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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
TechCast is pleased to announce the imminent 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 already a dozen reviews on Amazon and they are all 5-stars. Here are a few of these reviews:
Hazel Henderson — “A gem”
Michael Lee — “Best since Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock”
Mark Schutzman — “A Masterpiece of human thought”
Margherita Abe — “Guide to Survival in the Anthropocene”
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.”
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.
How Technology Is Driving an Age of Consciousness
Forewords Hazel Henderson, Michael Lee and Amy Fletcher
Preface Blessings of Maturity
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 great Jesuit anthropologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, has long fascinated us with his vision that the world would evolve into a “noosphere,”  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.
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.” 
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.  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. 
- Two-thirds cannot name the three branches of government. 
- 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.  Even hard-nosed business people admit that bias in decision-making is a major problem.  Demagogues use self-serving fantasies to blind people to reality and mobilize them into violence.  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.” 
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.” 
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.  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.”  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,  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.
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.”  Teilhard de Chardin envisioned planetary consciousness to be the natural apex of evolution – the Omega Point. 
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.”  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.” 
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 2025 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.
 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper, 1955)
 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)
 Mark Bauerian, The Dumbest Generation (New York: Penguin, 2008)
 Ker Than, “US Lags … Acceptance of Evolution” (Live Science, Aug 11, 2006)
 Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason (New York: Pantheon, 2008)
 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)
 Tobias Beer et al., “The Business Logic in Debiasing” (McKinsey, May 2017)
 Harari, “Why Fiction Trumps Truth” (The New York Times, May 24, 2019)
 “Norman Lear calls for leap of faith” (The New Leaders, May/June 1993)
 Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult (St. Martin’s, 2017)
 Ishaan Tharoor, “The Man Who Declared ‘The End of History’ Fears for Democracy’s Future” (Washington Post, Feb 9, 2017)
 World Economic Forum (Jan 24, 2018)
 For instance, the field of “big history” has studied similar time scales. See ibha.wildapricot.org (June 2, 2017)
 Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History (Oxford Univ. Press, 1960)
 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper Perennial 1976)
 “Quote of the Day” (New York Times, Sep 13, 2019)
 Stephen Hawking, “This Is the Most Dangerous Time for Our Planet” (The Guardian, Dec 1, 2019)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Strategic Forum –
Planning for Transformative Change
The pandemic and other threats like climate change pose an existential challenge to organizations everywhere, and they have made it clear that the present global order is not sustainable. The World Economic Forum called for “A Great Reset” in all spheres of society. Leaders in business, government and other institutions need to plan for transformative change – NOW.
The TechCast Project draws on its leading research to bring authoritative studies on the crucial issues of today to a broader audience. See our work on Global Consciousness, The Coming Internet, Redesigning Capitalism, Forecasting the Presidential Election, and AI versus Humans.
Anyone with an interest in strategy, foresight, future studies and related fields is encouraged to attend.
Conference Begins at 2000 UTC (coordinated universal time) and ends at 2130 UTC
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
1 pm PDT (Los Angeles, San Francisco)
4 pm EDT (New York, Washington, DC)
9 pm daylight time (London)
10 pm daylight time (Paris)
Thursday, July 1, 2021
6 am standard time (Seoul, Tokyo)
7 am standard time (Sydney)
Limor will open the conference by welcoming participants, introduce speakers and their topics and direct questions through the chat function to speakers. She is a skilled facilitator and will ensure that the proceedings are productive and transparent.
Director, Strategy & Operations, LG NOVA Center
And a Frequent Speaker
At the LGC NOVA Center, Limor is part of a startup/scaleup challenge and incubation program for LG Electronics, activating on the company’s global innovation program. Prior to this, Limor co-founded TIA’s Smart Building Program. With her consulting company, KeystoneTech Group, she worked with PropTech startups on market strategy and business development. She co-leads the NIST – Global City Teams Challenge Smart Buildings SuperCluster. As an international corporate attorney, Limor draws on her understanding of the digital environment from her work in the theme park, video game, mobile communications infrastructure, and other technology sectors. She has led technology-oriented organizations, serving as President of the World Future Society DC Chapter and Co-founder, Chair Emeritus of the IPv6 Forum Israel Chapter. Limor is also an international speaker and a moderator. She has been a show host for several online media outlets.
Most Likely Scenario for 2030
Bill draws on his work at TechCast to provide forecasts of 50 emerging technologies, 30 social trends, and 25 wild cards. Results are aggregated to provide a macro-forecast of the “Most Likely Scenario for 2030” — Sustainability Arrives, Green Transportation, Infinite Knowledge and Intelligence, Mastery Over Life, Threats Across the Spectrum and Higher-Order Values. We conclude with the theme of Prof. Halal’s forthcoming book, Beyond Knowledge: Digital technology is now driving a shift to an “Age of Consciousness.”
