde

Because the diehards will stay and those who would feel deceived by him would change their position. But they are few and far between. 

Margherita Abe

GOP leaders will use this to attempt to move the party away from Trump…

Kent Myers

Loyalists would sympathize with Trump for the ‘unfair’ treatment. Any result that favors our opponents cannot be ‘fair’.  In other words, they don’t care about laws, unless they are directed against opponents, and then they care a lot.    

Jacques Malan

It’s politics. If the ship goes down, everyone will claim they never supported him anyway (and some of that may be true – see previous point).

Owen Davies

It will be less because a few of the radicals are too demoralized to bother remaining loyal to anything but their own sense of grievance. Other Republican voters will either continue to believe it was a political case–at this point, I would expect their numbers to shrink–or accept that the verdict was unavoidable and perhaps even fair. Republican politicians will decry the injustice of it all, then scurry for whatever cover they can find as fast as they can

Douglas Cullison

GOP will abandon Trump the instant he is found guilty.  Trump will retain a small base of mainly middle aged white men without a college degree.

Victor Motti

I would say that at least half of the base of the GOP are law abiding citizens. 

Ted Gordon

Followers leave the sinking ship. GOP offers good alternatives in the primaries.

Clayton Dean

Trump will not be found guilt.  The clock runs out on this issue as Democrats lose big in November and are unable to see a full and substantive trial on this issue through to completion.   There is no chance Trump is convicted in any substantive way. 

Perhaps Trump gets convicted of a few ‘foot faults’ that are more procedural or that someone far down the Trump hierarchy gets some time.  But the ‘Teflon Don’ has the resources to lawyer up and draw the legal process out until there is a more favorable time and place.  Perhaps at that juncture he settles for a minor rebuke or slap on the wrist.  And please note my statement applies to a conviction relating to January 6th as opposed to what is occurring in the District of Southern New York (re: the Trump organization’s financial chicanery).  

Clark Capshaw

We are already seeing declining support as the evidence mounts.   I think that some will take a self-interested line of thought in the idea that this will confer some advantage on them in the 2024 race, and others who secretly detest Trump will finally take a stand.  ……..
 Tell your friends, associates and social media lists the good news — Peak Trump is here.

Four Scenarios to Resolve the Global MegaCrisis

Four Strategies to Resolve the Global MegaCrisis

 

Overview

We start by acknowledging that the present global order is not sustainable. The Trend Analysis below makes it clear that climate, pandemics, government gridlock, conflict, inequality, water, and other threats are leading to disaster.  Michael Marien and William called it the “Global MegaCrisis.” The New York Times reported that 56% of 10,000 people who were surveyed think “humanity is doomed.” (May 3, 2022)  A recent report by the UN warns that a “total societal collapse” is likely unless serious action is taken quickly. (ByLine Times, May 26, 2022)

The first phase of this study tested 2 scenarios — Global Consciousness and Muddling Through — but the results were inconclusive. We then developed the 4 scenarios described below, which produced interesting and credible conclusions.  Results show that Global Consciousness is rated most highly, but the two Muddling Through scenarios are most likely. The first Muddling Through scenario describes how Global Consciousness can evolve gradually rather than emerge full-blown. Combining both scenarios 1 and 2 then produces a combined probability for some type of global consciousness at about 50% — teetering on the divide between maturity and catastrophe. The Second Muddling Through scenario based on capitalism and technology has a poor outcome, and the “autocratic” scenario is terrible. 

These results suggest a strategy of muddling through with the need for sustainable solutions and cooperation in mind.  Then allow global consciousness to evolve gradually as threats are addressed, and at some point make global consciousness the dominant worldview.

Research Method

After we first framed this study, Round One invited estimates for two scenarios. Results of Round One were inconclusive, so Round Two expanded the study to 4 scenarios. 

TechCast is grateful to the following 33 contributors who provided the data reported here:  Peter King,  Margherita Abe,  Jacques Malan, Clay McDean, Lester Ingber, Art Murray, Leopold Mureithi,  Tom Dickinson, John Smart, Gerry Stoopman, Rene Opplinger, Art Shostak, John Meagher, Young-Jin Choi, David Passig, Jose Cordeiro, Sami Makilianan, Steve Hausman, Mark Sevening, Victor Motti, Andrew Micone, Ruben Nelson, Clark Capshaw, Gerd Leonhard, Chris Galick, Michael Lee, Kent Myers, Yul Anderson, Wendell Wallach, Paul Haase, Angus Hooke, and Xin-Wu Lin. 

 

Four Alternative Scenarios

These four scenarios provide a varied and plausible set of options that are short and accurate summaries of four distinctively different paths comprising the full range of strategic thought. We make a point of focusing on the actions taken and their strategic implications, without presuming to know or evaluate the outcomes.  Those judgments are left to our contributors when making their estimates.

The following four scenarios span the full range from “transformative change” to “regression”.  The No. 1 option describes how a global vision and plans emerge to develop a sustainable world. Option No. 2 continues to muddle through but global consciousness evolves as challenges are met with sustainable solutions. Option 3 muddles through by relying on market forces and free enterprise. The final option reverts to strong governance to manage disorder.

 
1. Global Consciousness Emerges 

As climate, pandemics and other threats became more severe, leaders in business, government, and grassroots groups advocated various forms of global consciousness to form a sustainable world. Proposals for changing worldviews were abundant with great confusion. The UN formed a special task force to form a “Global Vision,” along the lines of its Sustainable Development Goals, stressing respect for the planet and cooperation. A new pandemic emerged, and this time it was well managed better through global cooperation. The media, most nations and corporations worked together on technological advances, business initiatives, and government plans to transform world systems for achieving this vision of planetary health. A sense of global awareness, responsibility and shared values emerged, much like the global support provoked by the war on Ukraine — global consciousness.

 
2.  Muddling Toward Sustainable Enterprise and Hi-Tech (Sustainability and Cooperation Guiding Global Markets and Hi-Tech) 

As climate, pandemics and other threats became more severe, people resisted all-encompassing changes but they focused more on sustainable solutions and cooperation to guide global markets, creative entrepreneurs, and technological innovation. Governments set up a global carbon tax, with the proceeds returned to citizens for strengthening economic growth. Business invested heavily in renewable energies, and most people made the lifestyle changes needed to reduce CO2. A new pandemic emerged, and this time nations worked with WHO to develop global solutions.  The rise in ESG programs to work on social problems with stakeholders reinforces the new ethic of collaboration, shifting attitudes everywhere. In 2022, 1000 companies began partnering with the government on climate solutions. Al Gore claimed, “We are in the early stages of a Sustainability Revolution” (Time). After some progress, these changes seemed to form the beginning of global consciousness. 

 
3. Muddling Through with Capitalism and Technology (Global Markets, Free Enterprise, Profit, and Technology)  

As climate, pandemics and other threats became more severe, people resisted all-encompassing changes because many thought that the dangers are overblown, that market forces driven by profit motives would find solutions, and renewable energy was growing in use. Corporations started new initiatives to adopt renewable technologies. A new pandemic emerged, and pharmaceutical firms developed more advanced treatments. The past reliance on markets alone failed to address these crises, but renewables are now cheaper than carbon-based fuels, so their decreasing costs should help mitigate climate change problems. With renewables growing at about 30% per year, the present 2% of global energy due to wind and solar should double to 4% by 2025, 8% about 2028, 16% by 2031, 32% about 2034, etc. Carbon capture, geothermal, wave energy and even nuclear fusion could also help in the long term.

 
4. Revert to Strong Governance  

As climate, pandemics and other threats became more severe, people came to believe that stronger forms of governance were needed to avoid disaster. This reinforced the trend toward autocratic leaders who are able to act free of the demanding nature of democracy. Rules for business operations, government work, and public behavior were imposed to curb disorder, and some burdensome regulations on civil rights and environmental safeguards were dropped. A new pandemic emerged, and solutions were mandated. Climate problems seem to be under fairly good control with various technical requirements, but crises erupt occasionally. 

 

Results

Bar charts presented below summarize the averages for the 4 scenarios. What stands out is that the 2 Muddling Through scenarios are most likely and that favorable outcomes diminish markedly moving from progressive to regressive scenarios. 

The averages in the bar charts do not show the details, of course, with some responses differing wildly. This diversity of opinion can be seen in the comments below. And we should note that the definitions of the 4 scenarios changed a bit as we struggled to define them accurately. We strongly suggest that readers look over the details in the comments as they provide a rich understanding not shown the statistics.  Salient comments are used in the conclusions to capture this richness.                             

                  

 

Conclusions

1: Global Consciousness Is Rated Most Highly

The favorable outcome of the Global Consciousness (GC) scenario is undisputed, although its probability is only 19%.  Our experts anticipated this conclusion. Young-Jin Choi noted, “Scenario 1 is an ideal but unlikely scenario,” and Ian Browde said, “My gut feel is that we are on the cusp (within 20 years) of a shift in global consciousness.” And Art Murray even anticipated the low probability, ” Option 1 would produce the best results, but has the lowest probability.” Rene Opplinger notes that the world has solved a similar crisis: “The world has proven before that environmental protection measures could be implemented effectively (e.g. regarding the ozone layer).”

While a 20% probability is discouraging, it should be noted that Scenario 2 also leads to GC, but through the process of muddling through. Thus, the probability of GC occurring is more like 19% plus 31% for a total probability of 50%.

This conclusion clarifies our earlier forecast that GC is most likely to emerge at the leading edge about 2030 +/- 5 years. We can now assign a probability to this forecast of roughly 50%. Not bad. 

We also note that this dramatic change is likely to be spurred by massive threats that make it clear there is no alternative. Clark Capshaw thought,  “A full-on crisis may be necessary to spur action,” and  Gerry Stoopman thinks “… catastrophic environmental disaster(s) will shock a sufficiently large number of people worldwide into supporting serious mitigation actions.” Michael Lee agrees: “Humans only reach peace when all other options have been exhausted.”

But this conclusion comes with serious doubts by many. Clay McDean wrote: “I continue to be a global consciousness skeptic.  The likelihood of a meaningful, cogent, actionable Global Consciousness is unlikely.  However, were one to emerge it would undoubtedly be highly effective.” Xin-Wu Lin is even more adamant: “Global Consciousness is impossible when each person considers his own situation.” And Lester Ingber says, “I have to follow the camp against GC happening. My reasoning is that we are a species that requires ‘Them vs Us’; it’s in our DNA.”  Jacques Malan dislikes any form of control: “As a Libertarian with a conservative bent, I absolutely hate the idea of having a “big brother” dictate terms to me.” Paul Haase said: “As we see people’s behavior in the past, taking into account the lack of political will which has been ongoing for more than 20 yrs, we cannot trust the emergence of Global Consciousness,” and Tom Dickinson thinks: “We may have missed the opportunity.”

 
2: The Two Muddling Through Scenarios are most likely, but they have lower outcomes.

The two Muddling Through Scenarios are estimated to have probabilities of 31% and 28%, the highest probabilities in this study. This testifies to the attraction of incrementally finding a way through the minefield of threats rather than choosing a solution that may be dubious. John Meagher agreed: “The two scenarios described as “muddling through” seem most promising to reach some reasoned consensus for the Global MegaCrisis. And Clay McDean was eloquent in explaining: “Necessity is the mother of invention and so humankind figures out a way to get through the worst of things. It may not be pretty but we get there. We squeak by.” 

But opinions divide between the two forms of muddling through. As the comments below suggest, Scenario 2 adds a layer of sustainability and cooperation to the capitalist market forces, entrepreneurs, and innovators in Scenario 3.

Scenario 2 muddles through but adopts concepts of sustainability and cooperation to guide markets and entrepreneurs, eventually allowing GC to evolve incrementally, rather than in one grand vision (Scenario 1). Michael Lee notes the need to develop support from the bottom up: “We need a grassroots people’s movement which promotes low tech for local problems and high tech for global problems to accelerate sustainability.” And Gerd Leonhard explains at length: “The Covid crisis has painfully reminded people of what’s really important: collaboration, trust, engagement and striving for collective benefit. We will either all do better or nobody will … the hopeful narrative of global consciousness must REPLACE the existing narrative of the dystopian and hopeless future …what used to be unthinkable (such as carbon tax, deep global sanctions or a ‘United States of Europe’) might well become the new normal.”

By contrast, the muddling through of Scenario 3 focuses on the status quo of capitalism and technology, with a much lower outcome of 1.1 rather than 3.7 for Scenario 2. Wendell Wallach expressed the present situation best: “This scenario captures where we are and have been for the past decade and shows distinct signs of leading to a deterioration in any shared commitment to cooperate.” Clay McDean is leery of market forces alone, “Leaving it purely to market forces is too simplistic,”  and Gerd Leonhard agrees: “Capitalism, as we have practiced it until now, is unfit for the future.”  Lester Inger noted the destructive power of unbridled self-interest: “We humans will continue to desecrate our Earth, if not by mass disregard, then by greed by the few.” And Yul Anderson speaks for the needy: “Many of society are still locked out of wealth creation and are still feeling hopeless about escaping their fate.” Chris Garlick notes that progress will be uneven: “Urban areas will advance rapidly while rural and third-world countries will be stagnant”.

The prevailing wisdom was summed up nicely by Michael Lee: “Capitalism requires a counterbalance with cooperation; it is more a part of the problem than it is part of the solution. The free market is an impersonal force that is driven by greed and leads inexorably to predatory social behavior. Competition must be counterbalanced by cooperation and collaboration.” While Angus Hooke is confident in capitalism: “I am skeptical of most doomsday scenarios … deep down, I think we will muddle through. And I am putting my money on the free enterprise system and the technical progress it generates as the main contributors to our survival.”

Our respondents also expressed doubt about the dominant role often attributed to technology. Sami Makelainen suspects, “30% growth of renewables is unrealistic once the absolute numbers become big enough.”

3: Autocracy a Quick Solution But Not Sustainable.

It was surprising to find such strong support for the autocracy scenario. But there it is — a stunning 22 % probability.  The expected outcomes are a horrible -4. The view of our experts is that autocracy may be an appealing way to maintain control when the situation is perilous, but the closing off of diverse opinions, inflexibility, and loss of support eventually dooms it to failure. Art Murray summed it up this way: “I gave this scenario the highest probability, based on the premise that a trend in motion tends to stay in motion until it exhausts itself … such approaches might work over the short term, but never over the long term.” Michael Lee agrees: “Even though I hate autocracies, I believe this trend hasn’t peaked yet.”

A central theme is the illusion of action. Margherita Abe noted, “Not all autocrats will necessarily rule in a way that promotes solutions.” Kent Myers pointed out the fallacy: “Fearful people seem to think it works better, but they are just hoping that they are on the side of the winners when they are just the loyal slaves of the true masters.” Andrew Micone is eloquent: “The global trend towards nationalism is a natural reaction to a world in crisis; in the face of uncertainty, people turn to a confident, decisive leader with a commonsense solution. Indeed, a part of human myth and folklore is that in turmoil, a leader will arise to bring people to a promised land. However, as H. L. Mencken noted in 1920, “there is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” 

And some think autocracy is the inevitable result of liberalism. Jacques Malan: “if you give Scenario 1 or even 2 too much rope, it will inevitably end up at this point. If you don’t believe me, read Animal Farm again. ” 

 
4: Small Chance of Decline to Disaster

The results for this possibility are few, and they range from 2% to 80%, averaging about 25%.  If the 4 strategies above fail, we conclude there is a modest but serious probability that none of these options will be successful and civilization descends into anarchy and primitive tribalism. Wendell Wallach noted this change in outlook: “A significant increase over what I would have concluded a decade ago.” Tom Dickinson noted that base instincts are powerful: “We are fundamentally driven by motives of self-preservation and survival.” Art Murray explained that the problem may vary by region: ” … the chaos, although widespread, will be localized (the reversion to primitive tribalism) and in which case, there will be pockets of enlightened culture and pockets of sheer barbarism (much like the peace-loving, happy people of Bhutan vs the madness of North Korea that we see today)” 

 

Comments 

 

General 
Ian Browde

My gut feel is that we are on the cusp (within 20 years) of a shift in global consciousness, that is, ironically being exacerbated by some of the more egregious official behavior (US Supreme Court justices lying under oath, Ukraine invasion, etc.) 

Gerry Stoopman

I believe that big enough and catastrophic environmental disaster(s) will shock a sufficiently large number of people worldwide into supporting serious mitigation actions. I also believe that it’s going to take partnerships between businesses and academic research centers worldwide, promoted by the UN, and government incentives to develop successful climate change mitigation solutions. Either business or government actions by themselves alone won’t do it.  

John Meagher

The two scenarios described as “muddling through” seem most promising to reach some reasoned consensus for the Global MegaCrisis.  However imperfect our “muddling through” has been, it has brought about a world that allows people and their governments to express themselves for many successes and failures, to challenges we have experienced and endured. In a way, this is the reality of “global consciousness”. The two muddling through scenarios may be an example going forward of practical participative democracy and problem-solving approaches that might lead to sustainable outcomes that could become globally adopted.  

We have tried to unite as a species toward common purposes first via the League of Nations in the early 20th century, then later and now with the UN and by other means with limited successes and failures.  The Global Consciousness scenario has too much subjectivity leading to conflict of interests making it unlikely to be practically implemented, yet the aspirations described are positive.  Any global consciousness needs a solid foundational basis in science and objectivity supplanting subjectivity to attain global acceptance for a reasonable chance of long-term sustainable adoption to drive actions. The best means to do that in my opinion is participative democracy. 

Young-Jin Choi

Scenario 1 is an ideal but unlikely scenario. Unfortunately, our current education and media systems are not designed for this purpose; on the contrary, they represent obstacles. Scenario 2 is more probable in comparison and might allow human civilization to barely make its way out of the climate crisis with recoverable trauma, but it requires substantial additional effort, wisdom, determination, heroic activism, and advocacy to become real. Scenarios 3 and 4 are in my view failure scenarios – they both mean too little too late and represent a path dependency to a delayed decline to disaster. In scenario 3, the pace and scale of a largely voluntary, market-driven transformation will likely be too slow to prevent a transition/overlap with scenario 4. In scenario 4, the corruption and intense nationalism/militarization which tends to be associated with autocracies are likely to prevent the science-driven international cooperation that is needed. Precious resources are likely to be squandered on internal and external conflicts and wars.  

Michael Lee

I imagine the next ten years being a mixture of scenarios 2 (positive) and 4 (negative) producing a stop-start form of progress with one step forward and two steps backward, followed by two steps forward and one step backward. Economic models will be mixed, and we are probably seeing the last days of the global domination of free-market capitalism. Eventually, we will reach true economics based on sustainable ecosystems and world peace but that will only be after all other models have failed and it is the last option to try out. Humans only reach peace when all other options have been exhausted. 

Sami Makelainen

I do not necessarily think any one of those scenarios captures the most likely outcome – that of muddling through but with very regionally divided elements. In my opinion, we’re basically looking at a collapse scenario in some geographical domains and high-tech “sustainability” in others, along with unfortunately the rise of some hard borders. My baseline estimate is that any form of global consciousness is extremely unlikely to emerge, so even the modest percentages for the scenarios talking about it are probably generous.

All scenarios have their own optimistic flare to them; for example, YOY 30% growth of renewables is unrealistic once the absolute numbers become big enough – energy systems simply are incapable of moving at that speed from a pure materials point of view; the mention of Ukraine as a world coming together also dismisses the fact that large chunks of the world (Africa, India, China, and others) have much more sympathy for Russia than the current prevailing western media would lead you to believe. The “strong unity” of the world against Russia is limited to the Western countries. 

Clark Capshaw

I feel that many people do not take these issues seriously enough and that a full-on crisis may be necessary to spur action.  That said, I do think that certain agencies and companies are presently working on solutions, which will be useful and may actually help address some of the issues without such a kind of crisis taking place.  I have faith in the foresight of some forward-looking individuals and companies, but in the current political climate, it is more likely that politicians would oppose strong action rather than using authoritative means to create necessary action.  In most cases, we do seem to just “muddle through” and things tend to turn out OK eventually.  

Chris Garlick

While each of the scenarios alone provides a compelling argument, perfect governance will never exist.  While there may be additional awareness of key issues around global warming and social-economic disparity may shift slightly to new emerging products, but will still rely on the base economics of supply and demand that heavily weigh traditional methods and approaches.  Urban areas will advance rapidly while rural and third-world countries will be stagnant.  Society will fumble through new technologies and market failures until it stabilizes with a re-balancing portfolio that matches generational shifts in wealth. 

Gerd Leonhard

We are entering an era of successive and far-reaching paradigm shifts (probably for at least 8-10 years). The Covid crisis has painfully reminded people of what’s really important: collaboration, trust, engagement, and striving for collective benefit. We will either all do better or nobody will. The world has become a giant, interconnected ecosystem where everything and everyone is linked – and the only way forward is to take advantage of that fact and develop a global consciousness and a ‘global citizen’ scenario, with global answers for our most pressing global issues such as climate change, food, energy, water, disease, AGI and human genome editing, and space exploration (to name only a few). 

Gen Y (and some Gen Z’s, as well) is in great shock because of the effects of the pandemic, the coming wave of climate change disasters, the war in Europe, and the threat of technological domination. They are not simply heading towards a ‘great resignation’; instead, they are ready to consider and dare dramatic change, economically, politically, culturally, and most important, morally and humanly. Normal is over – and now it’s clear that ‘Normal’ wasn’t good enough in the first place. Business as usual is dead or dying. Capitalism, as we have practiced it until now, is unfit for the future.  

This is an era of great questioning, confusion, and emotional turmoil – and it will reboot everything.  Keep in mind that while Baby Boomers and Gen X are still very much in the picture, Gen Y will quickly become the dominant force in business, politics, and society in the next 5 years. A feeling of ‘being global’ is already very pervasive in this cohort. We can see this happening in New Zealand, Iceland, Scandinavia, Chile, and soon, Brazil, already.

In my opinion, the hopeful narrative of global consciousness must REPLACE the existing narrative of the dystopian and hopeless future, and the prevailing belief that humans can do little good, in general. The thought-leadership in terms of ‘the future’ must shift away from technology companies, star entrepreneurs, or billionaires to the leading public thinkers and/or a global ‘humanity council’ that could incite a movement. The outcome of such a global campaign could be a key trigger for leading us into a potential ‘strange golden era’  instead of a doomsday all-is-lost world. See Black Mirror or films such as the Social Dilemma.

I think this scenario is very likely as conflicts are coming to a head, and what used to be unthinkable (such as carbon tax, deep global sanctions or a ‘United States of Europe’) might well become the new normal.  

Yul Anderson

Russia’s invasion is catastrophic for humanity as there is no political will to disrupt a potential increase in global hunger, starvation, and poverty.  The US is seen as the only funder of arms for Ukraine which of course lines more pockets of the social navigators and global dominance.  What does this mean for the weak and the 56% that believe humanity is doomed?  That 56% needs to be stratified by race, wealth, and access. Power, money, wealth, and jobs are concentrated in circling the wagon, and access to transportation will become more expensive and more privatized as the super-wealthy create more super-wealthy communities 

Wendell Wallach

The times are tenuous. The future has not been written.  The four scenarios plus a disastrous decline are not discrete options.  A combination of muddling through, civil wars over the form of governance, stable regions, and mass starvation of refugee populations is quite conceivable as is a reduction in the world population by as much as 5% or more.  

Xin-Wu Lin

Global Consciousness is impossible when each person considers his own situation.   The fact is that now we all face people who are controlled in China and Russia. Their thoughts and behaviors are totally different from those of us who live in a democratic world. It is not easy to understand and predict their next steps.

According to what happened recently, the behaviors of directors in China, Russia, N. Korea have already led the world to disorder. The four alternative scenarios do not consider those countries’ leaders that still have intense benefits connected with China and Russia. The world is becoming a multipolar situation. However, if we put that kind of situation aside, policies from governments that could lead and shift the behaviors of enterprises and people are very critical.  The policies like CBAM, GDPR as well as some requests of ESG from financial regulators could be good examples. Good (instead of strong) governance and policies’ intervention will lead and influence enterprises and civilians to a positive future. 

Angus Hooke

If we survive for 100 years, there will likely be many people living outside Earth, on other celestial bodies and manufactured objects. We will be putting our eggs into an increasing number of baskets and the likelihood of our species continually evolving and adapting to new environments will rise as more time passes.

However, we may not get to that threshold. Evolution has led to the creation of trillions of different species competing for limited resources, and the only ones that still exist have very strong personal survival instincts. We extend our target groups to families and some others, but only because a degree of cooperation is in our self-interest. As the target group widens (to cities, states, countries, and regional blocs), so does the number of different and inconsistent agendas increase. It is possible that a few large competing groups will emerge and engage in activities that lead to the extinction of our species.

However, I am skeptical of most doomsday scenarios. Throughout there has always been an ogre waiting to devour us. In the late 1940s, when I was in high school, Australians were told that we would all die of syphilis, which the Americans had brought to Europe during WWII and the Australian soldiers had then brought back to their homeland (If America hadn’t surpassed Great Britain as the world’s leading economic power, we would have placed the blame on the English soldiers). Every Sunday, we were told that the only hope for survival was zero sex outside marriage. However, we learned to make better condoms and developed some new medicines to combat syphilis. In the 1960s, nuclear war was the preferred extinction event and unilateral disarmament was the shouted solution. Instead, MAD at least bought us time to engineer a more sustainable solution. And we have “muddled through” on this one for more than six decades.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, starvation was claimed to be inevitable due to rapid population growth (which peaked at 2.1% in 1969), fixed supplies of fossil fuels and farmland. Ehrlich proclaimed.” In the 1970s the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. “ Paul Gilding (former head of Greenpeace) said “…we have passed the limits of our planet’s capacity to support. Our current model of economic growth is driving this system over the cliff.” Richard Heinberg of the Post-Carbon Institute stated that: “Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with. The general trend-line of the economy … will be level or downward rather than upward from now on.” Bill McKibben (The End of Nature) argued that economic growth is “the one big habit we finally must break. However, from 1970 to 2020, the global population more than doubled (from 3.7 billion to 7.8 billion) and the gross world product from $23 trillion to $146 trillion). And now, every year farmers are leaving the industry in the millions, and few are worried about reserves of fossil fuels.

Since then, we have had major concerns about water (The diet of the average American requires 3,600 liters of water per day. But if a population of 10 billion had the same diet, we would still need only 3% of global freshwater supplies; and current technologies would still bring the percentage below the 1980s level of 1.7%), climate change, climate warming, pandemics, and collisions with near-Earth objects. Each of these has been given extinction dates that are now several decades behind us. The current forecasts of imminent disaster may well turn out to be correct. But, deep down, I think we will muddle through. And I am putting my money on the free enterprise system and the technical progress it generates as the main contributors to our survival. 

 
Scenario 1. Global Consciousness Emerges  
Clay McDean

I continue to be a global consciousness skeptic.  The likelihood of a meaningful, cogent, actionable Global Consciousness is unlikely.  However, were one to emerge it would undoubtedly be highly effective. 

Lester Ingber

I have to follow the camp against GC happening. My reasoning is that we are a species that requires “Them vs Us”; it’s in our DNA. Yes, I would love to believe otherwise, but I just do not see that happening. The alternative is for us to “muddle along,” in that good people will continue to do good things, bad people will continue to do bad things, and the rest of humans will just try to get by as best they can. As Putin’s War demonstrates, there is no way that Humans will ever give up their precious wars.  It’s just not in our DNA.  There is a strong possibility that AI will dominate any trend toward Human Global Consciousness, possibly leading to unprecedented control of Humans. 

Art Murray

Option 1 would produce the best results, but has the lowest probability, only because the people in power will fiercely resist turning that power over to “grassroots” or free enterprise. Even if we completely resolve the current crisis, there will always be new challenges. 

Tom Dickinson

We may have missed the opportunity, or don’t realize we’ve been in this state pretty much since the invention and spread of moveable type and printing
augmented by the telegraph and telephone. 

Margherita Abe

Having an altruistic force behind Option 1to avert climate disaster makes this scenario, though unlikely to occur, the one with the most obvious positive outcome. 

Rene Opplinger

The world has proven before that environmental protection measures could be implemented effectively (e.g. regarding the ozone layer).  Beyond that, I see global consciousness critically because we are moving into a sharp bipolar world order (USA-China) and a global consciousness also carries dangers. Revolutions, religions, and dictatorships (e.g., Mao: The Great Leap Forward) have claimed to have a global solution but not without enormous damage. Overall, positive global consciousness will have a very hard time because of the lack of political structures that can take the right actions in a decentralized way at the local level. Moreover, the world is not yet willing to question things that until now have mainly brought benefits, namely globalization. 

Jacques Malan

As a Libertarian with a conservative bent, I absolutely hate the idea of having a “big brother” dictate terms to me – especially one as dysfunctional as the UN. I almost hate this idea as much as scenario 4. But I do agree that if it was feasible, the outcome for the earth and maybe 50% of its inhabitants would not be too bad in the short term. 

Andrew Micone

There is a sense that the world is out of balance. When America was colonized, the Hopi described their way of life ending with the word Koyaanisqatsi. Translated as “corrupted existence” or “a state of life that calls for another way of living,” it also describes our sense of dread. Yet, in the face of Manifest Destiny, rampant land speculation, and forced relocation, only 115 Hopi out of 4,000 accepted the plan. Suppose that history is indicative of human nature. In that case, we may need a machine consciousness, coupled with advanced data science, to make our global consciousness actionable. 

Michael Lee

The power of nationalism, populism, high levels of fear and anxiety, and social media “bubbles”  would probably work against a  global consciousness in the next decade. There is still a far too wide a gap between rich and poor, haves and have nots, exacerbated by the vast numbers of migrants and refugees in the world.

Kent Myers

I was more skeptical that thinking could change this way. It’s similar to the way we deal with mass shootings. Climate losses are just another chapter, and we can do nothing about it. But now I’m thinking that some event may be large and quick enough to be truly arresting and that we sense that something can actually be done about it.

Yul Anderson

As more corporations expand, humans, individuals, and the working class will be locked out of wealth and locked into working-class poverty, driving, or traveling on average 2 hours each day to a decent job.  Those who work from home live in isolated areas with limited access to the super-wealthy cities, like, NY, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Dallas, and Miami.  The trouble with corporations and governments is that they believe they know best how to manipulate society. More Control.  A global consciousness will evolve, but I am just not sure if it is the corporation whose consciousness is being awakened.  Corporate lives can be like Roller Ball or Soylent Green. 

Wendell Wallach

While the emergence of world consciousness is a hopeful scenario it will need to be more than a secular vision or an intellectual force for integration.  At the moment, the felt positive spiritual/emotive impetus for such a worldwide movement is not in evidence.  Empowering hope is never easy. 

Paul Haase 

As we see people’s behavior in the past, taking into account the lack of political will which has been ongoing for more than 20 yrs we cannot trust the emergence of Global Consciousness. High dependency on technology (e. g. food industry) requires the consumption of fossil energy for a decade or more and cannot be reverted easily (only at extremely high costs). Short-sighted outcomes will further drive behavior if not guided and/ or imposed by governments and rules frameworks.  

Scenario 2.  Muddling Toward Sustainable Enterprise and Hi-Tech  
Rene Opplinger

This change is already well underway wherever the financial resources are available. The problem lies in the fact that most of the world’s population has hardly any means or opportunities to make a change. As a result, the gap between poverty and wealth continues to widen massively. In addition, there is great mendacity in lifestyle changes: the rich now drive Tesla and heat the swimming pool with solar power, and they then call this renunciation. 

Lester Ingber

Humans are pretty good at this, except for the sustainability part. For example, with respect to Climate Change, which Science tells us must be addressed soon if we are to salvage Earth, the next few short years will tell us if we can do this. Even with controlled Fusion at our doorstep, we humans will continue to desecrate our Earth, if not by mass disregard, then by greed by the few.

Clay McDean

This is the most likely scenario.  Necessity is the mother of invention and so humankind figures out a way to get through the worst of things, muddling indeed. It may not be pretty but we get there.  We squeak by.  

Jacques Malan

Similar comments to that of scenario 1 above. Relying on Governments and the WHO. No thank you. If it did get off the ground, a moderately positive effect on Earth is possible for maybe 30% of its inhabitants in the short term. 

Andrew Micone

With the current crisis in Ukraine, we’ve seen that the one system through which we can cooperate globally is the market system. World trade makes us all interdependent. It is the de facto system globally for regulating human ambition. Guiding markets to prioritize sustainability will require advances in economics, data science, machine learning, and cyber-defenses to protect decision-making information. Global consciousness needs to advance so that those who benefit from the status quo realize that the shortcoming in their thinking imperils what they have built. 

Michael Lee

This is the way to go because it is incremental and doable for most societies, communities, and demographic groups. It is also in keeping with social and biological evolution. Most of humanity would be prepared to live with this incremental “muddling through” and would readily rely on high tech because of the huge global success of the mobile phone to reach the whole of humanity in a short time. Dump all lying and phony politicians into the waste bin of history and invest in low tech and high tech and we will see a better world within a decade. Instead of populism, which relies on hollow, phony orators like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, we need a grassroots people’s movement which promotes low tech for local problems and high tech for global problems to accelerate sustainability.  

Kent Myers

It produces results gradually, but we will come to realize these results are wholly inadequate.  We might even get to net-zero rapidly, then realize that civilization collapses with steady-state at 400ppm.  Missed the opportunity for rapid removal of gasses to the level that prevailed for 10000 years, prior to industrial runaway combustion 

Yul Anderson

The Russian invasion of Ukraine makes people see the futility of resistance to autocratic power solidified in one man/woman.  As a result, Climate Change will be fought over by those with less power, and the continued of plastics will make weak nations uninhabitable.  There may not be an opportunity for collaboration as many of the poor and weak have died from Covid 35 and increased climate change.  However, the continued misuse of the word makes climate change seem livable and sustainable.  Many, if able will seek environments that have less impact due to climate change. 

Wendell Wallach

Despite a few hopeful signs, there has been a decline in the likelihood of this more hopeful internationalist scenario. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that to date this has been a more elitist vision that served those in power or with privileges and failed to address the distribution crisis or embrace meaningful inclusivity.

Paul Haase

Smartly Guiding Markets are the key to success with a forward-looking rapid improvement of high tech — in many areas initially funded by government subsidies and/ or protected by trade tariffs and penalities. Multinational alliances of the “willing” with strong market power can make this scenario happen to force other countries to follow. 

 
Scenario 3. Muddling Through with Capitalism and Technology  
Wendell Wallach

This scenario captures where we are and have been for the past decade and shows distinct signs of leading to a deterioration in any shared commitment to cooperate.   

