What Are the Most Crucial Strategic Issues To Study? A Survey of Readers’ Interests
Bill’s Blog has been publishing for only a few months, yet we have done penetrating studies of “How to Resolve the MegaCrisis” and “The Coming Internet.” The first was opened by roughly 30% of our subscribers and the second by about 10%. This poses a tough question I would like to your help with – Which topics have the greatest strategic interest? Here are a few hot ideas that seem exciting:
1. When Will the Pandemic End?
Studies of the pandemic have become overwhelming, so TechCast will focus on more strategic aspects of the crisis, such as forecasting the return to normal living conditions. For instance, when will 90% of people no longer wear masks, social distance, etc? When will unemployment drop to about 5% again? How bad will it get? We may also estimate arrival of the next pandemic.
2. Forecasting the Trump Presidency
With the Trump presidency nearing a turning point at the 2020 elections, this could be an optimal time to update our 2016 forecast.The 2016 forecast also offer a rare opportunity to assess our accuracy. Notice that our TechCast experts proved fairly accurate on policy changes, national performance and a 50% probability for the scenario “Trump Rules.” This small test confirms the value of our collective intelligence method – gathering background data and using expert judgment to resolve uncertainty and reach the best available estimates. Next time we could forecast the winner of the 2020 elections and what happens “After Trump.”
3. AI and Future Jobs
This study is one of our most popular reads, and we could update it to establish a trendline, if you are interested. What other aspects of the topic should we cover?
4. How Does Artificial Intelligence (AI) Differ From Human Intelligence (HI)?
AI research is working hard to simulate subjective aspects of human intelligence, raising the profound question – What is the essential difference between AI and HI? When an audience is asked this question, I find that 90% plus think there is a fundamental difference, though they can’t tell what it is. This study could explore that crucial issue.
5. Technology Is Creating an Age of Consciousness
This is the subject of my forthcoming book, Beyond Knowledge.Smart phones, social media and AI are causing the Knowledge Age to mature and fade into the past, moving us into the next stage of social evolution. Today’s “post-factual” nonsense is a prescient harbinger as it based on beliefs, values and emotions and other forms of consciousness. Whatever one may think of President Trump, he is a master at shaping consciousness. This means an Age of Consciousness is here today, though we may not like its current form.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the hottest emerging technologies around today, yet it is fraught with obstacles, especially security issues. We struggle with hacking, identity theft, viruses and other security problems, so imagine what could happen when billions of devices are connected to everything around the globe? This study could update our IoT forecast.
8. Is Life Extension Really Coming?
Yes, life expectancy is increasing steadily, but that’s due to better health care, nutrition, public safety and other ordinary causes. Real life extension would take us beyond the 120-year limit that seems to set by genetic factors. Is it really possible to live 150, 200, 300 years? When will this be likely? By what means? Stay tuned.
9. Forecasts of the Space Age
As a former aerospace engineer on the Lunar Module of the Apollo Project, the coming Space Age is near my heart. My best thinking is that the world will enter this final frontier in earnest about 2050 after forming a unified global order. Say the word and we will explore this fascinating topic.
10. When Will Self-Driving Green Cars Enter the Mainstream?
Tesla is a step in the right direction, but it will take widespread renewable energy, much better automatic driving systems and far lower prices to make self-driving, intelligent, ecologically benign cars a widespread reality. Should we pool our collective intelligence to forecast when this will happen?
11. Top-Ten Tech Breakthroughs
A great study would use the knowledge of our experts and readers to assess the prospects for various tech breakthroughs and identify the top-ten that are most strategic. Strategic techs are those few likely to arrive in 5-10 years, with the greatest payoffs and broadest scientific influence. This would a fine study.
12. Top-Ten Social Trends
We could do the same study to select the 10 most strategic social trends.
13. Top-Ten Wild Cards
Ditto for wild cards.
14. Redesigning Capitalism
This is a hot issue today as the world is increasingly disenchanted with Big Business and the dominance of profit. TechCast has been forecasting the arrival of a quasi-democratic form of corporation for years – and it is starting now. Yes, I know this rankles those who are afraid of “socialism,” but let me assure you this is not government control. Collaborative problem solving among all stakeholders creates added value for all involved, including greater profit for shareholders. It can be a competitive advantage.