The TechCast Project
George Washington University
Bill is Professor Emeritus of Management, Technology and Innovation. He is founder and director of the TechCast Project and a thought leader in foresight, strategy, forecasting and related fields. For more, see www.BillHalal.com
State-of-the-Art in Strategy and Foresight: Constant Change from the Bottom Up And the Outside In
Jess and Bill summarize results of their recent survey of strategic foresight practices to outline how strategic foresight is changing to cope with the technology revolution. The study’s main conclusion is that organizations should develop “constant change from the bottom up and the outside in.”
CEO, The Cognis Group
As leader of this life sciences consultancy firm, Jess provides leadership for the company portfolio that includes IP research, consulting and strategic partnering services, Pharmalicensing.com and FutureinFocus.com–an online subscription services curating foresight reports on technology and innovation trends driving the next 10-20 years. Many years of experience in both corporations and consulting provided a multi-faceted perspective for driving solutions most critical to brand and business development.
The TechCast Project
George Washington University
(See bio above)
The Time For Transformation Is Now
Hazel Henderson draws on a lifetime of work in future studies to suggest what families, organizations, nations, and all of us can do to actually create transformative change. How do futurists and strategists get their attention? What strategic “processes” do we recommend? How can this Strategic Forum provide leadership?
Futurist, Author, Speaker, Consultant
President, Ethical Markets
Hazel Henderson is a global futurist and her eleven books and current research continue to map the worldwide transition from the fossil-fueled Industrial Era to the renewable circular economies emerging in a knowledge-rich, cleaner, greener and wiser future. Ethical Markets Media Certified B. Corporation, which Hazel founded in 2004 after 20 years advising the Calvert Group of socially-responsible mutual funds, continues the work of reforming markets and metrics to guide investors toward our long-term survival on planet Earth. In the 1960s, with the help of a volunteer ad agency and enlightened media executives, Hazel organized Citizens for Clean Air to inform New Yorkers of the polluted air they were breathing. They showed the late Robert F. Kennedy, then running for his Senate seat, all the sources of this pollution and why they were campaigning to correct the GDP to subtract, not add, these pollution costs. Kennedy’s speech on the GDP problem at the University of Kansas became a rallying cry for reform of this obsolete indicator, still too often quoted as a measure of national “progress“! In 1975, Hazel joined Lester Brown on the founding board of the World Watch Institute, and again, she was forced to face up to this Global MegaCrisis at every board meeting, as the human effects on planetary ecosystems deteriorated. For more, see Hazel’s recent presentation at the Family Office Forum in Singapore, March 5th. Hazel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Following Executive Workshop
The Workshop begins 30 minutes after the Conference ends (2200 UTC).
This Executive Workshop follows the above Conference to assist leaders, planners and other professionals in drawing on the presentations to develop a more powerful strategic posture. In this workshop, you will review the presentations of the previous speakers and assess the impact on your current strategic posture. In a small working group of your peers, you will discuss needed adjustments to account for the anticipated changes. Each group will report their key findings to the entire group. You will come away with a comprehensive set of insights and actions that you can take back to your organization and bring your overall strategy into greater alignment with the transformative changes that lie ahead.
President/CEO, Applied Knowledge Sciences, Inc.
Assisted by Limor Shafman and Bill Halal
Dr. Art Murray is co-founder of Applied Knowledge Sciences, Inc. where he has served as CEO for over 27 years. Since 2005, he’s been the Director of the Enterprise of the Future Program at the International Institute for Knowledge and Innovation. He’s the author of “Deep Learning Manual: the knowledge explorer’s guide to self-discovery in education, work, and life,” and “Building the Enterprise of the Future: Co-creating and delivering extraordinary value in an eight-billion-mind world,” and KMWorld magazine’s popular column: “The Future of the Future.” He holds a B.S.E.E. degree from Lehigh University, and the M.E.A. and D.Sc. degrees from the George Washington University.
Small group breakout discussions and reporting.
- Updating Strategy for a High-Tech World: Constant Change from the Bottom Up and the Outside In
- Through the MegaCrisis (Awarded “Outstanding pape of 2013” by Emerald Publishing)
- VALUING LOVE ECONOMIES: Revealed as Driving Positive Human Evolution!