Lester Ingber

Humans are good at this too. Yes, enterprise and technology will be on the upswing, but the issue is what can we expect of these forces? Perhaps the confluence of Quantum Computing (for control of systems) and Controlled Fusion (to provide alternative energy sources) make yet work out fine for all of us — if a war does not crush some of these industrial plants. Of course, we all recognize that there are saints among us that will always be there, but the ratio of Saints to Sinners will still be low. 

Clay McDean

This scenario is likely coupled with #2.  Leaving it purely to market forces is too simplistic, though undoubtedly a factor.  As innovation makes things affordable, corporations and entrepreneurs will surely make changes and racing for the advantage.  That said for a significant number of companies to change there either must be pre-existing cultural pressure or rapid adoption of emerging technology to effect societal-wide change.  This can happen quickly once a tipping point is reached but as most corporations are loath to kill cash cows and are dragged forward by market (and society) changing innovators… until that inflection reaches critical mass. 

Margherita Abe

I estimate a lower outcome because the expectation that market forces will mitigate climate change assumes that pressures on the market are supportive. However, an event like the current Ukraine war produces not just attempts to enhance green tech but also pressures to increase FF production.  There is not an obvious clear winner here thus far.  From this one might consider that market forces left to themselves may not produce results consistent with the changes needed to avert climate disaster. 

Rene Opplinger

Many countries have already taken drastic measures, and more are on the way. A scenario in which these do not play an important role does not seem plausible to me.

Jacques Malan

This is the most likely (realistic) scenario in my view. It offers the least positive outcome for both the earth and its inhabitants in the short term, but one with plenty of freedom. The only one that I would buy into. Or should I say one I have already bought into?  My house is going off-grid, both with water and electricity. My next car is going to be an EV. I work in Renewable Energy. AND I can choose my religion, what to put into my body (yes, I am vaccinated, but you don’t have to be), how to raise my kids (no, they can’t do what they want), etc. 

Andrew Micone

There is a common idea that advances in technology will be able to clean up the mess we are making of the planet. The globalist capitalist system is pretexted upon the idea that old money needs to find new opportunities in innovation for growth to continue unabated. But, of course, the resources of the Earth are not infinite, and most ambitious technologies fail to advance up the s-curve. The idea embodied in the motto of the 1933 World’s Fair, “Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms,” should be seen as naïve in the face of today’s complexities. 

Michael Lee

Capitalism is more a part of the problem – the gap between rich and poor, haves and have nots, exploitation of the environment, dehumanization – than it is part of the solution. In other words, it does worse than it does good. The free market is an impersonal force that is driven by greed and leads inexorably to predatory social behavior. Competition must be counterbalanced by cooperation and collaboration. The current world order is breaking down and capitalism as an ideology is powerless to stop this. It has run its course, just as communism ran its course. 

Kent Myers

Climate restoration is needed, and only a portion of the work will be outright profitable.  It would be like trying to make trains, bridges, and airports profitable. They are infrastructure and some measure of public subsidy is necessary. A few clever people get rich rapidly, and we think we have made progress as a result, but we lost the services of nature that were never priced. 

Yul Anderson

There is a great opportunity of renewed hope in humanity, however many of society are still locked out of wealth creation and are still feeling hopeless about escaping their fate. Africa at this juncture has developed with China’s aid as the last natural landscape with the least impact due to climate change, Africa begins to reverse desertification like China, and new civilizations are being discovered. 

Paul Haase

A more liberal way forward regarding markets letting technology evolve freely and opportunistically will leave the question of consciousness to pure profit-making drivers. However, fossil fuels, non or non-sustainable recycling of waste e. g. can deliver profits to individual enterprises for a long time unless countered by ESG-driven financial incentives. Nevertheless, the probability is high as elected governments always pursue reelection after 4-5 years thus often not ready to take risky and non-popular actions. 

 
Scenario 4  Revert to Strong Governance 
Lester Ingber

It’s a bit ironic that the push for distributed systems (e.g., think Bitcoin and Blockchain technologies) is occurring with the rise and increased strength of Autocrats, but here we are!  Again, this is in our DNA. Our grand experiment with Democracy seems destined to Failure. Like many, I wish this were not true, but the Writing is On the Wall.

Clay McDean

For the non-Western world, this scenario is most likely.  One needs to look no further than Russia, China, or even India to see what the future looks like for large segments of humanity.  It may be helpful to conceptualize the foundation needed for strong innovation through the lens of a ‘societal Maslovian hierarchy.’  Maslow isn’t a pyramid — it’s a ladder.  The higher up one is the less stable it becomes and the easier it will be to come crashing down.  To date only Western democracies have gotten to the higher rungs – it remains to be seen if a ‘benevolent dictator’ can reach the upper rungs.  It seems unlikely that these ‘strong governments” will continue to be a drag on any possible global consciousness.  

Art Murray

I gave this scenario the highest probability, based on the premise that a trend in motion tends to stay in motion until it exhausts itself.  And the current global mega-trend, East, and all points West, has been and continues to move toward less freedom and democracy and increased rule by edict by small groups of elites in power. However, the outcome is rated deeply negative, as such approaches might work over the short term, but never over the long term. 

Tom Dickinson

Always a possibility if frustration with government ineptness gets high enough. Jan 6 could be a predictor….and we were born out of revolt and strong governance…look at the first 5 presidents! And FDR in the time of crisis! 

Margherita Abe

Not all autocrats will necessarily rule in a way that promotes solutions that positively affect climate change.  We have an example of one would-be autocrat in former President Trump, whose actions in this arena would almost certainly have a negative effect. Autocrats also tend to be strongly self-serving.  This attitude may not be consistent with implementing decisions that upend the status quo and produce significant societal turmoil to implement. 

Rene Opplinger

The willingness to sacrifice human rights in the COVID crisis and the desire for strong leadership was very high in the major European countries. In addition, the pooling of country debts via the ECB leads to further centralization of power and thus to a strengthening of the EU authorities. Both together lead to an overflowing bureaucracy, which is willing to accept enormous collateral damage to achieve its goals. 

Jacques Malan

I personally hate this idea for the aforementioned reasons. It may be the best possible scenario for the earth and its inhabitants in the short term, but most catastrophic result for freedom and long-term stability. Hopefully, we never get here, but I fear that if you give scenario 1 or even 2 too much rope, it will inevitably end up at this point. If you don’t believe me, read Animal Farm again……   

Andrew Micone

The global trend towards nationalism is a natural reaction to a world in crisis; in the face of uncertainty, people turn to a confident, decisive leader with a commonsense solution. Indeed, a part of human myth and folklore is that in turmoil, a leader will arise to bring people to a promised land. However, as H. L. Mencken noted in 1920, “there is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” Moreover, the sweep of human history from the enlightenment to the age of reason shows autocracies rarely achieve their ends.

Michael Lee

The rise in support for the autocratic style of “strongman” leadership in the West shocked me during the presidency of Donald Trump and during the Brexit process in Britain and its aftermath. The demographic shift towards aging societies in the West seems to be behind this growing support in democracies for more autocratic and less ethical leaders. There’s a cynical nimbyism evident in some older demographic groups.  Even though I hate autocracies, I believe this trend hasn’t peaked yet and that we will see cycles of populism throughout an aging world for the rest of this decade. 

Kent Myers

I didn’t believe this until recently. Fearful people seem to think it works better, but they are just hoping that they are on the side of the winners, when they are just the loyal slaves of the true masters. While the masters have the power, they use it for corruption and still somehow think that, with wealth, they can separate themselves from all the disasters. 

Yul Anderson

If this happens, we will see humanity increase in assassination attempts. This is just horrible. The US was seen heading in this direction under Trump, we don’t want to see it again, even under the Queen. What I hope from all of this is that the increased dominance of corporations in manipulating society results in a better more sustainable world for us all, however, the thievery of places like Russia will remain a threat to humanity.  Corporate societies will emerge, similar to the heydays of IBM, but this time at all levels. What will Corporations offer society other than a cheap happy meal?  Corporations have failed as well as help, but society is realizing it was all for profit.

Wendell Wallach

In the short-run authoritarian governments may be better at responding to emerging challenges than the cacophony of democracy. Strong governance can look attractive to those who hope their beliefs will prevail, but for most societies, it will succumb to internal tensions and even civil war between competing worldviews, and a lack of resilience as complex challenges compound.  Strong governance is unlikely to lead to any form of strong international cooperation.

Paul Haase

There is a temptation by environmentalists to call out the “eco-dictatorship”, however, the foreseen outcome of such a scenario cannot be seen as desirable by a majority of people. As long as key world powers are ruled by democratic decision-making relying on majorities I’m optimistic this scenario will not become very realistic. 

 

Decline to Disaster 
Art Murray

I rate this rather high simply because that has been the ebb and flow of civilizations since Day One. However, the chaos, although widespread, will be localized (the reversion to primitive tribalism) and in which case, there will be pockets of enlightened culture and pockets of sheer barbarism (much like the peace-loving, happy people of Bhutan vs the madness of North Korea that we see today) 

Tom Dickinson

Low probability, but can’t be totally discounted…we are fundamentally driven by instinctual motives of self-preservation and survival… 

Clark Capshaw

I don’t think this is very likely, although the failure of education to teach us to select news and information sources with good judgment plays a big part.  Unless we gain the ability as a society to be better-informed consumers, this is indeed a possibility, though not a probable one. 

Kent Myers

Higher probability than any of the others but not a sure bet. Given time, the world would get through the crisis with civilization damaged but intact.  There is no time. Lately, I’m thinking that the methane that is released when all the seas and tundra melt will overwhelm all the good efforts that have been made. 

Wendell Wallach

A significant increase over what I would have concluded a decade ago. My view is not that of a total collapse, but I do foresee the possibility of intense suffering and governments so caught up in reacting to crises that they lose the ability to proactively shape the future.

Paul Haase

Latest developments in the pandemic, e. g. internationally joined efforts to develop vaccines and restrengthening of international alliances in a common-enemy environment (Ukraine war) show a strong rebound on individual disastrous events. Being optimistic, this leads back to solution-focused balances and lowers the probability of a broad disastrous decline. 

 

Trend Analysis

The 15  “Driving Trends” and 13 “Resolving Trends” below define the force field in which action is interwoven into a Gordian Knot of entangled complexity. This analysis helps identify and gauge the extent of forces working in “optimist” versus “pessimistic” directions. For more, see (Halal and Marien, JFS 2012).

Trends Driving the MegaCrisis

1.    Climate Change Heading to Catastrophe  The 2022 IPPC Report warns “The catastrophic impacts of climate breakdown may soon outpace humanity’s ability to adapt …  It forces a stark reality that the crisis is here and it is all around us.” Forty percent of US counties had wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and other extreme weather in 2021. But greenhouse gases should be reduced by 80% from current levels to avoid severe climate shifts, costing 1-3 % of global GDP. The NY Times asked: “Will humanity continue to edge toward a dangerous precipice or take a crucial step back to avert catastrophe?” The polar ice caps recorded temperatures 50-90 F above normal ranges — unprecedented. With the Ukraine war curbing the flow of Russian fuels, the rising price of oil and gas has made the energy industry the most profitable sector on the SP 500 and thereby discouraging change.

2.    Environmental Degradation Continues  Pollution and plastic waste remain unabated. Large amounts of methane are being released from the thawing tundra. Hotter weather is spreading diseases more easily. A quarter of all animal species face the greatest extinction since the dinosaurs. The mining of tar sands in Canada would release twice the CO2 emitted by oil throughout history. Fracking shale oil is releasing methane and other pollutants. Overuse of antibiotics is creating superbugs that cannot be controlled. Medicines with hormones flowing into sewage will affect the reproduction of mankind in the long run.

3.    Industrialization Driving Multiple Crises The number of people living at industrial age levels will grow from 2-3 billion to almost 10 billion by 2050 or so, increasing all these threats by a factor of 2-3. Raising cattle for meat produces 30-50% of global warming.  The average body mass is 80 kg in the US, 58 in Asia, and 62 globally, and the world may be shifting to the lifestyle of the US. Consumerism seems relentless, and the Third World is doing the same. 

4.   More Lingering Pandemics   The Covid pandemic is the latest of several pandemics that appeared over the past decades, and more are likely to come. The Global Health Security Index recently rated nations at an average of 38.9 points on a scale of 100. They concluded, “every country, including the US, remains dangerously unprepared for future pandemics.”

5.    Little Political Will  There is as yet no global agreement on taxing carbon or other policies that would decrease carbon emissions significantly. The US, with the largest economy in the world, has no serious plan because the nation is in political gridlock. China, India, and the US are planning to build a total of 850 coal-fired plants, adding 5 times as much CO2 as present treaties intend to reduce. A PEW Research Center poll finds that only 17 percent of people in democratic nations are confident in the US as a role model of democracy.

6.    Social Media Spreading Disinformation The post-factual phenomenon is spreading misinformation in the form of political speech. Liberals insist on being woke, politically correct, and defunding the police — while conservatives are convinced of the big lie, anti-vaccination, and climate denial. Statistica reports that 70 percent of Internet users think fake news causes doubt and confusion, with social media the least trusted news source worldwide. And 83 percent believe disinformation negatively affects their country’s politics.  The outpouring of support for Ukraine was largely done through social media, showing that it can a positive force for good.

7.    Inequality Is Severe   The top 10 percent of the US earns three times as much as the bottom 90 percent, and the top 0.1 percent alone earns as much as the entire bottom 90 percent.  This disparity is roughly similar to Russia, where the wealth of a handful of oligarchs is as great as total household assets. American CEOs typically earn roughly 500 times their average worker’s pay. After years of concern over gross inequality, corporate CEOs’ pay rose 18 percent/year to an average of almost $19 million/year, for a total 940-percent increase since 1978, while worker pay was basically unchanged. The wealth of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk is greater than the GDP of 139 countries.

8.    Water Scarcity Could Erupt  Nearly 1 billion people lack clean water and 2.6 billion lack good sanitation. Water tables are falling on all continents, and the World Bank estimates half of the world could face water scarcity due to climate change, population growth, and increasing demand. Water shortages will cause mass migrations, higher food costs, malnutrition, and conflict.

9.   Financial Instability Likely  Sovereign debt often exceeds GDP, and the entire global debt is 2-3 times larger than global GDP. A serious depression, war, or other threats could cause national banks to become insolvent, leading to a collapse of the financial system. Most bankers think it is almost certain at some point. George Soros thinks riots are “inevitable.”

10.   Institutional Failures Unabated The pandemic and other crises highlighted structural failures in business, government, and other institutions. An IBM study of 1500 CEOs noted: “… the world’s leaders think their enterprises are not equipped to cope with complexity.” Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote,  “The [capitalist] collapse may be to markets what the Berlin Wall was to Communism.”

11.   Cyber-Insecurity Everywhere  Military networks, nuclear facilities, banks, air traffic systems, and electrical grids are under constant attack. The US Naval War College was shut down for 2 weeks. The annual cost is estimated at $1 trillion. The threat is so great that one expert suggested it’s time to install “cyberwar hotlines” – like the special phones the USA and USSR used to avoid nuclear Armageddon.

12.   Autocracy Is Appealing  China, Russia, N. Korea, Hungary, Venezuela, Brazil, and other nations have resorted to dictatorships, and many find it an appealing way to manage crisis and social division. In Great Britain, the portion of people who favor “a strongman ruler who does not bother with elections” doubled from 25 percent a few decades ago to 50 percent. Freedom House notes this is the 15th consecutive year of declining global freedom. The conflict between Western democratic nations and the autocracies of Russia and China is threatening and could erupt into war.

13. Weapons of Mass Destruction Remain   The status quo of Mutually Assured Destruction worked for a few nuclear powers, but it is no longer viable with a dozen or so contending nations now having nuclear weapons, and more are likely, possibly including terrorist groups. The Illicit Trafficking Database recorded 1,784 nuclear trafficking incidents over the past years. Bioweapons are also probable.

14.   Organized Crime Growing Worldwide  The total annual income of organized crime is estimated at $3 trillion, twice the military budgets of the entire world combined. The World Bank also estimates $1 trillion is paid in bribes each year.

15.    Post-Collapse Scenarios Futurists Jim Dator, Dennis Meadows, and others think a global collapse is coming, but a rebound could follow to create a better world. This seems unlikely if the Decline to Disaster scenario were to occur because civilization would no longer exist in major parts of the globe, but it’s plausible under the Muddling Down scenario. 

 
Trends Resolving the MegaCrisis

1.   Alternative Energy Accelerating  Solar and wind power are now less costly than carbon fuels and are the largest source of growth in energy. Alternative energy is growing 30-40%/year, likely to provide 30% of all energy by 2030. The EU, China and other nations expect renewables to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions about 2035-50. This could prove a boon for both developing and developed nations.

2.  Energy Conservation Steadfast  Higher auto fuel economy, regulating coal emissions, and replacing oil with cleaner gas are reducing energy use, costs and CO2.

3.  Technology Revolution Increases Knowledge  Information Technology (IT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and other revolutionary fields offer more powerful communication, amass knowledge, form intelligent systems, and generally improve awareness.  People are now connected by almost 16 B mobile phones, laptops, and PCs, averaging 2 computers per person using the web. Increasing space travel, the Webb telescope, and other breakthroughs are raising awareness.

4.  Forces of Social Change Rising    The rise of women into power, the Millennial generation modeling the first “global citizens,” and other people are introducing fresh perspectives and energy. The Ukrainian war united the world against Putin, war, and autocracy. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is moving to require all corporations to disclose their impact on climate change.

5.   Global Movements Emerging   #MeToo, BLM, gay rights, and other movements are spreading around the world. Almost all nations passed laws requiring a minimum corporate tax of 15% to stop tax evasion. They recently passed a global treaty to improve recycling, clean up plastic waste and reduce plastic use altogether.

6.  Consumer Saturation Possible  Material consumption may reach a saturation point, which would lessen the forces driving crisis. Developing nations are increasing consumption, but trends toward Voluntary Simplicity have been rising in the developed world and could in time lead to more realistic living standards globally. Still, the demand for more consumerism is hard to resist.

7.  Age of Consciousness Is Here  The digital revolution is automating knowledge, driving social evolution beyond the Knowledge Age into an emerging Age of Consciousness. TechCast’s study suggests that 60% of decisions in families, organizations, and governments are based on emotions, values, and beliefs. Henry Kissinger recently noted, “… we are moving into a new period of human consciousness which we don’t yet fully understand.”

8.   Coming Revolution in Thought  All stages of evolution have been powered by revolutions in thought — the Agrarian, Post-Industrial, Industrial, and Digital Revolutions. Just as the Industrial Age was led by the Protestant Ethic,  Consciousness is likely to produce a Mental/Spiritual Revolution to resolve the crisis of global maturity. TechCast estimates a Global Consciousness will emerge among the leading edge in about 2030 +/- 5 years. In fact, the unified world support for Ukraine is a good example of global consciousness.

9. Corporate Social Purpose  The move to “stakeholder capitalism” is transforming business goals to include social interests in addition to profit. CEOs are struggling to reconcile these goals into a common purpose that remains competitive. Corporations are the most powerful institutions in the world, and this form of “democratic enterprise” could set a model of cooperation throughout the global order. An increasing share of companies is ruled keeping in mind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

10.    Hi-Tech Back to the Land Movement   The Internet, distributed renewable energy, and other trends make it possible for people to relocate anywhere. Combined with the gig economy and halophyte plants that can grow in poor soil,  this could ease the gap between rich and poor, avoid pandemics, relieve congestion, and decrease the load on the environment.

11.  Transformative Change The World Economic Forum called for a “global reset” in all spheres of society, and a PEW survey finds that two-thirds of modern nations demand major changes in political, economic, and health care systems. 

12.  Moment of Truth With former President Trump likely to seek reelection,  an escalating climate crisis combined with the results of Trump’s first term is likely to make 2024 a critical turning point. The 2022 elections may also be critical.

13.  Long-Term Evolutionary Trend  Humanity has always struggled through crises that have been surmounted: The Fall of Rome, the Dark Ages, World Wars I and II, the Nuclear Arms Race, etc. 

René Oppliger, Switzerland

 

PROFILE SUMMARY

An Attorney-at-law (state and bar examination) with a Master in Business Administration (Rochester (NY)/ Berne). Former CEO of a RegTech company and now advisor to companies in the financial sector especially regarding distributed ledger technologies. Involved in topics related to history, economics, politics and new technologies.

 

eMail:  r.oppliger@hotmail.ch

Portal to Global Consciousness

 

Vision

 
The Portal to Global Consciousness is a network of those interested in developing a vision for a sustainable and prosperous world. We invite individuals and organizations to contribute to this work, collectively forming a “Portal to Global Consciousness.” 
 
The Portal offers a sensory passage from understanding intellectually how the world is making a transformation to global consciousness (GC), to seeing various instances and applications of GC, and finally to experiencing global consciousness spiritually. Our goal is to help visitors feel the same profound emotions that stunned William Shatner (Capt. Kirk) when he entered orbital space recently.
 
The portal is supported by a wealth of services that offer opportunities to study various aspects of global consciousness, participate in workshops and seminars, explore other perspectives, organize activities and encourage anything that advances the adoption of this crucial worldview.
 
 

Why Global Consciousness?

 
As shown in the figure below, the digital revolution and artificial intelligence are automating knowledge, driving attention beyond knowledge into a new frontier governed by emotions, values, beliefs, and higher-order thought. The world is entering an Age of Consciousness, though it has been taken over by post-factual nonsense and disinformation. Henry Kissinger recently wrote in Time: “… what fascinates me is that we are moving into a new period of human consciousness which we don’t yet fully understand.” 
 
 

The graph below places this shift to consciousness in the framework of social evolution. The “Life Cycle of Evolution” (LCE) plotted in the graph is based on historical data and uses a logarithmic scale to reveal the rise of civilization over millennia.

The great S-curve seen in the graph follows the growth cycle of all life … a colony of bacteria, a child, and the entire planet. As noted, the world recently passed through the Knowledge Age and is now in the beginning stage of a Consciousness Age.  All stages of evolution are driven by revolutions in thought. A Global Consciousness is emerging now to resolve today’s existential global crises of climate, pandemics, inequality, etc. as the foundation for a functioning, unified world.

 

Partners

 

 

Resources

William Halal, Beyond Knowledge: How Technology Is Driving an Age of Consciousness Prof. Halal’s Magnus Opus explores how social evolution and the digital revolution are creating an emerging Age of Consciousness.

Subjective Consciousness Now Dominates Society   This TechCast study finds that emotion, values, beliefs, and other subjective factors dominate decisions of individuals/families, organizations, and government/politics.

Global Consciousness About 2030   TechCast pools the collective intelligence of its international body of thought leaders to forecast that some form of global consciousness is likely to emerge in 2030 +/- 5 years.

A New Renaissance      This invitation to “Pivot to a New Rennaissance” by Sohail Inayatullah is fascinating. Sohail is one of the most vibrant futurists in the world today.

From Anticipation to Emancipation    Another masterpiece by Sohail Inayatullah. Here Sohail outlines the passage through ix stages of the future.

Challenge for Global Consciousness Gerri Schwartz and Desmond Berghofer, founders of the Visioneers Network, sum up the challenge of global sustainability.

Communityship  Famed management authority Henry Mintzberg defines “communityship” as individuals so well connected by a common purpose that they all provide leadership. That’s the goal of global consciousness.

 

Join the Portal

The Global Consciousness Portal welcomes all interested parties to join this effort:  Partners contributing resources. Faculty teaching workshops and seminars. Individuals participating in our activities. Contact Prof. Halal at Halal@GWU.edu Portal    

Is an Age of Consciousness Here? Really?

This study focuses on the growing ascendance of consciousness in life today. Our working hypothesis is that modern nations are living beyond knowledge in a state of subjective consciousness. To put the question more sharply, are we living beyond knowledge? Is the modern world now entering an Age of Consciousness?  This study is not concerned with the implications of consciousness at this point but simply to establish the extent of this crucial shift in social evolution.

The following background evidence is provided to evaluate this issue: 

 

Background Information

Beyond Knowledge  Prof. Halal’s book by this name sums up how the digital revolution is automating knowledge, driving social evolution beyond the Knowledge Age into an emerging Age of Consciousness. This suggests that subjectivity has been increasing and it is likely to increase even further.

Escalating Crises  The climate crisis is becoming severe, the pandemic lingers on, inequality is mounting, and other threats form a “Crisis of Global Maturity?”  The WashPo noted that 40% of US counties had wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and other extreme weather in 2021.

Social Media The explosion of the post-factual phenomenon is consciousness in the form of political speech. Liberals insist on being woke, politically correct, cancel culture, defunding the police, etc. — while conservatives are convinced of the big lie, anti-vaccination, and climate denial, etc. 

Broader Corporate Purpose  The move to “stakeholder capitalism” is transforming business goals to include social interests in addition to profit. CEOs and executives are struggling to reconcile these goals into a common purpose.

Kissinger Finds Consciousness  Henry Kissinger recently wrote in Time: “… what fascinates me is that we are moving into a new period of human consciousness which we don’t yet fully understand.”

Coming Revolution All stages of evolution have been powered by revolutions — the Agrarian, Post-Industrial, Industrial, and Digital Revolutions. The Age of Consciousness is likely to produce a Mental/Spiritual Revolution to resolve the crisis of global maturity.

Transformative Change The World Economic Forum called for a “global reset” in all spheres of society, and a PEW survey finds that two-thirds of modern nations demand major changes in political, economic, and health care systems. 

Moment of Truth With former President Trump likely to seek reelection,  an escalating climate crisis combined with the results of Trump’s first term is likely to make 2024 a critical turning point. The 2022 elections may also be critical.

Other Forces  A variety of other trends may influence consciousness. The privatization of space is taking off, and Capt. Kirk’s emotional discovery of global consciousness when in orbit with Jeff Bezos is revealing; space exploration may introduce global consciousness on a huge scale. And the digital age rolls on, so we may see more disruption by cryptocurrencies, VR/AR, NFTs, AI, etc.

Doubts   People have always used subjective thinking, so why is this new? It’s also hard to know which factors affect decisions.

Study limitations  Results will obviously reflect the views of only the small sample of people who volunteer to participate. Without similar data from the past, we cannot judge the rate of change in our results, if any.

Focus   This study simply focuses on estimating the amount of thought devoted to subjective versus objective factors.  It does not concern the effects of this type of thought. 

 

Research Questions – Round One

This study estimates the proportion of major issues/decisions involving either “objective factors” versus “subjective factors.”  See the hierarchy of consciousness in the pyramid below. Comments below from our experts were used to guide this research method where possible.

Definitions of consciousness abound but they are vague and limited. TechCast provides a more precise definition consisting of various cognitive elements that comprise the domain of consciousness — the sense of awareness, learning, making choices, pushed by emotions, guided by purpose, values and beliefs, all emanating from some tacit vision that propels life. The totality of all this mental traffic makes up the stream of consciousness that flows through life moment by moment.

                 

We also estimate how the level of consciousness varies in three main spheres of life: 1. Individuals and families (micro-level), 2. Management of organizations (meso-level), and 3. Government and politics (macro-level). 

TechCast experts were invited to provide estimates and brief comments on the following questions. These questions asked them to judge the relative portion of critical issues/decisions made on the basis of subjective factors (emotion, purpose, values, beliefs, etc.) versus objective factors (perception, memory, knowledge, etc.)  

Individuals and Families  (personal goals, life purpose, relationships, love, finances, problems, etc.)
Survey Results

Comments

Kastuv Ray
People are more inspired by entrepreneurial success stories and as a result, have become more ambitious. Our vision is to make the world a better place using mindfulness, a caring attitude and thoughtfulness. We all want to achieve the goals that we have set in life, not settle for second best and this is defined by our upbringing and values. The pandemic and other crises have helped to change the job market and many people have seen their incomes diminish. To many people, there are no such things as a permanent job therefore they will focus on having a steady flow of income and working on their side hustle in the meantime.

Owen Davies
Note that the first question conflates two categories of issues.

The first four items on your list fundamentally involve no rational thought I have ever recognized, save in a few rather psychopathic individuals.

The last two are at least amenable to rational decisions. This is particularly true of finances, which are fundamentally a numbers game. How frequently people actually plan their finances rationally is unclear to me. At a guess, the average of rationality varies with income. Problem-solving is at least semi-rational, but for many of us reason does not kick in until the problem causes enough pain that it cannot be ignored. I am not sure how to turn that into a subjectivity number.

Andy Micone
Most people want to make more self-actualized, subjective decisions about their destinies; they want to follow a vision for the future of their design. However, the countervailing forces of increasing income inequality and environmental pressures will continue to put focus on physiological and safety needs that encourage objective decision-making.

Steve Hausman
In this case, decisions about family issues tend to be based largely on personalities and how people have interacted with one another in the past.

Ian Browde
This varies from person to person. Many people are loath to decide, opt for, choose, believe, etc., anything by themselves. However, their choices, decisions etc., are still subjective since they’re influenced by others’ views, opinions, choices and even ‘facts’. The others range from parents, siblings and friends to celebrities, experts and specialists.

Victor Motti
I in general think that the impact of subjectivity is the highest on the individual level because all the decisions are more or less related to our emotions.

Peter King
By including love and relationships here, it almost automatically weighs the decision towards subjective. It is rarely dominated by objective thinking.

Art Murray
These types of decisions tend to be amygdala-driven and deeply subjective by nature; even though a balance of objectivity would be extremely beneficial in making these types of decisions, people tend not to like what they see when they look through an objective lens, so they look the other way and fall back and rely only on their emotions

In addition, people either lack “financial literacy” and other skills necessary in order to incorporate objectivity into their decision-making, or they lack access to the right information/knowledge to make an informed decision.

Margherita Abe
Many of the issues that families face impinge directly on their subjective lifestyle values.  People choose how to live (where, how to support themselves, what values are central to their lives, how to present their values to their offspring) based on subjective judgments of what different choices are worth to them. Some factors are out of subjective control, namely income, medical/health, and legal/political issues that frame the environment at large.

 
Management of Organizations (stakeholders, strategy, rewards, goals,
social purpose, etc.)
 
Survey Results
 
 
Comments

Kastuv Ray
Stakeholders and leaders will be more interested in the value and purpose of their organizations. Issues like climate change, the various global health crises sweeping the earth and the potential for future wars and conflicts will drive the importance of good practice Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility even more. There will be a move to more conscious, responsible, thoughtful and mindful leadership.

Owen Davies
The last two questions are at least amenable to rational decisions. This is particularly true of finances, which are fundamentally a numbers game. How frequently people actually plan their finances rationally is unclear to me. At a guess, the average of rationality varies with income. Problem-solving is at least semi-rational, but for many of us reason does not kick in until the problem causes enough pain that it cannot be ignored. I am not sure how to turn that into a subjectivity number.

Andy Micone
Organizations, as economists might say, are predominantly rational actors. The majority of decision-making centers on return on investment and meeting market needs apparent on the horizon. With increasing market disruption that cannot be easily foreseen from a forecast or spreadsheet, imaginative, subjective foresight work will be required to compete in business.

Steve Hausman
This is really my feeling that the profit motive drives the assessment more than emotion even though there is some of the former involved since, after all, humans are the ones performing the management.

Ian Browde
The irony here is that for the most part while businesses, institutions etc., claim to be more objective, at the end of the day they are fictions consisting of people and their strengths, foibles, beliefs and feelings. So while this category may be a bit more objective than the first it is still primarily subjective and subject to the same forces as in my initial comment.

Victor Motti
Corporate culture is tightly controlled by financial reports and numbers on profits and costs and mostly data-driven decision-making.

Peter King
As long as the bottom line of an organization is profit, the objective will prevail.  Some companies, of course, are now pursuing a triple bottom line, but a lot of that is lip service and greenwashing.

Art Murray
Traditionally, these types of decisions tended to be heavily weighted on the objective side, however, the trend has recently moved sharply toward incorporating more subjectivity, a good indication of how raised awareness/consciousness is creating more balance in measuring organizational performance, as opposed to using mostly financial metrics.

Margherita Abe
Shareholders and company governance demand that most decisions have a strong basis in data-driven material — what projects will result in financial success for the company. The subjective part here is related to what goals the organization strives for — what content do they want to pursue (eg, for a manufacturer, what objects do they want to build and then sell). This is determined by what they value. Notice that in this I have limited my discussion to for-profit companies, eliminating the non-profits that pursue a lot of important work because these have different objectives and parameters to measure success. However, they are important so one question for the study is whether they are in fact different….I’m thinking that the subjective vs objective factors will not differ for non-profits. For nonprofit organizations, the aim of the organization will be to promote a specific endpoint, chosen by the organization for its value to the organization’s beliefs of what it considers important.  The difference between these organizations and for-profit companies is how they measure success, changing attitudes of the target audience versus financial success. 

 
Politics and Government (climate, pandemic, inequality,
immigration, gun safety, abortion, etc.)

Survey Results

Comments

Kastuv Ray
This aspect is very belief-driven but is also driven by the quest for power, staying in power and making money. 

Andy Micone
Representative democracy was designed to be deliberative, so to a large extent, subjective decision-making is designed into the system. The struggle that governmental organizations have had formulating a response to crises like the pandemic and global warming are indicative. As a result, the question of how to approach a problem, a nation’s beliefs and values, and what vision we have for the future will become more relevant. This shift is both an opportunity and a threat.

Steve Hausman
Sadly, it is all too apparent that thought and opinion about these important issues have been degraded over time such that rationality is suppressed at the expense of emotion and personal bias, not to mention misinformation.

Ian Browde
My initial comment and my comment about management, above, pertain here too. So, unless I am misunderstanding the question, my estimation is that most of our lives are run through subjective mechanisms (per the Consciousness Pyramid) but that doesn’t account for the fact that most people are subject to others’ influence and persuasion at best and manipulation and control at worst. Those factors are still in the subjective realm.

Victor Motti
The situation in politics and government the process is mostly under the influence of the culture of a society. In some cases, even the dreams of the leaders and the deep mythologies-theologies tend to determine the values and the alternatives of key decisions. 

Peter King
Science-based policy does exist, but mostly politics is dominated by ideology.

Art Murray
Because government is driven mainly by political interests, and given the recent phenomena of tech-driven social amplification (where a single “tweet” can set off a firestorm of protest), most issues/decisions tend to be addressed purely from a subjective, amygdala-driven perspective

 In the rare instance in which objectivity is used, data and analyses are carefully “cherry-picked” to present only one side in a favorable light, while ignoring/suppressing any opposing viewpoints. This is a strong indicator as to why so many government programs have resulted in failure

Margherita Abe
Politicians may decide what/how to work on issues based on what they think their constituents value. One recent example of this is how the GOP in the US Congress decided to not impeach Trump after the January 6th event.

 

Analysis and Conclusions – Round One

Yes, An Age of Consciousness Seems to be Here. Really!