15. Rise of the Asian Century This study would provide historical context on the “American Century” starting after WW II and the “British Century” before that. We could focus on how great powers have changed in the past, and what might happen in the future as America loses its hold on global dominance. We could forecast the rise of Asia and its strategic implications.
Please Tell Me What You Think
I really want to make Bill’s Blog a more interesting and useful source of strategic knowledge for our readers. Please take a few minutes to email me at Halal@GWU.edu with your top choices for topics to study. You can just send the numbers of topics you like (EG, No. 4,5,9, etc). I will do my best to analyze your responses and create a research agenda that will delight us all.
Be sure to tell your friends and associates to sign up for this blog at www.BillHalal.com.
William E. Halal, PhD The TechCast Project George Washington University
This is a slightly updated version of our 2016 study forecasting the Trump Era.
The original study drew on the expertise of our global network of 150 international thought leaders. We realize that political issues are highly controversial, but the Trump presidency is one of the pivotal developments of our time, and we think it deserves objective research. This report includes a forecast of changes in Federal policies, a forecast of national performance, three alternative scenarios and comments from the respondents.
Based on all this data, here’s quick summary of what we forecast in 2016:
Growing Turbulence and Uncertainty
A striking result is the wide variation in expert estimates. Some are at opposite ends of the scales. We think this reflects powerful drivers of change and widely differing actors are now emerging. This also tells us there is a strong need for sound strategy, especially focusing on planning for crises and contingencies.
Major Change Plus Wild Cards
Our analysis suggests that most of these policies are moderately likely, while some are considered unlikely. The expected social impact is generally considered to be quite damaging. Signs of wild cards are seen in the prospects of an alliance with Russia and the impeachment of Mr. Trump; both are rated to have positive results.
Our thought leaders also estimated various indicators of US national performance. They expect only modest economic growth, with Trump’s approval ratings likely to remain about 40 percent.
US National Policy Changes
We asked our experts to judge the likelihood that the federal government will deport illegal immigrants, impose tariffs or import taxes, curtail trade agreements, repeal the Affordable Care Act, muzzle the EPA, restrict Muslims, partner with Russia, reduce taxes on the wealthy, provoke a war, cancel the Iran nuclear accord, deregulate banks, and even impeach Mr. Trump. Here’s a quick summary of key themes that seem to be emerging from the data:
National Performance Forecasts
This table updates our 2016 forecasts by adding data for July 10, 2020. Note that most forecasts proved reasonably valid, except for the stock market gains.
Average GDP Growth/Year
~ 2 % until virus
Trump Approval Rating
Increase in Debt
$5.4 Trillion +
Following are the forecasts made in 2016. We are considering updating these estimates and adding a fourth forecasting the 2020 election.
Trump Rules Probability = 50%, Impact = -.5 (-10 to +10)
President Trump inherits an economy that is extending its cycle of economic growth. Deregulation and lower taxes further boost business profits and provide gains for his supporters. Trump strengthens his hold on public opinion as a leader who gets things done. This allows him to run the nation like a corporation, treating allies as good team members and punishing enemies. Trump takes credit for successes and blames scapegoats for failures, while protests are smothered under dubious counter-claims and discredited. Congress goes along, encouraging him to dismantle much of the EPA and other disliked programs. By the end of his first term, Trump has transformed the US into a more purely capitalist and authoritarian society, somewhat isolated and in slow decline.
Trump Changes Probability = 27%, Impact = 3
Donald Trump is a brilliant strategist, and when the Congress shifts to Democratic control in 2018, he recognizes that his political survival requires a major change of course. As crises mount, his family and advisers press him to “pivot”’ toward being more traditionally presidential and cooperative. He modifies policies to appease critics, stresses the good progress he has made, and becomes more friendly, while continuing to confuse opponents with doubtful charges. The president is persuaded to yield on issuing incendiary tweets, and some opponents are even mollified by the Trump charm. Congress is pleased to see him appearing more reasonable, and Democrats approve the less controversial parts of his agenda. The US enjoys some prosperity and peace, although with occasional flare ups of political crisis and conflict.