To clarify questions about the program or other issues, email Prof. Halal at Halal@GWU.edu
Second Conference of the Strategic Forum
July 28, 2021
Foresight Lessons From the Pandemic:
Implications for Strategy Formulation and Response
Ideally, foresight precedes strategy formulation, but in moments of crisis normal order must be abandoned and foresight and strategy inevitably unfold together in real-time. We will offer a set of lessons learned from conducting a major Delphi-based scenario foresight project during the darkest days of the unfolding pandemic and reflect on the long-term implications for how foresight and strategy can more effectively blend in the face of deep uncertainty.
CEO, The Millennium Project
Jerry is the co-founder of the Millennium Project with 67 Nodes around the world. He is also lead author of the State of the Future reports, co-editor of Futures Research Methodology 3.0, designed and manages the Global Futures Intelligence System. Glenn led The Millennium Project team that created the COVID-19 scenarios for the American Red Cross and lead-author for Scenario 1: America Endures, the baseline, surprise fee scenario.
Theodore Jay Gordon
Futurist and Management Consultant
Ted is a specialist in forecasting methodology, planning, and policy analysis. He is co-founder and Board member of The Millennium Project. Ted founded The Futures Group, was one of the founders of The Institute for the Future and consulted for the RAND Corporation. He was also Chief Engineer of the McDonnell Douglas Saturn S-IV and S-IVB space vehicles and was in charge of the launch of space vehicles from Cape Canaveral. He is a frequent lecturer, author of many technical papers and several books dealing with space, the future, life extension, scientific and technological developments and issues, and recently, co-author of books on the prospects for terrorism and counterfactual methods. He is the author of the Macmillan encyclopedia article on the future of science and technology. He is on the editorial board of Technological Forecasting and Social Change. Mr. Gordon was a member of the Millennium Project team that created scenarios for the American Red Cross. Ted was responsible for the negative scenario that depicted a bleak but plausible future; this scenario contains many assumptions about the unknowns, but in the end seems endurable and plausible.
Paul is a Silicon Valley-based forecaster who studies technological change. He teaches at Stanford where he is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Engineering and is Chair of Future Studies at Singularity University. Paul is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, and a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. Paul holds degrees from Harvard College, Cambridge University, and Stanford University.
- Three Futures of the Covid-19 Pandemic in the US, January 1, 2022.
Anyone with an interest in strategy, foresight, future studies and related fields is encouraged to attend.
Conference Begins at 2000 UTC (coordinated universal time) and ends at 2130 UTC
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
1 pm PDT (Los Angeles, San Francisco)
4 pm EDT (New York, Washington, DC)
9 pm daylight time (London)
10 pm daylight time (Paris)
Thursday, July 29, 2021
6 am standard time (Seoul, Tokyo)
7 am standard time (Sydney)
To clarify questions about the program or other issues, email Prof. Halal at Halal@GWU.edu
The Emerging Global Consciousness
It is increasingly clear that a major shift in values, beliefs and ideology is needed to make sense of today’s turmoil and to grasp the outlines of the emerging global order. This session presents a vision of global consciousness developed by TechCast’s study to resolve the Global MegaCrisis.
William E. Halal
The TechCast Project
George Washington University
(See bio above)
A strategic organizational posture that balances collaboration with competitiveness requires a deeper understanding of common ground, and that understanding is found in stories. Beyond storytelling, story thinking provides the visualization of story structure as the holistic business, learning, and communication model. The foundational shared mental model of “process” which was adopted in the Second Industrial Revolution must expand into a shared mental model of “story” to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, given it is based on intelligence, not electricity. Carl Jung said, “You are IN a story, whether you know it or not.” Operationalizing this quotation is the goal of story thinking, and is the key to thriving within transformational change.
Coach, Speaker, Author, Story Thinking
Dr. John Lewis, Ed.D. is a consultant, coach, and is speaker on the topics of human capital and strategic change within the knowledge-driven enterprise. He is the author of Story Thinking, which is about the major organizational challenges related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ways for visionary leaders to begin addressing them now by rethinking traditional views of change, learning, and leadership. He is also the author of The Explanation Age, which Kirkus Reviews described as “An iconoclast’s blueprint for a new era of innovation.” He is the current president of EBLI (Evidence-Based Learning Institute) and holds a Doctoral degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Southern California, with a dissertation focus on mental models and decision making.
Keys to Open Innovation
Many of the world’s most successful business models, companies, and products were born from the synthesis of necessity and collaboration. “Open Innovation” is not a new concept, but rather one that demands increasing attention and robust implementation in the rapidly accelerating technology innovation lifecycle. Despite the success stories, many organizations have not yet fully embraced the concept of leveraging external innovation, as internal stakeholders often mistakenly perceive threats and underestimate opportunities that may arise from partnerships. This discussion will explore the careful balance that must be achieved and maintained between legacy internal processes and the augmented capabilities of external resources.