The results of this simple survey are striking. The experts think subjective factors make up 73% of thought among individuals and families, 42% of organizational decisions, and 63% of politics and government.  That averages 60% across all three categories. Even the lowest level suggests that nearly half of all organizational decisions are subjective. This includes corporations, the very model of rationality.

There are limits to this study, as noted in the background information, so we make no claims on precision. But the broad message suggested by this data is that modern societies are now living beyond knowledge and making decisions based on emotion, values, beliefs and other forms of subjective thought.

 
This means that the subjective factors making up what we call “higher consciousness,” or just “consciousness,” now dominate modern life. It also supports the central thesis in Prof. Halal’s new book.

Subjective thought has always been a crucial part of any society, of course. But something unusual is underway when the bulk of critical issues and decisions transcend knowledge because they involve consciousness.

This conclusion is so meaningful that we will now shift attention to studying these implications.


Is the level of subjective thought increasing? Why? 

Bill’s new book, Beyond Knowledge, claims that the digital revolution is automating knowledge, driving thought beyond knowledge into the realm of subjective consciousness. This suggests that subjectivity has been increasing and it is likely to increase even further. Has subjective consciousness increased in past decades? What forces are driving this shift in consciousness? How much is it likely to increase in years to come?

Will an Age of Consciousness produce a “mental/spiritual revolution”?

All previous stages of evolution have been driven by “revolutions” — the Agrarian Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Information Revolution. Does this mean that a “mental revolution” is coming?  Would it take the form of a “global consciousness” to resolve climate change, pandemics, inequality, conflict and other current threats? When this is likely to happen? What is the probability that this revolution occurs successfully? What is likely to happen if this revolution is not undertaken or if it fails? 


What else can we anticipate in an Age of Consciousness?

Consciousness is a new frontier, so little can be known about its purpose, challenges, institutions, lifestyles, etc. What can we expect in these facets of an Age of Consciousness? How will they differ from today’s equivalents?

 

Research Questions – Round Two

Round Two Posed the Following Questions:

 
1. What explains the dominance of subjective consciousness?

Our previous study suggests that subjective consciousness dominates critical issues and decisions today. Has subjective consciousness increased in past decades? What forces are driving this shift in consciousness? How much is it likely to increase in years to come?  Which of the following forces (A – D) is driving subjective consciousness today? Will it grow and become more intense? Decline?

A. Digital Revolution is driving this shift in consciousness.

The smartphone, social media, and AI are automating knowledge. This historic evolutionary trend is moving attention up the hierarchy of consciousness from objective factors (perception, memory, knowledge, etc.) to subjective factors (emotions, values, beliefs, etc.) Social media, for instance, has now become the driving force for “post-factual” beliefs that ignore the facts – a form of subjective consciousness.

Comments 

Andrew Micone

The value of subjective thought has been prioritized as we move into the post-information age.

Art Murray

I and many other authors have recently written about the phenomenon of technology-driven social amplification, in which threats to human existence are emotionally perceived as far greater than reality would indicate.  This is due in large part to exponential increases in speed, quantity, questionable veracity and other aspects of the zettabytes of information with which society is bombarded, making it more difficult to separate fact from fiction.  Overwhelmed, people naturally respond by turning toward more subjective aspects of consciousness such as deeply-rooted values, beliefs, etc.

Adolfo Castilla

The digital revolution, pandemic, crisis, climatic change, world turbulence and other phenomena are drawing attention to consciousness, as well as strong advances in neurosciences, intelligence and Artificial Intelligence. This trend in evolution is a natural inner force of human nature, now concentrating on spiritual issues. Humans are participating in this process via “conscious evolution” (Transhumanism, Posthumanism, Longevity). It is also related to the end of irrationality foreseen by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger and XIX century French philosophies.

Margherita Abe

I think that subjectivity has definitely increased over the past 2 decades. One driver of this trend is the increased connectivity of communication worldwide. The internet and the rise of smartphone use have led to a world population that is always interconnected and aware.  Events that in the past would have required weeks to become apparent now spread to large numbers of people in hours. More people sample, comment and react, spreading news rapidly and creating a growing global awareness of everything that occurs worldwide. This includes populations in the third world that were previously unaware,  giving them the agency that they previously lacked. This has increased the number of people included in global communication by a factor of 3 or more.

Bo Newman

The digital revolution is fueling the impact of social trends in the shift to an UNSTABLE subjective consciousness, a significant factor in the rise of the post-factual phenomenon and the loss of diversity in the breadth of perspectives. This loss of diversity is a result of the technology-enabled, overly polarized, reductionist media, causing stagnation, lack of actionable knowledge, and a delay in the shift to global consciousness.

Steve Hausman

Social media are definitely the driving force behind the current upheavals.  Sadly, people have come to accept whatever they read on the Internet as a “fact” simply because it is written down (or seen in video format) because they do not seem to perform any analysis of what is being read.

Mike Ryan

Digital and social trends are the tools of the trade, but society is also waking up to a new world of fears, stoked using social media to shift the societal view so dramatically that fact and fiction are one and the same.

Christopher Jones

The first two factors are so tightly interwoven that I don’t think they can be separated. I think social trends are dominant, but as with McLuhan, we shape our tools and then they shape us. I believe the core of global consciousness is intrinsically related to deeper structures such as patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism. Agriculture. Industrial consumerism. Bureaucracy. I think consciousness technologies, including digital, could have a profound effect, but I fear too little too late. The positive trends towards higher consciousness are oftentimes now impeded by or corrupted by technology, particularly algorithms, social media, and organizational behavior. People appear to become more ignorant up and down the social consciousness hierarchy. 

Paul Haase

As we all experience the digital revolution gaining momentum, parts of society are increasingly feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of input channels, esp. in social media. Trustworthiness, fact focus, and reliability vary dramatically. In addition, science helped make life better by providing with new technology, new cars, new ways to travel. But today science also brings downsides like climate change, new viruses spreading over the globe. All this increasingly results in non-fact-based consciousness sometimes offering easy pseudo-solutions for the large problems of this time.

Kastuv Ray

Subjective consciousness has increased in past decades. The Digital Revolution is driving this shift in consciousness. The increased use of smartphones, Ipads and social media has led to a greater dependency and need for people to feel connected. This dependency on social media and the ability to access various types of news and information and being able to comment on various online discussions has led to an increased adverse effect on people’s emotions and lives. Easy access to information whether it is false or accurate is starting to challenge or alter people’s values or belief systems and people are becoming more passionate and more opinionated about various causes and the way the world works or operates.

Clayton Dean

It seems reasonable that we are moving away from a simpler, binary world where Walter Cronkite always told us the truth, the media was there to objectively report facts. Knowledge, though widely available, was only disseminated through a few, reasonably hard-to-replicate mediums: the printing press, TV, radio. Information is now ubiquitous, as are the means to ‘create’ or influence, and so there appears to be the elimination of objective truth. 

Milind Chitale

As the need for top information involving the intellect has greatly reduced, one gets more time and bandwidth to think in a more holistic and personal way on issues encountered by world citizens. This makes for the possibility to allow for a deeper intuitive reaction to the stimulus. The other thing that the digital revolution enables is the ability to grasp information in a more natural manner that makes the crux of issues very easy and an intuitive outcome becomes very easy to obtain.

Owen Davies

In at least one context, subjective thought has expanded dramatically. For several decades, politicians have systematically undermined whatever faith in reason their followers may once have had. As a result, close to half the United States has abandoned rational thought entirely. Anyone who doubts this should look at the decline of rational thought in the Republican Party since Rupert Murdoch saw that Fox “News” would be vastly more profitable if it gave up news and specialized in far-right agitprop. Social media are vastly more influential. I never have seen a post on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook that inspired objective thought instead of an emotional response. Purchasing decisions have been mostly subjective since the rise of brand marketing. Add these factors together, and technology becomes an important element in the rise of subjectivity.

Andrew Micone

The digital revolution and social trends are working synergistically toward dominance in social consciousness. The poet T.S. Eliot prophetically asked “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” The information age and data-centric approaches to societal problems lead to an explosion of information. The wetware that runs our consciousness, the heuristics capable of relating how the law of large numbers can inform individual actions, demands the development of a subjective consciousness for decision making.

B.    Social trends are driving this shift in consciousness.

Fear of disruptive change, divisive politics, reaction to people of color, the pandemic and a variety of other trends are changing attitudes. But is this a driving factor or just caused by the above?

 
Comments

Kent Myers

Spiritual experience has withered since the 1700s under the force of materialism (claiming it is illusion) and orthodoxies (claiming it is supernatural). Both are no longer credible, and both science and religion-free people from bad metaphysics. Some developments are halting, such as “Religion for Atheists,” a concession that spiritual practices are beneficial and perhaps even necessary for human flourishing.

Ian Browde

I think it is a combination of things that are driving subjective consciousness. Greater awareness of our interdependence, globally – perhaps enhanced by the pandemic, uncertainty about the future. The ever-increasing rate of change – from biotech to cryptocurrency and AI, climate change’s effects, now being experienced with wildfires, viruses, etc. The rise of authoritarian regimes, the accompanying emigration, and the lack of confidence in institutions like government, church, corporations, states, municipalities, family even are all driving the ascendancy of subjective consciousness. The fast-emerging environmental changes that we label climate change are driving subjective consciousness. At the deepest level, the human-animal senses that this is the existential issue confronting us. 

Margherita Abe

More people become aware and thus included in everything that occurs worldwide and comment on these incidents and facts. This brings a broader world view to the world stage, the inclusion of third world peoples who in the past were marginalized and thus left out of the discussion. They are no longer silent and marginalized but equally able to offer opinions and commentary.  This changes the content and possibly also the direction of communication.  One example of this occurs around the discussion of the effects of climate change. Populations whose land will disappear under the rising seas are speaking up and demanding to be heard.

Steve Hausman

It is nothing new that there have been anti-race and anti-ethnic attitudes in the United States.  Examples include the Tulsa race massacre in 1921 and the anti-Irish race riots in the mid-1800s.  In a sense, these were localized since social media (as we currently call it) did not exist but the newspapers served much the same purpose at that time.

Jonathan Kolber

For nearly all of humanity, the meeting of basic needs will trump other considerations. As the two great disruptors of climate change and accelerating automation further and further destabilize worldwide economies, this visceral and emotional need for security will be attractively addressed by authoritarians, whose simplistic and emotion-stirring messages will resonate while more thoughtful and nuanced messages will not. 

Owen Davies

American history teaches us that social change always promotes subjective thought. Witness the Civil War and the response of immigrants to waves of Italian, Irish, and most recently Hispanic immigration. The triggers in all these cases are the expected loss of income or power, factors that can be considered objective or something vaguely like it. The responses are almost purely subjective. In life goals, affection, religion, and other personal matters our values our thought is inherently subjective. Even apparently rational decision-making is shaped by premises formed subjectively. The most rational of us unavoidably push subjective thought as far as it can go.

Alexandre Pupo

Subjective consciousness dominates critical issues and decisions only to a limited group of ultra-rich people who already have objective factors of their lives under control. To the rest of the world population, mundane objective elements dominate their lives, and unfortunately, things will not change anytime soon. And changing from an objective cognition to a subjective one does not mean an increase in empathy. Corporations are capturing technological evolution and social trends to increase their dominance, while people are using that in a more individualist way.

 
C. Subjective consciousness has always been dominant so little has changed. 

There is no evidence to support this view, but it is possible.

Comments

Jacques Malan

I believe that consciousness has always been subjective and will remain so. Despite our evolution as a species, all our advancements, refinements, technology, and achievements, we are and will continue to be driven by instinct, sprouting from our reptile brain, by the compulsion to procreate and provide the best possible opportunities and advantages for our offspring. As we advanced, our circle of protection expanded from our immediate family to include progressively enlarged circles of our extended families, friends, communities, towns, cities, states (or provinces), and eventually countries.

Owen Davies

We have evidence for the historical role of subjective thought in our own understanding of the human experience. As farmers, much of our mental energy would have gone to reasonably objective decisions about what to grow, when to plow and plant, and other issues of our occupation. Yet, worrying about the weather, loving our families, and mourning the death of a child was as purely subjective as anything in life.

 
D. Other explanations (specify):  
Comments

Victor Motti

Increased literacy, increased democracy, and increased unregulated access to ubiquitous tools/technology like blogs, websites, social media, etc to express an opinion. Nietzsche’s point of view about the harmful effects of bad consciousness and corrupt subjective thinking on a massive scale: “The fact that everyone can learn to read not only spoils writing in the long run but also thinking. Once the spirit was God, then it became a person and now it is even becoming a mob.”

Peter King

I don’t accept the premise of subjective dominance, which is probably what you could expect from a physical scientist. But apart from my shrinking cohort that still believes in science, I think a lot of decisions are being made these days by algorithms which by definition are not subjective. The poor masses who are having their decisions made for them by these algorithms may be more inclined to be subjective but leave the difficult decisions like which advertisements to watch to a very rational piece of software. 

Clayton Dean

While subjective consciousness has always been dominant and fed by those who shape public opinion, you didn’t get as many countervailing viewpoints. Never before have our trusted institutions been subject to such public, visceral and effective counter-points that will resonate with our subjective selves.   So whereas before your choices were Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley or John Chancellor, nowadays your choices are a myriad panoply of choices.   And while the ability for a society to be manipulated has always existed, just as we now can mass customize Nike shoes — so too we can ‘mass customize’ our information — which serves to fuel our subjective consciousness.

Young-Jin Choi

I believe we have entered an unprecedented age of existential risk and uncertainty, which is giving rise to irrational fears, primitive tribalism, and perhaps collective pathologies (e.g. paranoia, narcissism, delusion, denial). Rethinking the “hierarchy of consciousness” I would like to suggest that this is actually the reverse of cognitive progression – a regression towards lower primitive levels of consciousness in the form of badly informed emotions, black-or-white worldviews, and unscientific superstitions, while ethical wisdom and scientific rationality are losing the authority they once enjoyed. Our civilization is at risk of falling back into pre-enlightenment maturity levels. The spread of misinformation and conspiratorial thinking through social media serves as an amplifier, and it is enabled by a lack of critical/logical/scientific thinking training in our education systems and poor quality news journalism.  

Owen Davies 

The rise of psychology eventually considered objectivity and subjectivity. The West’s growing awareness of Asian philosophy teaches that our entire view of the world is subjective. Digital media are an important but distinctly second-generation factor here. The bottom line is that none of these answers completely explains the growth of subjectivity. Any real understanding of this issue will include them all.

2. When is a shift to global consciousness likely to happen? 

The transition between stages of evolution is accelerating dramatically. It took roughly 10,000 years from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age in 1850, about 100 years to the Services Age in 1950,  50 years to the Knowledge Age in 2000, 20 years to an Age of Consciousness about 2020 – today.  The year 2020 is a conservative estimate. Today’s “post-factual” madness started about 2010, but the pivotal date was 2020 when the US experienced a political insurrection.

This raises profound questions: The pandemic has convinced most people that a social transformation is badly overdue. The status quo is unable to address pandemics, climate change, inequality, conflict, and other existential threats. Most sense civilization is not likely to survive without a revolution in thought. How long will the world tolerate these escalating damage, costs, and pain without taking bold action?  When are we likely to witness a “mental revolution” of “global consciousness?” to form a sustainable global order?

 
Survey Results
 

Comments

Andrew Micone

We are already creating a global network of interconnected learning machines that understand the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As we hand over some consciousness and tasks to machine consciousness, this frees human consciousness towards higher-level questions that are interconnected and cybernetically enhanced. So, if current trends hold, we arrive at greater consciousness not necessarily because we strive for it but because our tools allow us to do so. It becomes more of an evolution than a revolution toward an age of consciousness.

There is a set of possibilities, some of which result in catastrophic outcomes. We are at a nexus of choice, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for 2021 indicates that the doomsday clock is still stuck at 100 seconds. However, the catastrophe, a doomsday by a number of outcomes, is not written in stone. In foresight, our predictions are not always a projection, but also an aspiration of a preferred outcome. We pick from the set of possibilities good and bad to choose the good because we must.
 

Ian Browde

When thought leaders advocate and model global consciousness worldwide, it will catapult us to critical mass so we see the change where humanity lives and acts as part of the overall system and not as if we “have dominion over it.”

Global consciousness might arrive and we still may experience disaster. Because systemic change, no matter how awake, adult, globally conscious we are, takes time and no one fully grasps how enormous the required changes are to affect a sustainable civilization. The challenges that confront humanity are “wicked problems.” These are beyond the ken of the species until that global consciousness is normalized. To quote Einstein, “we will not be able to solve the problems we have created with the same level of thinking that created the problems in the first place.” That means that not only will we require the consciousness we allude to, we will also need to raise our intelligence.

Just because people do not believe that humanity will not achieve global consciousness, doesn’t necessarily mean that they believe doomsday is inevitable. Perhaps it, like most other species we know about, will be culled by pandemics, weather-related disasters, fires, drought, etc. Once that occurs perhaps a smaller population with global consciousness will restart and new and very different ways of being on the planet will be the norm.

Art Murray

In essence, yes, we are seeing a shift in global consciousness occurring right now, but such shifts are always FIERCELY resisted…always. This is why even though people don’t like to talk about civil war, such an occurrence is highly likely, not only in the USA but in many other countries as well. As a result, forces build up on both sides, much like the pressure on tectonic plates, ultimately resulting in turmoil and bloodshed.

This will clearly come to a head in the 2022 and 2024 elections – as extremism on both sides intensifies (boosted by technology, social media, disinformation, etc. The GOOD NEWS IS, a new day always dawns after the bloodshed and turmoil

so, yes, we are seeing a shift in global consciousness that will ultimately resolve the threats we’re facing, but ONLY following a period of turmoil, upheaval, and even bloodshed that typically accompanies major change. Remember, the “Old Guard” never likes to see their monopoly taken away.

Adolpho Castilla

Without a doubt, people in the coming years will pay more attention to the world of emotions and feelings, the world of the spirit and to rationality. It will, however, be rationality different from that of the Enlightenment

Margherita Abe

I would like to think that this new stage of evolution will result in a global consciousness that will resolve the multiple massive threats that are combining to destroy global civilization. Unfortunately, one possible outcome of this evolution is the emergence of massive destruction that aims to derail actions that are crucial for the survival of human civilization. This is the possibility of a failed revolution…I estimate that this has at least a 35% probability of occurring, maybe even higher but I tend to be an optimist. My estimate is based on my thoughts about the present world turmoil exemplified by the covid pandemic and the climate change crisis.  Both of these may be pushing the need for global change in the very near future.

Bo Newmann

I believe that the leading-edge recognition of the reality of something like global consciousness is likely by the year 2035 if not sooner. But, if the post-factual perspective continues to dominate, such leading-edge recognition may be hard-pressed to gain traction. Even if the advocates of global consciousness can prevail, it may take until the year 2100 or even longer to reverse and overcome the stagnation, if not outright loss, of global knowledge triggered by the post-factual perspective. Only then will we be positioned to enable the shift to a true, expansive and sustainable global consciousness

 Steve Hausman

It would seem to me that while a social transformation is overdue it is not likely to occur in our current environment.  Historically, the social transformations that have occurred have been driven by external factors.  A prime example of this is how the Black Death in the mid-1300s resulted in a complete change of the social and economic structure of Europe.  While some might consider COVID-19 to be such a factor in the present it is not nearly the magnitude of the disruption caused by the Black Death.

I have been doing a lot of study on climate change specifically over the past year and feel that we are very close to a tipping point that may well be irreversible.  For example, we are very close to a major breakup of one of the largest ice masses in the Antarctic, the ice coverage in Greenland is rapidly deteriorating, we have seen record temperatures in Alaska and Siberia, and there is major instability in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) [i.e., the Gulf Stream].  All of these taken together are very bad signs which cannot be counteracted by planting a few hundred million trees. My bottom line in this regard is that I am not at all sure that we can do much to avoid the climate change catastrophe.  

Mike Ryan

This may never happen. As a believer in chaos theory, a wild card will need to randomly occur (think Covid as an exemplar of this type of event) that changes everything. A future world populated with no more secrets will counterbalance the lies and fiction peddled for profit or personal gain that have skewed subjective consciousness. This battle will determine if and when we get to an age of subjective consciousness.

Kerry Ramirez

Actually, there is a movement now toward a global consciousness/sustainable mindset but if you mean a sweeping, worldwide movement, I think it will happen but it will not be a smooth, trouble-free action but a very rocky road, resistance to change, etc.  Some people are threatened by big change while others embrace it (the early adopters).  As more people travel into space, it will change them, but not enough numbers will have that opportunity in the short-term, not even by 2030.  But, I still think the resistance to a global sustainability movement will be strong.  It would take a global event more powerful than the current pandemic to push people into embracing global consciousness.

Sami Makelainen

I don’t really share the somewhat rosy view that I think the concept of a global consciousness entails. The whole terminology reminds me of Peter Russell’s book White Hole in Time from 30 years ago which, while taking a markedly different approach and belonging to the ‘new age’ school of thought back then, basically called for the emergence of global consciousness as well as means of preventing a global disaster.

That didn’t happen, and I don’t see the signs of it happening anytime soon either – on the contrary, there are more divisions, more splitting into extreme points of view, and much of that is driven by technology. Unfortunately, I don’t see the technology doing a 180-degree turn anytime soon to start helping humanity with it.

I don’t subscribe to that end of the spectrum either; we are not necessarily looking at doomsday, but we are, I believe, looking at a very challenging, disruptive and occasionally violent period of several decades as we re-adjust to the new world that emerges as we enter deeper into the 21st century.

Christopher Jones

I question some of the basic assumptions in your pyramid of social consciousness. I’m not happy with the literature review either. Seems to me that many of those functions happen simultaneously. Cognitive research seems to show that consciousness of the gut/somatic systems and body knowledge have important roles to play in our overall consciousness.  We are a LONG way from that, collectively or among thought leaders.  

More fundamentally I question how global consciousness comes about. I am no doubt influenced by Kuhn’s Structures of Scientific Revolutions and other work on paradigm shifts. Amy Webb’s latest is about biological technology, so maybe the next scientific paradigm is going to be sociobiological? I don’t think it’s digital, despite the popular media opinion to the contrary. I don’t think it’s consciousness, per se, either. I am also heavily influenced by McLuhan — that’s where I will pick up below. 

I think this question is impossible to answer in a meaningful way. It is like predicting when the Singularity or super AI will emerge. It depends on too many variables. For example, some form of peak planetary crisis might shift the collective consciousness. I am very fond of spiral dynamics and the role of complex adaptive systems in the emerging global consciousness. What is the threshold not only of leading thinkers but of the population as a whole that is required to support such a consciousness shift? Civilizational culture is too fragmented, fractured, and diverse for this to happen. So, “it depends.”  I offer Jim Dator’s New Beginnings: maybe global consciousness requires the collapse of Western civilization/take over by AI or the Galactic Federation. 

Kastuv Ray

People are fed up with sitting on the sidelines whilst governments do nothing. Trust is also starting to erode in political leaders due to exposure of various lies and the trend of not practicing what one preaches. People are also very concerned about the catastrophic impacts of climate change, the potential for a global conflict and a lack of coordinated action to tackle new global health crises. Some sort of call to arms in the form of a consciousness movement/task force urgently needs to be taken to address the various issues facing humanity before it is too late.

David Passig

I believe there is a profound shift that is taking place in human consciousness. Our consciousness has been always evolving, opening, widening, etc. for millennia. We are at the threshold of another phase in an infinitive journey. At this early stage of the emerging phase, it looks like subjectivity is dominant, but I believe it’s only a prelude to a deeper inward and outward reach of sentience. That stage will be experienced by more and more people after the pandemic will be a thing of the past. It might take a few decades to be noticeable by the masses.

Jacques Malan

I believe the assumptions on which the “profound questions” in the framing are based are wrong, or at the very least somewhat biased. For example, the statement “The pandemic has convinced most people that a social transformation is badly overdue” is simply not true. Who are the “most” people referred to here? It certainly does not include me. If anything, in my personal opinion, social transformation has already gone too far, for me and a lot of the more conservative folks out there. Worldwide, life in every conceivable metric has been improving dramatically for at least two or three centuries. Thinkers like David Pinker have provided verifiable evidence to this effect. Perhaps I should add that the idea of a “sustainable global order” is a really bad idea. In fact, it is terrifying!

Jonathan Kolber

This shift is, tragically, not the rise of a collective consciousness–mediated by either the metaverse or something more mystical–but rather groupthink enforced by Orwellian masters. I expect many if not most authoritarian regimes to import China’s system, and a post-democracy American fascist regime to reverse engineer it.

Peter King

If subjective thinking does become dominant it is more likely to foster tribalism and the breakdown of the nation-state rather than bring everyone together in some quasi-nirvana. The US is already divided in two and that is a country that is supposed to have a functioning education system. Maybe the vaccinated and unvaccinated will form a separate schism. What it means for countries that are already tribal doesn’t bear thinking about.  

Clayton Dean

Democracy vs Autocracy vs Socialism provides a wide range of divergence of the characteristics that peoples and cultures will (and won’t) accept.  The Arab Spring of 2010 fizzled just as the EU is slowly, but seemingly inexorably, cratering.  China has huge pressures and basically is a police state suppressing various populations.  And so while I’d grant that there are enlightened souls, global consciousness can overcome the all too human traits of bias, competition, tribalism, prejudice, or thirst for dominance.

Milind Chitale

[The shift to global transformation] will be the landmark year when people start to change operating systems and methods to encompass consciousness as a tool in decision making even for commercial enterprises.

Dennis Bushnell

I do not understand the basis of “global consciousness,” do not see much of a global anything except a vast panoply of what I perceive are very worrisome existential societal issues that require a shift to longer-term strategy and major changes. With the population being terminally change-averse, and with the overarching continued drive for profits, we humans are lemmings at this point making progress toward going over the many edges we are heading for. Global Consciousness is not required to muddle through. When things get bad enough, changes will happen, there are MANY solution spaces for almost all of it, but folks hate change.

Young-Jin Choi

It will take some major disruptions to awake us from our collective fever dream. It currently feels like there is a 20-33% chance of long-term decline and a dark age (doom), and a 66-80% chance of potential future progress (although it will be hard times).

Owen Davies

The argument might be made that many thought leaders have already reached this insight. Unfortunately, leaders without a critical mass of followers have little influence on public policy, which will be an essential part of any such shift. My best guess is that global consciousness will not arise, or at least will not be practically relevant, until the wealthy and politically powerful fear their lifestyles will crumble if our path remains unchanged.

Peter von Stackelberg

I think we need to look at what is happening from the bottom up rather than the top down. We will see political systems and established hierarchies of power in government, academia, media, and business begin to change as society changes underneath them. Political systems in their broader sense only begin to change when the societal systems they are built on beginning to shift underneath them.

A new global consciousness will not happen all at once. Rather, there will be a decade or so in which academics, politicians, business leaders, etc. begin to shift. It has already begun, although it is very small at this point and the “leading edge” will actually lag behind what is happening at a societal level. Leaders in our society are actually laggards who are only responsive when change is already painfully obvious.

Based on my own research, we are well into the maturity phase of the Information Age. At the same time, we have just hit the rapid growth phase of what I’ve been calling the Molecular Age, which is a period during which the technologies to tinker with things at the molecular level advances and never-before-seen rates of change. I think the rapidity of the development of COVID vaccines is an early practical demonstration of the power of molecular technologies (biotech and nanotech).  

I think the resistance to COVID vaccines is symptomatic of a broad realization within our society that major change is upon us, with science and technology driving change that many people are deeply afraid of. Resistance to the science and technology around COVID is coming not just from the right side of the political spectrum. I am seeing significant resistance from many on the left, although it is not quite as dominant as the resistance from the right.  (See this timeline I created in 1998 for details… https://www.datavis.ca/gallery/images/timelines/futureswatch-org.pdf).

We are emerging from a period in which Christian conservatism played a huge role in American society. If we look back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, conservative Christianity reached a peak. It has been in decline for the past 10 to 15 years, as indicated by church membership, political influence, and several other variables. I think this points to the emergence over the past decade and into at least the 2030s of a new social morality and philosophy in American society.

Part of this, I believe, will be the emergence of “global” consciousness brought on by the combination of international communication, the global impact of COVID, climate change, and other factors that all point to the interconnected nature of life on this planet. At this point, I think the futures community needs to be looking past traditional indicators and trends and seek out evidence that will help us get a good fix on whether this shift to a global consciousness is actually underway and, if so, when and how it will manifest itself.

Chris Garlick

Cultures and people have survived for millions of years because of the strength of indigenous cultures and tribes’ sovereignty. Indigenous people and tribes serve relevant information to people that they can understand and act upon.  We can all think globally and make more information available at a global level, but actions and relevance will remain in small communities. Those communities may benefit from information and knowledge shared globally but the concept of global consciousness is too complex and not relevant to be a global practice.

Peter King

Pre-scientific societies presumably made all of their decisions subjectively and this resulted in some pretty nasty outcomes like witch-burning and ethnic cleansing.  If this is a trend, what evidence is there that it is likely to be overwhelmingly positive? Could we descend into tribalism and only associate with people who have the same beliefs and values as ourselves? I think we know where that trend leads us – think Rwanda of a few years ago.  Is this view of subjectivity globally, or does it just represent a predominantly older, white, Anglo-Saxon, male, academic view of today’s world, rather than the hip hop, TikTok, rap view of the younger generation, which at times seems to be not concerned about anything other than the immediate moment? Does it represent the semi-literate or even illiterate view of the global South, where science and objective information have not yet entered their decision processes, and they are still bound by traditions and indigenous knowledge (often drawn from nature)? 

Wendell Wallach  

My prognostications indulge less empirical languages including those of spirituality and ethics. For example, the languages of ethics get empowered, as they are now, by the expansion of uncertainty and felt instability in the social-political order.

I have been privately predicting that we will witness a new spiritual wave/movement in the second half of this decade. That prediction is based largely on anecdotal evidence. The last significant worldwide spiritual movement/wave occurred in the 60s and 70s, took many forms, and in its latter stage gave birth to an evangelical movement that morphed into contemporary evangelical conservatism. This was perhaps in reaction to the more left-leaning New Age forms of spirituality.

It is important to note that the rise of the language of consciousness during that period was in pursuit of less religious and more secular, philosophical, and pseudo-scientific ways of talking about unusual psychological states, whether natural or as a result of psychotropic drugs. It was only with the emergence of the cognitive sciences in the 70s that the term ‘consciousness’ slowly evolved to become more scientifically acceptable. And even the search for a science of consciousness has left many prominent naturalistic philosophers in the field willing to consider “panpsychism”, the possibility that consciousness has a universal property and is not reducible to the output of biological systems.

So why all this preamble. Yes, climate change and the impact of emerging technologies will appear attractive to some political leaders as a way of catalyzing international unity around responses to geopolitical challenges.  But this is only likely to be effective if accompanied by a spiritual/emotional demand for action.  Indeed, we have a chicken or an egg problem as to the relationship between the emotive demand and the political challenges.  While the politics might be represented empirically, the forces that give rise to emotive demands continue to be mysterious. We can of course speculate about some of the factors raising spiritual/political movements but should at least have the humility to recognize that our theories are just that. 

Whether the early evidence I perceive of a growing spiritual wave will coalesce into a politically effective movement by the end of the decade or disintegrate as a last gasp effort to create unity around internationally shared challenges, is unclear at this time. 

 

Analysis and Conclusions – Round Two

 

Conclusion 1:

Digitalization and Social Trends Are Driving Consciousness

Round One above showed that the modern world is now living beyond knowledge and entering an Age of Consciousness. To recap the results, roughly 60% of major issues across individuals, organizations, and governments are based on subjective factors – emotions, values, beliefs, etc. 

This remarkable finding is explained in the comments below. Scanning through the thoughts of our experts, it seems clear that many attribute the rise of subjectivity to smartphones, social media and other aspects of the digital revolution. This confirms our hypothesis that digital technologies are the primary causes of subjectivity. The downside is that many also fear that subjectivity leads to tribalism, disinformation and the other ills of our time instead of more enlightened behavior.

A parallel theme suggests that the pandemic, globalization, divisive politics and other social trends are also raising subjective consciousness. We think technology acts as an enabling force that amplifies these social trends and spreads the subjective level throughout societies. Both technology and social trends are flowing together into a wave of subjective thought.

 
Conclusion 2:

 

Global Consciousness Is Likely to Emerge About 2030 

The bar chart above shows two modes in the data:

The left mode from the present to 2035 estimates that some type of global consciousness is most likely to enter the leading edge about 2029 on average. The right mode includes data from 2041 to Much Later and Never. Comments reflect trends supporting the 2029 forecast and the many doubts that cause this group to challenge it.

How to resolve this stark difference? We note that the left mode contains 18 responses while the right mode contains 11 responses. This simple measure suggests that 62% of the total responses favor the 2029 forecast while 38% oppose it.

A final test is possible by considering the 3 data points from 2041 to 2050 as the right tail of the left mode. This interpretation would include all of the yearly estimates from 2020 to 2050. That would raise the average forecast to 2031 and raise the proportions to 72% vs 28%.

Based on this analysis, we conclude that the leading edge in modern nations is most likely to witness a shift to some type of global consciousness about 2030 +/- 3 years or so. We also conclude that 28% of respondents think it will happen Much Later or Never.

This analysis also suggests that the doubts supporting the right mode represent valid obstacles that must be overcome to realize this possibility. Comments above show serious concerns about the enormous social resistance to such a historic change in thought. Some are convinced that muddling through is enough to produce solutions. A few think that social change has been excessive and should be undone.

 

 General Comments

Yul Anderson
I think that AI/ML will take the thinking out of the living process. Even government will have to rely on a new social consciousness that is free from current tax-based models. Business models especially as we move into an inherited/transfer of wealth economy. In the age of disruption, possibly the world as we know it will operate as a global collective.

John Meagher
In my view, all elements of the pyramid describing the Structure of Consciousness are active for the three areas  (Individuals and Families, Management of Organizations, Government and Politics) identified in the survey.

As a scientist, I think that objective knowledge is paramount and rational decisions that have wide acceptance over time. But I respect that subjectivity is separate and is sometimes influenced by objectivity, but in many instances is ignored. With misinformation/disinformation, rationality/objectivity is supplanted as the basis leading to various outcomes and decisions. Objective knowledge also changes with new evidence but subjective elements on many occasions far less so.

Jacques Malan
This is an extremely complex question.

I immediately need to highlight two additional dimensions that are not adequately reflected in the framing of this problem.

1) There will be a huge divergence between the developing and developed worlds.

2) There will be a large divergence along the political spectrum.

Only at the individual and family level every person in the world would be subjective no matter his/her level of development, income, means, education or political view. It is driven by instinct to procreate and advance our offspring in the best way possible. We each think our kids are the smartest/strongest/best.