Trump Falls Probability 39%, Impact = -1
The voices of protest become so persistent that they overwhelm Trump’s defenses, making his presidency untenable. The administration suppresses protests with force, causing violence to grow out of control and bringing normal life to a near halt. Enormous political pressures force Congress to work around Trump and assume effective leadership, with support from Vice President Pence and key Republicans. The rest of the world goes on while the US struggles with this constitutional crisis. Global agreements stall, and the world becomes increasingly chaotic. China becomes the dominant world power, with Russia also gaining influence. Trump resigns rather than suffer impeachment, and Congress hands power to President Pence.
Here is a small sample of expert comments. This is only a cursory look over a representative sampling of expert opinion, but it suggests two contrary themes that seem to be emerging: Increased business profit and economic growth—but failed promises, crisis, conflict, and lost support.
If Trump is anything, he is a populist. And with a one-party Congress, they are likely to achieve some positive ends.”
“Increased spending on infrastructure projects in the US along with decreased taxes should improve the bottom line.”
“Trump is pro-business, and profits will be made.”
“Many of the promises made during the campaign will be abolished, making the followers turn away from him.”
“Much of the USA will grow tired of Trump’s antics and rhetoric.”
“Instability. Promises not kept. Other nations will compete equally with the same tools.”
“In a post-truth world of lies, Trump has more to live up to than he will actually deliver on.”
“It is likely we will be entering inflation and a severe recession. Wall Street and Main Street will be continuing their stark separation.“
The report will also include advice for adapting to the Trump Era. Some tentative recommendations include:
Study trends, expert opinion, and forecasts such as this to prepare for strategic contingencies such as a global depression.
Develop decentralized organizations of self-supporting units able to cope with hyper-change.
Search out creative niches that offer opportunities for advantage, such as prospects for modernizing US infrastructure.
It is our great pleasure to present final results of this study exploring where the Internet is going.
First, a little background. Our blog of May 30 highlighted George Gilder’s new book, Life After Google, forecasting how blockchain technology will create an Internet that is secure, decentralized and sensually immersive. Using our method of collective intelligence, our blog of June 13 presented comments from several experts to frame these issues more carefully.
This blog of June 27 presents results from a survey of 20 experts who answered our survey questions. The responding experts are listed below, followed by detailed results using bar charts and comments. Responses are often less that 20, as respondents do not answer all questions. This is a small sample, but anything more than a dozen responses is sufficient to get into the right ballpark.
Here’s a quick summary of what we learned:
Security May Arrive About 2027
We found a sharp division of opinion, with roughly half of our experts thinking there is little or no chance that the Internet would become secure — and the other half thinks there is about a 60% probability that blockchain and quantum cryptography will solve the problem at about 2027. After noting the success of Gilder’s previous forecasts, we tend to accept those who agree with Gilder.
DecentralizationLikely About 2028-2030
We find some consensus around a 60% Probability and Most Likely Year About 2028-2030. The critical technologies are thought to focus on blockchain, but quantum, AI, biometrics and the Internet of things (IoT) also thought to offer localizing capabilities.
Immersion Highly Likely About 2031-2032
The experts show good agreement on a 70% probability that immersive capabilities will arrive about 2031-2032. They also suggest a variety of technologies will make this possible: blockchain, VR and AR, gaming, AI, IoT and a useful brain-computer interface.
Despite pockets of doubt and uncertainty, we think this study tells a compelling story about evolution of the Internet. The continuing advance of computer power, possibly using quantum, nanotech and photonic technologies, is likely to make complex blockchain platforms feasible over the coming decade. Along with applications of quantum crypto and AI, a new generation of Web systems is likely to greatly improve security and move control from tech companies to individuals. Some confusion and security failures will remain, of course, but glitches will be accepted by a younger cohort of users. The development of richer Internet experiences using VR/AR/XR, biometrics, AI, the IoT and holograms is very likely to bloom into the Metaverse long anticipated. Obviously, many other trends will also play important roles in the new Internet, as noted in our experts’ comments.