Director of Research & Engineering
The Cognis Group
Anthony Cascio leads the Cognis team responsible for intellectual property analytics & landscaping, technology scouting, and partnering search engagements. For over twelve years, Anthony has consulted with clients ranging from the Fortune 500 to startups in a broad array of high technology industries related to both the life and physical sciences. He provides unique insight alongside validation to help guide each client’s strategic direction and identify new technology-related business opportunities. Anthony studied electrical engineering at the University of South Florida while conducting research in electronic materials characterization and electrospray deposition of macromolecular structures.
Staying Safe in a Digital World
Each day the news is filled with stories about computer crime and hacking which affect our financial institutions, banks, small businesses, large corporations, hospitals, retail stores and threatens to steal even our own identity. Cybersecurity refers to the practice of defending computers, networks and data from malicious attacks. We will provide an overview of aspects of cybersecurity including viruses, phishing, social engineering, identity theft and personal privacy as well as threats to the Internet of Things and physical security and provide tips on how to protect yourself and your organization from these threats.
Futurist and Speaker
Former Administrator, National Institutes of Health
Which data, what data, what futures: cybersecurity from the cloud to the brain cloud
We live our existence in a space we see, smell, hear, touch, and taste. However, for the last 10 years, this is not just all the space our existence is lived. We spend an ever-growing part of our time in cyberspace, in a global domain within the information environment where our digital life carries on — but for which nature did not equip us for sense-making. In this talk we will explore the strategic structure of cyberspace and its implications, to then broaden our aperture looking at trends for both near future and deep futures.
Visionary Futurist and Enthusiastic Innovator
Former Advisor to the Minister of Defense for Futures
Dr. Gabriele Rizzo, Ph.D., APF, holds a PhD in String Theory and Astrophysics. He is the NATO’s Member at Large (“world-class expert drawn from academia, industry or government from the Nations”) in Strategic Foresight and Futures Studies, and the former advisor to the Italian Minister of Defense on Futures. He is a member of the Strategy Board of the European Cyber Security Organization, a PPP worth $2B. Dr. Rizzo’s works inform $1T (one trillion USD) worth of Defense planning, some were evaluated “important pillars of strategy and implementation of R&I” by the EU, and others shape industrial investments in Research, Development and Innovation for more than $20B in 2020.
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AI versus Humans – The Salient Issue of Our Time
Having solved the problems of global consciousness, the coming internet, redesigning capitalism and the 2020 US Election (ha ha!), we now turn to the most salient technology of our times – artificial intelligence (AI). The heart of this issue focuses on the relationship between AI and humans. A good example is TechCast’s study on “AI and Future Work.” We found that the threat of mass unemployment due to automation is likely to be resolved by pioneering a new frontier of “creative work” that can’t be done by intelligent machines.
Let’s start by defining AI in terms of the human tasks it is capable of automating potentially. The figure “Structure of Consciousness” shows the hierarchy of different tasks or functions performed by human consciousness, or human intelligence (HI). As noted in the figure, the arrow indicates how AI is automating progressively the lower-order tasks, forcing humans to focus on the realm of higher-order tasks.
This raises the big question – “How much of HI is likely to be automated, and how much will humans continue to do? To get a handle on this profound issue, we frame the problem in terms of the following 15 functions that roughly comprise HI.
1. Perception Sensory experience and awareness through touch, sight, sound, smell, taste.
2. Memory Information encoded, stored, and retrieved for future action.
3. Learning Knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study.
4. Knowledge Understanding of a science, art, or technique for some purpose.
5. Decision A determination arrived at after consideration.
6. Emotion Mental reaction (anger, fear, etc.) experienced as strong feeling.
7. Empathy Experiencing vicariously the thoughts and emotions of others.
8. Purpose An object or end chosen to be attained.
9. Will Ability to desire, choose, consent to some action.
10. Values Things we think to be of relative worth, utility, or importance.
11. Beliefs Some idea that is considered true or held as opinion.
12 Imagination Novel sensations and ideas gained without input of the senses.
13. Intuition Attaining knowledge without rational thought and inference.
14. Peak Experience Altered state of consciousness characterized by euphoria.
15. Vision Guiding thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination.
Some of this is being done by machines now. For instance, see this example showing that a third generation of AI is coming that goes beyond deep learning to simulate human empathy. In this example, an avatar listens to a soldier talk of his PTSD experiences and coaches him into resolution of the trauma. Obviously, the applications could be huge, from automated psychotherapy to teaching to virtual sex. So we don’t wish to dismiss the prospects for advanced AI.