There is a huge difference in the way business is conducted in the developing and developed world. In the developing world, many more decisions are driven by short-term goals based on emotion and culture than in the developed “west”. For similar reasons, political orientation will drive decisions with liberal companies (Meta, Twitter, Google) being more focused on (emotional) social issues than the more conservative and often criticized hardline profit motive (Tesla, Apple, Big Oil).

This is quite controversial, but the way nepotism and bribery are viewed in the developing world is very different to that of the developed world and these are driven by culture, not objective factors. And it is quite clear that even in that bastion of the west, the USA, liberal and conservative politics are worlds apart, but both sides are still influenced to various extents by subjective factors.

Robert Finklestein
My favorite definition of consciousness is: “Consciousness is a state or condition in which an intelligent system is aware of itself, its surroundings, its situation, its intentions, and its feelings. (Albus and Mystel, pp xii–xiii, 2001). Given the extent to which humans lack this awareness, it is questionable to what extent, if any, humans are conscious).

Ian Browde
Regarding consciousness though, there are certain things that are missing in my view. Intuition, instinct, hunches, feelings as distinct from emotion – could tie in with hunches. Urges, drives, cravings, addictions and awareness of them. Awareness, presence. 

Also, topics like choosing, selecting, opting, deciding and so on as integral to consciousness. As well as responsibility, accountability and dependence. 
I’m looking at your pyramid and agree that it works. Perhaps add a tier entitled Innate Characteristics. That would be a catch-all for instinct, intuition, etc. 

Another thought is you might want to add dimensionality to the pyramid. 
The 3rd dimension would be a temporal classification of Now and Not Now Consciousness. Some folks, very few, achieve full nowness consciousness. Something to which I personally aspire. 

Peter King
As a scientist, your questions evoke deep questions about where science is headed and why it has become so distrusted in modern times.  My suggestions are as follows: 

1.    What other relevant facts should be added to the above list of background data? The outcomes of COP26 on climate change and COP15 on biodiversity, where science clearly shows a global crisis, but the response is derailed by political and industry interests (even where they believe the science, as the fossil fuel industry has done for nearly 50 years already).

2.    What are your thoughts on the way questions are framed above? In view of the anti-science movement globally, the “values” question has to be framed as both positive and negative.  We are not necessarily headed into some sublime paradise because people trust their selfish interests instead of the scientific, objective view of the world.  We could be headed into extinction caused by our own self-destructive consciousness, including first knocking off the species that inhabit the planet with us.  

3.    Should other questions be added? I would add “why has the world turned to reject scientific knowledge in favour of ideologies, post-facts, fads and fashions?”

4.    Any other comments on this study? I think the view that an emerging golden age of consciousness is going to lead us into some nirvana is sadly flawed, but I will be interested to see how your little community of futurists see this unfolding.

Milind Chitale
Other Relevant facts to consider:  The perspective on other Global issues like- Global Warming; Reduction of / steady extinction of species on earth;  Move towards renewable and sustainable lives. The fact of the matter is that the young generation sees these as logical topics (objective as defined above) that are evaluated with a calculative mindset. Older generations on the other hand look at these with great emotional attachment (subjective) , so a great deal of the conscious angles is evident in their evaluation as compared to the genZ.

The questions have been framed with a helicopter view and will not be able to unravel the link between whether future leaders (today’s genZ) have a completely different proportion of Subjective to Objective ratio when they make decisions. However, the older generation as I see it is going to pass on in the next 40 years, and the world will slowly wake up to the Conscious standards of the GenZ.

I feel it is very important to evaluate whether the shift in the Subjective vs Objective mindset is real or just out figment of imagination. I for one can vouch that my son ( aged 23) has a very clear view of global issues, which is almost 80% Objective. His mind works in the Objective domain very well as compared to the Subjective aspects of consciousness. Almost every discussion we have on global and other issues, he tries to sum up some kind of model to explain his view.

This means that the intelligent young generation has already contemplated a method of measuring how much emotion-ethics and personal views to devote to issues  ( which is very low) as against me and many of my classmates who struggle to see things so Objectively even today.

The above two facets of my reply point to the need for a few questions that can actually grapple with the percentage difference in the world view as Subjective and Objective for different age groups as perceived by respondents to the survey. I seriously feel that this is essential as it shows the slow roll-over to a more pragmatic set of governing mindsets that don’t spend too much emotional energy on things they have already perceived to be Objective.

The question I would like to add to the survey:

Think clearly of the generation before you, your generation and the two generations after you. Based on your judgment, what is the proportion of Subjective to Objective approach you see in their decision making on issues at the three levels depicted: individual and family; corporate organizations and global or country levels. 

Young-Jin Choi
Even if decision-making is believed to be “fact”-based, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is “rational” when the “facts” themselves are actually irrational or flawed – e.g. distorted by misinformation, misinterpretation, or unconscious/ideological biases.

There is also the aspect of practical constraints – decision-makers may feel they have little choice/options and are forced to make decisions they don’t personally prefer, e.g. due to shareholder primacy and fiduciary duty. A key problem with the modern corporation is that director duties are narrowly defined and constraint the voluntary action space.

I’m currently writing a commentary about a recent article by Nicholas Stern on the failure of current climate economics. Accordingly, many “rational” decision-makers are not well informed today and severely underestimate the stakes of climate catastrophe. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oVGX_QeF8pZTSLkfk7e2PRLOOqgdd-bI4JwegtJRPYw/edit?usp=sharing

As long as a large share of voters is not well-informed and behaves irrationally, politicians are driven to behave accordingly – in addition, the political sphere is currently subject to rampant lobbying, corporate capture and misinformation, which even worsens the quality of decision making. In spite of human intelligence, there is a lack of wisdom across the board. Another question to ask might be: “How high is the quality of decision making in relation to what’s ethically necessary, scientifically grounded and “wise”?”

In my opinion, measured by the dimensions of wisdom, empathy and time horizons, current human societies are still far from achieving an advanced level of consciousness, unfortunately.In this context, here is a brief text I wrote a little while ago:  

Perhaps you are familiar with the old Greek proverb: “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” I sincerely hope that — as a civilization — we can learn to embrace this kind of intergenerational stewardship at a planetary level. Today, we are in a situation where “old” men and women would literally have to plant a trillion trees, in combination with establishing bold climate policies, in order to facilitate a desirable future that they know they may never see. But doing so requires a belief in something higher than individual and tribal self-interest, such as the abstract idea of humanity worth caring for, stretching across time and space far beyond the confines of one’s own lifetime. While establishing such a belief is certainly not a trivial task in today’s postmodern era of general confusion and short-termism, I believe that succeeding at it is what fulfilling mankind’s dreams of perpetual global peace and deep environmental sustainability require. It is what characterizes a truly advanced and enlightened civilization in my view, more so than any technological achievement.

Kent Myers
I think you would get much more interesting results if you clarified the question. Your diagram doesn’t seem to correspond with anybody’s theory of the “structure of consciousness.” I would say that is more, not less vague than most other sources.

You say you want me to “estimate a level of consciousness,” but when the actual question comes, there is no level at all. You are asking about the balance between subjective factors versus objective factors. 

And then you asked me to give a 1 to 100 score. I should really be giving you a response on a Likert scale: zero in the middle, with 1,2,3 going out either side, subjective and objective. And the question is: “Across society as a whole, is this issue being interpreted and advocated for using a mix of functions that favors either subjective or objective functions of consciousness, and it one side is favored, is it favored weakly 1, strongly 2, or very strongly 3?”  That is a question I can answer for cases that are more specific than your three categories, which are overly broad. Those responses might be interesting.

You have an additional interpretation of these responses: that increased subjectivity is a sign of an advance of consciousness. But that is NOT something that your respondents are necessarily agreeing to or confirming. If you want to know whether anybody agrees with you, you could ask two additional questions: “Do you think that an overall increase in subjectivity is
1) evidence of a serious, civilization-scale change in culture
2) this change is an evolution of consciousness that may aid humanity in developing a  sustainable existence?

Clayton Dean
Regarding an ‘Age of Consciousness’.   I think you’re on the right path but maybe aren’t quite asking/phrasing the questions fully. I hope this critique is constructive but also gives you some ideas about how to nail down the questions a bit more … quantitatively.

As note, we are going through a period whereby ‘Truth’ is harder and harder to come by.  I still remember in the MBA Capstone hearing you, presciently, talk about upcoming societal upheavals as institutions proven unable to adjust to new realities.  And we are seeing, and living, that as people no longer trust their church, their government, or even their neighbors.   I think this is fairly self-evident and undeniable.  

So how do we handle it?  People are busy and just as it’s not helpful to have 47 cereal or beer choices in the grocery — having to hunt and kill your truth is probably too much to ask most people to do.  A lot of this is cultural.  As Americans, we generally want to believe in our institutions and leaders.  We tend to believe people are truthful.  But this is NOT the case for many people.  One need look no further than Russians, Chinese, (North) Koreans or even Easter Europeans to see, if not understand, the pervasive nihilism that throws ice water on any objective truth.   Interestingly this lack of objective truth is creeping into American society as we question ‘lived truths’, who our heroes are (statue controversies, Columbus, etc..), and even around COVID.  So we all need help.

Ironically technology was supposed to help: essentially something like dis-aggregating the news among many sources would magically ensure the ‘truth’ would prevail.   But what we’ve seen is that tech, as it becomes focused, has become too good at allowing everyone to publish, and as a corollary, much too easily spread misinformation if not outright disinformation.  

If this fabric:  1)Objective Truths, 2) Cultural views towards truth, and 3)Technology is all working against us,  how are people who are new to jobs, or starting families, or want to enjoy retirement, to have any chance???   I think the answer is through technology and specifically AI.  We are seeing AI drive truths at two of your three ‘Organizational Realms’ (e.g. the Gov’t, Business, Individual), specifically the Government and Corporate levels but not nearly as explicitly on the Individual level.  There are deep and complicated algorithms to drive efficient decisions (even if the algorithms are often imperfect) for the best policy, the best stock trade, the best judge to get in a Court Case.  Our Twitter and Facebook feeds do not hesitate to shovel outrage and dopamine driving clickbait our way.   And so Tech has gotten really good at knowing your likes and feeding us what you like — whether it’s Facebook outrage, or suggestions to music on your playlist (you’ve played Moonlight Sonata every day, perhaps you would like XYZ by Wagner) or on Netflix.   And I think that’s the next step:  Easy, Personal AI.   Easy, personal AI gives people a chance whereby they’ve never had it.   Some may argue we have some of that: for instance, we can select our news feeds — but it’s all ‘hard coded’ and often not well correlated.   We need ‘easy AI’ to help us with our objective truths.  To better curate what we see, what we get, and to understand the counterpoints.  To better shape the bottom of your pyramid below (the Structure of Consciousness) to help drive better knowledge, better decisions, more accurate memory and emotions to then reset the foundation.

In conclusion, we are at the cusp of an age of Consciousness.  However, unlike our last Renaissance, it’s not humans that will be awakening.  Rather it’s the merger of tech and humanity at the personal level.  The consciousness you’re speaking of will be software-driven — but it has to be programmed in.  The very act of being sentient, of consciousness, is to realize that it was missing previously, to be self-aware.  And so as we know subjective factors ALWAYS trump [bad word choice?]  objectivity in the human animal.  Sociologists often say you need to compliment a loved one eight (8) times to every perceived slight to ensure they feel safe, loved and comforted.  Eight times the good vs the bad — and that’s in a trusted relationship!!!  We are nowhere near that out there in the tech wilderness.   All in all to say Tech has not yet had that moment of realizing that Consciousness exists, can’t be assumed, and so needs to be hardwired in —  but it is about to.  And it will be a wild ride applying binary decisions to non-binary live choices.  But that’s exactly where we are and it’s coming faster than anyone realizes.   The best inventions have always been time-travel — things that save time (Amazon makes shopping take minutes rather than hours) — and that’s exactly what is needed in the AI space.   An easy, functional, personal AI.

Christopher Jones
I have no confidence in these aggregate numbers. As a trained political scientist, I found these levels of analysis a bit off. That is, I would separate individuals and families. The organizational level is fine, but I would disaggregate government and politics – I see those as separate entities. Governments can be studied as a level of analysis, but not politics. And I find it difficult to aggregate any of the categories because of the wide diversity in each. It does not seem useful, to me. I agree with some of the initial comments about whether there is an agreement whatsoever about what consciousness is. That, to me, is a more interesting question.

1.  What other relevant facts should be added to the above list of background data? 
These do not appear to me to be data but categories and events. In futures work, I would prefer emerging issues trends in STEEP categories. I’m not sure why you are not using more traditional typologies that are more standardized and potentially consistent over time. The list does not seem sensitive to international, cross-cultural, or global issues. Very Western.     

2.  What are your thoughts on the way questions are framed above? 
Framing and assumptions are a problem for me. For one thing, this seems very technologically oriented (a strength of yours, to be sure) and exclusive of new or evolved concepts about consciousness, that is, cross-species, intestinal, somatic, and planetary. There is an assumption, based on a quick read, that AI will somehow mirror or parallel human consciousness. I took a brief dive into your new book, and from a deep ecology or deep Mountain approach, this scheme neglects the human/Gaian aspects of emerging planetary consciousness. Transhumanism and posthumanism do not see human agency the same way.   

4.  Any other comments on this study? 
I am uncomfortable with the hierarchy and the apparent belief that human consciousness is necessarily the peak, the Omega point. There is certainly no consensus whether that is a good thing, and it seems to me we are becoming more fractured, polarized, and individualized — certainly barriers to a global transformation. At least in spiral dynamics, there is a sense of moving from stages, and not all people, not all societies, are at the same level in emerging consciousness at the same time.    

I have only begun looking at your book, but I do not understand how knowledge fits into consciousness, it seems to me knowledge and facts are external to consciousness — but that’s a big epistemological debate.   

Finally, the whole quantitative approach seems misguided to me. Selection bias will be an issue, and I’m not convinced that the numbers mean anything in the scheme of things, given global driving forces, such as climate change, wild cards, such as the Kessler Syndrome, or any other number of increasingly likely events (the next bird flu epidemic). I do not see how we get “enlightened” transformational consciousness until the bottom billion are fed.  

as we know it will have to rely on a new social consciousness that is free from current tax-based models. Business models especially as we move into an inherited/transfer of wealth economy. In the age of disruption, possibly the world as we know it will operate as a global collective.

The Cognitive Roots of Conflict

TechCast’s study of mis/disinformation leads us to this broader focus on studying the Cognitive Roots of Conflict.

The table below maps various thoughts regarding climate change – the biggest crisis of our time. Entries are noted attitudes defining the Crisis and the Status Quo, highlighting the differences that have blocked action for decades.

Cognitive Maps have become the very heart of AI. To understand and automate some human activity, we first have to define its components, how they interact, and the goals. We have to map the cognitive terrain.

These data, beliefs, and other thoughts are organized along the cognitive scale of 9 functions identified in our AI vs Humans study. It’s not perfect, but a sound framework out of our TechCast Expert work.

If this study proves useful, we could expand it to include other intractable conflicts — abortion, gun control, inequality, immigration, etc.

Research Method:  The TechCast Collective Intelligence Process

This study used our normal method of collective intelligence. We first created a cognitive map of the Climate Crisis and then analyzed the map to produce three alternative scenarios at about 2030. While endless scenarios are possible, these capture the most dominant variations. In all cases, it is assumed that the climate crisis will become more severe in this decade. The scenarios differ in the timing and ability to respond. It could be thought of as political will or strategic foresight capability. 

Scenario 1 plans to Anticipate the Crisis quickly and thereby return to normality.

Scenario 2 reacts to Meet the Crisis as it becomes more severe and thereby heads off disaster.

Scenario 3 tries to Stall the Crisis in an attempt to muddle through, provoking a far more dangerous climate shift.
 
 
Map of Climate Change

The following analysis suggests provocative strategies that could resolve this conflict.

 

Analysis  of the Cognitive Map

9. Vision  Thoughtful, plausible, and inspiring visions of sustainable futures may help resolve the climate problem. If done well, especially with the participation of those opposed, some hearts and minds are likely to soften to grasp that a better world is possible.

8. Imagination, Creativity  We certainly could benefit from a healthy dose of creative thought to bolster a sustainable vision. 

7. Values and Beliefs  This function may be the nub of the problem. How to recast the diehard beliefs of climate deniers? Some will never yield, of course, but an honest engagement with those holding opposing belief systems could possibly shift opinion toward reality, especially if supported by compelling visions and the hard facts further down in this table.

6. Purpose, Will, Choice   Noting the actions being taken by governments, corporations and communities should have desirable impacts on overcoming resistance.

5. Emotion, Empathy   If those doubtful about the need for change could witness some of the enormous tragedies possibly ahead, a change of heart and mind would make a difference.

4. Decision, Logic     This cognitive function demands a great deal. How can we engage people in realistic problem-solving experiences that weigh the evidence to reach sound conclusions for change? 

3. Information, Knowledge, Understanding   See above. These are major basic elements needed to reach sound choices.

2. Learning, Memory   Better processes and information sources are needed to break through misunderstandings to gain accurate knowledge. 

1. Perception, Awareness  The very source of experiential life. What could creative simulations of the disasters lying ahead possibly do to shift awareness? Visits to locales actually experiencing climate shift?  Meeting those who have taken action?

 
Three Alternative Scenarios

A useful outcome of this study is to examine scenarios of various strategies and their outcomes at about 2030. While endless scenarios are possible, TechCast proposes the following 3 scenarios that seem to capture the most dominant variations:

 

Scenario 1 – Anticipate the Crisis

Proponents of resolving the climate crisis moved quickly to resolve the problem and revert to the pre-fossil fuel era. They invited opposition leaders to visit locales with unusually heavy floods, wildfires, scorching heat, drought, and violent storms. They spoke with people who were suffering, change advocates, city governments and business leaders. They examined a variety of information sources to break through misunderstandings and gain accurate knowledge of the even bigger dangers ahead. 

Some opponents would not yield, of course. But, after engaging all these different parties in participative discussions and problem-solving, along with a dose of creative thought, people reached their own conclusions about remedial actions that would solve the problem with desirable impacts. A compelling vision emerged finally that most agreed would lead to a healthy and sustainable world. 

 

Results

 

Comments

 

Peter King:

Business will continue with the short-term profit motive and climate change may even trigger more aggressive investment strategies as business leaders “see the writing on the wall.” They feel a need to extract maximum profits before their sector is regulated out of business or experiences structural failure in their supply chain.

 

Brian (Bo) Newman

I feel that current political climate appears to be moving in this direction but probably not quick enough to achieve stated end conditions.


Ted Gordon

I think the crisis is being anticipated (in some places by some people at least) but political reality is delaying implementation of any real effective action. Look at the difficulty President Biden is having implementing his big jobs and infrastructure initiatives. “Normality” will come to mean accepting a degrading environment. Probability of widespread acceptance of a looming crisis and implementing near-term effective action.

 

Yul Anderson

I agree that the dominant issues blocking action on climate involve subjective forms of thought. For industrialized countries, the fear of loss is key. They fear “other nations will gain and they will lose.”  Those in power question whether there will be enough for them, as a result, there is no sympathy for the weak and marginalized in the current situation.  The probability of those in power putting policies in place to preserve their futures is very likely. The use of technology and access to information will make the marginalized more aware of how abused they have been and how negatively global contacts have been on their countries and contributions to climate change. 

The scenarios are too Western-based with no hope for Southern countries and continued dominance by Western countries resulting in a lopsided future. The West has polluted the planet so badly that the only result for the South is to migrate to the North.  The North will run out of resources, leading us to off-world explorations in search of a more sustainable world and leaving what’s left to live under climate-controlled earth domes. We need to change the present economy we are in.  There are water shortages in the Western part of the US, but yet we allow Coke to sell us water in a bottle without a green tax. There is no sense in implementing a green tax on Southern Countries that have not been able to participate in polluting the world.  Africa is just learning how to use tech and then the West wants to tax Africa? The end result here is that the West and wealthy remain wealthy, while the poor will have to migrate to find sustainability.

Clayton Dean

I think this is wishful thinking. We all know what’s happening.  Yet the system of ‘Big Science’ isn’t adroit enough to effectuate the change in the desired timeframe.

Jacques Malan

Too much singing of kumbaya in this framing. In general, people don’t and won’t react until their tails are on fire. Politicians are worse.
Kent Myers

I don’t see that this is a technical possibility.  There is too much inertia in the natural, technical, and social systems. Nothing could be done to slow them down before much more serious destruction.] 

Scenario 2 – Meet the Crisis

The mid-2020s proved critical as climate change grew more severe, leaving parts of the southern US, Middle East, Africa, and Asia uninhabitable. The resulting economic disruption caused the global depression that had long been feared as national debt reached stratospheric levels. Climate-change refugees fled to northern regions, cities like New York City struggled to subdue chronic flooding, much like Venice.  Public riots soon forced politicians to take serious steps to curtail CO2 emissions.

Forecasts for the coming years were even more severe, creating a global shift of opinion to resolve the climate crisis. Fresh ideas and new leadership emerged to rally a movement to “Create a Sustainable World.”  Beliefs flipped as former climate deniers found faith in Nature, and environmentalists accepted the need for economic reality. Green technologies and environmental research were shared around the globe. A universal green tax was adopted, with revenues to be returned to taxpayers. And with millions of high-tech jobs opening in environmental work, the global economy entered a period of clean growth. It is estimated that “peak CO2” or “peak warming” was likely to be reached about 2034. 

 

Results

 

Comments

Margherita Abe

I am very pessimistic regarding global leaders responding to the climate crisis with the urgency that it demands.I give the second and third choices equal weighting because right now I consider them to be equally probable.  What I wish for is scenario 2, especially since I think that scenario 1 is totally unlikely and dread the possibility of scenario 3 actually occurring.

 

Peter King

Climate change is not going to be seen as a “day after tomorrow” flipping a switch. It will be a slow onset, incremental set of changes. Similar to the “boiling frog syndrome,” business will adjust to the changes and consumers will pay more for climate-adjusted prices, including things like carbon taxes. The “blah, blah, blah” buzzwords from the political class will become more strident but will be increasingly seen as empty words. We will learn to live with daily news items of disappearing countries, climate refugees, floods and wildfires as the new normal.

 

Brian (bo) Newman

Without the emergence of effective leadership at the global level, there is still a significant risk of delays in timely response and solution adoption. 

Ian Browde

This implies that national debt will cause a depression. That is not necessarily accurate. It may in fact be true that the global depression arrives because the national debt did not reach stratospheric levels and hence little action was taken. This appears to be possible in the USA as we edge towards an autocratic oligarchy.

 

Owen Davies

The median scenario has a better chance, but it seems likely to be the 2030s before China, the US, and India feel the heat–pun intended–enough to respond effectively and longer before new environmental policies yield significant benefit.


Arthur Shostak

It is very difficult to see the foreseeable future in the matter. Each has a plausible possibility of dominating the scene for at least the next 25 years – though a Trump second presidency would assure stalling.

Assuming Trump does not “steal” the leadership in 2024, I then expect the middle course – “Anticipate the Crisis” to take the lead at least until 2028 by which time we might finally be ready for the more extreme corrective measures of “Meet the Crisis.” This reflects my confidence that younger people around the globe are increasingly convinced something significantly “green” must be accomplished ASAP.

The Devil of course remains as usual in the details: Can solar be sufficiently upscaled? Will nuclear fusion energy ever make sense? Can existing nuclear plants and their waste be better managed? Can rising coastal waters and flooding of low-lying farmlands be overcome? Will the world’s top 10% agree to pay more taxes to fund green changes? 

In short, can we soon develop a complex globe-wide reform formula guided by creativity, imagination, and goodwill? If not, a corrosive stall will increasingly dominate, possibly even despite an increasingly frightening desire to rectify the matter. 

 

Paul Haase

I wish I could be more optimistic regarding “anticipate the crisis” but taking into account that key elements of climate protection are being taken out of public investment programs leaves me hesitant. The same seems to be happening in Germany in these days with the Green Party giving in on key climate protection initiatives like the speed limit on the German autobahn – just to gain power and make the new coalition work. Key actions to make climate protection effective tend to be popular for a short period of time after the catastrophes happen (e. g. Californian fire, German flooding). However, people forget too easily, focusing back on their day-to-day business issues very quickly. This is what drives their election decisions eventually resulting in a much less ambitious public climate protection program – a weakness of democracy.

 

Xin-Wu Lin

Collective actions are required for avoiding the climate crisis. When some more severe disasters happened, the evidence and witnesses would inspire more voices from the public, and then push politicians to take action.

Green tax might come out and become a universal norm because it is a way to internalize environmental issues into all human beings’ daily life.

Return to the model of the cognitive map, as an economist, I think Information, Knowledge, Understanding, Decision, Logic, Emotion, Empathy are very critical.

 

Ted Gordon

This scenario should include well-meaning attempts to geo-engineer around climate change. But some of these programs may well create negative and unanticipated outcomes. Examples might include attempts at weather control, trying to move the Gulf Stream, stirring up the oceans to change their surface temperature, weather weapons (ugh!), changing the earth’s albedo, orbiting sunshades or mirrors. To encourage such programs, the scenario should mention some incentives: prizes, scientific and popular recognition, media hype, and new university courses. Will any of these “solve” the crisis?

 

Yul Anderson

While there may be a great migration as a result of global migration due to climate change, a change in global resources from North-South contractual arrangements shifts, forcing Northern counties to change resources for building materials, food, and energy.  The universal green tax, while a good idea, still marginalizes developing countries and prevents advancements in using carbon fuels. However, developing countries like Africa, Asia, Middle East, are forced to develop sustainable societies as the west increasingly shuts its borders to climate migration.

 

Clayton Dean

Look at what’s happening in the US. We are getting a resurgence of labor movements.  If you’re part of the 60-80% of Americans who has seen their wages stagnate over the past 40 years — you can’t afford to worry about much more than family, food and housing. Heck, a sitting U.S. Senator just blocked any subsidies that would ‘discriminate against coal. Coal!!! The current political climate incentivizes the U.S. to double down on buggy whips rather than fusion cells. The hope has to be on private companies to innovate us out this. 

 
Jacques Malan

This would be my “best we can hope for” scenario. And the developed world will likely jump on this bandwagon. Africa, South America and most of Asia (with notable exceptions) will likely not, as that will decimate their already fragile economies. As an example, no matter what the politicians say, with unemployment at over 44% in South Africa (yes, official figures), the vox populi doesn’t give a hoot about climate change.

 

Kent Myers

This would take an emergency political-social response on the order of WWII or Meiji Restoration.  While it would be possible for two groups to rise up fiercely — worldwide angry youth, and old people guilty for killing generations forward — there seems to be no significant political class in the world that could be moved by those groups. The problem with the examples (WWII and Meiji) is that these movements were focused on one society and a more visceral “ethnophilia.”  There’s not enough broad “androphilia” or “biophilia” or even “cosmophilia (spiritual)” to generate pressure in multiple societies.  But, as I say, the pressure has to move a political class, and no amount of pressure seems capable of doing that in any of the major emitters. 

 

Scenario 3 – Stall on the Crisis

The same environmental threats as above took place, but the comfortable path of muddling through prevailed.  The onset of more heat, drought, wildfires, floods, and violent storms was devastating, but opinion remained divided, so there was insufficient political will for serious change. The global economy suffered from lost jobs, rising poverty, and lesser social services. The professional and wealthy classes maintained the bulk of national income.

People tried to adapt in various ways. Some left southern regions as they became uninhabitable, so Canada, Nordic nations, and Russia boomed in population. To fend off excessive immigrants, some countries built borders walls to limit their passage. Investments were poured into green energy, carbon capture, and geoengineering, although it was too little too late. Climate decline continued, fed by big increases in air conditioning and other attempts to stave off the heat. This created a positive feedback loop that increased CO2, merely accelerating the impending shift in climate.

 

Results

 

Comments


Peter King

The climate crisis is not new, as we have known about the potential changes and impacts for more than a century already. Stalling is what we do best.  It is what we have done so far and will continue to do as long as “it doesn’t affect me personally”. Yes, there will be some feeble efforts to change like carbon taxes, offsets, and climate laws but economies will adjust to these changes.  Slogans like “net-zero” will be proven to be idle dreaming and not possible in the real world, especially in industries requiring fossil fuels such as aviation.

I can tell the difference between spin and reality. The following empty words are just spin – green economy, circular economy, net-zero, climate neutrality, clean energy, sustainable cities, carbon capture and storage, decarbonization, decoupling, etc.  I have to examine what each of these slogans means in real-life programs and projects.  Let’s take “green hydrogen” as an example.  The concept is good – use renewable energy (e.g., concentrated solar) to break water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis.  When you do a life cycle analysis of the system to produce and use “green hydrogen” you find that the carbon emissions are anything but negative – the materials that go into constructing a concentrated solar plant, the transportation of materials and workers, the mining of the catalysts that are needed, the steel that goes into the pipelines, the construction and operation of the shipping to export the hydrogen to Japan, the embedded carbon in the steel production, the steel and other materials that go into constructing the trucks and planes that would use the hydrogen, etc. – and the net effect is an increase in GHG emissions. 

 

For an analysis that claims to be climate neutral or net-zero or climate negative, I challenge the proponent to define the system boundaries and then do a complete life cycle assessment.  So far, I haven’t found any technology being claimed as a climate solution actually offering the potential to be climate negative and potentially scalable to the global level.  Even technologies like direct air capture of carbon, you find that most of the captured CO2 is actually used to increase the extraction of the last oil and gas from a fracking operation.  So, yes, I am pretty sure we will continue to muddle through claiming lots of green credentials that actually don’t stack up in the cold light of life cycle analysis. I really wish I could be more positive, by the way.

 

Clayton Rawlings

I wish there was room for scenario 2.5 where we are not as bad as scenario 3 but still worse than scenario 2. The unspoken truth is we will have to stop burning hydrocarbon as our voracious need for energy continues to increase exponentially. Big Oil knows this, and they will continue to fund climate deniers (fake science) and political campaigns for those who will do their bidding. “The center will not hold” and over the cliff, we go. Advanced AI is the wild card. Severe rational thought could be our rescue.

 

Brian (Bo) Newman

The emergence of extreme disruptive political factions could disrupt or reverse any meaningful progress. 

 

Ian Browde

While I hope with all my heart that I am wrong, my personal take is that scenario 3 is most likely since most of the big powers USA, Russia, Brazil, and India are in the throes of becoming more authoritarian, more fragmented and less open-minded. Europe and China will be swept along by those tides even though there the predominant intent seems to be climate change-oriented. This scenario is the one that has played out historically, no matter the crisis. 

Owen Davies

I see no real prospect that the largest polluting nations will change their ways before the world is fully committed to environmental catastrophe. The evidence to date suggests that political obstruction will delay their full benefits much too long.

The critical issue, as you rightly point out, is one of values. Unfortunately, the values that matter are those of the rich, powerful, and ruthless. For every Gates and Soros, there are a dozen Adelsons, Kochs, Waltons, Uihleins…the list goes on. The worst of our wealthy have bought a Republican Party to serve them in compounding their money and keeping the heat and the rabble outside their estates. The death of American democracy now being engineered in red-state legislatures ensures that their priorities will dominate the nation’s actions, even as politicians maunder about changing its ways.

For our current purpose, the oligarchies of China and India and the Russian kleptocrats are almost indistinguishable from their counterparts here, save that they need give even less token support to global well-being. The world can expect little help from them a least until Beijing perceives an agrarian uprising in the making.

We do have one last hope. That is technology. So much faster than anyone hoped, wind and solar energy have become cheaper than fossil-fueled power plants, and their advantage grows daily. Eventually, it will be impossible to hold back. But politicians like Sen. Manchin will continue to obstruct them at every step until our window to avoid environmental catastrophe has long closed–assuming it has not done so already, and that is not clear to me.

Effective environmentalism, like almost all other policies I consider valuable, is the stuff of social democracies. The United States isn’t one, and it will not become one soon.

Orwell told us to picture the future as a boot stamping on a human face. Given current political trends, I picture it as neo-feudalism, or perhaps neo-manorialism, the rich and their servants living behind well-guarded walls, while the serfs scratch for a living outside. One group will be comfortable no matter what happens to the environment. The other won’t matter.

 

Art Murray

The reason I weighted scenario #3 so heavily is that I always try to take a total system view:

  • Environment (not just climate and weather, but toxicity, air, water and soil contamination, etc.)
  • pending economic collapse (from runaway government and corporate spending built upon nearly one quadrillion dollars in total global debt, derivatives, re-hypothecated securities, unfunded liabilities, and “off-the-books” shadow debt)
  • more pandemics, as we discussed with Jerry, et al, especially the Nipah virus, which is hundreds of times more deadly than Covid and is already seriously impacting our offices in India
  • war and terrorism (always with us, just review 5,000 years of human history), including the growing threat of cyberattacks which can bring a whole country to its knees
  • hunger from the collapse of food and supply webs, even before taking climate change into account
  • loss of social cohesion that comes with all of the above

So the main reason I rated scenarios #1 and #2 very low is simply that as the economy is already weighed down from debt, and social security and other benefits run dry, another more severe pandemic hits, war and terrorism break out and intensify, along with rioting in cities because of loss of jobs, food, etc. – there is NO WAY people are going to even think about pouring trillions of dollars into addressing climate change

 

Ted Gordon

Like Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss we will accept whatever we get and call it the best of all possible worlds. This scenario should include some “normal” progress that accompanies the usual development paths: e.g., electric vehicles brought about through marketing, competition, consumer choices, economic advances, etc. And don’t forget some hopeful random events such as fusion-based electricity generation, new means for massive energy storage, species preserving (or even species re-creation) genetics, teleportation (via entanglement), and who knows what?  Will any of these stall the crisis? 

 

Yul Anderson

While this scenario may prove true, the global economy shifted its use of resources (for example, cement).  It was proven that cement, like many of the resources used in the Western building industry, was warming the planet as well as C02 emissions.  Southern countries were less reliant on cement and able to leapfrog into the future using drone technology to power personal and public transportation.  Southern countries were able to adapt to new technologies and reverted to southern-based architecture long lost or denied by Western countries.  Air conditioning in southern countries was a luxury anyway, and the poor had not benefitted for more than 200 years anyway. 