The strategic implications should be formidable. The status and control of the large tech companies is likely to shift to users, and the Internet service providers (Verizon, Comcast, etc.) may face competition from satellite systems flooding the air with cheap and abundant access. Apple and Elon Musk are launching satellites even now and expect to envelop the Earth with high-capacity broadband in a year or two. In addition to fierce competition from these new sources, the entire supply chain of ICT equipment and services will be disrupted by an advanced generation of suppliers. Users should gain more sophisticated and immersive capabilities that are needed for the high-tech society ahead.
This is small study, but TechCast thinks it illustrates the power of our 2nd generation website in providing authoritative strategic analyses of hot topics quickly. Thus far, we have solved the MegaCrisis by identifying 5 universal principles of a global consciousness, and this study outlines the new Internet architecture that promises to revolutionize life online. TechCast is considering our next strategic topic for study, and we welcome your opinion. Email us at Halal@GWU.edu to suggest topics you consider worthy of attention.
Our previous blog of May 30 summarized background information on the Internet. It then posed three questions about advances in blockchain based the provocative new book by George Gilder, Life After Google:
Security Can we expect the Internet to become secure and avoid todays hacking, viruses, malware, identity theft, pirating millions of personal data sets? What technologies will permit this? When? George Gilder seems certain that the cryptology of blockchain will make all transactions safe from these threats.
Decentralization George Gilder thinks blockchain technology will permit a bottom up Internet that avoids the plethora of passwords, logins, cookies, tech giants, etc. How likely is this possibility? When? Do you agree with Gilder that blockchain will avoid all these tech company systems and return control to individuals?
Immersion Virtual reality (VR) is slowly entering mainstream use, and sophisticated games create rich virtual environments. Gilder thinks the new Internet will be rich with sensual information and graphics. Will fully immersive technology including 3D graphics, stereoscopic sound, haptic sense of touch and other effects become mainstream? When?
Like others, TechCast has serious doubts about blockchain. But how can we ignore this stunning forecast about the imminent transition to a vastly different web? Gilder was right in his landmark books, Life After Television, MicroCosm and TeleCosm! His politics are crazy, but his knowledge about brilliant entrepreneurs in the trenches of Silicon Valley is breathtaking and compelling. Yes, blockchain seems overly complex and demanding of resources, but so too were the first smart phones, the size of a brick. With quantum computers entering use, it’s easy to imagine blockchain becoming sleek and ubiquitous as computer power becomes infinite.
This little study of blockchain is TechCast’s furthers our new approach to using collective intelligence directly in this newsletter. We focus on simple designs that are relatively quick, like action research, but offer big strategic payoffs. Our previous study using background data and 12 experts produced adefinitive model of global consciousness to resolve the MegaCrisis.
In fact, our forecast of global consciousness seems to be erupting into public life even today as the “Black Lives Matter” movement abruptly shifts attitudes around the world.The sudden emergence of this political power is reminiscent of the “Me Too” movement that ousted sexual predators, as well as the passing of “gay marriage” laws a few years ago. Big change is always possible when the time has come. The most telling thing about today’s push for racial justice is that it is led by young people across the political and racial spectrums, the cohort that intuitively favors principles of global consciousness. This newfound power could be turned to resolve any of the other great obstacles to serious change. In short, a major shift to global consciousness is almost here, roughly along the lines of our previous study.
This first round on the coming transformation of the Internet presents comments from our experts to frame the questions more accurately. We conclude with a short survey to get a better sense of what to expect. Here’s a quick summary of what we learned from the experts:
Peter King is rightly concerned about the vast potential impact of an even more demanding Internet – increased use of energy, more pollution and climate change, more intense tribalism caused by siloed information sources, distractions from reality and Nature, obsession with frivolous delights and so forth. In Peter’s words “the question becomes security for whom? … Ironically, a technology that was supposed to bring the world together may ultimately be responsible for tearing it apart … we have created a cohort of young people who have completely lost touch with Nature. This is the generation that believes milk comes from cartons and meat has no connection with the cruelty of intensive livestock farming…”
Jonathan Kolberfocus on the increasing richness of multisensory online experiences and sees big possibilities for an improved Internet replacing travel and improving human awareness. Here’s how Jonathan puts it: “Fully immersive VR will transform how we work and play… much of the pressure on the environment for physical resources will diminish … People will be able to share experiences with others … with reduced cost and social friction … An inexpensive full-body haptic suit will probably be the last barrier to full immersion … VR-enabling and enhancing software, including virtual worlds, will be a major growth industry of the 2030s and beyond.”