But we do want to explore the limits of AI. How far up this hierarchy of human thought can AI proceed? And, even if AI can simulate some aspect of human consciousness, what does that mean really? Would it be the same as what people do? Or would it be just a false replica? A rough approximation? A feeble substitute for the real thing? These are difficult and profound questions that bear on the future relationship between AI and HI. Let’s see what we can learn.
When speaking on this topic, we often ask audiences if they think there is a substantial difference between AI an HI. A few brave individuals usually say “No, there is no difference,” but the vast majority (90% or more) insist there is a substantial difference. They may not be able to put their finger on it, but it seems intuitively obvious to most people that humans are unique. Of course, we could be proven wrong as AI matures. That is the nature of this great experiment now underway as science advances. This little TechCast study is our attempt to anticipate the outcome.
After getting your thoughts on framing this issue in Round Two, you will be asked to look over the definitions of each function and estimate if AI will be able to do it in the next few decades without human input. (Yes or No). The results should give us a sound grasp of the profile of artificial intelligence (AI) versus human intelligence (HI). These 15 functions may not define the full range of human consciousness perfectly, but they will serve the rough purpose of this study.
Round Two — Invitation to Help Frame This Study
For the second round of the study, we now invite you to make sure this issue is framed in the most useful way possible. Are important functions missing? Are these defined accurately? Is the problem posed effectively? Should we pose other questions? What else is on your mind?
Please send your best thinking to Halal@GWU.edu. We will use your ideas to improve this study and post them in the next edition of TechCast Research.
Thanks for your support. The TechCast Team
Forecasting the 2020 US Presidential Election – RESULTS
TechCast has done many provocative studies, but results of this one are unusually fascinating, worrisome and even hopeful. Much of the world is anxiously awaiting either more “Trumpmania” – or Biden normalcy and some resolution toward a complex future.
The bar chart below shows the probability of a Trump Win, and the probability of a Biden win is the inverse. Comments from our responding readers are spread out below along a Biden-Trump Spectrum.
Some of the 21 respondents are not Americans, but they are following this election closely, which shows that interest is global. We heard from Michael Vidikan, Margherita Abe, Dale Deacon, Peter King, Art Shostak, Jonathan Kolber, Jacques Malan, Clayton Rawlings, Brad Hughes, Ted Gordon, Owen Davies, Chris Garlick, Fernando Ortega, Steve Hausman, Mark Sevening, Wendell Wallach, Hannu Lehtinen, John Freedman, Jose Cordeiro, and Hellmuth Broda. Thanks to all.
While the probability data favors Biden winning the election, the results are so close there remains great uncertainty. As the comments make clear, people think Trump will find ways to suppress votes, get outside interference, introduce doubt and challenge the results, while many fear Biden will introduce more socialism and higher taxes.
We rely on the collective intelligence of 21 thoughtful readers from around the globe who have examined the Pros and Cons of our background data and made careful estimates. The wide diversity of the sample is especially compelling. If this study were replicated with 21 different people, the results would likely be similar. TechCast has studied our accuracy many times, and this is a typical result, with accuracy roughly within +/- 1- 2 percent.
Drawing on the probability data and comments, we sketch out the two possible scenarios that could result, noting both the dangers, challenges and gains. TechCast appreciates fully the heated nature of this issue, and we have strived to focus on the evidence summarized in the background data and comments, often with a touch of forecaster judgment.
Trump Wins would produce more confusion, a lingering pandemic and faltering economy, heightened social division and global isolation. American democracy would likely become more autocratic. Apart from gaining a majority on the Supreme Court (more politicalization), it is hard to find benefits. Trump is often thought to be good on the economy, but the evidence shows growth was the same under Obama. And Obama started from the worst crisis since the Great Depression of ’29, while Trump slashed taxes and regulations with little effect.
Biden Wins would require absorbing Trump supporters, controlling the pandemic, taxing the wealthy, improving health care, supporting people of color, rebuilding infrastructure, addressing climate change, immigration and repairing global relations – while fending off charges of socialism. All this seems unlikely, but it could prove a tipping point in the decline of the Republican agenda and autocrats everywhere.
Both scenarios are possible, but TechCast relies on the data and concludes that a Biden win is the more likely outcome. It could possibly be a landslide victory, enough to overwhelm Trumpian power plays. We could be proven wrong, of course, but the outcome should be clear sometime after the election. If Biden does win, remember, you heard it here at TechCast.
Thanks for your support. The TechCast Team
Forecasting the 2020 US Presidential Election
TechCast now moves to the next most popular topic rated by our readers – Will Trump or Biden win the coming election? Yes, this is controversial and fraught with heated emotion. But so too were our recent studies of the MegaCrisis, Global Consciousness, The Coming Internet and Redesigning Capitalism.