 

Clayton Dean

I don’t buy the end results — migration patterns, et al — in this option only that we will continue to stall. I prefer to think of it as chipping away at the problem. Change is slow to happen until it isn’t.  Socially we’ve gotten there on gay rights and marijuana but not on guns.  Change is really slow… until a tipping point is reached.  We won’t get to said tipping point on climate through external events (e.g., migrations, equator being uninhabitable, et al). Rather we will get there because innovation will.  No one can reasonably argue that coal is the future.  No one can reasonably argue that greenhouse gases and smog are great.  It’s just that they’re cheap and easy.  Things like Biden’s wind farm off the U.S. Coasts may take 5 years to build, or if admins change… 25 years.  But they will be built.  And they will slow down the crisis and eventually ameliorate the effects.  But I don’t see things like ‘climate riots’ or even massive immigration being realistic levers to the sorts of changes.  As such stall, stall, stall until either the science is so irrefutable or hope that the next 3 Elon Musks opt to build companies and not work for Apple.  And I suspect it’s easier culturally/legally to change the workweek to 4 days/week with two days at home — to limit greenhouse gases — than it is to get 51 Senators to agree on ‘science’ when there are so many monied interests lurking.  The changes, if any, will NOT be coming from policymakers.

 

Jacques Malan

Most likely scenario, with a probability around 60%, for the reasons already outlined above, and due to the fact that a growing totalitarian ineptocracy (which include mainstream media) struggles to recoup the trust of the ordinary citizen (viz the whole Covid debacle). We need these idiots to be completely honest with us, or we will continue to lend our ears to “alternative” media (which is actually already more trustworthy IMHO). 

 

Kent Myers

Clearly the winner.  A great deal of energy will be wasted on pointless ‘personal’ good deeds.  Heat will need to be reinterpreted as pollution that gets severely regulated and taxed. Easy money needs to be made in a building spree for low-heat infrastructure.

 
Analysis and Conclusions
 
These results are depressing in their implications. The most likely outcome is the “Stall the Crisis“ scenario with a 48.3% probability. The “Meet the Crisis” scenario was only rated at 30.4%. Similar estimates are available that confirm this pessimistic outlook. See the Guardian article “The Climate Disaster Is Here.”
 
We conclude that civilization is facing a moment of truth. This decade will decide whether the world is plunged into a disastrous shift in climate or if it can be pulled back from the brink. Muddling through is no longer enough.
 
While gloom is everywhere, there are sound reasons for hope. A recent report by the PEW Research Center shows that two-thirds of those living in the US and other modern nations are so alarmed by the Covid Pandemic that they now demand major changes in political, economic, and health care systems.  The World Economic Forum called recently for a “global reset” in all spheres of society.
 
These results confirm the thesis of Beyond Knowledge: How Technology Is Driving an Age of Consciousness. The book faces climate change and other crises squarely, calling it a “Crisis of Global Maturity.” But it also recognizes the forces countering this Global MegaCrisis — the relentless drive of social evolution now moving beyond the Knowledge Age. The next stage of development is an Age of Consciousness, although it is disguised by all the post-factual nonsense being spewed from both right- and left-wing radicals. Liberals focused on being woke, politically correct, cancel culture, defund the police, etc. — while conservatives insist on the big lie, anti-vaccination, and climate denial, etc. All these claims are beyond knowledge — they are subjective thought, or higher-order consciousness.

This conclusion is supported by the cognitive map of the climate crisis. The dominant issues in the map involve subjective forms of thought (cognitive functions 5-9) rather than objective thought (functions 1-4). Objective thought (knowledge, logic, etc) is crucial certainly. But the main reason nations are unable to resolve the issues of our time is that action is blocked by subjective consciousness (emotion, purpose, values, beliefs, vision, etc).

If this analysis of social evolution holds, we are likely to witness a historic shift toward global consciousness. All stages of evolution have been powered by revolutions — the Agrarian, Industrial, and Digital Revolutions. This means the Age of Consciousness is likely to produce a “Mental/Spiritual Revolution.” Yes, this seems almost hopeless, but that is usually the case before revolutionary change. Nobody thought the Soviet Union would collapse until it actually did.

William Shatner (Capt. Kirk) exuded an overwhelming love for the planet after orbiting Earth — the foundation of global consciousness. 
 
The year 2024 seems likely to become a critical pivot point for the US. Former President Trump seems likely to seek reelection, while climate disasters are likely to escalate. With a raging climate crisis combined with the results of Trump’s first term, are enough Americans willing to accept more of the same? Anything could happen, of course. But 2024 seems destined to be a moment of truth.  If Americans seize this opportunity for epochal change, the world is likely to follow.
 
Beyond Knowledge receives flak constantly for forecasting that global consciousness is likely to arrive about 2025 +/- 5 years. No later than 2035 at the extreme. Despite doubt everywhere, this remains our most likely forecast. We will know in a few years.

This study illustrates the central role of consciousness today. Our next study will examine how extensively consciousness dominates public policy today. We are moving closer to the heart of the problem. Our working hypothesis is that modern nations are today living beyond knowledge in a state of subjective consciousness.  Look for our next issue.

We are grateful for the following experts who helped with this study: Owen Davies, Peter King, Clayton Rawlings, Brian (Bo) Newman, Ian Browde, John Meagher, Young-Jin Choi, Margherita Abe, Aharon Hauptman, Kent Myers, Art Murray, Ashish Manwar, John Frieslaar, Art Shostak, Paul Haase, Xin-Wu Lin, Adam Siegel, Ted Gordon, Yul Anderson, Adam Siegel, Clayton Dean, Jacques Malan, Carlos Scheel.

 

 

Mis/DisInformation

Executive Overview

You would think we should have been enlightened by the past few decades of the Knowledge Age, so why do people seem badly misinformed, confused, emotional and unreasonable? Many do not believe in evolution, climate change, vaccination and other established science. 

Roughly one-third of Americans have accepted conspiracy theories and the “big lie” that the 2020 US presidential election was stolen. Statistica reports that 70 percent of Internet users think fake news causes doubt and confusion, with social media the least trusted news source worldwide. And 83 percent of people believe disinformation negatively affects their country’s politics. [6]  Norman Lear, the famous TV producer, said: “We just may be the most-informed, yet least self-aware people in history,” [1]  and Senator Ben Sasse worried, “We are living in an America of perpetual adolescence.” [2]

Extensive studies confirm that attitudes, beliefs and even rational decisions are largely shaped by a variety of well-known biases, political party allegiance, and other extraneous factors.[3]  Even hard-nosed business people admit that bias in decision-making is a major problem.[4] These irrational tendencies explain why demagogues successfully use the lure of self-serving fantasies that blind people to the truth and mobilize them into violence.[5]  

This dilemma poses one of the great ironies of our time. The digital revolution has created a wealth of knowledge that is almost infinite. The smartphone alone has made the world’s store of information available at the touch of a finger. There is no shortage of knowledge, but its power is badly limited. Although the world is covered with an abundance of communication, it is not a very happy place. Just as the Gutenberg printing press unleashed a flood of information that led to disruptive change, brutal conflict and the Protestant Reformation, this deluge of digital knowledge has brought a “post-factual” wave of nonsense, fake news and conspiracy theories that pose global threats.

The graph below summarizes results for the 10 questions (Qs) posed for respondents. One of the most striking conclusions is that people think mis/disinformation has devastating impacts. The data to questions 1, 8, 9 and 10 rate the issue above 7 on a 10-point scale, well above any thought that mis/disinformation is of middling concern. Further, responses to Qs 8, 9, and 10 show that the magnitude of concern is not expected to diminish with time.

Another major conclusion is the distrust of institutions to remedy this situation. Qs 2 and 3 show a marked distrust in big tech companies and the federal government to help. In contrast, Qs 4, 5, 6, and 7 suggest people are more confident that education, culture, leadership, and AI are likely to be more useful. Better education stands out as the most powerful force for change.

Finally, we can see bipolar distributions of the data showing the prevalent divide in attitudes toward government, culture, leadership AI and education.

In short, the mis/disinformation problem is deadly serious, it is here to stay, and companies and governments are not likely to help. But there seems to be hope in reforming education, social cultures, leadership and AI applications.

This analysis is supported by the many comments also included below, but opinion varies widely, as noted the bipolar data. To fully appreciate the richness of this complex issue, please look over the comments and savor the wide diversity of thoughtful viewpoints. You will be grateful for the thought poured into this crucial study.

A final conclusion runs through many comments. There seems to be a serious and compelling suggestion that mis/disinformation should be penalized through fines, dropping service, penalties or some way to discourage misuse of the media.  An authoritative body, aiding by good AI, would have to judge when mis/disinformation has occurred, of course. But that is needed in any case, and “internalizing” costs has been shown to be a powerful regulator of behavior at minimal social cost.

 

The Mis/DisInformation Ecosystem

“Mis/DisInformation” includes misinformation (honest errors) and disinformation (intended to deceive). There is a constant stream of mistakes, distortions, false news, and endless other information corruption in public media. Facebook, Twitter and other social media giants have faced mounting criticism for allowing inflammatory and even violent traffic to spread dangerous falsehoods. Even where care is taken to avoid mistakes, ethical behavior is hard to enforce.  Revelations of widespread surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence organizations have brought demands for public exposure of data-gathering practices.  Transparency in government is often promised but seldom delivered. In parts of the world, rampant corruption is taken for granted.

A New York University study found that mis/disinformation on Facebook gets 6 times as many clicks as factual information.  Also, 68% of Republican posts are mis/disinformation while 38% of Democratic posts are mis/disinformation. This confirms our study showing the problem is deadly serious. The article appeared in the Washington Post

The spread of Mis/DisInformation” involves individuals making choices. They comprise an ecosystem. This suggests there are about 3 major “causes” involved: The environment and the individual interact in a social environment to determine the information that is accepted as valid and passed on.

 
The Information Environment

This includes all the various sources of information that surround us, good, bad or otherwise.

The individual Making Choices

People bring a variety of values, beliefs and other predispositions that encourage particular choices of information.

The Social Environment

Significant others, leaders, culture, etc. all influence individual’s choice of information.

This is just a rough and simple framework. I do think it moves us toward a better way to think about disinformation. Note that this Mis/DisInformation Ecosystem can become a vicious cycle. A tasty bit of disinformation appears in the environment. Individuals pass it on to friends and family. They in turn spread the disinformation further to create “buzz.” The buzz takes on a life of its own and stimulates more related disinformation. And so on. The reverse can occur when accurate information spreads to dispel Mis/DisInformation in a virtuous cycle.

Robert Finkelstein has produced two chapters on the disinformation ecosystem for the SAGE Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (published in 2021). One chapter is about Evolutionary Psychology and Cyberwarfare (and the other is about Evolutionary Psychology and Robotics).  Contact Bob at bobf@robotictechnologyinc.com if they might be of interest to you.  

 

Forces Driving Mis/DisInformation

Here are some major sources of Mis/DisInformation:

Willful Ignorance 

It does not help that large parts of the public embrace confusion out of sheer perversity. TV and the Internet have produced what has been called “the dumbest generation” with a brazen disregard for books and reading, often favoring religious and political beliefs. [6] Following are choice bits of willful ignorance in the US and other modern nations.

  • The US ranks near the bottom of nations whose citizens believe in evolution, with less than 40 percent saying they accept the science.  [7]
  • Two-thirds cannot name the three branches of government. [8]
  • Half of Trump voters believe President Obama was born in Kenya. [9]
  • Thirty percent of people think cloud computing involves actual clouds.[10]
  • Twenty-five percent don’t know the Earth revolves around the Sun.[11]
  • Fewer than half know that humans evolved from primitive species.[12]
  • Two-thirds of undergraduate students score above average on narcissism personality tests, up 30 percent from 1982.[13]

Corporate Misbehavior  

Despite a drive to increased openness, corporate secrecy and cover-ups remain common. In the US, whistle-blowing events have increased, and SEC actions against public companies hit an all-time high. (Bloomberg, Feb 14, 2017)

Public Complicity

In many countries, corruption remains a major problem. In India, the most corrupt country in Asia, almost 70 percent of the population accessing public services report having paid a bribe to do so. (Forbes, Mar 8, 2017)

Fake News Proliferating

Intentionally false articles and slanted reporting have proliferated in recent years. US intelligence agencies found a widespread Russian program of fake news and disinformation, although they are unsure of the impact. Fake news imposes real social costs and serves to destabilize society. (Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring 2017)

Deep Fakes Are Hard to Detect 

Increasingly sophisticated machine learning can create, often in real-time, convincing but fake audio and video. While being developed, tools to guarantee the authenticity of a given video or audio clip are lagging behind. (MIT Technology Review, May 1, 2017) Ted Gordon thinks the technologies will increasingly make voice, facial, gait, aroma, provenance, and the like, indistinguishable from reality. How will we be able to tell “the real thing?”

Post-Factual Mess

The advent of today’s “post-factual world” carries the problem to an extreme by forcing us to sort through fake news and conspiracy theories. An entire cottage industry has sprung up to produce books titled “Assault on intelligence,” “The death of truth,” “A world without facts,” “The death of expertise” and “Truth decay.” [14]

Inƒormation War

Commercial firms conducted for-hire disinformation in at least 48 countries last year — nearly double from the year before, according to an Oxford University study. The researchers identified 65 companies offering such services.

 

Governments and Corporations Responding 

Throughout Western democracies, governments are requiring disclosure of corporate information to ensure ethical dealings. Many shareholders want even more.


DARPA Working to Spot Fake Media

With machine learning algorithms becoming adept at generating believable fake audiovisual content, it’s important to be able to detect the fakes. To that end, DARPA has launched a project aiming at catching the so-called “deep fakes”.  (MIT Technology Review, May 23, 2018)

Shareholder Demands 

Investors in growing numbers are demanding greater transparency from corporate boards and executives in matters of compensation, company operations, and political contributions. 

Social Media Companies Responding to Fake News

In response to concerns about fake news’ impact on society and even election results, organizations are taking further steps to prevent fake news from spreading. Facebook, for example, has created algorithms that automatically flag suspicious stories, are then sent to fact-checkers. If shown to be false news, the company attempts to limit their spread across the social network. (Advertising Age, Aug 3, 2017)

Crises Forcing Corporations to Act

Recent corporate scandals have highlighted the need for greater transparency in business, recruiting even top executives to the cause. Corporate scandals ranging from dishonest mortgage practices (Bank of America, et. al) to bribery in Mexico (Walmart) and fixing of LIBOR trading (at least 10 multinational banking firms) have brought growing demands for business transparency. So have legitimate but largely hidden activities such as political contributions. (Inc, Jul 8, 2016)

Executives Endorse Ethics  

A survey of business executives in 30 countries found that 79% believe their companies have an ethical duty to fight corruption. Executives said the most effective anti-corruption tool was the transparency enforced by investigative journalism. (Institute for Global Ethics, Jul 8, 2016)

Public Demands

Roughly half of U.S. adults (48%) say the government should take steps to restrict such misinformation, even if it means losing some freedom to access and publish content. That is up from 39% three years ago. A majority (59%) say tech cos should restrict disinformation. (PEW Research Center, Aug 21, 2021)

 


[1] “Norman Lear calls for leap of faith,” The New Leaders (May/June 1993)

[2] Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult (St. Martin’s, 2017)

[3] Elizabeth Kolbert, “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds” (The New Yorker, Feb 27, 2017). Yuval Harari, People have limited knowledge. What’s the remedy? Nobody knows,” (New York Times, Apr 18, 2017)

[4] Tobias Beer et al., “The Business Logic in Debiasing” (McKinsey, May 2017)

[5] Harari, “Why Fiction Trumps Truth,” (The New York Times, May 24, 2019)

[6]  Statistica (June 16, 2021); Latterly (2021); Mark Bauerian, The Dumbest Generation (New York: Penguin, 2008)

[7] Ker Than, “US Lags … Acceptance of Evolution” (Live Science, Aug 11, 2006)

[8] Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason (New York: Pantheon, 2008)

[9] Catherine Rampell, “Americans … believe crazy, wrong things,” Washington Post (Dec 28, 20015)

[10] Mark Morford, “Human stupidity is destroying the world,” alternet (Mar 20, 2013)

[11] John Amato, “25% of Americans don’t know the Earth revolves around the Sun,” National Science Foundation (Feb 25, 2014)

[12] Ibid

[13] Bauerian, Op. Cit. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a well-established phenomenon in which those who know little actually believe they know more than others. Angela Fritz, “What’s Behind the Confidence of the Incompetent?” (Washington Post, Jan 7, 2019)

[14] Hayden, The Assault on Intelligence (New York: Penguin, 2018) Anne Applebaum, “A world without facts,” Washington Post (May 20, 2018)   Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise (New York: Oxford, 2018) Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael Rich, Truth Decay, (Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation, 2018) Adrian Chen, “The fake news fallacy,“ The New Yorker (Sep 4, 2017) George Will, “The high cost of cheap speech,” Washington Post (Sep 21, 2017)

 

Questions

We invite you to read over the above analysis, and then answer the following questions. Send your responses to Prof. Halal at Halal@GWU.edu. Please answer all questions on a scale from 0 to 10, and provide comments as well.

 

1. How serious is the Mis/DisInformation problem now?

 

 

Owen Davies: Catastrophic. It feeds “conservative” nihilism and justifies any extreme in their holy war against liberalism. Without mis/disinformation, for example, the current movement among Republican state legislatures to overturn elections that did not go their way and replace electors with their own partisans would be shouted down by their own voters (assuming their claims to love America, freedom, rights, etc., have any basis in reality.) This is an existential threat to American democracy, and democracy is losing.

Nir Buras: Most likely worst since the late Middle Ages.

Fran Rabuck: A more serious problem is a swing to the other side. Control of communication has never had good outcomes in the past. Before we worry about policing our media, we need to get focused on policing our streets. I believe that over time the masses will respond and fractioning of information and followers will evolve.

Xin-Wu Lin: When Covid-19 get into the US, some local Chinese groups flew into superstores collected groceries, just because of disinformation in some Chinese discussion groups. It did not happen again since it was clarified.

Margharita Abe: This problem affects multiple areas of current life, not just the political arena, and makes discussion and implementation of solutions to ongoing problems (like climate change, COVID vaccine use and other issues related to public health measures, widespread environmental degradation, to name just a few) almost impossible to imagine.

In the current legal environment, these social media companies have no constraints on their behavior and face little if any pressure to effectively manage their media content. Expecting them to “police” their content is extremely optimistic and possibly naive

Craig Boice: The problem has always been serious, and uncontrollable, but belief systems had ways of dealing with it. In a closed-minded belief system like the one we are moving to now, there is only the reflected murmuring of like-minded group members, and static. Information and disinformation are both merely data. The group will still react to stimuli, like a flatworm, but it is a form of unconscious life.

 

2. How effective would it be to have media companies self-manage their content? 

Ian Browde: Can we address the challenge by certifying sources of information more accurately? For example, sources of propaganda, while ok under the 1st Amendment, should not be labeled “news organizations,” “news people” and so on much like fiction is not non-fiction.

Owen Davies: We already know the answer. Self-management programs work only to the extent that they do not reduce company profits. That is to say, not well enough to have any benefit.

Nir Buras: The hybrid digital communications/information/news platforms—so-called “social” media have no long-term use other than spreading misinformation. Do you trust the people who created the problem for their personal gain to fix it?  

Milind Chitale: The general comment on this topic of self-regulation of and by the media is that IT CAN BE BIASED. Period.

Fran Rabuck: Not very effective now. Social Media has its Bias and will execute under that assumption. They also have financial interests to favor their advertisers. And they have obvious political leanings. I believe they have a right – under current laws – to do this.

Peter Von Stackelberg: Media companies, if we include social media (i.e Facebook, Twitter, etc.), content aggregators, search engines, as well as traditional media outlets like TV, newspapers, etc. are doing a terrible job of self-managing content. Social media and search engines are the worst, doing 0 out of 10 in terms of managing content. They pretend they are just carriers of information, but their use of algorithms to focus the attention of users on content belies that assertion. Traditional media (i.e. New York Times, Washington Post, local newspapers, etc.) are somewhat better, but there is wide variability depending on ownership, political perspective, etc

Peter King: Many of the social media companies skirt around the laws governing the media by claiming they are messenger services.

 

3. How about Federal regulation of media companies?

 

Owen Davies: Not a prayer. The Republican hardcore would view Federal regulation as proof that liberals and the “Deep State” (whatever that is) were conspiring to pollute their precious bodily fluids. This would further harden their positions, assuming that remains possible. At best, it would convince the less rabid minority among them, and also many genuine independents, that “government overreach” had become a problem requiring correction.

Dennis Bushnell:   Only ‘fix’ that makes sense IMHO is to have the Govt. develop a site where folks could send the stuff to get a read wrt the accuracy, so your query wrt an AI to do this is cogent. ….not a panacea, in a democracy there cannot be such. Cannot make folks do the checking, or believe what the site tells them.

Milind Chitale: Media is like a wildfire. Regulation of Media by Governments is a double-edged sword.

Fran Rabuck: First Amendment. Social media is now media and needs revision. I fully expect changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Some bills are now in Congress on this — https://hbr.org/2021/01/are-we-entering-a-new-era-of-social-media-regulation

Peter von Stackelberg: Regulation is going to be difficult in any political climate because of issues of free speech, censorship, etc. In today’s polarized political climate, government regulation will be difficult if not impossible.

Leopold Mureithi: Fraught with bureaucracy and corruption. 

Peter King: The biases of media owners and advertisers will remain regardless of government regulation.

Margherita Abe:   If these companies were held liable for their content then the Federal Government would be able to “police” them. A change in their liability would help…requiring that they have the same constraints as a utility company would work here.

Craig Boice:  How about criminal charges against individual executives who fail to execute their public duty in assuring that their services are safe? Public trust is a vital asset we hold in common. Without trust (the ability to accept information based on its source, rather than our personal verification) our society comes apart. Oxycontin, jet aircraft, and Facebook all seem necessary to our society  —  and all of them pose immense risks. 

Owen Davies: I doubt that effective regulation of content validity is constitutionally possible. Otherwise, technology provides too many ways to bypass regulated media: private servers, ad hoc networks of private websites, “alternative” social media based in countries that ignore American regulation.

4. How effective would it be to develop social cultures that encourage a social ethic of “Seeking Truth”?

 

Owen Davies: Not at all. The great majority of so-called conservatives already believe that they seek the truth. They of course recognize truth when they see it because it supports their political positions. Claims that do not are almost by definition untrue–sincere error at best and more likely partisan lies. We also see this problem on the far left, but to a much smaller degree.

Nir Buras: That is an individual choice. We would likely need a new Continental Congress for that. Goodness and truth always win out. sometimes it takes them a very long time.

Milind Chitale: In the 21st century, seeking the truth has completely lost its meaning, as truth is a tinted vision of reality. As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, truth is similarly tainted by our beliefs, experiences (good and bad), personal views on important things… all these are greatly varied even in the most ethical people of the world, leave alone meek and mere mortals.

Fran Rabuck: Where does “truth” begin and end? Will we seek truth in religion? Science? If we encourage a single mindset for all – we stifle innovation, progress and even overall government.

WE ALL HAVE Bias of some type.  “Trust” Factor could be included in other business/metrics – BBB, Sustainability measures (many), and even Financial Statements. If this is truly a problem all these external groups could share in collective pressure to report the “truth.”

Xin-Wu lin: Transparency and hard evidence could help!

Peter von Stackelberg: I am somewhat hopeful that American society as a whole does value the truth, although reading the news often shakes my confidence in American society. I think western European nations are more likely to have a social ethic of “seeking truth”. Part of America’s problem is that it has had more than a century of being the dominant “truth” globally. Americans are used to dominating the world in terms of culture, with the American version of the truth being the only truth. It will take a lot to shake Americans out of their complacency and get them to see that American social and political values are built on a mountain of myth, propaganda, and outright lies that are deeply ingrained in the American consciousness. Americans as a whole are very reluctant to accept the negative aspects of their history.

Leopold Mureithi: Culture change is intrinsically difficult and long, long term. 

Peter King: Not only a social ethic is required but also the willingness of individuals to question their own biases.

Craig Boice: Seeking truth has long been a quest some individuals have chosen. However, the search for truth is personal, and cannot improve either the quality of information or our society’s ability to process information properly. Accepting truth might be a skill to develop for some; others could try to master the dangerous skill of creating truth. Respect for the truth is different and could be a learned social norm, with appropriate rewards and punishments.

Owen Davies: But only if it were possible. I do not believe it is. If it were, such a change would require two or three generations at best, rather than being available when it’s needed. Any such attempt today would be rejected by the truth-challenged as liberal indoctrination.

 

5. Would strong national leadership help?

 

Owen Davies: We have strong national leadership. They are called Republicans. They don’t help.

We also have weak, incoherent, and narcissistic national leadership. They are called Democrats. They also don’t help.

Some progressive replacement for the Democrats–a party with a shared sense of priorities, coherent policies, and enforceable party unity–would, in my view, have a chance of being effective. Let’s not hold our breath until it appears.

Nir Buras: Dictatorship, no. Ethical politicians? I pray for that. people who are for the constitution—I pray for that.

Milind Chitale: Having strong leadership at the national level always helps, as good leaders are normally very well developed in establishing the sense of right and wrong at the outset in the top line of command, this helps trickle down to the common man, the establishment of truths and righteousness. But a strong leadership with a bent vision will be equally hurtful in this endeavor.

Fran Rabuck: I think you’re leading the question here. What is strong leadership? Dictatorship? Should our leaders be religious? Boy Scouts? Are the leaders in cities that have strong lockdowns, right? Name an example of a strong leader in the US now? NY? LA? Seattle? Chicago? White House?

Xin-Wu Lin: It depends on how national leadership makes people trust.

Peter von Stackelberg: National leadership is vital. However, I have serious doubts that we will see it. The political right is not willing to address the issue of misinformation and disinformation because it goes against their political interests. A vocal minority on the political left is also problematic, particularly with the “cancel culture” that has sought to silence diversity in thought and speech.

Carlos Scheel: Find a straight, transparent and capable leader. We need a Champion.

Leopold Mureithi: Leading by example, yet endemic suspicion of politicians dent credibility. 

Peter King: One could argue that strong leadership aka dictatorship is part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

Craig Boice: It depends on what kind of strength, and what arena of leadership. We need leadership by example  —  leaders who respect the truth and seek it. We need leaders in journalism (e.g., Walter Cronkite), education (e.g., Mr. Rogers), and science (e.g., Drs. J. Robin Warren and Barry Marshall).

Owen Davies: It depends on whether those strong leaders oppose extremism or find catering to it politically useful. The United States has too few of the former and an endless supply of the latter. 2 is an upper limit.

 

6. How about AI systems that automatically detect and remove inaccurate content?

 

Owen Davies: There are at least three issues here:

AI replicates the prejudices and serves the purposes of its designers. This means that computerized content moderation developed by social-media companies will never be effective enough to hurt the developer’s profits. It therefore will never be effective enough to benefit American politics and government. There will never be enough resources to make content policing, whether by humans or by AI, effective, even if it theoretically could be. 

The social media and some elements of traditional mass media earn significant revenue by serving up half-truths and baseless propaganda. Until change is forced upon them, mis/disinformation seems likely to remain the strongest single force in American politics.
 
Unfortunately, there are few options for their correction, and none seems likely to be effective. Their consumers will never ask for change. Their sponsors will act only after catastrophes like the January 6 insurrection, and that response seems likely to prove limited and temporary. No attempt by government to enforce standards of truthfulness will be Constitutional. The FCC’s abandoned Fairness Doctrine, if resurrected, would die within 24 hours after Congress next changes hands, and today’s Supreme Court would gladly ignore precedent to declare it unconstitutional.
 
In the end, our present situation may change only by slow, spontaneous evolution. What force could make truth and fairness the fittest to survive is unclear.

Peter von Stackelberg: With technology enabling ever more realistic audio, video, and virtual experiences, how do we deal with real vs. fake?

Tom Ables: Can AI/ML engines on social media detect what my predilections are as opposed to another’s, and thus take inflow and sort it into different ideological “bins” for distribution? Articles A,C,Z for person 1 and articles B,Q, X for person2? und so weiter?

Jerry Glenn: AI systems are improving that will identify and trace deep fakes. Create a “cognitive immune system” for the individual and community.

Young-Jin Choi: I’m afraid that the problem is bigger than that it could be solved by AI or social media regulation alone – the critical reasoning capabilities and the worldviews of at least a critical mass. Those who are currently misinformed need to be elevated by a public awareness/education campaign.

Milind Chitale: AI has become a dangerous tool. As we have seen Deepfake videos that completely take real people and put words and phrases into their mouths in the most believable videos ever even though we know they are fake.

Hannu Lentinen: Artificial intelligence will certainly be used to verify the information. It will become a competitive factor in the media industry. We don’t have time and we don’t want to read or listen to bad information.”

Fran Rabuck: First, I suspect this is already happening behind closed doors at media companies now. How do you think they discover those questionable posts to begin evaluation? Historically, insurance companies would have digital monitoring of all outgoing messages. They didn’t want agents saying the wrong things legally. It was useful, but not perfect.  Language translations and idioms in cultures make this more difficult. And as many in the AI industry now fear, we are building bias into all AI systems. AI may help and I expect application will surface, but it’s not the silver bullet to the problem. We can probably prevent George Carlin’s – 7 words from leaking out, but the full content of messages is a huge challenge.

Peter von Stackelberg: It really depends on who is programming the AI systems and whether they can effectively compensate for their own bias.

Leopold Mureithi: Who can you trust to control it? Can be abused. Combine with question 2 above. i. e. self-regulation by a representative body of the private sector, civil society and governments, etc.

Peter King: The concern would be who gets to write the algorithms and to what extent their own biases are included.

Margherita Abe:  A big issue with AI is that it mirrors the world view/beliefs/attitudes of the entities that create/train it…If trained by Facebook, for example, it would reflect FB’s worldview….This may result in a very skewed assessment of content being reviewed rather than an objective assess

Owen Davies: Witness the report several months ago that QAnon members had evaded Facebook’s AI by merely avoiding the term “QAnon” and Facebook’s temporary ban on the word “breast” even when followed by “cancer.” AI will deal effectively with human communication written to avoid obvious trigger words only after it is too late to help with this problem. And, of course, if it worked the social-media companies would never use it.

 
7. How effective would educational institutions play in developing critical thinking? 

 

Milind Chitale:  Overall improvement in the pre-primary and the primary school education to invoke and seed ethics very early in life

Imposing a structured course that is compulsory for all students of tertiary education which will empower them with the tools to seek the truth and separate the chaff from the grains of information is an immediate need of the hour, and must be part of all nations with any form of education policy.

Knowledge is power, and Knowledge is the truth, so any attempt to keep society knowledgeable and ethically bound will be good to solve major issues here.

Hannu Lentinen: Schools should teach checking information and “why and how to doubt information.

Ian Browde:  Is mis/disinformation a topic that should be taught in school, at all levels? Can this be overcome by learning/teaching critical thinking?

Art Murray: I’ve hesitated to respond because I think framing the question in terms of mis/disinformation doesn’t go deep enough.  Instead, I’ve been thinking along the lines of… ”How do we overcome learning apathy?”

Jonathan Kolber: The same kids who are bored and unengaged with industrial education systems will play well-designed video games with full intensity for hours. I submit that the major difference between such kids and those who change the world is that the latter figure out how to bring that intensity to a real-world game, which they are committed to both playing and winning. An educational environment that cultivates student curiosity, purposeful play, risk-taking. and self-directed learning may support this outcome. 
 

Fran Rabuck: Education! Starting at a young age, we should begin to educate students to be critical media consumers. We can start by exposing them to different opinions. Courses in Logic would be most useful at later ages. (A college course in this has proven to be most helpful for me thru the years). Focus on creating independent thinking. Teach the ideas of Critical thinking: analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving. Most learn the Scientific Method – which is just the start. Understand the basic theory and interpretation of probability and statistics. There are several efforts and games available now that are just starting to make their way into the system. More later.

Work to eliminate Bias in education, workplace, government, etc. Not just racial bias – but all bias that we naturally have. At a minimum, we all need to recognize and accept Bias – not necessarily agree.

Xin-Wu Lin: Training the trainers is the first step and very important.

Peter von Stackelberg: Educational institutions could play a significant role in developing critical thinking. The question is whether there is the political will to do so. K-12 schools are doing a very poor job of developing critical thinking. Colleges and universities are doing a slightly better job. However, the focus on STEM curriculum neglects developing critical thinking in students. Many STEM curricula seem to assume that the courses they teach are free of social and political values. The de-emphasis of the arts, humanities and social sciences in the educational system from start to finish contributes significantly to the lack of critical thinking skills in American society. 

Leopold Mureithi: Education is the foundation of character formation.

Peter King: Education is part of the answer, but educational institutions would need to be transformed first.  In addition, everybody would need to adopt a lifelong learning approach as education does not stop at school/university

Margherita Abe:  Of all the possibilities for a change I am most optimistic about education as an effective way to develop critical thinking in its students. This would be a decades-long commitment but an overhaul of the US educational system is long overdue…   

Owen Davies: Again, right-wing fantasists would consider this to be liberal indoctrination. If it were seriously proposed, it would be shouted down. If it were enacted, it would be contradicted at home and would promote the spread of homeschooling. It seems likely as well that most who completed such a course would forget it as quickly as students forget geometry and foreign languages.

 

8. How probable is it that mis/disinformation will sway US Presidential elections in 2024?

 

Xin-Wu lin: The conflict interests between the US and other countries like Mainland China are becoming more critical. Disinformation will from everywhere.

Hannu Lehtinen: In the U.S. presidential election, it is customary to spread false information about candidates. While the candidates are usually equal and the winner takes all the votes of a state, then the current electoral system is sensitive to fake news. – The electoral system should be improved – e.g. by counting only direct votes for the candidate on a US-wide basis. It will probably take years to change the electoral system. The probability of the result turning false due to mis/disinformation is 20% in 2024 and 2028, but 10% in 2032.

Owen Davies: Whatever the source, the social and mass media pick up the most incendiary lies and propagate them as widely as possible. Thus, there seems no practical difference between domestic and foreign mis/disinformation. The same means will be used to combat them, with equal success or failure.

Leopold Mureithi: This is the nature of politics, no?

 

9. How probable is it that mis/disinformation campaigns originating in other countries will change the outcome of US Presidential elections in 2024?

 

Hannu Lehtinen: The US has been warned in the 2016 election. It is unlikely that foreign parties will succeed in changing the outcome of the election in the US for the second time. However, domestic election campaigns can do that

Owen Davies: In 2016, we came as close as possible to having the outcome of a Presidential election changed by mis/disinformation. However, not even the unprecedented efforts of Vladimir Putin and his proxies could get the job done. In the end, putting Donald Trump into the White House still came down to last-moment manipulation by the FBI director, then as trusted a figure as could be found in government.

It can be argued that a year of mis/disinformation prepared the way; without that, even the biased announcement of a renewed probe into the Clinton campaign probably would have failed to sway the election. If others view mis/disinformation as the critical factor, it is a reasonable interpretation.