Dennis Bushnell focuses on broader changes in Internet technology, forecasting ubiquitous computing to flesh out the Global Brain. Dennis describes it this way: “Blockchain is touted as a nearer term security solution, but has scalability, security and operability issues… The emerging Quantum Crypto approach is beyond blockchain on the way to quantum communications security solution … A rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT), involving robotization of nearly everything with ever improving AI and intelligent agents … Machine/brain interaction is developing into 5 senses virtual reality/holographic projection/immersive presence… enable phone capabilities to go directly into the human brain, as we all become part of a connected Global Brain.”
Steve Hausmansees major obstacles to security and decentralization, but the technology is likely to become practical in about 5 years. Listen to Steve’s main ideas: “Threats to the Internet will only increase in the future when everything will, in essence, be a computer… so they are vulnerable to becoming compromised … every type of safeguard we put into place an Internet adversary comes up with a counter measure … blockchain technology has the potential to transform security in a radical fashion such that its use might obviate the need for passwords and ensure that individuals attempting to gain access to a website are validated … will become practical in about the next five years… . It is likely that in another decade VR and AR will become so commonplace that these devices will be with many people all of the time.”
Petervon Stackelberg sees serious limitations in blockchain technology that will prevent the security and decentralization claimed by George Gilder. But he also thinks blockchain will serve a useful niche. Here are his main ideas: “A single bad security incident could discredit public acceptance … Blockchain technology typically doesn’t perform as well as non-blockchain systems with similar functionality … I seriously doubt that blockchain will return control of information to citizens … we are early in the commercialization stage” of the technology life cycle.”
Alexandre Pupo draws on his ICT skills to forecast these trends. He thinks “The Internet tends to become a more and more insecure space for people in the next ten years. That will happen due to the increase in numbers and types of autonomous agents … Blockchain technology has a small chance of replacing things like passwords, logins, and other authentication and validation mechanisms … Part of the immersion technologies – the fewer complex ones – will become mainstream by 2030. The more complex ones still have a longer path and will not become mainstream before 2035.”
This week’s blog explores the coming next generation Internet — a web that is secure, decentralized, sensually immersive and has other advanced features. Below are key trends driving this change.
The Blockchain Revolution
George Gilder’s latest book, Life After Google, is a landmark forecast on what he calls the “cryptocosm.” Like his earlier book, Microcosm, which forecast the Information Technology Revolution caused by microchips, followed by Telecosm, which forecast today’s explosion of wireless technology, the cryptocosm extends major advances in blockchain technology into all spheres of the Internet.
Gilder thinks the cryptocosm will produce a web that overthrows the top-down monopolies of Google, Facebook, Amazon and the other tech giants that have created a web that is insecure, clumsy and destined to fail. Using stunning examples of brilliant technological advances by pioneering entrepreneurs, Life After Google promises an Internet that is secure, private, decentralized and controlled by users rather than the tech giants.
In Gilder’s terms:
“Google is hierarchical. Life after Google will be heterarchical. Google is top-down. Life after Google will be bottom-up. Google rules by the insecurity of the lower layers in the stack. A porous stack enables the money and power to be sucked up to the top. In Life after Google, a secure ground state in the individual, registered and timestamped in a digital ledger, will prevent this suction of hierarchical power.”
A telling sign is that China is leading the blockchain revolution. In October of 2019, Premier Xi Jinping called on the nation to “seize the opportunity of blockchain technology as a new security architecture for the Internet.” In April 25, 2020, China launched its national blockchain platform, the Blockchain Service Network (BSN). In time, Xi plans to replace their national currency and other currencies around the globe with new digital systems.
TechCast has reservations about blockchains. It requires multiple people to endorse a transaction, burns up huge amounts of energy and generally seems too complicated. But we should not discount too easily this latest vision from one of the seers of technology.