We choose to forecast this event in the same objective manner because it is among the most significant events of our time. It is an existential moment. The outcome will determine America’s experiment in Democracy, our lives, the future of our children, and even the world as a whole.
Using our method of collective intelligence, this blog outlines below the Pros and Cons for both candidates, and it asks you to comment on needed changes in this background information. Our next blog will publish an updated background analysis and invite readers to estimate the probability of a Trump or Biden win. We could possibly carry this further by updating our forecast in a few weeks to see trends leading to the election. If we receive a flood of objections to this study, all bets are off. TechCast aims to serve its readers.
Background Information on the 2020 Election
Pros and Cons On Donald Trump
Pro: Large and solid political base. Somewhere between 30-40% of Americans support Trump, and some 90% of Republicans are devout believers.
Pro: Electoral college advantage. The disproportionate weight of scarcely populated states strongly favors Trump. Nate Silver, a successful political forecaster, thinks it will take Biden at least a 5% lead in the popular vote to overcome this advantage.
Pro: Rated best on economy. Despite statistics showing no difference between Obama’s 8 years of economic growth and Trump’s 4 years, many continue to believe Trump is better at stimulating economic growth.
Pro: Could exploit chaos in the election. Trump is a master at taking advantage of the chaos he foments, and more is likely to come.
Pro: Voter suppression, foreign disinformation, etc. may help. Cutting back capabilities of the Postal Service, discouraging mail in ballots, restricted voter rules, disinformation from Russia, etc. could all give Trump an edge.
Con: Disliked by large segments of society. Rather obvious.
Con: Poor performance. Data on economic growth, presidential ratings, the Federal deficit and other indicators show that Trump’s performance is poor. (See our TechCast Study) Roughly 75% of the public thinks the Nation is “On the wrong track,” a telling sign of presidential failure.
Con: Vulnerable on pandemic and resulting economic collapse. By almost all indicators, the US response to the coronavirus has been the worst in the world, even eclipsing Brazil.
Pros and Cons on Joseph Biden
Pro: Favored by Alan Lichtman forecast. Prof. Lichtman at American University has developed a system that accurately predicts presidential elections for the past century. His system gives the election to Biden, but only narrowly.
Pro: Rated best on all other issues. Apart from the economy, Biden is thought to be better at managing other political issues.
Pro: Solid reputation and experience. Biden has made mistakes, but he has an impeccable reputation and a lifetime of experience at government.
Pro: Black voters determined to remove Trump. Black athletes, celebrities and ordinary citizens are infuriated by racial injustice and other Trump flaws, and they show fierce determination to mobilize their large constituency against his reelection.
Pro: Shift to progressive values underway The pandemic, economic collapse, racial injustice, climate change and other crises have spurred a worldwide shift in global consciousness that favors progressive change.
Con: Looks old. Biden may be fit for his age, but he appears old at times and often slurs when speaking.
Invitation to Comment on Background Data
NEW BACKGROUND INFORMATION Please look over the background analysis above and send any needed changes to Halal@GWU.edu. You may want to add a Pro or Con item, suggest revisions to existing items, question items, or anything else needed to make this analysis more accurate.
No rants please. Try to focus on helping us frame this forecast with all relevant information that could shape the election.
We are grateful for your participation. Results will be presented in our next blog for Round Two.
Defining the TechCast Mission
The TechCast Team and I feel a need to explore possible changes in the TechCast mission. We are particularly concerned about the possible conflict between TechCast and its founder – Bill Halal. For instance, what are the new TechCast goals exactly? Is it appropriate to continue calling the newsletter “Bill’s Blog”?
TechCast led the field for 20 years by providing authoritative forecasts spanning the entire environment for decision makers. We published reports covering all aspects of roughly 50 emerging technologies, 30 social trends, 25 wild cards and endless other studies. This huge task required a dozen editors, other staff, marketing, legal fees and all the other costs of running a small corporation. Although It was a struggle, TechCast earned almost $ 1 million over this time, largely used to cover costs and invested in the company.
But the enormous demands, insufficient capital and intensifying competition made it hard to survive, so we transitioned into this 2nd generation system. TechCast still provides forecasts, but we have yielded the need to cover everything and instead focus on breakthroughs – like our recent string of studies noted above. By doing less, I think we have been able to do more.
Now TechCast is now a lean operation incorporated into my professional site (www.BillHalal.com) able to study strategic issues that count. Our primary goal is to make TechCast an “invisible college” for all those interested in strategic foresight. We aim to study the most significant issues on the horizon, distribute our knowledge widely, encourage collaboration on interesting ideas, assist our members in their own work, and anything else that advances strategic foresight for a changing world. The TechCast Project is returning to its academic roots.