My own view is shaped by 2020, when Mr. Trump and his allies lacked that final push. Despite a campaign of mis/disinformation, with tactics presumably refined by the experience of 2016, this time including serious efforts by China and Iran, Trump lost. I suspect this sets the pattern for future elections. However, for 2024, the odds against changing the outcome appear no better than 55-45.

They should improve in 2028 and beyond. Although I cannot imagine how, it seems likely that some modestly effective counterweight to mis/disinformation will be developed in the next few years. More significantly, the electorate will include more voters from the internet-native generations, many of whom are used to filtering out the worst of the garbage the net brings them. These factors will make only a small difference in voting, a few percent at best. Yet, even this will be enough to offset any growth in the mass or sophistication of mis/disinformation.

I believe a much greater menace to democracy is the attempt by state legislatures to give themselves authority to overturn elections that don’t go their way. Republican assets on the Supreme Court are likely to ratify these efforts as part of the states’ Constitutional authority to set the “manner” of elections. At that point, mis/disinformation and efforts to defeat them become irrelevant.

I like to believe that the growing influence of the internet-native generations will slowly turn extremist propaganda into one more category of spam. It seems at least as likely that those raised by extremists will, on average, believe that the ways of their fathers are the ways of the gods, offsetting any potential benefit from generational change.

 

10. Considering all of the above, how serious generally is the Mis/DisInformation problem likely to be in 2030?  

Leopold Mureithi: History repeats itself. 

Peter King: It can only get worse

Margherita Abe: Even if efforts are made to change the current situation these efforts are likely to require time (more than a decade) to bear fruit

Craig Boice: Disinformation will be more serious than it is now, because messing with human perception will continue to become easier and cheaper, and we are unlikely to impose more serious criminal consequences on those who do so. We are in a phase of legalizing drugs, not restricting them. Other belief systems will continue to attack us because they can, and because we’re attacking them. In the past few decades, we have revealed to the world that as a nation, Americans can be deceived rather easily, and there are no consequences for doing so.

Many great religions and cultures find deception to be among the worst evils. The first step for us would be to recognize that wisdom. We could condemn and prosecute those who do not respect the truth: not those who have well-reasoned opinions different from our own, but rather those who deliberately lie and mislead, and those who deliberately manipulate or distort the search for truth. Today, our laws are much harsher on criminals who attempt to harm our bodies than those who attempt to harm our minds.

Margherita Abe: Even if efforts are made to change the current situation these efforts are likely to require time (more than a decade) to bear fruit

Craig Boice: Disinformation will be more serious than it is now, because messing with human perception will continue to become easier and cheaper, and we are unlikely to impose more serious criminal consequences on those who do so. We are in a phase of legalizing drugs, not restricting them. Other belief systems will continue to attack us because they can and because we’re attacking them. In the past few decades, we have revealed to the world that as a nation, Americans can be deceived rather easily, and there are no consequences for doing so.

Many great religions and cultures find deception to be among the worst evils. The first step for us would be to recognize that wisdom. We could condemn and prosecute those who do not respect the truth: not those who have well-reasoned opinions different from our own, but rather those who deliberately lie and mislead, and those who deliberately manipulate or distort the search for truth. Today, our laws are much harsher on criminals who attempt to harm our bodies than those who attempt to harm our minds.

Fran Rabuck: Much of the future direction for the US and the world depends on Government and Education systems. Hopefully, we’ll see more open opinions and better-educated consumers/students over the next 10 years. Going back to my comment on DRIP – I think the future will supply us with more Data than we can realistically consume – and we’ll just decide who/where to get our information based on our personal Bias.”

 

11. What other solutions are possible?

Leopold Mureithi: Code of conduct mutually enforceable.

Yair Sharan: Defining disinformation as a crime with significant punishments.

Aharon Hauptman: Teaching media literacy from kindergarten. Using social media “influencers” to promote awareness and recommend reliable sources. Establishing “self-correcting” mechanisms that combine human & artificial intelligence. (The imitation model is something like Wikipedia, but should be more sophisticated)

Hellmuth Broda: I do not see a straightforward solution to the growing issue that truth is being sacrificed for the dominance and power of a minority. By ignoring facts and building a parallel reality populists and strongmen around the world are trying to toll the death knell to democracy-building oligarchies and kleptocracies in its place. Democracy can only work with an agreed base of facts that voters agree on. Discussions and different opinions must center on options for policies and not on different facts and “realities.”

Xin-Wu Lin: Should encourage more NGOs from different domains for assisting to clarify and report the truth of information. Those NGOs could apply “Civic Tech”, for encouraging or incentivizing people from different domains to clarify information voluntarily. The public could label some NGOs are trustable. NGOs should have good governance, at least with a transparent process.   To prevent or early detect Mis/DisInformation won’t just count on Federal and media companies, civil participation and engagement will be a big help. However, they need easier use of tech and incentives for doing that.

Chris Garlick: Civil and Criminal penalties should be considered for those who pass misinformation or misrepresent events

Hannu Lehtinen: Search engines sort out low-quality information – Google has started this. All media check their pieces of news in advance and (at first) automatically by checking the sources and the quality of the sources.

Ian Bowde: Form a privately and publicly (nonpartisan) funded consortium chaired by a Board of diverse representatives against mis/disinformation with representatives of the top 500 companies as well as representatives from educational institutions, small and medium-sized businesses, nonprofits, community organizations to create a strategy for minimizing mis/disinformation in American society, turn it into an online easily accessible forum and share it with the rest of the world.

Peter von Stackelberg: First, I think there needs to be a range of solutions. The misinformation/disinformation we are grappling with are symptoms of deep systemic problems coupled with the rapid pace of change with information and computing technology. Addressing these problems effectively will require systemic solutions.

Dennis Bushnell: A govt. supplied AI capability where folks could send stuff for a believable evaluation.

Carlo Schell: A strong rule of law that promotes an inflexible and universal education based on ethics of the truth.

Leopold Mureithi: Moral rearmament: Thou shalt not lie; The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Again, a long haul in civic education and mutual fairness. 

Peter King: A constant campaign to name and shame purveyors of disinformation – taking every opportunity to call them out and show who is calling the shots behind the scene.

Craig Boice: The only solution, as philosophers have long recognized, is the development of citizenry who (1) believe there is truth and respect it, (2) reason well, (3) recognize and respect evidence, (4) remain open to new reasoning and evidence, (4) link judgments to values, and (5) dialogue with one another effectively. Unless individuals learn to use their minds, trust never expands beyond the group, and the group rarely learns.

Owen Davies: Three approaches occur to me. Two are tangential and simplistic to a degree that makes them automatically suspect. Neither would have many benefits by 2024, nor by 2028. The third is a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that would be of limited effectiveness and could incur retaliation the US to date has been unwilling to face. I very much hope someone else will suggest something better.

One is to restore the civics classes that were standard fare in grammar school six or seven decades ago. They taught not only the basics of government but that citizenship brings more than rights. It brings responsibilities to the community that are not captured in the phrase “blood of tyrants.” That last is a lesson too much of the population seems to have forgotten. Call it two generations to make such a scheme work, assuming it could. Raising and training teachers who truly believe such classes are essential would be a long process.

Second, attack the worst of the extremists. Treat the militias and their political kin as the FBI once treated organized crime. Investigate vigorously. Prosecute energetically on any charge that presents itself–illegal weapons, incitement of violence, armed confrontations like the Bundy standoff of 2014, or whatever. Seek the maximum sentences possible. Convince those who are open to the message that extremism is an unattractive aberration. Convince the rest to keep their heads down. No event will supply a better opportunity to apply this approach than the insurrection of January 6. Position it as getting tough on crime.

The third is to identify and block foreign sources of disinformation. This effort would be essentially identical to any anti-hacking program but on a much larger scale. It is one place where AI might be helpful. This would be an expensive long-term program, and it would invite retaliation from the source countries, much as an all-out effort to stop Chinese cyber-espionage would. However, I rate this problem more serious than Chinese hacking because it strikes directly at the foundations of American democracy. Accept that, and the price becomes worth paying.

Clayton Rawling  I would suggest criminal penalties for clear misinformation that causes serious harm to individuals or businesses. Freedom of speech is not license to use speech as a weapon or strategy to destroy when saying things that are verifiably not true. Civil penalties and private lawsuits are ineffective because lawyers (me) will not sue and obtain judgments against indigent bad actors because they are uncollectible and it amounts to a pyrrhic victory at best. While this gives the state a very serious hammer in the commons of discourse, we presently have really nasty people ruining lives with immunity. I do not see any good options but the present status quo is untenable as this escalates.

Dr. Peter Bishop has a project called “Teach the Future” where he is trying to get a foresight curriculum into the high schools to teach critical thinking to our young people. I think AI, if used appropriately, could go a long way to exposing what is going on. 
 
We are clearly a world civilization in transition, which creates a lot of fear in many people. The lunatic fringe can connect with others and using powerful communication tools can create a lot of destruction. The easiest example is Covid 19 death numbers. A plague that should have killed less than 100,000 people in the USA now totals 650,000 dead. Another example is QAnon where there are people who claim that liberal democrats have sex with infants and then eat them. Suing a belligerent nut job with no assets or income will do nothing to stem the tide of this onslaught against the age of reason. Without true accountability, we will soon be drowning in this. Each year it becomes more oppressive. How do we get quality people into government when they know that service comes with death threats and constant slander as a part of your public life? Death threats are clearly against the law but law enforcement is slow to act unless it is the most egregious. We need the law enforced against these people. They are actual criminals, plain and simple, yet most act without consequences. For some reason, we have allowed our metaverse to become lawless.
 
Back in the 60’s Big Tobacco declared war on science and claimed there was no link between smoking and lung cancer. They got away with it for several decades until the state attorney generals threatened them with criminal prosecution for fraud. The lung cancer deaths were over 400,000 per year before the government acted. The following tobacco litigation, by state governments, then forced Big Tobacco to repay all the Medicaid cancer treatment costs born by the states for their activity. 
 
Big Oil ripped a page from the Big Tobacco playbook and went to war on science to deny global warming, to allow for unrestrained burning of hydrocarbon. It has spilled over into anti-vaxxers and conspiracy lunatics claiming Bill Gates put a chip in the vaccine to track them. This unethical and irresponsible behavior is not without consequences. Private lawsuits could not combat Big Tobacco and are now unable to combat Big Oil. It will require the state to intervene if we have any hope to reverse the damage. I do not view big government as benign. The alternative is to leave us exposed to the mob. As I said, I see no real good options at the moment.

 

General Comments

Ian Browde

My sense is that the platform company business model is the problem. Here is my rationale.

Section 230 is being used by platform companies like Facebook, Twitter, etc., to evade responsibility for curation and editing information. Consequently, we find ourselves plagued by claims of 1st Amendment support for any idea, thought or opinion, whether or not supported by any evidence, advanced by people with an ax to grind, an ideology to push or a belief system to maintain. When these ideas are either promulgated by elected officials or famous people, they tend to carry more weight than they would typically, and there is little the public can do to mitigate their effect.

Companies that are supported by advertising could and should be regulated like advertising companies. Facebook, Google, Twitter, et al fall into this category for the most part. Others that push ideology and/or propaganda (Fox News a lot of the time, CNN some of the time) should be regulated as newspapers or entertainment companies and hence not permitted to use the word “news” in their name.

The key to understanding this whole issue is an understanding of what a platform company is. It is a 3-legged stool of technology (the infrastructure), data (knowledge about users, subscribers and their likes and dislikes, etc) and community (where folks feel they belong and resemble others in the same group). The key to a platform company’s success is the “network effect” i.e., people generating buzz and telling others about it. Going viral is the most obvious example of the network effect. In order to keep people engaged and enhance the network effect, content needs to be more and more edgy, more and more titillating, more and more outrageous. Until we understand that the business model is the problem things will only get worse.

Mis/disinformation in society is a ‘wicked’ problem. In other words, it is a social and/or cultural problem that is so difficult, impossible even, to solve that it requires investigation and addressing in a complex way.  Some of the reasons for its ‘wickedness’ are incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the background context of uncertainty and fear, the prevalence of demagoguery (this might be a result of the problem, not the cause too), the large economic burden or opportunity, and the interconnected nature of the wicked problem with other problems.

So other questions might be:

  1. Is mis/disinformation a topic that should be taught in school, at all levels?
  2. Can this be overcome by learning/teaching critical thinking?
  3. Is there such a thing as “accurate information?”
  4. Are there certain facts that are uncontestable, for example, the earth revolves around the sun? If so, should teaching/communicating other possibilities be banned?
  5. Can we address the challenge by certifying sources of information more accurately? For example, sources of propaganda, while ok under the 1st Amendment, should not be labeled “news organizations,” “news people” and so on much like fiction is not non-fiction.
  6. What is the difference between a fact and an opinion?
  7. What is evidence of mis/disinformation and what types of evidence are trustworthy?
  8. Is the phase (in the USA especially) we are going through of mis/disinformation really a transition from democracy to autocracy and the way that occurs is for people to develop consensus around an alternative reality?
  1. Is the disease we are identifying, mis/disinformation, the precursor to a world where people are not trusted and AI (artificial intelligence) is? 

NOTE – BJ Fogg at Stanford warned against computers as persuasive technology many years ago. Are certain societies more or less prone to mis/disinformation than others and can we learn from them?

 

Peter King

There have always been snake oil sellers but now they have the communication means to reach millions anonymously.  I think your questions may elucidate the answer but if not, an additional question may be: “What is the most significant fundamental reason, or reasons, why mis/disinformation is influential, persuasive or effective?” 

The disinformation situation has become so bad in Thailand that they have had to create a new Anti-Fake News Agency. There is massive concern however that cracking down on “disinformation” that may actually be true but shows the government in a bad light, is akin to State censorship. One area where disinformation is rife is in the “comments” section of online newspapers like the Bangkok Post, where trolls cut and paste the same anti-vaccination nonsense every day and evade the censor by changing their avatar every few hours.

More than 25 celebrities and influencers are being investigated for insulting the government over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) commissioner Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai said “Under the Computer Crime Act, offenses, such as putting false information into a computer system, which causes damage to people, carry a fine of no more than 100,000 baht and/or a jail term of no more than five years. Bangkok Post today.”

The Government has threatened to invoke Article 9 of the Emergency Decree, which was enforced on July 15. According to the decree, strict action will be taken against people spreading false information or fake news to cause fear or shake the state’s stability. However, the media organizations pointed out that this announcement aims to limit the freedom and rights of people and the press. Also, it said, branding reports as “fake news” is only an excuse for the authorities and is calling on those in the press to demand the Government stop using this excuse to control the public. The Nation today.

The Thai Government is even going further with its crackdown on “fake news”.  It is intensifying a ‘fake news’ crackdown despite outcry from media, netizens, shrugging off complaints by Thai media organizations and netizens of an ongoing state crackdown on free expression. 

So, a key question, in my mind, is where is the dividing line between disinformation and factual information that makes the government, a company, or an individual look bad? Where are the independent fact-checkers or should that be a public peer review process like Wikipedia? How can fact-checking be made fast enough to head off the disinformation before it has done the damage and gone viral on social media? How can we ensure that anyone posting information online (true or not) can ultimately be traced by law enforcement agencies using some form of digital fingerprint? Under what circumstances should law enforcement agencies be allowed to track down and close purveyors of disinformation?

The EU approach may be worthwhile referring to in the next round: Online disinformation | Shaping Europe’s digital future. The Commission is tackling the spread of online disinformation and misinformation to ensure the protection of European values and democratic systems.

 

John Meagher

These are excellent questions.
I think your questions may elucidate the answer but if not, an additional question may be: “What is the most significant fundamental reason, or reasons, why mis/disinformation is influential, persuasive or effective?”
Mis/Disinformation been a problem with long historical roots in many societies, past and present.

 

Carlos Scheel Mayenberger

The theme of fake news and disinformation is quite complex and impossible to clarify if the population does not have a solid “values and believing structure.” I think is not a problem of the source but of the receptor. A person who is well-informed and educated will detect immediately that the news …the earth is flat…is not correct, no matter the source, or at least may give any well-informed argument against it. Although the informant believes 100% the truth of this sentence… but who knows what is the purpose to inform this? 

So I think, this theme is so complex because it goes directly to the “believing system” of each individual. And on the intention of the news ….not on the news itself. And to be able to separate the true from the false is not a matter of the description of the news or the statistics but on the “intention behind it.

 

Peter von Stackelberg

While misinformation and disinformation are bad. I think we need to look deeper.

One of the ironic aspects of the Information Age is that we have massive amounts of accurate information available to us almost instantaneously, yet our ability (or our willingness) to use that information seems extremely limited. In the classroom, I see on a daily basis how a generation of students who have access to more information than I could have dreamt of when I was their age, are simply ignorant. It’s not that these students are stupid or unintelligent. In fact, it is quite the opposite. However, many of them have tuned out and checked out.

It’s not just students and the current generation of young people. I am continually baffled by the overall ignorance present in American society. The biggest problem, from my perspective, is not that many people are misinformed or “disinformed”, they are uninformed. I don’t think this ignorance is uniquely American, but it is painfully clear that a significant portion of Americans revels in their ignorance, wearing it proudly and publicly. 

Many American institutions, including the educational system and churches, either fail to teach critical thinking skills or actively discourage it. For all of America’s talk of liberty, I think there is a deep, wide authoritarian streak in our society that finds critical thinking a threat. For more than a century, educational institutions have been focused on the transmission of information for application to industrial production. Critical thinking, particularly at the primary and secondary levels of the educational system, has not been seen as particularly important. In fact, I think it has often been seen as a pain in the butt to have students engage in independent critical thinking. 

I think some important questions that need to be asked are:

  • What role should state-run educational institutions play in developing critical thinking?
  • What role should private institutions (educational, church, and others) play?
  • What is the role of the news media, social media, and popular media in developing critical thinking among their audiences/users?
  • How can our society bring about a rapid change in the level of critical thinking? Can it be done in a relatively short time or will it take a generation or two to instill critical thinking into a majority of the population?
  • Is there a political will to ensure people are able to think critically, particularly when that leads to disagreement with prevailing social beliefs and values? (NOTE: We see a sustained campaign on the right to eliminate critical thinking from the educational curriculum. In my opinion, the ultra-left is also not a big fan of critical thinking and independent thought.)

I think it is really important to go beyond the issue of misinformation, disinformation, deep fakes, and so on as they are only the surface layer of the problem. Perhaps questions to ask are:

  • How can society deal with a glut of information? 
  • Is too much information — whether it is true, false, or somewhere in-between — part of the problem?
  • If so, how do we fix that in a democratic society?
  • How did social media become part of the problem? 
  • Are the news and popular media also part of the problem?
  • With technology enabling ever more realistic audio, video, and virtual experiences, how do we deal with real vs. fake?
  • What do we actually mean by “fake”? Is fiction fake? Is artwork developed with the assistance of AI fake?

So starts my list of questions I think are important when taking a deep look at information, misinformation, and disinformation.

 

Salvatore Fiorillo

How much does our (… put here any name like deep state, social media companies) needs entropy in information? I was in Dubai in the last five years and I could feel I was under an information umbrella, but not with entropy at all. Of course, that one is a monarchy and we all understand why there is not entropy there: but for the western democratic world is information chaos going to be a management tool?

 

Dennis Bushnell

Much requires folks’ interest in trying to learn whether is correct or not, much depends upon “information control”, much concerns beliefs and personal motivations.

My learnings from renewable energy and much else is that a prime motivator is PROFIT, folks will check into things that they could obtain a profit from, or could lose money on….other issues are the educational level and interests of the reader etc., many believe what they want to believe,  then there is the herd mentality. As you unpack this issue it gets really complex and really deep very rapidly. Propaganda warfare is  ancient, and now with the IT age a very rapidly developing art. My previous post stated what I thought we could do about it in a democracy with freedom of speech etc. that might be acceptable to many.

 

Jerry Glenn

Thousands if not millions of infowar stuff is already doing damage by the time it is identified and shown to be false. Improved identification is just treading water and the long-term consequence of treading water is drowning. We have to get ahead of the problem and intervene.Here is a 6-minute edited video one anticipation/intervention approach from an hour talk for the South Korean Chosen Newspaper’s centennial 

Use info warfare-related data to develop an AI model to predict future actions; identify characteristics needed to counter/prevent them; match social media uses with those characteristics and invite their actions, feed results back into the data bank to continually improve the model. Here are some more drawn from the Global Futures Intelligence System; each of these alone will not solve the problem, but together will have impact:

  1. Internet platforms should create automatic prompts when a user is about to forward information that is from known source disinformation.
  2. AI systems are improving that will identify and trace deep fakes.
  3. Notify people when they forward proven disinformation about the originates from foreign toll farms; people should know when they are unwitting agents of information warfare.
  4. Explore how information systems could build in resilience features, and honey pots to waste info attacks
  5. Create a “cognitive immune system” for the individual and community.
  6. Expose, isolate, public shaming, deny visas, countervailing trade duties
  7. Make “pursuit of truth” fashionable, popular, cool, a road to success, a motto of schools of journalism
  8. Consider issuing “Letters of Marque to non-government actors to counter information warfare and cyber warfare.
  9. Foster ethics for online systems to clarify issues, show a range of positions on the issues and allow for pro and con arguments on the positions.
  10. Remove financial incentives in social media.
  11. Use a Risk Rating system with index based on content, operations, and context of publishers who spread disinformation based on:
  12. Metadata and computational signals of news domains with an AI program
  13. Blind review rating system of news sources based on credibility, sensationalism, hate speech, and impartiality.
  14. Analysis of how the site’s policies, standards, and rules abide by the Journalism Trust Initiative.
  15. Analysis of the practices, reliability, and trustworthiness of a site through an independent expert survey.

According to the National Defense University, a few elements that can be used to identify and deter threats are:

  1. A threat to something of value that exceeds the perceived gain of non-compliance.
  2. A clear statement of the behavior to be avoided or performed.
  3. Clear and unambiguous communication of the threat and the desired or proscribed behavior to the target.
  4. Credible threat, meaning that the actor is perceived by the target to have the will and capability to execute the threat.
  5. Situational constraints make it impossible for the target to avoid punishment.
  6. Controllability of the threat and its implications by the actor.

Tom Abeles

A lot of the responsibility is for the reader to have good screening tools. The problem is in those screening tools which could be developed with a “personal” AI/ML engine. Lacking such, most people use their limited time and capabilities by using trusted “others” as a screening mechanism. But all of these have multiple dimensions. For example, there is a large community that “believe” QAnon, Trumpers, etc as truth-tellers whereas most of those on this list use other “screeners” to filter the far-right materials out. 

 

Margherita Abe

Apart from leaving the onus on the reader or viewer of the “news”, maybe we should consider having social media organizations (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc) assume liability for what they post.  Another version of this would be to consider these organizations to be utility companies and thus subject to the same rules that other utilities must follow….government oversight.

 

Young-Jin Choi

I suppose astute observers of our time are likely to conclude that we have entered a “dark information age” which has led to a dysfunctional public sphere and a further weakening of our already weak democratic institutions. Who would have thought at the beginning of the internet, that with all the world’s knowledge available at our fingertips, so many people could become even less well informed? This epistemic crisis is tragically coinciding with a truly dangerous period for the future of the human species and the possibility of continued human progress:

1) the risk of a possibly civilization-ending climate catastrophe (which may play out over centuries/millennia but might bring human societies to a breaking point already within the next couple of decades)

2) another possibly civilization-ending risk of geopolitical nuclear conflicts over increasingly scarce resources driven by rising temperatures.

Such a grave emergency would normally require the best of what our institutions can offer in terms of collective foresight, scientific rationality, ability to cooperate, wisdom and empathy.  But they were never designed to prevent or resist the assault on science by fossil fuel-funded think tanks, political operatives, or private bloggers.

I’m afraid that the problem is bigger than that it could be solved by AI or social media regulation alone – the critical reasoning capabilities and the worldviews of at least a critical mass of those who are currently misinformed need to be elevated by a public awareness/education campaign. 

In order to reduce the spread of conspiracy theories (misinformation), the authors of the conspiracy theory handbook suggest four communication strategies addressing the general public:

  1. Preventing/slowing down the spreading of conspiracy theories (e.g. by encouraging people to ask themselves four simple questions before sharing a post: Do I recognize the news organization that posted the story? Does the information in the post seem believable? Is the post written in a style that I expect from a professional news organization? Is the post politically motivated?),
  2. Preventively “inoculating” the public against the techniques of science denial (”prebunking”) by creating awareness about the risk of misinformation (see John Cook
  3. Debunking conspiracy theories by refuting weak pieces of evidence, and by exposing unjustified/unreasonable beliefs as well as logical/factual incoherences (e.g. through fact-checking, source analysis etc)
  4. Cognitively empowering people to think more rationally rather than relying on their intuition. This strategy requires more substantial interventions in terms of education and culture, which are examined in subsequent sections.

(https://yj-choi.medium.com/how-to-tell-the-difference-between-a-conspiracy-theory-and-a-theory-about-a-conspiracy-d89193ebab0)

The currently widespread lack of emergency awareness among many political leaders and older generations (many of whom seem to be stuck in the worldview of the 1990s) is explained by this terrific interview with Lee McIntyre.

“3:16:  Linked to this is the hot topic of post-truth. What is post-truth and why is it so horrendous? Is it a version of bullshit? It’s often linked with right-wing fascist and populist agendas but it seems to have many familiar traits associated with left-wing positions too – Derrida and the constructivists and cultural relativists and identity politics etc – do you think there is a lefty zeitgeist informing this stuff as much as a right-leaning one? It seems left populism is just as adept at using this tactic as the right populists. 

LM: In my 2018 book Post-Truth, I define this concept as the “political subordination of reality.” It is horrendous because it is in some ways the exact opposite of science. It’s deciding in advance what you want to be true, and then trying to bend the public to your side. But it is not a version of bullshit. If you read Harry Frankfurt, he quite clearly says that people who engage in bullshit do not care about truth. Well, post-truthers care a LOT about truth, because they are trying to control the narrative about what’s true and what’s not. A lot of them are authoritarians or their wannabes, who understand that the best way to control a population is to control the information they get. Historian Timothy Snyder said it best: “post-truth is pre-fascism.”

Now it’s a contentious question where post-truth comes from, but I think there are several roots. The main one is from science denial. Seventy years of awesome success by those who wished to deny the truth about evolution, climate change, etc., did not go unnoticed by political operatives. One day they said, “Hey, if you can lie about scientific facts, you can lie about anything.” Like maybe the outcome of an election? And yes, I think that one of the other roots is post-modernism, which is largely left-wing. Now they didn’t intend it. They were playing around with the idea that there was no such thing as objective truth, and that perhaps this meant that anyone making an assertion of truth was merely making a power grab. That all sounds fine when you’re in the university doing literary criticism, but at a certain point these ideas began to create the “science wars,” where humanists began to attack the idea of scientific truth. And from there, it leaked out even further and fell into the hands of right-wing political operatives. They picked up a weapon that had been left on the battlefield and began to use it against some of the same people who had invented it. Post-modernists get irritated with me sometimes for “blaming” them for the Trumpian attack on reality, but all I’m really saying is that even if their intentions were good, they caused some damage. George Orwell said it best: “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.” 

“3:16: And why do you think we’re in the dark ages about human behaviour and we should do something about it?

LM: One of my earlier books is called Dark Ages: The Case For A Science of Human Behaviour. In it, I argue that political ideology is doing to social science what religious ideology did to natural science about the time of Galileo. I am against any kind of ideological interference in scientific reasoning. To me, “dark age” thinking is emblematic of the type of mind that wants an answer — that wants certainty at all costs — and damn when the evidence tells you you’re wrong. To me, that’s the mark of an incurious mind. Scientists may make mistakes sometimes, but I think their hearts are in the right place. But do you want to know something sad? I wrote Dark Ages with the idea that natural science was pretty solid, and we should build on that to come up with a better way to study and explain human behavior. Then, while that book was making the rounds, science denial started to heat up and suddenly people were attacking the results of natural science! To defend that I wrote another book Respecting Truth, in which I took on evolution deniers and climate change deniers, and tried to highlight the stupidity of their attacks. Couldn’t they see that they weren’t reasoning scientifically? Well, then you know what happened. Things got worse from there. All of that unchecked science denial eventually metastasized into “post-truth”….into reality denial….under Trump. So my career has been marked by me wanting to defend science and extend it, and the world keeps pulling the rug out from under me and attacking science even where it is working. It’s pretty depressing actually. I sometimes wonder if I’m making any difference, yet I can’t give up the fight. When I was a kid and read that World Book Encyclopedia I used to mourn that I was born too late. All of the great ideas had already been discovered. Who was attacking science and reason now? All of the ideologues were dead. Boy was I wrong.” 

 

Milind Chitale

Mis and Disinformation are very powerful tools of the evil mind as explained below:

Most people today rely on information found on the internet and social media to make decisions and form ideas of what exactly is happening around them.

Depending on their level of education, awareness of real-life and real things, they can be swung to any point on the scale of complete lies to the absolute truth using the media they consume. Print media itself is also completely deregulated in many ways and has to pander to the sponsors who may want to seed print items with half-truths, blatant lies of even the truth itself in some cases.

When people follow these packets of information, they can be swayed any which way, as described in the paragraph above.

This makes understanding the truth very deeply connected to the source of information and with the cacophony of available sources, people find it very difficult to discern the sources that are generally truthful from those that are not.

As seen in using a common code of ethics in multi-national corporations operating around the globe, depending on the society, the levels of ethics, morals, standards, judgment and many things that affect one’s judgment are very skewed. So an internal panel that self-regulates the media may sound good to an audience on a matter in a certain locale, but that very point may be completely at odds with people in another locale. Examples of points that have variable sensitivity: Obscenity, blasphemy, religion, cultural aspersions ( clothing, style, methods, fashion sense, etc), Humour ( Australian vs British vs African vs India, etc),

Scientific discourse itself is open to debate in spite of being a rigorous and highly structured field of knowledge. Even today people have to debate whether climate change is a real thing or is actually a natural cycle of events spanning thousands of years and is actually on of earth’s natural cycles.

There have always been a group of people entrusted to deliver the verdict on various facets of truth like justice, societal rules, social equality, etc since the dawn of civilization. However, equally true is the fact that these entrusted dominions also do falter and deliver improper outcomes to the very society they seek to protect.

To put things back in perspective, this is still a necessary facet of society to keep a ring of reality, authenticity, and balance, in having wise people appointed to such circles.

In the hands of a worthy government is a very wise thing to do. But in the hands of Autocratic and off-centre government (either far right or far left) is a very bad thing to do. But the problem is that these governments themselves can appoint a committee on their own anyway, making the discussion kind of lop-sided

What should be done is to include a panel of citizens from a large range of professions and sectors along with government officials together with equal voice and authority to come out with a unified/unanimous regulation of media.

The problem has always been the appointments and how they can be twisted in favour of the governments.

My view on this is that even if it is not going to be very accurate, it still needs to be done as without this, people speaking a thousand lies can begin to drown out one truth after another and slowly change the entire landscape of reality.

Having strong leadership at the national level always helps, as good leaders are normally very well developed in establishing the sense of right and wrong at the outset in the top line of command, this helps trickle down to the common man, the establishment of truths and righteousness.

But a strong leadership with a bent vision will be equally hurtful in this endeavor.

AI has become a dangerous tool. As we have seen Deepfake videos that completely take real people and put words and phrases into their mouths in the most believable videos ever even though we know they are fake.

When AI  can create its own video games, and characters and change the complete sense of the character and what he is trying to achieve by hook or by crook, this affects kids and enthusiasts very deeply and these kids will eventually be the citizens of tomorrow with their skewed societal values and ethics. Many youngsters die for virtual gaming by giving up food and drinks for extended periods of time. This shows the extent to which gaming can be tweaked to change their reality.

Overall improvement in the pre-primary and primary school education to invoke and seed ethics very early in life.

“Appreciating that people are different all around us, and that is ok”- a programme similar to many multinational organisations to harness the spirit of oneness in a diverse population of race, regions, religion, society, etc is the need of the hour to reduce the pressure on communities in trying to outwit, fool and edge out the others by foul means gets reduced greatly.

Imposing a structured course that is compulsory for all students of tertiary education which will empower them with the tools to seek the truth and separate the chaff from the grains of information is an immediate need of the hour, and must be part of all nations with any form of education policy.

Knowledge is power, and Knowledge is the truth, so any attempt to keep society knowledgeable and ethically bound will be good to solve major issues here.

Countries that are trying to fudge each other’s social media to gain cheap military, economic and other gains have to be knocked down several notches for establishing a world order based on truthfulness.

Eliminate the free flow of funds to media is an issue that is urgently worth pursuing just like the blocking of funds to terrorism and its activities. Free flow of funding eventually tips the balance of the media to become biased towards the fund sources which are also the sources of the falsehoods.

 

Hannu Lehtinen

I think one- or two-party systems easily start to spread false information. A one-party system has control over information (the Internet) and the two-party system accepts and disseminates two sets of information because each party disseminates its own information to its supporters.

The open internet allows us to check information. We already do a lot with smartphones as we search for information about services and new concepts and devices. We are used to biased information in marketing.

The UN should defend the open flow of information more effectively.

Schools should teach checking information and “why and how to doubt information”.

Artificial intelligence will certainly be used to verify the information. It will become a competitive factor in the media industry. We don’t have time and we don’t want to read or listen to bad information.

 

Art Murray

I’ve hesitated to respond because I think framing the question in terms of mis/disinformation doesn’t go deep enough.

Instead, I’ve been thinking along the lines of… ”How do we overcome learning apathy?”

There’s a growing body of work in this area, and I’ve personally experienced it many times standing in front of a classroom (and less, by the way, when I got off the stage and sat right in the middle of the classroom, among the students).

Students absolutely hate, and are bored to death with, today’s mainstream approach of rote, industrial-age-based “education.”

Yet when we’ve tried to introduce new approaches, such as deep learning (the human, not the machine, variety) students resist because it requires them to think on their own.

Anyway, it should come as no surprise that this growing student apathy toward learning carries over into adult life.

Students keep asking: “what do I need to do in order to get a passing grade?” – for the exam, paper, course, whatever…

So it’s no surprise that when they become adults, they want instant answers to questions (for whom do I vote, what stocks should I buy, when should I retire, etc., etc., etc.) that would normally demand thinking, research and learning, rather than a “one-click” answer at the top of the search results.

If people had a true hunger for learning and seeking the truth, the matter of mis/disinformation would not be anything close to the problem it is currently…

That hunger for learning is inherent, and in many cases, lying dormant.

The question is, how do we awaken it?

Mark Sevening

How data is framed is something that has been troubling me.  Even the news outlets are biased.  CNN is left-leaning, while Fox News is right-leaning.  The rest fall somewhere in between.  What troubles me most is that a highly educated society like what we have now at times refuses to acknowledge facts and rely on opinions and editorials instead.  Those editorials show one point of view and may not present all the facts. 