I am grateful for the many wise comments contributed to our study of the Global MegaCrisis, and also for the many responses from readers of Bill’s Blog. A close friend in California told me:
“Bill, I love what you are doing with your blog. I want you to know you DO have hugely interested readers… I am right now sitting in a rocker on my deck , reading your blog, watching the moon rise, drinking a glass and generally communing. In my imagination, I can actually hear your voice. Please keep on keeping on. This is important work for all of us and for the planet.
Onward in grace and in hope! Julie”
As one example, the Men’s Group of my church in Georgetown, Holy Trinity, one of the most influential in DC, took to this message with enthusiasm. After outlining my thoughts in a Zoom meeting, they decided to devote five meetings to discuss the five principles of global consciousness. The meetings on principles 1 and 2 have been held thus far with great success and the others are planned in the following weeks. I am left amazed and gratified to find such an honorable response. It certainly has left an impression on the more than one hundred men in this group and their wives, many of whom joined the meetings.
Now it is time to wrap up this small study by noting a few references you may find useful:
My blog of March 28 provided background information and issued a call for comments on solving the Global MegaCrisis.
Theblog of April 11 presented responses from seven contributors that concluded the coronavirus shows the present world order is not sustainable and suggests moving to a global consciousness.
The blog of April 25 included another six responses extending our discussion into even more hopeful territory.
One final essay trickled in recently from my colleague and good friend Pradeep Rau. Pradeep is a brilliant scholar, a seasoned manager and an inspirational leader. His considered advice is offered below.
Our blog of March 28 issued a call for comments on solving the Global MegaCrisis. The blog of April 11 presented presented responses from seven contributors that concluded the coronavirus shows the present world order is not sustainable and suggests moving to a global consciousness. We now present responses from the second round of this study using collective intelligence again. Quick summaries of the responses shown below show some who see more peril ahead and those who see the promise of change.
Jose Cordeiro captures this nicely by noting that the Chinese word for “crisis” means both threat and opportunity.
Hazel Henderson, Futurist and CEO of Ethical Markets Media, offers guides to avoid a collapse of the Internet under heavy loads caused by the virus crisis. “Now that everyone and every organization on the planet is going virtual … the question is on everyone’s lips: ‘Will the coronavirus break the internet?’ We at Ethical Markets are using some simple rules… They won’t harm anyone’s business or other outreach activities. Rather such politeness and consideration for essential users and public information can help assure that the internet can continue to be the vital backbone of our lives for the foreseeable future.
Peter King, Environmental Consultant, provides comments from two of his associates in Asia: “Among my peers, there is considerable anxiety about what kind of world will emerge from COVID-19. The accumulating threats to the planet—climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, illegal wildlife trade, air and water pollution, depletion of fish stocks, loss of coral reefs, among others—have been put on the back burner, while billions of people are hunkering down at home. On the other side of this pandemic, will we go all out for economic recovery at the cost of the remaining absorptive capacity of the planet, or will we have learned our ultimate lesson—Nature always wins in the end.
Jose Cordeiro, Vice Chair, HumanityPlus and Director of The Millennium Project, shows how this crisis presents both threats and opportunities. “We are currently living in a MegaCrisis, which implies MegaDanger but also MegaOpportunity. Even though Covid-19 originated in China, it is now a global problem and it requires a global solution. This MegaCrisis can be the MegaOpportunity to move forward together as one global family in our small planet.
Michael Lee, Futurist and Author, examines the possibilities: “We could be facing unemployment and poverty on a scale that will dwarf the impacts of the financial crisis of 2008-9. When the global economy awakes from its lockdown hibernation, will it be a zombie economy? Will the epoch of wars and empires, which has engulfed history and caused more death and grief than I have the stomach to calculate, finally be over? Can we come together as one human race, black, white, yellow, brown and all the beautiful shades of human skin, to focus on the one reason why we’re all here in the first place: to use our fleeting lives for the total, ethical upliftment of human civilization?”
Fadi Bayoud, Consultant, Strategic Anchors, offers his vision of a preferable future: “beautiful as a priceless piece of art where: Spirituality drives human relationships. Science is respected, and governments invest more in scientific research … People’s development becomes a social policy. Education becomes free and foresight oriented …Economy becomes shared and sustainable … The countryside and Nature are a source for spiritual, psychological, and somatic healing. Industrial energy production is sustainable. Individual households produce their own energy needs … where rivers and lakes are source of pure and clean water. Health paradigm shifts to prevention.”