Our modest needs are covered by consulting, speaking and other projects. The TechCast vision is to develop capabilities as a business incubator in strategic foresight. In the last few months, we partnered with Angus Hooke on a book that uses the work of several TechCast experts. We helped Claire Nelson and Hassan Rashidi launch their Engineering and Society project, collaborated with Jess Garretson, CEO of The Cognis Group, and are now planning an Executive Webinar led by Amy Fletcher and others. TechCast welcomes your creative ideas, suggested projects, articles and any other ways we can work together.
The newsletter is our primary news vehicle, and it has been branded as “Bill’s Blog” to draw on the founder’s reputation, provide interest and to keep it personal. We now wonder if a more business-like name that is more inclusive would be best – TechCast News, etc. ?
Invitation to Comment on TechCast Mission
Kindly look over the above analysis and send your suggestions to Halal@GWU.edu.
Mission Do you like this TechCast mission? See a problem? Suggest something else? Have a proposal to consider?
Newsletter Name Should our newsletter continue to be called “Bill’s Blog”? Do you prefer “TechCast News”? Can you suggest other names?
Comments will be published in the next newsletter along with our analysis.
William E. Halal, PhD
The TechCast Project
George Washington University
Redesigning Capitalism – Final Results
The Coming Collaborative/Democratic Enterprise
Do not despair over the dismal state of the world today. The collective intelligence of 36 people who have participated in this study expect a new model of Democratic Enterprise to enter the business mainstream over the next several years with a highly positive societal impact. It could prove to be the beginning of a new American Renaissance.
Here’s a quick summary of the proposition being studied, more fully described at the end of this blog. The coronavirus pandemic, economic depression, the threat of climate change and other crises signal that business must go beyond making money to “internalize” these societal problems — or the world faces disaster. Building on the Business Roundtable announcement and other background data, this study forecasts the likelihood that the mainstream of business in modern nations will serve the interests of all stakeholders over the next several years.
This study started in our blog of August 1 when Redesigning Capitalism was rated as having greatest interest among 14 different topics. The blog of August 15 drew on comments from 12 contributors to flesh out our background analysis, and it also called for estimates of Probability and Societal Impact.
We are now pleased to present results from 24 of this blog’s readers below:
These results are striking. A sample of 24 is more than sufficient to reach sound conclusions, especially considering the sophisticated people who contributed, many of whom are TechCast Experts:
Margarite Abe, Jonathan Kolber, Jose Cordeiro, Peter King, Jess Garretson, Jacques Malan, Dale Deacon, Dennis Bushnell, Peter Bishop, Nicolas Cordes , Aharon Hauptman, Julio Milan, Andrew Micone, Linda Smith, Amy Fletcher, Fadi Bayoud, Lew Miller, Xin Wu Lin, Owen Davies, Tom Tao, Jerry Glenn, Carlos Scheel, Chris Garlick. We are grateful.
It is hard to imagine a more positive outcome. When considering the “mode” (highest number of responses), our contributors estimate a 70% probability that “the mainstream of business in industrialized nations (30% adoption level) shifts to collaboration with workers, customers, governments, environmentalists and other stakeholders over the next several years.” On Societal Impact, they rate “the impact this would have on society as a whole” at +7 on a scale running from -10 (Catastrophic) to +10 (Excellent). Using averages would drop these numbers a bit.
This impressive data, along with comments that follow, make a strong case for expecting an historic transformation of business consciousness over the next few years. The number of corporations involving stakeholders in major policy decisions is likely to grow from today’s small leading edge into the mainstream of business, both in the US and industrialized nations abroad. There remains confusion and doubts, as noted in the comments that follow. But if business leaders can seize the opportunities for transformative change, the economic world could enter a bold new economic era that solves major social problems as well as producing financial gains. It is even reasonable to think this would constitute a revolution in thought on political economy. In time, we may stop thinking in terms of “capitalism” altogether and embrace the emerging form of “democratic enterprise.”
Leaders in business, government and other institutions should start to seriously plan this transformation by engaging stakeholders, devising metrics to evaluate stakeholder contributions and benefits and collaborating to resolve strategic problems that add value to be shared by the entire enterprise.
TechCast is thinking of starting an Executive Webinar to help business leaders adapt to this revolutionary change. We welcome any suggestions and help in planning this venture.
Redesigning Capitalism – Round Two
Following up on our last blog on Redesigning Capitalism, this second round continues our process of online collective intelligence to flesh out the background analysis with comments from contributors. Results confirm our framing of the issue, and they also raise crucial questions answered below. We then invite readers to estimate the probability that Democratic Enterprise will enter the mainstream and its societal impact.