There is also a troubling trend for an ‘informed’ consumer to choose which articles to read, which mostly reinforces their pre-existing views, going as far as rejecting anything that contradicts their beliefs. 

I will give this more thought and post soon.  Good thought exercise, by the way.

Jonathan Kolber

I believe that redesigning the educational system to encourage exploration of what people care about, rather than a fixed one size fits all agenda, will elicit a curious and questioning mindset. 

In researching my book, A Celebration Society,  our most startling finding was that superstars in all fields examined– including business,  sport,  invention, science and arts– characterize their engagement with their fields not as work but as the playing of games. 
 
Most of us can’t imagine playing that hard, so we view what they do as work. They don’t. 
 
The same kids who are bored and unengaged with industrial education systems will play well-designed video games with full intensity for hours. I submit that the major difference between such kids and those who change the world is that the latter figure out how to bring that intensity to a real-world game, which they are committed to both playing and winning. 
 
An educational environment that cultivates student curiosity, purposeful play, risk-taking. and self-directed learning may support this outcome. 
 
This is not only my view but that of Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator; the world’s most successful startup incubation system.
 
To those who fear such a system will deprive kids of basic, necessary skills, I invite examination of the Finnish national educational system’s outcomes, which are in this direction and world-class. Likewise, the unschooling, movement,  now over 60 years old and in many countries, have data. 

 

Michael Mainelli

Enjoying this thread.  A bit of a gimmick against some deep thinking here, but on cyber-security and financial literacy I’ve been pushing for more gaming as well, but in earnest.  As an example, try to spot real cyber fraud or financial offers that are “too good to be true”.

I often point to an analog study, the Pacific Northwest Tree Climbing Octopus. 

 

Steven Hausman

To quote Prof Feynman: “The problem is not people being uneducated. The problem is that people are educated just enough to believe what they have been taught, and not educated enough to question anything from what they have been taught.”

 

Fran Rabuck

This is a great topic, although not sure what you are trying to “predict” for the future. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in this area of “information” – both in data and “facts”. In my math and statistics training – I learned more about how/why/proper application of data – than the mechanics of stats itself. I’ve added some quick comments below – but under separate other msg threads, I’ll address some detailed ideas and excellent sources for information on this topic.

Starting [with right-wing problems] seems to have an internal bias/setup. Can you balance this with a left-wing example also? It also seems to base bias on political positioning. I highly recommend that the coverage of this topic NOT become a politically positioned focus.

I also recommend as background on this topic a little history on the speed of information delivery. Hyde/Town Square, Pony Express, telegraph, newspapers, radio, tv, internet, social media and the next generation of groupware (private chat sites, metaverse worlds, closed communities, etc.) Move from broadcasting to narrowcasting of information.

Also when I talk about data analytics/AI – I usually start with the idea from “In Search of Excellence” – We are Data Rich and Information Poor (sometimes just abbreviated to DRIP)

“fact” or information is interpreted by the individual and guided by his/her internal Bias. We all have Bias – and this difference is what makes the collective opinions on information so important. 
 
There are several movies that show an event from different perspectives. It’s fascinating to see the story unravel and see how each individual is right – from their viewpoint. Here’s a list of some:
 
Everything we experience creates an inner belief system and influences almost everything we do. It’s very difficult to be totally objective. 
 
Most attention recently has been on race and political bias. But there are many more bias systems that are generally recognized.
Here are a few and a discussion on the topic:
 
I might suggest that we do a survey of the TechCast group and ask for a scaled (1-10) response on where they stand personally on these 14 bias. It might be interesting to discover the bias we have as a group. I’d be glad to create the Google forms survey to publish and analyze.
 
BTW, the above article comes from a related site on Media Bias. They collect newsfeeds and create an unbiased news stream. I’m not judging the validity of this, just noting it. Note also their classification of news sources by bias.
 
Too much emphasis in the political sphere – has focused on just general Left vs Right, along with each party’s collective platform. One might argue that we have 4 “parties” now Extreme Left (Squad), Moderate Dem, Moderate Rep, and “Trump” followers. From my own viewpoint – I do have some Bias – but none of these 4 groups aligns perfectly with my total belief system.  I think I’m not alone for the majority of people in the US (and worldwide). 
 
Dale Deacon
The advent of the internet undeniably changed the Earth’s historical trajectory since it radically disrupted how homo sapiens (the progenitor of the Anthropocene) interacted with the information itself. The flow of information is everything. (See Shannon, Schrödinger and Von Neumann)
 
Importantly, with regards to information flow, since the 90s, more and more people have had access to validation bias
 
Today, we can all justify our suspicions, hence the astronomical rise of conspiracy theories (qanon, UFOs, pizzagate, flat-earthers, chemtrails, infowars, etc.) over the last twenty to thirty years or so. We live in a postmodern soup where everyone feels deeply vindicated in their convictions. 
So what is to be done? I defer to Aguilar’s (genius) PESTLE framework. 
Politically, we’re at the behest of free-market economics. By and large, Hayek crushed Keynes. Economically, monopolies dictate the terms of consumerism. Socially, we wallow in the muck and mire of social media-induced outrage. Technologically, we seek tools and techniques to address our ailments but unfortunately are largely incentivized by survival-of-the-fittest competition. Legally, we’ve tied our waning nation-states to outdated ideologies and lobbyists. And environmentally, we’ve Increasingly become psychologically detached from our ecology for centuries.
 
This is all very Orwellian, I admit, but I am yet hopeful. Our scientific and philosophical endeavors, I think, might produce solutions to the predicaments listed above. How so? 
 
Politically and legally, transparent and traceable blockchain ledgers have the potential to address corruption and graft. Economically, these same tools are already facilitating the greatest transfer of wealth we’ve seen since the colonial era. (Not to mention the industrial and intellectual productivity to be gained through further robotic and cognitive automation). UBI also holds much promise here, if unequivocally proven viable.
Socially, we’ve never had such vigorous cultural debate, fast-tracked by a litany of social media platforms (see the metaverse for the next iteration of this phenomenon). 
 
All of these advancements are made by scientific and philosophical breakthroughs made possible by an ever-increasing ability to access information. (Even misinformation spreads data, albeit with noise)
 
I despair on the ecological front and suspect we’re in a most perilous circumstance. Perhaps there’s an economic shift that may incentivize us away from peril, but it will take a memetic shift (information/misinformation/disinformation) away from the status quo to do so. With progressivism and conservatism apparently (politically) so evenly matched, I am curious as to how radical change might possibly manifest.
 
Either way, dystopia or utopia, we get the future we deserve, not necessarily the one we want.
 

John Freedman

In my experience and assessment, there are two distinct groups of no-vaxxers/conspiracy theorists, with very little overlap. The vast majority are the ‘innocent gullible’ – unable to distinguish between hearsay and evidence. This large, mostly benign ‘vaccine-hesitant group is actively preyed upon by a smaller ‘malignant minority’ of willfully ignorant misinformers/disinformers who exploit gullibility for personal gain. Although the two groups are morally and ethically distinct, In the end, the outcomes are equally dangerous and destructive:  the two groups together – one victim, one predator – are responsible for the prolongation of the pandemic and the massive human suffering incurred. 

The larger group – the gullible masses who are deceived but are not willfully (and thus hopelessly) ignorant – is the one to target. The time to target them is early in the development of cognitive skills and critical thinking abilities. Thus educational institutions are the only sphere where I can garner any hope of addressing the problem long-term in a robust way. 

Part of the pessimism that comes through in the comments from the group is due to the dark fact that the misinformation/disinformation problem is neurobiologically programmed into the human brain by evolution. Our brains are not fundamentally designed to seek truth or distinguish between fact and fiction. They are designed to seek survival and procreation, ends that do not require a search for or appreciation of truth. The Buddha (the world’s first evolutionary neurobiologist, unbeknownst to him) understood this and entreated humans to move beyond their inherent nature and cognition to seek truth and attain freedom from suffering.

We ingenious modern humans have in fact developed a powerful means to seek and identify truth. It’s called science. In its essence, it is simply a mode of cognition that tests falsifiable hypotheses and assesses the preponderance of evidence to identify truth. The essence of all misinformation and disinformation campaigns, including virtually all false conspiracy theories like anti-vax propaganda, is anti-science. Developing the cognitive skills to assess evidence is the only way out of this curse of anti-science that has been amplified by the internet. It is very likely that the actual biophysical neuronal substrate for this is set up in early life, and without it there can be few ‘conversions’ from anti-science zeal to evidence-based rational thinking. To wit, there are precious few COVID deathbed ‘conversions’ of anti-vaxxers – the very few which do occur are considered newsworthy.

Thus my hope rests with humankind overcoming its neurobiological evolutionary constraints, and seeking ‘the better angels of our nature.’  Peaceful non-tribalism and the rejection of anti-science (which are actually related) would be two of those better angels. Education and cognitive skills development are the means to that end. 

 

Ian Browde

This conversation is highly complex and I am inspired by the input and learning a lot. 

An article by Jill Lepore, Mission Impossible compares FB to Standard Oil back in the early 1900s. The Internet (read: the digital world) is more than media, it is a life extension, with young people increasingly becoming digital amphibians. 

Lepore’s article supports a comparison of the earth/physical world polluters – fossil fuel companies, cigarette manufacturers, etc and the digital world polluters – online advertising companies like FB, porno companies, human traffickers and now mis/disinformation distributors.  


Craig Boice

The immediate problem is less about disinformation (which has always been with us) and more about changes in culture and technology that have combined to make disinformation more virulent, particularly in the United States.

Perception, Information, Belief

Since Plato, philosophy (i.e., epistemology) has noted that perception and reality differ. Socrates was executed for providing disinformation to young people.

Perception and the analysis of perception are fundamentally individual and personal. What each of us consciously recognizes as “information” differs. Religious, cultural, and scientific schemes of analyzing perception (i.e., belief systems) can be learned, and lead groups of individuals to become similar. The identity of these groups is often based on their conviction that they (and only they) have the ability to perceive reality as it is. Belief systems can be who we are.

Being Open-Minded Can be Risky 

The United States was founded by distinct, radical groups who elected to live together with one another. American society saw itself as diverse and dynamic, within limits. There was an opportunity for invention. Our society became open-ended. We generally accepted that new information might arise, justifying changes in beliefs.

This occasional tolerance did nothing to limit the consequences of holding misguided beliefs. As Will Rogers noted, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into the most trouble. It’s what you know that ain’t so.” The United States had witch trials, genocide against indigenous people, lynching, and centuries of persecution of others based on skin color, sex, sexual preference, and place of birth. There was a Civil War. The Mormons were expelled from Illinois. Immigration was restricted. Despite all of these tragedies based on bad information and savage beliefs, American culture was still committed to the proposition that today’s information may be tomorrow’s disinformation. Americans believed in progress: information could become true. Innovation could triumph. A belief system could adapt. Our society developed a great appetite for new information and respect for iconoclasts and rugged individualists.

Belief systems are aspirational, and the American belief system had us always learning. “What have you learned since we last met?” Emerson asked. Even today, our open-ended belief system leaves us in a constant tension between what we seem to know, what we learn, and what has changed since we last looked. That tension is immensely healthy and well-aligned with evolution, but it also leaves us vulnerable. So long as we had our bearings (e.g., some form of religion, the pursuit of happiness, Manifest Destiny, fighting fascism, the American Dream, fighting communism), we had a reason to sort out perceptions, and regard information carefully. We were on a mission. But today, our belief system lacks a compass and adapts to the winds rather than the stars. 

Many of us are now “politically correct,” believing that as long as somebody is willing to face the legal consequences, they have a right to personal beliefs, actions based on those beliefs, and advocacy of those beliefs. We might label Chicken Little ignorant or misguided, but not dangerous, or evil. We’d describe that whole sky-is-falling panic as a “difference of opinion.” We’d let the courts sort it out. Furthermore, as the Trump presidency and the pandemic have demonstrated, we’ve taken another step. In many cases, we’ve abandoned standards of verification, because “who’s to say?” It’s so hard to sort out every claim. We would kind of prefer sound reasoning, decisive evidence, and consistent ties to values, but we don’t insist. So we now make little distinction between well-grounded beliefs, and beliefs that have no basis in reality. We substitute the apparent intensity of belief, and whether our online “friends” seem to believe the claim, for verification. 

We had already accepted that reality was dynamic and information changed. We liked “rugged individual” points of view. Then we started thinking that it was only fair to regard any observations as potentially as good as any other, even if they lacked verification. At that point, our belief system is no longer adapting to a dynamic reality but is instead adapting to some version of a media construct. We let it all in, and we weigh the perceptions emotionally. We have lost track of the difference between adapting to reality and living in our group’s fantasies.

Closed-Ended Wasn’t Great, but Closed-Minded is Worse

Meanwhile, the most prominent and authoritative closed-ended belief systems on the planet (e.g., Chinese communism, Islam) have continued to survive as they always have, by reinterpreting novel information within their own frameworks and indoctrinating each new generation of believers. Across the last few decades in the United States, as “education” has become custodial and experiential, and religion has become ceremonial, we have largely abandoned indoctrination. We still recognize that there is a reality that is what it is and will be unforgiving, but only STEM students and ambitious athletes are required to pay attention to it. Everyone else is urged to discover the “best version of themselves” without much guidance about what counts as best.

Now receive a gift from technology: the simple and rapid ability of individuals to establish and nurture ‘like-minded’ groups. No miracles or sacred texts are required, although celebrity texts can assume the role of fatwas. No sophisticated Russian desinformatsiya is required; deception and misdirection can come simply in the form of virtual “friends”. Technology now allows any belief system to reinforce itself through social preference, and the substitution of digital messages for perception. No reflective thinking is required. The belief system has created its own hall of mirrors to reflect messages over and over. Technology’s gift can invigorate a closed-ended belief system. But technology’s gift will be toxic to open-ended belief systems. Rugged individuals have few friends. The open-end is replaced by those mirrored reflections. “Cancel culture” emerges immediately, as a means of screening out discordant voices, including the voice of reality itself. Minds close.

So a belief system without a compass encounters a technical environment where it seems that if we just align ourselves with a herd, we no longer seem to need a compass. In fact, we can obtain herd immunity against new information. The beliefs of other people become our perceptions. Isn’t it remarkable how many different kinds of people seem to be thinking just what I was thinking? We are no longer independent nodes of consciousness and insight. It’s what Socrates meant when he said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We have an open-ended, closed-minded belief system that is technically enabled. So many kinds of diversity, but not diversity in belief. Equity among all those who believe. Inclusion in the belief system is the basis of both recognition and belonging. Our society becomes AI in a distinctive, dangerous sense. 

What Happens Next?

It’s not good. Especially in the United States, where we have developed little resistance to misinformation.

Elsewhere, closed-ended belief systems cope with change and stress through periodic resets, not admitted to be such. These resets are often initiated by a reinterpretation of history, followed by exile, imprisonment, or execution of the misguided. Behavioral economics shows us how cults continue even in the face of complete failure of their initial predictions.

However, our open-ended closed-minded belief system may simply dissolve, as change and stress aren’t recognized. Disinformation may prove to be fatal, a cultural “wasting disease”. The truth is no longer differentiated from illusion. Everything might be true or might be false; it looks like a choice. But in fact, the choice is only to recognize reality, or not, when establishing beliefs. In a contemporary open-ended closed-minded belief system, recognizing reality may take a while, or never happen at all. Society may never get to that option. In the meantime, beliefs become shallow and dispensible. Ephemeral opinions storm through the system as fads. 

Recognizing reality, recalling it, and planning for its consistencies comprise one of humanity’s most powerful skill sets. Disabled by the acceptance of disinformation as indistinguishable from information, these skills atrophy. Life gets a lot harder. Discipline, habit, aspiration seem to have no point. Into that confusion usually rides the leader of a closed-end belief system, who announces that prior perceptions have been flawed. Lost souls flock to the peculiarly compelling message. Citizens in practical difficulties sign up for what seems like a promising path. When gods and their ceremonies multiply, but ills continue, it’s time for a new pantheon.

Many of us have come to believe in climate change caused by human progress. We project dire consequences from our collective actions. We note how dependent human society is on maintaining the physical climate around us. Yet the information that swirls around us is even more vital than the weather for human survival and aided by technology, our information climate is changing faster than the weather.

Ian Browde, USA

 

PROFILE SUMMARY

My experience includes human/machine interface design for leveraging computers for personal growth, see U.S. Patent #7574415, cybersecurity and cyber-physical security and safety. Also, sustainability, agriculture, teaching, coaching and mentoring. For much of my career I focused on, and engaged in, strategy (development and implementation), systems thinking, conscious innovation and how to create and sustain a learning organization. In business in the USA, I had the fortune of working at some great companies. At Apple, I led business development for Apple International, created the Apple/San Jose State University MBA program and launched Apple in China at the West China Medical Center of Sichuan University, as it is now called. At Nokia I was a Diversity Champion and ran business development for the Internet Communications business unit. I have also worked at a wide range of smaller companies and start ups. I hold a JD from Santa Clara University Law School, California and a BA in Political Science from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

 

Email: ianbrowde@gmail.com

Bill’s New Book

TechCast is pleased to announce the publication of Prof. Halal’s latest book — Beyond Knowledge. Below is the Table of Contents, the book cover, and Chapter One. The book is available here at Amazon

Beyond Knowledge has a flood of reviews on Amazon and they are all 5-stars. We are delighted to note that the book has been rated #1 best seller in the following Amazon categories: Business & Money, Social Sciences, Business Planning & Forecasting, Knowledge Capital, Consciousness & Thought, Conduct of Life & Spirituality, Philosophy & Spiritual Growth, Personal Transformation, Evolution.

 

Endorsements from Leading Figures:
 

Hazel Henderson — “A gem” 

Michael Lee — “Best since Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock”

Mark Schutzman  — “A Masterpiece of human thought”

 

Professional reviews from publications:

  • “I’ve always thought that the problems in the world need to be
    solved through politics and spirituality. How delightful to find that Beyond Knowledge does exactly that. It is an extraordinary perspective on why there are so many problems on Earth. Indeed, it suggests that the world could be poised on the cusp of transformation from a society based on knowledge to one guided by consciousness.” Reviewed by Tommy Wong for Readers’ Favorite

  • “An essential guide for individuals, governments, businesses, religions, and educational institutions. Provides substantial solutions and cases for their effectiveness to resolve the mega-crisis that confronts humanity. An excellent, well-researched, and informative read that is hard to put down; an x-ray of contemporary society and what shapes it.” Reviewed by David Reyes, Book Commentary

  • “Visionary, balanced, pragmatic, a gold mine of information, and impressively thorough. A refreshing change from the daily staple diet of doom and gloom we are bombarded with from all directions. I am eternally grateful for this olive branch of hope. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and recommend Beyond Knowledge to anyone looking for an intelligent and informative analysis of our present and future.” Francis Mont for Readers’ Favorite

Comments from Readers:

  • “I think you are right on. People filter the facts based on their beliefs and opinions. It’s all subjective. We are acting like adolescents.  Can’t wait to read the whole thing. I want to order my copy early.”

  • “Professor Halal’s book about a new paradigm of consciousness will have implications for all areas of human endeavor. “

  • “If you are looking for enlightenment, BUY THIS BOOK. Beyond Knowledge provides a brilliant approach for coping with a rapidly changing world.”

  • “Prof. Halal’s vision is intriguing and thought-provoking. I’m anxiously awaiting the rest of the story from his upcoming book.”

  • Beyond Knowledge tackles our current, complex, confusing world in a way that allows readers to understand the future. People will be standing in line to review this book.”

 
See the video on Beyond Knowledge
 

About the Cover

The stunning cover symbolizes a modern goddess giving humans a vision of  “global consciousness” needed to develop a mature world. The goddess is female to recognize that surviving today’s massive threats requires the feminine qualities of wisdom, cooperation and love. She also represents the younger generation that must lead this transformation.

 
Beyond Knowledge:
How Technology Is Driving an Age of Consciousness

 

Contents

Forewords    Hazel Henderson, Michael Lee and Amy Fletcher

Preface          Blessings of Maturity                                                    
 
One                Introduction:
                        The Noosphere is Here                                

 
Two                Promises and Perils of the Technology Revolution:
                        Eating Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge 
 
Three             Uniting Science and Spirit:
                        Technologies of  Consciousness
Four                Democratic Enterprise:    
                        Collaboration Between Business and Society
 
Five                A New Social Contract:   
                       Centrist Politics and Government Markets
 
Six                  Virtual Education:
                       The Uneasy Shift from Teaching to Learning
 
Seven            From Religion to Spirit:
                       The Ultimate Technique of  Consciousness
 
Eight             Managing Our Minds:
                       Living and Working in Spirit
Nine              Toward a Global Consciousness:
                       Start by Being  Responsible 
Ten                Evolution’s Climax:
                       The Flowering of Human Spirit 

  
 
 
Excerpt from Chapter One


Introduction: The Noosphere Is Here


The Jesuit anthropologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, has long fascinated us with his vision that the world would evolve into a “noosphere,” [1] a great web of consciousness enveloping the Earth. It seemed a lovely but distant ideal, yet the Digital Revolution has now made that dream a reality. As this book will show, the noosphere is here today, and it promises to transform our lives, our work, social institutions, the global order, and our very minds and souls.

Not too long ago, we relied on telephones and newspapers to communicate. We now use two billion personal computers (PCs), 14 billion cell phones and laptops, and two billion TVs. The information flows through 30 million Internet servers, 3,500 space satellites and almost one million miles of undersea cables. This planetary layer of digital connections knits eight billion people into a living overlay of thought – the noosphere.

Although the world has an abundance of communication, it is not a very happy place. Just as the Gutenberg printing press unleashed a flood of information that led to wars and the Protestant Reformation, today’s deluge of knowledge has brought a “post-factual” wave of nonsense, government gridlock, raging pandemics, the climate crisis and other global threats. We will see later that a “global consciousness” able to handle such threats is likely to emerge soon. But, in the meantime, the noosphere has highlighted the limits of knowledge.

 

Beyond Knowledge

You would think we should have been enlightened by the past two decades of the Knowledge Age, so why do people seem badly misinformed, emotional and unreasonable? Despite the great evidence readily available, many do not believe in evolution, climate change, vaccination and other established science.

Even national policies are often based on emotions, as when the English left the EU and Americans elected President Trump. Political “rebellions” like this are common, of course, with their own logic and patriotic goals. But today, the technology can amplify disinformation. Trump, for instance, gained power using digital media to deny inconvenient facts as “fake news” and “conspiracy theories.” An entire cottage industry has sprung up to warn of this “Assault on Intelligence,” “The Death of Truth,” “A World Without Facts” and “Truth Decay.” [2]

It does not help that large parts of the public embrace this confusion. TV and the Internet have produced what has been called “the dumbest generation” with a disregard for general reading in favor of news sources echoing their beliefs. [3] Here are some choice bits of willful ignorance:

  • The US ranks near the bottom of nations whose citizens believe in evolution, with less than 40 percent saying they accept the science. [4]
  • Two-thirds cannot name the three branches of government. [5]
  • As of early 2021, more than 70 percent of Republicans still believe the presidential election was stolen, after this was discredited by the courts and Republican officials themselves.

Extensive studies confirm that attitudes, beliefs and values are shaped by a variety of well-known biases, allegiance to political parties and other extraneous factors. [6]  Even hard-nosed business people admit that bias in decision-making is a major problem. [7] Demagogues use self-serving fantasies to blind people to reality and mobilize them into violence. [8] It seems that objectivity is a thin veneer shielding base impulses as well as noble motives.

Norman Lear, the famous American TV producer, said: “We just may be the most-informed, yet least self-aware people in history.” [9] 

This dilemma poses one of the great ironies of our time. The Digital Revolution has created a wealth of knowledge that is almost infinite. The smartphone alone has made the world’s store of information available at the touch of a finger. There is no shortage of knowledge, but the power of facts is badly limited. Knowledge cannot tell us what is worth doing, or what is right morally and what is wrong. Rational logic does not explain why people are altruistic or selfish, kind or cruel, enlightened or ignorant. Knowledge can never replace love, wisdom or a guiding vision.

This rule of unreason pervades life, and it is rampant in politics. The US government, for instance, has been locked in stalemate for decades, though Congress has more knowledge than it can handle. Emotional issues like abortion, gun control and immigration supported by strong majorities have been studied to death. Still, gridlock persists because of conflicting values, reluctance to compromise, and hunger for power – issues that lie beyond knowledge. Senator Ben Sasse worried, “We are living in an America of perpetual adolescence.” [10]

This political stalemate is largely responsible for the poor US response to the coronavirus pandemic. China, Singapore, South Korea and other Asian nations weathered the storm reasonably well. But the US mismanaged it so badly that Americans fear structural weaknesses in government could inflict more damage from other crises. The pandemic brought these systemic flaws on vivid display for all to see. People are frightened and searching for solutions.

Many are ready to break from a past that no longer works. The World Economic Forum called for a “great reset” in all spheres of society. The result is a loss of faith in the reigning logic, or ideology, of money, power and self-interest. These values have their place, but they seem unable to address the crises of our time. Climate change is starting to bite, more pandemics are likely, inequality is growing, and there is a growing sense that the status quo is not sustainable. The conflict over these complex issues seems overwhelming because, once again, they are beyond knowledge. They hinge on stark differences in consciousness.

This existential threat has shattered confidence in what Francis Fukuyama proclaimed to be “The End of History” – the fall of communism and the triumph of capitalism and democracy. [11] A variety of voices suggest this crisis could trigger a “collapse of capitalism,” roughly like the “collapse of communism” in the 1990s. It also stems from the same fatal flaw – an inability to adapt to a changing world. Communism could not meet the complex demands of the Information Revolution, and now capitalism is failing to adapt to this confluence of global crises.

 

Next Step in Social Evolution

What is going on here? Why is the US, the most prosperous and best-educated nation in the world, so inept? How can great knowledge produce such misguided behavior?

These problems can be best understood as the passing of the Knowledge Age and the opening of an unusual frontier – consciousness itself. Knowledge remains crucial, of course. But today’s explosion of smartphones, social media and artificial intelligence (AI) has created a post-factual mess governed by raw emotions, distorted values and outmoded beliefs. An Age of Consciousness is starting now, though one may not like its current form. Whatever one thinks of former President Trump, almost all would concede that he is brilliant at creating an alternative reality. He is a master at shaping consciousness.

A “beyond knowledge test” helps clarify the role of consciousness. If some problem remains unresolved due to values, beliefs, self-interest or other subjective issues – climate, abortion, gun control, for example – the solution lies beyond knowledge. This simple test highlights how the disorders that plague our time are not rational problems to solve by reason. They involve all the messy mental baggage of normal people, so they must be addressed by altering consciousness. That is where the problems lie, and it is also where the solutions are to be found.

This is a bold claim, but that is roughly how the shift to a world of knowledge looked when the Information Revolution began a few decades ago. Back when computers filled rooms, I recall telling people that we were entering a world of personal computers, and the typical response was, “Why would anyone want a personal computer?”

Yet in 2000, PCs were everywhere, books on knowledge became rife and the majority of jobs involved managing knowledge.  I am equally confident that an Age of Consciousness is opening up today, and we simply do not yet understand this intriguing new frontier.

Beneath this tectonic shift in consciousness is the driving force of artificial intelligence, the most powerful agent of change today. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, said “AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on … more profound than fire or electricity.” [12] The advance of AI is automating knowledge work, threatening to eliminate roughly half of all jobs and posing one of the most perplexing questions of our time: What lies beyond knowledge? As Chapter three will explain, everything beyond knowledge is consciousness. This historic shift in social evolution is illustrated by the graph below.

I have struggled with this problem for years, and the result is Figure 1 showing what I call the “Life Cycle of Evolution (LCE).” Similar graphs have been sketched in general terms, [13] but this is the first to plot the long-term evolutionary trend using real scales and real data. The logarithmic time scale is needed to encompass the billions of years at the start of life, as well as just decades today. Without a log scale, the shape of the LCE would not be recognizable; the trendline would run flat and make a sharp 90 degree turn straight up.

Figure 1

Above the fray, there is a direction to this accelerating evolutionary process, and the logical next step is consciousness. Roughly four million years were needed to found Agrarian Civilizations. Nine thousand years to invent Industrial Society. One hundred years for the Post-Industrial Era. Five decades to a Knowledge Age. And the past 20 years to an Age of Consciousness.

Today, the world is poised at the cusp of transformation from a society based on knowledge to one guided by consciousness. This extraordinary acceleration through previous stages reveals how the planet suddenly came alive in a flash of awareness. The entire rise of civilization occurred in an extremely tiny fraction of one percent in the LCE. Historian Arnold Toynbee foresaw it as the “etherealization of life.” [14] Teilhard de Chardin envisioned planetary consciousness to be the natural apex of evolution – the Omega Point. [15]

Consciousness has been around throughout history, of course, so what is really new? This transition can be understood through a similar evolutionary shift to the Knowledge Age. Information has also been used throughout civilization, of course. But the Knowledge Age began when digital technology matured about two decades ago into the most powerful force on Earth, occupying the bulk of the labor force, and our very minds.

In a similar way, shaping consciousness is now a powerful technology, although barely understood, and it is changing the world. Think of the explosion of opinion, disinformation and emotion blasting out of loudspeakers like Facebook and Twitter. Anybody can use social media to shape public opinion, for better or worse. Politicians around the globe struggle to infiltrate the information systems of their adversaries, and they casually dismiss criticism as fake news. One analyst framed the problem this way: “In the past, wars were conducted with weapons. Now it’s through social media.” [16] The great challenge now is, how to shape a workable global consciousness out of this morass of differences to support almost eight billion people coexisting on this single planet?

This historic transition also poses enormous threats that seem almost impossible. Climate change and the entire constellation of end-of-the-world challenges comprise what I call the “Global MegaCrisis,” or the “Crisis of Global Maturity.” My studies conducted with a colleague, Michael Marien, found that roughly 70 percent of the public thinks the present world trajectory will lead to disaster. Ask anyone off the street and you will probably get the same answer. People have deep fears over today’s failures in governance, and they attribute it to a lack of leadership, vision and cooperation.

The late Stephen Hawking worried about “widening inequality, climate change, food, decimation of species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. This is the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity, and our species must work together.” [17]

The Technology Revolution will add even greater threats. The next chapter forecasts how advances across the technology spectrum are providing vast benefits, but also the enormous problems of  “eating fruit from the biblical Tree of Knowledge.” Smart cars, for example, will pass on the faults of smartphones. “A car is like a cell phone, and that makes it vulnerable to attack,” said Jonathan Brossard, a security engineer. Many are horrified at the prospect of AI-controlled weapons turning on people. Now, ponder what could happen when billions of intelligent devices are wired into the Internet of Things?

The great S-curve formed by these eras is the universal symbol of the lifecycle. All living systems pass through this same process of birth (start of the S-curve), growth (upward phase), and maturity (leveling off) – a culture of bacteria, a growing child or the life of a planet. From this systems view, the Global MegaCrisis is an infinitely larger version of the same crisis of maturity that transforms teenagers into adults. Anyone who has raised children knows that teens may be fully grown physically and “know everything.” But the typical teenager has not learned to control their impulses, struggles with inner doubts and can’t cope with a confusing world.

That is roughly the state of our world today. Industrialized nations are fully developed, awash in information and with enough armaments to destroy us all. Yet they lack the wisdom to address climate change, regulate economies safely, curb terrorism and solve other nagging problems. As I will show in the next chapter, many people think we are heading toward a disaster of catastrophic proportions, and they have little faith in their leaders.


Consciousness is not the same as “goodness,” as is often thought by New Age enthusiasts. Like knowledge, consciousness encompasses all in its domain – including hate, conflict and delusion.

At some point, the stress becomes so severe that most teens eventually find the courage to grow up and become responsible adults. In a roughly similar way, the MegaCrisis is humanity’s challenge to become a mature civilization. The world is being forced to grow up and to develop a sustainable global order – or perish. This passage to maturity is more than a historic challenge; it is also a historic opportunity. Like adolescence, surmounting this painful process can lead to a better future. How could we let this singular moment pass?

 

Triumph of Human Spirit

This evolutionary perspective helps us understand how a global consciousness is emerging today to resolve these threats and create a mature civilization. More than a theory, the chapters ahead will show how people are changing their lives, their work, social institutions and global mindset. I make a point of fleshing out these concepts with details, evidence, supporting examples and steps to consider. We will see how an Age of Consciousness is likely to develop into a tangible, productive and more meaningful way of life.

Consciousness is the inner terrain in which we live our lives, and it is changing rapidly to cope with the slightly crazed demands of high-tech life. People are embracing mindfulness, living with nature and using psychedelics to relieve stress, provide insight and improve health. I call these “technologies of consciousness” – methods that people use to guide their awareness, mood and understanding. The evidence shows that these techniques can instill the values of cooperation, understanding and compassion that are essential to a unified globe.

The main chapters outline how shifts in public consciousness are transforming the major organs of society – government, business, universities, religions and other institutions. In each case, I will show that a small avant-garde is quietly bringing a mature awareness to these varied facets of public life. Drawing on numerous examples, I show how business is turning democratic, government can be lean and responsive, education becoming student-centered, and religions moving from doctrine to a personal relationship with the spiritual world.

For instance, the Business Roundtable announcement that firms should serve all stakeholders is truly historic. The New York Times called it a “watershed moment … that raises questions about the very nature of capitalism.” Leading corporations like Johnson & Johnson, IKEA, Nucor Steel, Nortel, and Unilever collaborate with employees, customers, suppliers and governments to solve tough problems and create value for the company and stakeholders. Larry Fink, who runs the biggest investment firm in the world (Black Rock), directed the companies he owns to address social issues, even including climate costs in their operations.

These ideas may be reasonable, but many doubt such dramatic change is possible. In 2020, the “Black Lives Matter” movement began shifting attitudes around the world, illustrating that consciousness is changing even now. This push for racial justice is led by young people across the political and racial spectra, the cohort that favors global consciousness. It is reminiscent of the “Me Too” movement that ousted sexual predators, and the passing of gay marriage laws a few years ago. Big change arrives when the time has come.

The power of global consciousness provides the key to resolving the multiple crises of today. Each stage in social evolution has been propelled by revolutions – the Agrarian Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, Post-Industrial Revolution and, most recently, the Information Revolution. As my graph of the LCE lays out visually, we are now in the beginning throes of what I call a “Mental/Spiritual Revolution” to kick-start the Age of Consciousness. In short, it appears the world is heading toward some type of historic shift in consciousness, a collective epiphany, a new mindset, code of global ethics or a spiritual revolution.

Civilization survived the fall of Rome, the Dark Ages, World Wars I and II, and a cold war bristling with nuclear weapons, and it seems likely to survive the Global MegaCrisis.