Julio Millan, President of the World Future Society, Mexico, thinks “The megacrisis … is showing us that we have been leading the wrong model: it is not about individual gains, but about the common welfare. … to behave like good citizens and understand what it means to do things for our community, to be empathetic to our neighbors, and to create better societies. Our concern now should be, what are we going to do when the liberal order, to which we are so accustomed, falls? We are in a historical moment, because after the pandemic our preconception of the world is going to change: we are entering a new era.
Please also send this blog to friends, colleagues, and your mailing lists and tell them to sign up at www.BillHalal.com
The coronavirus is a stark reminder of the devastating damage that could be inflicted by cyberattacks, superbugs, freak weather and a variety of other threats. These wild cards are in addition to the existential challenge posed by climate change, gross inequality, financial meltdowns, autocratic governments, terrorism and other massive problems collectively called the Global MegaCrisis.
I sense the world is so frightened by recent disasters that people are searching for new solutions. They seem ready to break from the past that is no longer working. Climate change is starting to bite, for instance, and there is a growing consensus that the status quo is no longer sustainable.
I have studied this dilemma for decades, and I think it can be best understood as a transition to the next stage of social evolution. The Knowledge Age that dominated the last two decades is fading into the past as AI automates knowledge, forcing us to move beyond knowledge and develop a global consciousness able to resolve the MegaCrisis.
Yes, I know this is a bold claim, but that is how the shift to a world of knowledge looked 40 years ago. When computers filled rooms, I recall telling people that we were entering a world of personal computers. The typical response was “Why would anyone want a personal computer?”
Just so, today’s post-factual era illustrates how the smart phone, social media, and autocrats like Trump have moved public attention beyond knowledge and into a world of values, emotions and beliefs. Now the challenge is to use these new powers of social media to shape a global consciousness, or face disaster. While this may seem impossible, that is always the case before major upheavals. Nobody thought the USSR would collapse up until its very end.
In fact, the Business Roundtable’s recent announcement that business should move beyond the bottom line to include the interests of all stakeholders is revolutionary. It has now been promulgated by the World Economic Forum and other influential bodies. The gravity of this change is such that business is now being told to help resolve the climate crisis. Larry Fink, who runs the biggest investment firm in the world (Black Rock), directed the companies he owns to help address climate costs in their operations; within days, many firms announced climate plans.
This historic shift in consciousness could make corporations models of cooperation for society at large. In short, I think the world is heading toward some type of historic shift in consciousness, a collective epiphany, a code of global ethics, a spiritual revolution, a political paradigm shift or a new mindset. Without a consciousness based on global unity, cooperation and other essential beliefs, there seems little hope. And with a shift to global consciousness, it all seems possible.
Toward a Global Consciousness
The governing ideas inherited from the industrial past are outdated and heading toward disaster. It is a collapse of today’s reigning “materialist” ideology of Capitalism, economic growth, money, power, self-interest, rationality, knowledge, etc. These values remain valid and useful, of course, but they are now badly limited. Prevailing practices in the US, as the most prominent example, are failing to address the climate crisis, low wage employee welfare, universal health care, women’s rights, political gridlock, aging infrastructure and other social issues that lie beyond sheer economics.
This could become a “Collapse of Capitalism” roughly equivalent to the “Collapse of Communism” in the 1990s, and it stems from the same fatal flaw – failure to adapt to a changing world. Communism could not meet the complex demands of the Information Revolution, and now Capitalism seems to be failing to adapt to a unified globe threatened by pandemics, climate change and the other threats making up the MegaCrisis.
The big question remaining is, “What should be the new vision, values, principles, and policies?” At the risk of appearing pedantic, I integrate what has been learned above and my forthcoming book, Beyond Knowledge, to outline five principles of what I consider “global consciousness.”
1. Treat the planet and all life forms as sacred.The Fermi Paradox notes that no other civilizations have been detected after decades of SETI searching. This rarity of life reminds us what a miracle plant Earth really is, and that we are responsible for its well-being.