Below you will find trenchant responses from the following different voices:
Chris Garlick shows how the transportation industry is practicing stakeholder collaboration.
Carlos Scheel reminds us to include Nature and the Planet.
Dennis Bushnell claims Democratic Enterprise will emerge organically from market forces.
Linda Smith defends profit as the legitimate business goal.
Young-Jin Choi provides three requirements for “regulated human capitalism.”
Jonathan Kolber forecasts that a variety of corporate types will practice stakeholder collaboration.
Peter Bishop agrees with our analysis but questions our trends.
Margherita Abe estimates a 70% probability that democratic enterprise will arrive soon.
Peter King likes the idea but worries about it surviving creative destruction.
Jess Garretson explores the forces and needs of stakeholder capitalism.
Jacques Malan finds this a difficult but crucial topic, and breaks it down by stakeholders.
Julio Milan outlines the importance of moving to a “humanist economy.”
While our original analysis is confirmed largely, several critical issues are raised by these 12 contributors:
Corporate Transformation is Here
Almost all commentators agree that the rising threat of pandemics, climate change, income inequality and other social and environmental problems are so severe that business leaders are being forced to “internalize” these issues by transforming corporate structures. This movement is often called “Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG),” while our analysis shows it is more accurately thought of as “collaborative enterprise” or “democratic enterprise.”
Here is a sobering conclusion reached by the World Economic Forum:
“The bandwagon of stakeholder capitalism and sustainable finance is well and truly in train. As the future unfolds, those not already on it – authentically and materially – risk getting left behind.”
A Broader Form of Free Enterprise Would Be Historic
While some are concerned at the passing of “shareholder supremacy,” almost all contributors agree the required changes merely extend principles of markets, enterprise and competition into the social frontier. In short, there seems to be no call for fears of socialism because this is simply a broader form of free enterprise.
The emerging model of the “collaborative/democratic enterprise” changes the economic landscape by introducing democracy at the level of the organization. It is neither capitalism nor socialism but an unusually powerful concept that unifies both left and right. The practice serves social interests as well as shareholders, so it is no longer focuses primarily on profit — capitalism. It is led voluntarily by CEOs because it can be a competitive advantage, so it is not required by government — socialism.
At the national level, governments would collaborate with constituents to serve all interests, including green taxes to limit carbon use, laws that promote equality, rulings to disperse market concentrations, etc.
Progressive business leaders are embracing this idea in a constructive way that solves strategic problems to add value. In principle, a collaborative system could solve nagging social problems, provide shareholders greater returns at less risk, minimize government oversight, stave off global crises like climate change and turn business leaders into social heroes. Collectively, it would shift global consciousness from self-interest to collective interest — an historic revolution.
Confusion Could Distort Efforts
The greatest danger in this period of institutional change is confusion over terms and methods. For instance, some are fearful that serving social needs will diminish the ability of business to survive a competitive marketplace. This danger stems from the decades-long focus on the older concept of social responsibility, without the concurrent need for obligation to perform financially.
The many examples cited here show that a leading edge of innovative firms have survived the test of competition and thrived. The key is to focus on collaborative strategic problem-solving in order to serve all needs better. As noted in our analysis below, stakeholders are actually resources, much like capital, and the challenge is to integrate social resources into business operations. The theory holds that collaborative enterprise should be more effective economically as well as socially. To survive the test of market competition, any system will have to be more productive.
There are also dangers of getting bogged down in endless wrangling over “who gets what.” This will require charting a new frontier of management that resolves the political issues that are endemic to any organization. Business leaders will have to form working partnerships with all stakeholders that ensure both responsibilities and rewards are equitable for all parties.
There are probably lots of other distortions that we cannot yet imagine, including the obstacles noted below in our trend analysis. Fasten your seat belts because the next decade or two could prove a bumpy ride.
Invitation to Answer Survey Questions
We now invite readers to look over the comments below followed by the background analysis. Then kindly send your best estimates of the questions below to Halal@GWU.edu.
PROBABILITY Please estimate the probability that the mainstream of business in industrialized nations (30% adoption level) shifts to collaboration with workers, customers, governments, environmentalists and other stakeholders over the next several years. (from 0 to 100%)
SOCIETAL IMPACT Please estimate the impact this would have on society as a whole. (from -10 Catastrophic to +10 Excellent.)
COMMENTS What reasons guide you in making these estimates? Other comments?
We are grateful for your participation. Final results will be presented in our next blog for Round Three.
William E. Halal, PhD
The TechCast Project
George Washington University