Such heroic change may appear daunting, especially at a time when hostilities seem endless and environmental disaster looms ahead. That is often the case before upheavals. Nobody thought the Soviet Union would collapse until it actually did. The evidence outlined throughout the book supports this evolutionary trend.

The reason this claim seems optimistic, perhaps even foolhardy, is that we have no experience in global consciousness. Huddled in our small section of the universe, humans have little conception of planetary evolution, much less the transition to a unified world. Our understanding is roughly similar to that of a naïve person who first witnesses the agony of a human birth or a teen struggling to adulthood. Without previous experience, these painful transitions would seem awful, too hard to bear. Yet they are entirely normal and usually successful.

So too could our passage to global maturity develop into a fairly normal transition in a few years. The LCE graph shows that a Mental/Spiritual Revolution is likely to arrive about 2030 or so. I am as confident in this forecast as I was that the Knowledge Age would arrive about 2000. This historic shift to an unknown era requires a new conceptual framework to map the terrain, a vision to provide inspiration and principles that work – the elements of this book.

A mature global order will still bear the normal human failings, but it will make our current strife look as primitive as the brutal reign of kings in the feudal ages. This may sound too good to be true, yet these trends suggest we will see the beginnings of a unified planet over the next decade or so, and the triumph of human spirit, once again.

 

References

[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper, 1955)
[2] Hayden, The Assault on Intelligence (New York: Penguin, 2018); Anne Applebaum, “A World Without Facts” (Washington Post, May 20, 2018); Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael Rich, Truth Decay (Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation, 2018)
[3] Mark Bauerian, The Dumbest Generation (New York: Penguin, 2008)
[4] Ker Than, “US Lags … Acceptance of Evolution” (Live Science, Aug 11, 2006)
[5] Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason (New York: Pantheon, 2008)
[6] Elizabeth Kolbert, “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds” (The New Yorker, Feb 27, 2017); Yuval Harari, “People Have Limited Knowledge. What’s the Remedy? Nobody Knows” (New York Times, Apr 18, 2017)
[7] Tobias Beer et al., “The Business Logic in Debiasing” (McKinsey, May 2017)
[8] Harari, “Why Fiction Trumps Truth” (The New York Times, May 24, 2019)
[9] “Norman Lear calls for leap of faith” (The New Leaders, May/June 1993)
[10] Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult (St. Martin’s, 2017)
[11] Ishaan Tharoor, “The Man Who Declared ‘The End of History’ Fears for Democracy’s Future” (Washington Post, Feb 9, 2017)
[12] World Economic Forum (Jan 24, 2018)
[13]  For instance, the field of “big history” has studied similar time scales. See ibha.wildapricot.org (June 2, 2017)
[14] Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History (Oxford Univ. Press, 1960)
[15] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper Perennial 1976)
[16]  “Quote of the Day” (New York Times, Sep 13, 2019)
[17] Stephen Hawking, “This Is the Most Dangerous Time for Our Planet” (The Guardian, Dec 1, 2019)


 

Beyond Knowledge on the Gerd Leonhard Show

Gerd invited Bill to be his first guest on his show and the result is a great analysis of life Beyond Knowledge
 

The Program Can Be Found Here

 

Click here for the podcast

See the full article here

See the full article here

See the full article here


 

Protection and Security in a Time of Crisis (Armas Military Magazine of Mexico, Sep-Oct 2021)

The full article is here


The Guy Rathbun Show

Click here for Podcast


The Scientific and Medical Network

The webinar recording is here

Here is the podcast


 


The Cuyamungue Institute show.

               

Click here for the podcast


The Alan Freedman Show

Bill appeared on this marvelous podcast hosted by the exuberant, joyous and prescient Alan Freedman. His introduction made me laugh. 

Alan has a crystal sharp view of the world’s dilemmas, and he abounds in faith that the mystery of life’s progress remains valid.

We had fun going through the key points in Beyond Knowledge. It was a celebration of the possible — and most likely the reality.

You can find the podcast here.


Sara Troy on Self Discovery Media

For a welcome respite from the prevailing doom and gloom, treat yourself to this insightful conversation between the indefatigable Sara Troy and Bill’s thoughts on Beyond Knowledge. Sara makes even heavy topics joyous.

The podcast can be found here.


 The Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico

TechCast Expert Professor Carlos Scheel invited Bill to peak on his new book, Beyond Knowledge. The talk was given to the graduating class of the Egade Business School at Monterrey.

Prof. Halal’s talk can be accessed here.

 

Beyond Knowledge on Medium

 

Bill published an article on Medium titled
“An Age of Consciousness Is Here, and It Changes Everything.”


Al in the Afternoon Show

Prof. Halal has a regular guest on Al Travis’s show. Here are videos of his appearances:

8-25-21  https://fb.watch/8aQdm4xArq/

9-1-21  https://fb.watch/8aQrRgtpw1/
9-8-21 https://fb.watch/8aQxezHglK/
9-15-21 https://fb.watch/8aQC_UqGO-/
 

 The Jim Masters Show

Prof. Halal was a guest on the Jim Masters Show, where
he discussed his new book.

A video of Bill’s appearance can be found here.


Beyond Knowledge on Future Pod

Prof. Halal was interviewed by Peter Hayward for a podcast published on Future Pod.
The interview can be heard here.
 

 

Keynote on Autonomous Vehicles Conference

 

 

 

TechCast gave a keynote speech at an international conference on transportation featuring autonomous cars on November  2, 2020. The conference was organized by the Intelligent Transport Society of South Korea.

TechCast’s Bill Halal organized his talk around the five principles of Global Consciousness. 


 

TechCast Briefs Angel Investors

 

 
TechCast founder, William Halal, kicked off the annual meeting of the Angel Capital Association’s Virtual Summit on May 12 with his keynote on The Technology Revolution.  Among his many points, Bill outlined how AI is causing today’s move beyond knowledge to an Age of Consciousness, and that business is now altering corporate consciousness to include the interests of all stakeholders. Angel investors are concerned about the social impacts of their companies, so this news was well-received, especially as Bill stressed this historic change could be a competitive advantage.
Click here for the presentation
 

 

 

 Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association

 
Prof. Halal spoke on the topic of AI, noting TechCast’s forecast that AI is expected to automate 30% of routine knowledge work about 2025 +3/-1 years and General AI is likely to arrive about 2040. Expanding on the same theme delivered at ACA, Bill explained how today’s shifting consciousness is likely to transform, not only business but also the government, the military, and all other institutions. 

 

 

 

Life Extension

Summary

Life extension is defined as prolonging human life beyond the normal limits of roughly 120 years. There is some evidence that demonstrates this is possible. Research shows that aging can be delayed in experimental animals, sometimes manyfold. Science is increasingly able to repair damage to the body, replace damaged organs, and modify genetic makeup to extend life spans.

Sharing the blood of a young animal has been shown to rejuvenate older animals and prolong their lives. Substances like NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and rapamycin can improve mitochondrial function genes associated with aging.

Many authorities are confident that human life can be meaningfully extended. Ray Kurzweil forecasts that life extension treatments are likely to become available before 2030. Aubrey de Grey of the U. of Cambridge believes the first person who will live to see his 150th birthday has already been born. Some think the first person to live for 1,000 years will be born in the next two decades.

But many therapies only stretch normal aging to the 120-year limit, rather than extending life spans beyond those limits. For instance, a respected medical journal, The Lancet, projected that most babies born since 2000 in industrialized nations will live to celebrate their 100th birthday.

Some scientists doubt that life extension is possible beyond a theoretical maximum of 120 years. S. Jay Olshansky, professor of public health at the U of Illinois, once pointed out, “There are no interventions that have been documented to slow, stop, or reverse aging in humans.” Yet Olshansky later writes, “It is only a matter of time before aging science acquires the same level of prestige and confidence that medicine and public health now enjoy, and when that time comes, a new era in human health will emerge. …the 21st century will bear witness to one of the most important new developments in the history of medicine.”

While the number of centenarians has increased dramatically, the number of supercentenarians (people living 110 years) has failed to keep pace. The number of centenarians worldwide is about 450,000, yet there are only 300 to 450 supercentenarians. Ned David, president of Unity Biotechnologies, says his company does not expect people to be living to 150 years and has chosen to focus on improving the “healthspan” rather than increasing lifespan. The concept of “healthspan” arose largely in response to priorities at NIH, which does not consider aging to be a disease. Research to extend lifespan does not get funded. Research to extend healthspan does.

Others contend that many apparent breakthroughs from animal research (resveratrol, antioxidants, etc.), like their counterparts in cancer treatment, have proved ineffective in humans. In mid-2021, there is little if any sign of actually extending normal human life spans.

The challenges and consequences of increased life spans could be enormous. If serious life extension does prove feasible, there remains the fear that longer lives will simply prolong poor health and feeble minds rather than adding capable years. Political scientist Francis Fukuyama warns that society may soon “resemble a giant nursing home.” 

Jose Cordeiro’s new book, The Death of Death, has been published in several languages and is very optimistic about life extension. Cordeiro notes:

“A group of scientists under the direction of Spanish biologist María Blasco, director of CNIO (the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre) in Madrid, has created the so-called Triple mice, which live approximately 40% longer.[i] With totally different technologies, other scientists such as the Spanish Juan Carlos Izpisúa, an expert researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, have also been able to rejuvenate mice by 40%.[ii]”

“In 1993, Kenyon and colleagues found that mutations in the gene daf-2 increase the longevity of C. Elegans hermaphrodites by more than two-fold compared to wild type nematodes.”

Earlier studies by TechCast estimated that useful medicines and other anti-aging treatments are likely to enter markets about 2028 +/- 4 years. This would lead to a commercial market of roughly US$600 billion at saturation about 2040. The experts were 58% confident in this forecast.

The results below are less optimistic but equally compelling. Our sample of 22 experts estimates a 73 percent probability that life extension technologies will become commercially available in about 2043 +/- 10 years. We also estimate that the average life span will crease to about 200 years for most common applications when the technology matures. The data also suggests an “elite” could possibly increase life spans to 500 years or more using advanced applications.

 

Note that this new forecast expects arrival later than the earlier study — confirming once again the tendency toward optimism that is common in forecasting.

 

Expert Survey Results

Results from our experts are shown below for three research questions:

What is the probability that treatments for extending human life beyond 120 years are demonstrated within the following few decades? (Please specify probability from 0% to 100%. Or specify “Much Later/Never”)

If this is likely, when do you think life extension will be demonstrated to be feasible and available commercially?  That is, when the adoption level first exceeds zero: >0.  (Specify the most likely year. For instance,  2045.)

Please estimate the average human life span when life extension technology matures. Think of this as reaching the “limits” of life extension.  (Specify average future human life span in years. For instance, 250 years? 400 years? 600 years?) 

TechCast is grateful for the following experts who contributed to this study:

Clayton Dean, Andrew Micone, Peter King, Pierpaolo Dotoli, Margherita Abe, Owen Davies, John Frieslaar, Chris Garlick, Jonathan Kolber, Jose Cordeiro, John Meagher, Altan Koraltan, John Freedman, Mke Ryan, Art Shostak, John Coale, Wendell Wallach, John-Clark Levin, Jaques Malan, Ian Browde, Craig Boice, Dennis Bushnell. 

 

Probability of Life Extension Demonstrated   

The distribution of responses shows a striking convergence at the upper range of the probability scale, with an average of 73 percent. While there is no assurance the experts will prove to be correct, the sample size is more than adequate, there is a fairly tight convergence around 73 percent, and the comments are persuasive. We conclude there is a strong probability that life extension will be shown to be feasible in the coming decades. A more precise estimate for the date of this arrival is examined in the next section.

 
Most Likely Year of Arrival

The distribution of responses converges around the average year of 2043 when life extension is estimated to enter commercial use. The standard deviation from this mean is +/- 10 years, reflecting the wide range of uncertainty in the survey data and comments. 

 

Maximum Life Span Expected

Finally, the bar chart below shows a bi-modal distribution of responses at the two ends of the scale. While one could dismiss the high estimates as unrealistic, we think a more careful analysis suggests two different modes of life extension may be likely. The low end of estimates averages about 192 years, and this could be the ordinary range of life extension for most individuals as the more common forms of technology mature. This consensus is also seen in the comments.

The high end of estimates suggests what is possible for those with the means to undergo more heroic forms of life extension that enable them to reach 500 years of age or longer. The comments make a strong case for a scenario in which a small segment of society is able to afford the sophisticated treatments shown in the research trends below — replacement of body parts, bioengineering the body to eliminate aging cells, replacing blood, and other more advanced technologies.

Expert Comments

Clayton Dean

I think this is the wrong question or a bit of a red herring.  Life, specifically cellular life, is not what is going to be extended.  Life is fragile and prone to breaking, aging, and deterioration.  Cells age, slow, perform ever less efficiently.  Our current human biology is akin to trying to keep an aging car on the road.  It becomes ever more prohibitive and needful of maintenance.  Instead, the breakthrough will be in ‘consciousness porting’ which essentially means taking the mind and moving it to a new body (or equivalent) which, in turn, equates to age without limits. The body will just become a transitory vessel: temporary and easily shed.  Rather the mind with all of its experiences, instincts, and accumulated knowledge will be the critical thing.  Just as you can’t have interstellar space travel without a fundamental paradigm shift in engine technology, you can’t get too far above 100? 150?  250?  years without a similar paradigm shift regarding our biology.

Read no further than the first 35 pages of John Scalzi’s ‘Old Man’s War’ (amongst many options, books, and TV shows) where humans, at age 75, are given the option of aging (and dying) on Earth OR joining the ‘Space Army’ with an amazing new body AND your brain with all of your loves, likes, experiences, and knowledge downloaded into an 18-year super body — but most critically:  a promise of another 100 years in a customized and equally youthful body at the end of the service period.   It will be as easy as downloading a movie onto your iPod.  

I don’t believe that biology can be extended beyond a certain point.  Sure, like silicon in CPUs our biology can be stretched to last longer.  And some innovations will continue to extend its shelf life: vitamins, a cure for cancer, etc… And certainly, some ‘cyborg’ hybridization would further that linear progression.  However, the only way we get over 200 – 250 years is a paradigm shift away from biology, either in a synthetic hybrid or by uploading ourselves into empty shells.

 

Owen Davies

This presumes that research can get funding and that governments do not panic at the thought of radical change and act to inhibit research. Billionaires who would prefer to continue enjoying their wealth make funding essentially inevitable. Government interference? When politicians take the possibility of life extension seriously, I would not put it past them. 

However, to take an obvious example, how long would Putin and his cronies like to rule Russia? Oligarchical societies are likely to pursue aging research for the benefit of the rich and powerful, believing they can keep the results to themselves. In this, they will be wrong.

Note that this also somewhat assumes I am right in believing therapies that will keep us alive and vigorous, both physically and mentally, will be available within fifteen years. The first may already be in use, requiring only time to confirm their efficacy. This is not an absolute prerequisite to my 95-percent estimate, but I find it personally desirable.

Five to ten years before researchers announce the first true life-extension therapies, people will be treating themselves individually, with or without formal medical supervision, with therapies that seem effective in animals, as people now are treating themselves with senolytics, GDF11, and Klotho. Some of them will pick the right ones.

Getting from a few individuals to even 5 percent of the population could take a lot longer. Of course, if “big pharma” can make a buck out of these treatments, widespread adoption becomes quick and inevitable (albeit politically controversial.) The justification will be the need to avoid the growing costs of age-associated disease. A preventive or treatment for Alzheimer’s reduces the cost of one disease. A preventive or treatment for aging deals with them all.    

Note that I have no reason to believe any of the therapies now available will extend our ultimate lifespan. However, they and other possibilities now in development are likely to keep us alive and well much closer to the 120-year limit. Thus, when true life extension arrives, those of us who would be significantly less than 120 in 2050 have a good chance of still being around when the ultimate breakthrough becomes available. At that point, death becomes no more than an option for the bored or hopeless.

Average lifespan with true life-extension therapies.    I don’t see how we can begin to guess based on the data currently available. Average life extension with the first therapies could be anything from a few years to infinity. We won’t have any basis for a forecast until we know how they work in animals, and animal studies are poor proxies for human experience in this field.   

However, each advance in anti-aging therapy will improve our chances of being around for the next one. If the first such treatments keep us going to, say, age 200 on average, it gives us most of a century in which science can develop the next breakthrough therapy. And so on in like manner.   

There could be some ultimate age at which the limiting factors to further extension become so many and complicated that we have no practical way to get past them. But any such suggestion today is baseless pessimism. It has no predictive value.

 

Jonathan Kolber

If it’s not through drugs/supplementation, it will be through genetic engineering (e.g. CRISPR). If neither of those, nanotech will suffice before the turn of the century. The most likely year is 2030. By then, George Church’s experiments on age reversal in mammals will have limited human results. This technology will then be offered in medical tourism countries not under FDA control. 

We will become immortal, save for accidents and voluntary exits. As Aubrey DeGrey puts it, all that is necessary for functional immortality is to extend healthy lifespan one day for each day lived. Given that the body and brain are, at core, physiological systems with significant redundancy of subsystems, if lifespan can be extended beyond presently known limits with full rejuvenation to mid-20s equivalent physiology, then there is no effective limit. (We will explore what kind of society could emerge from this in our forthcoming SF TV series.)

 

Jose Cordeiro

The first senolytics treatments are already starting. Life extension has already been demonstrated in many model organisms, from worms to mice, and human clinical trials are starting for the first human treatments, like metformin and rapamacyn. According to my friend Ray Kurzweil, we will be reaching LEV (Longevity Escape Velocity) by 2030, and rejuvenation treatments will be widely available and affordable to anyone who wants them by 2045.

I don´t believe that there are any limits to life extension, and people will be able to live as long as they want to, keeping in mind that accidents, homicides, and suicides will also be possible. Thus, immortality might never be achieved, since there might be fatal incidents in the future, but immortality is certainly in sight. Again, those who make it to 2030, will be able to live long enough to live forever, as my friend Ray Kurzweil has pointed out many times.

In biological terms, the proof that biological immortality is possible is that it already exists. Germ cells are considered “biologically immortal” (this means that they can live indefinitely since they don´t age biologically), and the same can be said about cancer cells, which discovered how to stop aging and become biologically immortal. Some small organisms are also considered to be biologically immortal, as well as bacteria that divide symmetrically, which were the first life forms in the planet.

 

John Meagher

The practical research presented in the study for life extension (LE) is extensive and credible. A key comment mentioned is “healthspan” or quality of life extension as a requirement to extending  life and not prolonging disability and suffering. This is vital for life extension technology to be truly value-added. Combatting dementia/Alzheimer’s is one example mentioned. Replacement body parts including sense organs and brain/neurological tissues are mentioned as possibilities and this will be necessary for sustained extended quality of life.

If FDA approved and accepted by the scientific/medical community life extension treatments are highly likely to become an accepted standard of care or desired, similar to vitamins and nutrition, and will be adopted above 0% very quickly if available and affordable. This is a fast-moving area with high interest and speaks to a human fundamental desire. When technically available LE will be used. A reasonable expectation is human trials in the near term (2021-2030) and depending on the milestones for effectiveness required with successful results tabulated possible LE technology could be available in the 2030 time frame.

Biological life is a chemical reaction subject to entropy even with energy and chemical input and it will not be 100% reconstituted/maintained, far too complex. Homeostasis (life) can be extended but not indefinitely in a single biological entity.  Beyond that human beings are mobile (if healthy) and subject over time to external conditions that can terminate life suddenly and irreparably (accidents, violence, natural disasters, suicides) and this may put a limit on practical average life extension when mature with some exceptional cases. Provisional data for 2020 published by CDC estimated that unintentional accidents accounted for about 200k deaths, the 4th leading cause of U.S. death right behind Covid-19, or about 6% of total 2020 deaths. 

 

Dennis Bushnell

 We have, for too long now, been extending human life at some  .3 Years/year. A while ago the folks at Stanford projected, due to the various manifestations of the bio revolution, we would, in a few decades, be closing in on extending human life at 1 year per year. Death then becomes an accidental occurrence. Such would alter much the child production/ population changes situation, in ways none have yet thought through. Actually, there are 4 disparate ways to extend human life, the piece proffered considers one of them, extending humans as historical humans. The second is extending life for altered, designer humans, an ongoing activity. The third is via the impacts of the ongoing cyborgization of humans, we are now working on artificial hearing/ implants, artificial eyes, hearts, limbs, printing organs, and implanting brain chips. The effects of such activities on life span are liable to be major. The 4th approach, farther term, and revolutionary, is to slough off the wet electrochemistry that wears out and do brain uploads…with very long life spans. In actuality, we are studying the 4th seriously now and actively engaged in the other three. There are many events/ happenings/ occurrences like pandemics, many other existential issues, possibilities that could seriously reduce life span. The ongoing many tech revolutions are attempting to anticipate, mitigate such occurrences. Much of the current thought on all this, which is really “whither the humans”, especially in the context of the development, via AI, of a second, non-electrochemistry, intelligent species, is relatively near term. With all that is underway, someone needs to seriously consider “where is it all going?, what is the next act for humans going forward. Currently, it is all of the above, all are in progress.

 

Art Shostak

By 2053 it is very likely to be feasible and available commercially, though at the outset only to the Top 2%. The masses are unlikely to gain employment before 2060 at the earliest unless there is a major reset in economic privilege in favor of reduced inequality. 

As there is no necessary limit to AI, quantum, and cyber gains forward there is no “limit” in life extension, though LIFE itself is likely to be redefined as we merge our biology with the strengths of machines and machine-aided “intelligence.” Our future is most likely an existence in a new hard-to-imagine hybrid form after 2075 or thereabouts. Our Great/Great/Great Grandchildren will wonder how we ever managed in our disadvantaged 2021 severe “handicap” format – and, pity us. 

 

Wendell Wallach

While I suspect that we will get moderate life extension for a percentage of the population over the next 20-100 years, my main concern is that there is little or no evidence that we can maintain the vital mental life of individuals.  I am fearful that the world will become a warehouse with aging bodies whose mental faculties have deteriorated. Unfortunately, we already have this in nursing facilities around the country and the world. That places great hardship on relatives and becomes another societal cost, that I believe is ethically unacceptable, though it will be ignored by those anxious to pursue life extension for themselves. 

The main caveat is that it’s unclear how long a gap there will be between getting technologies that can effectively arrest aging and those that can reverse it. But reversing aging appears to be significantly harder than preventing it (due to something of a stock/flow problem—reversing decades of accumulated damage requires much greater control over biology than just reducing the daily rate of new damage to around zero). Thus, there will probably be at least a 30-year gap between achieving these technologies and large numbers of people living past 120. 

If this is likely, when do you think life extension will be demonstrated to be feasible and available commercially?  That is when the adoption level first exceeds zero: >0.  (Specify the most likely year. For instance,  2045.)

 

John-Clark Levin

For the reasons given above, I don’t think there will be a clear answer here. There won’t be a singular moment when people know they are taking a treatment that gives them dramatic life extension—they’ll have hopes of this, but there will be much debate and it won’t be provable until people actually start living through 120 successfully. My view of the most likely scenario is: during the 2030s, AI-assisted biology simulation allows rapid acceleration of drug discovery and gene editing. At some point in that decade (2038, if I’m pressed for a year), affluent and forward-thinking people below roughly 80 or 90 start to use technologies that will be shown to give this cohort around a year of life expectancy for each chronological year that elapses. This will become evident as their annual mortality rate increases decelerate and then mortality stabilizes. That will be the first widely-acknowledged sign that aging is on the road to cure (think Time magazine covers frequently blaring “Has this group of Silicon Valley visionaries defeated aging?”). But there will also be doubters insisting that the things that kill people in their 90s (e.g. heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s) are fundamentally easier to solve than those that uniquely kill supercentenarians (e.g. kidney tissues that just break down and stop working). This is probably true, but solving the 90s killers will buy humanity another couple of decades to cure aging at a deeper cellular and histological level. By this point, that endeavor will likely be assisted by superintelligent AI and nanotechnology, so I am optimistic about its long-term success. Taking all this together, I don’t expect we’ll be able to consider aging cured until the 2060s at the earliest. At the same time, I would be greatly surprised if (barring existential calamities derailing scientific progress in the meantime) it took until the end of the century. 

I don’t think there would be a natural ceiling on life extension. Once we achieve cellular-level control over human biology, people could live for arbitrarily long periods without dying of natural causes. At that point, people would mostly die of accidents and violence. Aubrey de Grey and others have calculated that this would suggest an average lifespan of around 5,000 years (i.e. how long a person without biological aging would be expected to survive if current mortality rates from accidents and violence stay constant). But this is such a discontinuity from previous human history we can’t really judge how long those conditions would be likely to hold. Counterintuitively, curing aging would also greatly increase each individual person’s risk of dying from an existential catastrophe (either directly, or from disruption to medical technology caused by such an event). The problem is that these events are high-impact, low-frequency occurrences, so we can’t predict how long a biologically immortal person would live before dying in a nuclear war with anywhere near the statistical rigor with which we could predict how long someone would live before contracting and dying of Alzheimer’s.

Jacques Malan

I have no doubt this will be accessible to the rich within this decade (before 2030) but I think it will be a step-change progression. 120 for everyone will be easy. 200 more difficult.

This is a tricky question. There are several issues to consider. (1) For humanity to continue as meatbags, I think a limit of 200 is “adequate”; AND (2) If we manage somehow to hit the holy grail of transferring our consciousness to computers (with several back-ups of course) this can be several thousand years; BUT (3) And this is the rub, would our MINDS (whether organic or silicon) survive the “God-like Power” of living forever (or even 200 years)? Personally, I think humanity will go insane and destroy itself if we stretch it beyond 200 years by any means.

 

Craig Boice

Much of the thinking on this topic ignores the fact that the biological determinants of the length of life are multidimensional and interactive, e.g., multiple systems and organs (e.g., the brain) must function together for life to persist, Many of these systems and organs  —  indeed, many types of vital cells  —  appear to have internally-programmed lifetimes. We simply don’t understand enough, and it will take decades to appreciate what needs to be done, let alone to do it.

Furthermore, the serious attempt we are making as a species to degrade our DNA and our environment at the same time could argue that lifetimes will erode well before they are extended. In that event, research will focus on reproduction and survival rather than extension.

In the meantime, on an economic basis, it will prove much more profitable to make each of our 80-100 years better, avoiding premature and unexpected disabilities and death. The impacts and implications noted, and others will simply prove too daunting compared to the relatively simpler task of addressing specific ailments.

Finally, I would note that we now understand how a variety of factors we can now manage (i.e., diet, exercise, sleep, environmental management, spiritual nourishment) can extend life. Yet few people manage them. Human interest in life extension seems largely restricted to those moments when we are anticipating our imminent death. 

It’s a trick question if seen in the right perspective. I believe the human life span might be extended dramatically by adjusting the nature of sleep, and human metabolism. Hibernation and its variants have a strong basis in the rhythm of life. 100 years or more from now, some may be in a position to choose when to sleep, and when to wake up. Some may be forced to endure hibernation to accommodate the requirements of interstellar travel, to await scientific progress, or even as an economical variant of prison. Some may feel unappreciated in their day or may decide to opt for a later decade as a kind of lottery.

Life span extension is likely to be the province of governments for many decades before it would be available commercially. If, by that point, the concept of commercial availability still has any meaning.

Thus we may be able to extend life span well before we can extend the term of conscious, active life. The clock will still be ticking, but we’ll turn it off from time to time.

 

Research and Treatments on Aging

Genetic defects that cause aging are being resolved and drugs have been found that could delay the process. For example, the common diabetes-Type 2 drug metformin has shown experimental promise in slowing processes related to aging. Below are some recent developments:

Why People Live Past 110  Researchers are beginning to decipher the genomes of supercentenarians (those aged 110 and older) for clues to longevity. The late Dr. Stephen Coles, of the UCLA Gerontology Research Group, found that a condition known as cardiac amyloidosis ends the lives of supercentenarians. He and his colleagues identified drugs that might extend lifespan by preventing or curing that malady.  

Personalized, Predictive, and Preventive Medicine Peter Diamandis, MD and Felicia Hsu, MD, propose applying today’s powerful technologies to  vastly imrove health care, thereby increasing longevity.  Here’s a summary of their vision:

“We envision a world in which devices that monitor our daily behaviors will be able to detect micro-changes and be able to alert us when we’re starting to develop pneumonia, stressing our heart too much, or starting to develop early-onset Alzheimer’s. Medicine is moving away from the annual physical exam and blood work. It’s going to rely on constant monitoring to detect changes that are happening in our bodies every second. 

We are in the midst of a data-driven healthcare revolution: an era of abundance during which we’ll obtain a massive amount of health data. In the next few years, we’re going to see data analytics platforms that will help physicians use this mine of data.

This shift will make medicine personalized, predictive, and preventive.  

Let’s put the power of exponential technologies into patients’ hands and revolutionize how we live.”

Bodily Damage   Various methods are emerging to repair damaged organs, tissues and cells. A TechCast study forecasts that almost all body parts should be replaceable in years to come, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, blood, limbs and parts of the brain. Nanotechnology promises to use fleets of nanobots to clean up cell damage and other cellular flaws. Additionally, CRISPR technology increasingly allows genetic rewiring to eliminate genetic defects and chronic diseases.  If this can be done thoroughly, the body can in principle be continually updated to last indefinitely.

Genomic Bioengineering

  • Studying yeast cells, researchers have demonstrated that a three-to-fivefold reduction in DNA errors results in a 20 to 30 percent increase in lifespan.
  • Experiments with fruit flies have shown that tampering with genes can slow aging and extend life spans. One possible target is aging stem cells, which limit normal tissue maintenance and regeneration. Gene therapy in animals prevented this aging decline.
  • Harvard’s George Church thinks genomic engineering is now beginning to recode DNA germline cells to avoid disease and enhance health. He believes the 170-year-old trend in which life spans increase by three months each year will accelerate dramatically. Church has successfully trialed age reversal in mammals and expects to start human trials by 2030. He recently said: [iii]

“Probably we’ll see the first dog trials in the next year or two. If that works, human trials are another two years away, and eight years before they’re done. Once you get a few going and succeeding it’s a positive feedback loop.”

  • Craig Venter, the co-founder of Human Longevity, Inc., claims that DNA sequencing can predict lifespans and also suggest targets for therapeutic treatments and life extension. 
  • Israeli researchers have developed an algorithm that predicts which genes can be “turned off” to create the same anti-aging effect as calorie restriction. Caltech scientists have found a way to eliminate nearly all genetic damage in mitochondria, a major cause of aging.

Sharing Blood  Linking the circulatory system of an old animal to that of a young one rejuvenates the aged partner and sometimes extends its lifespan. Aging mice given blood plasma from young humans regain the mental abilities of much younger mice. Scientists now starting human tests of compounds from young blood that they believe could improve health in the elderly. Two, called GDF11 and Klotho, seem promising

NAD Anti-Aging Pill  Researchers from MIT are marketing nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which duplicates the benefits of calorie restriction diets, the most widely successful life-extension treatment yet discovered. “NAD is one of the most exciting things happening in aging,” said Nir Barzilai, director of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Chromosome Length   Studies show that the shortening of chromosome ends (telomeres) decreases lifespan. Researchers at Salk Institute have found an on/off switch for telomerase, and mice treated to maintain telomere length improve age-related disorders.

Rapamycin  “Rapamycin has been shown to extend life span in lab animals again and again and again,” says U. of Washington scientist Matt Kaeberlein. Novartis has licensed a derivative of rapamycin to PureHealth’s start-up company resTORbio. A recent article confirmed the benefits and disputed claims that the drug is harmful. (Aging, Oct 2019)

Epigenetics Is Crucial  Salk Institute researchers have found epigenetic changes in experimental animals using chemicals or small molecules can rejuvenate cells and increased lifespan in humans. Assays based on epigenetic status promise to speed aging research by making it possible to evaluate therapies in weeks or months instead of decades.

Senolytic Agents  Researchers have found drugs (Senolytic Agents) can eliminate old cells and dramatically slow the aging process, alleviating frailty, improving heart and blood vessels and extending lifespan. Middle-aged mice lived 35 percent longer than untreated peers and had less evidence of disease. Even mice dying of cancer lived longer than others. Phase I clinical trials have found the most-studied senolytic treatment, quercetin and dasatinib, safe for human use, though benefits will need much larger, longer tests.

Sirtuins may be ‘Fountain of Youth’ Molecules   Researchers have found that a mixture of four molecules, similar to the proteins called sirtuins, reversed DNA damage and aging in mice. Researchers have identified a longevity gene (SIRT1) that can treat morbid lifestyle diseases and increase longevity.

Not all ‘Research’ Occurs in Formal Studies  A growing number of amateurs, often with scientific training, are obtaining off-label prescriptions for metformin and rapamycin. Others are using senolytics and even GDF11 and Klotho, which are administered by injection in picogram doses. Many anecdotal reports suggest that all these therapies may offer clinical benefits. 

Biotron Technology  Jiang Kanzhen – a brilliant Russian scientist of Chinese origin – has been engaged in Biotron technology, the use of concentrated electromagnetic radiation of young organisms, such as sprouts, on old patients.  Over 20 pilot experiments with old mice and old nematodes received a positive result to extend active life. Old mice did not just live 25% longer, they were very active and died “on the run.” Even at the age of more than 100 years of human standards, they looked young.

 

Impacts and Implications

Data from 188 countries shows that life expectancy worldwide has jumped by more than 6 years since 1990, with many people living longer even in some of the poorest countries. However, extending the healthy period of life remains a challenge.  

Growth of Geriatric Disease  Longer lifespan may not be accompanied by extended “healthspan,” causing geriatric diseases to grow out of control. In the US, over 5 million people already are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and as many as 16 million are projected to have the disease in 2050.

Limited Medical Costs  The growing frailty of old age is confined to a brief period at the end of life.  Extending the healthy period of later life could reduce costs despite the growing number of old people. One study suggests that adding just 4.4 years to life expectancy, most of it in good health, could save US$7.1 trillion in economic value by 2060.

Extended Life Might Not Be Healthy  Experiments with a tiny roundworm called C. Elegans find that long-lived worms remained vigorous no longer than their short-lived brethren, then hung on in poor health. If life-extended humans followed this trend, geriatric diseases could grow out of control. However, roundworms are only one relatively primitive life form. Many studies in mammals have found that senile decay was compressed into a relatively brief period at the end of life.

 


[i] <http://www.encuentroseleusinos.com/work/maria-blasco-directora-del-cnio-envejecer-es-nada-natural/>

[ii] <https://elpais.com/elpais/2016/12/15/ciencia/1481817633_464624.html>

[iii] <https://endpoints.elysiumhealth.com/george-church-profile-4f3a8920cf7g-4f3a8920cf7f>T