2.Govern the world as a unified whole. Nations remain the major players in this global order, but they should be lightly governed by some type of global institution like the UN and other international bodies. Individuals should continue to be loyal to their nations and local institutions, but they should also accept their role as global citizens.
3. Collaborate with stakeholders to serve collective needs. Free enterprise is the basis of society, and the good news is that business is on the verge of becoming cooperative. The Business Roundtable announcement that all stakeholders should be treated equally with investors seems an historic breakthrough. This move to a quasi-democratic form of enterprise could set a new standard for collaborative behavior and human values throughout modern societies. One of the benefits from a tragedy like this crisis may be a loss of faith in the status quo and an urge to cooperate. I see it everywhere, and it is a blessing in disguise emerging out of chaos.
4.Embrace diversity as an asset. Rather than becoming a uniform pallid bureaucracy, a unified world should embrace the wondrous diversity of cultures and individuals. Working across such differences poses a challenge, naturally, but differences are also a source of new knowledge, talents and human energy.
5.Celebrate community. Any society needs frequent opportunities to gather together in good spirit, enjoy differences and commonalities, and to simply celebrate the glory of life. The World Olympics Games, for instance, are special because they provide a rare feeling of global community. We could witness a flowering of celebratory events over the coming years to nourish the global soul.
This is only one small study, of course, but I hope it provokes thinking toward a widely held vision for planet Earth at a time of crisis. An historic change in consciousness is hardly done overnight, and the obstacles posed by the status quo are formidable. But the Information Revolution provides a powerful method for shaping consciousness by using the Internet and public media. Think of the explosion of ideas, hatred and forbidden desires released by billions of people blasting into loudspeakers like Facebook and Twitter. Anybody can use the media to shape public opinion instantly, for better or worse.
The task we face is to shape a unified consciousness out of this morass of differences to solve the global crises that loom ahead. Today’s threats to reason is challenging us to counter wrongheaded beliefs and to provide more attractive visions, such as the principles for global consciousness outlined here. I suggest the place to begin is by discussing these ideas as widely as possible, and to shape public opinion roughly along these lines.
Last week’s blogissued a call for statements proposing solutions to the Global MegaCrisis.
Yes, this asks a lot, but the coronavirus crisis warns what’s in store as other threats arrive in the years ahead–more pandemics, climate change hits home, revolts over gross inequality, mass automation of jobs, global financial meltdowns, autocratic governments, cyberwar, bio attacks, terrorism, etc.
I received several fine statements and invited others to join in. The results are shown below in alphabetical order by last names. This is hardly a scientific survey, but it does represent a collection of forward ideas by some of the best thought leaders in the world. Here’s my quick analysis of what each has to offer, followed by what we can learn collectively.
Dennis Bushnell offers a provocative vision in which people become self-sustaining on a small plot of land while connected seamlessly to the entire world on tele-everything. Dennis concludes that all problems would disappear – “no pandemics, no energy crisis, no climate change, no financial mess, no job losses, etc.” But one must think big to see this solution.
Jim Datoris dismayed by attitudes favoring economic growth over cultural and ecological values and believes that they are unlikely to change. The only way forward is through the imminent self-destruction of dominant values, behavior and institutions, with “the hope that a million phoenixes arise from the ashes… countless tsunami that we must learn to surf with pleasure and pain.”
Amy Fletcherprovides a timely analysis of the coronavirus pandemic and effects of the crisis, highlighting the failures that are prolonging the pain. She advises us to “listen to those voices who do not have a platform and speak truth to power.” The role of the futurist is to facilitate the efforts of those who lack power because the answers we need may lie with them.
Sohail Inayatullah digs beneath the layers of these continuing crises to probe the underlying causes. Sohail finds that we need a “Gaian re-balance by moving to a world with a quadruple bottom line: Prosperity, Purpose, People, and Planet.” A new Renaissance is needed – the transformation of self and society, home and plant.
Peter King urges us to follow the science and create a Nature-centric world. Guided by the natural wisdom of Earth’s ecosystems, we would find abundant energy, food, medicines, water, jobs, economic growth and a more satisfying lifestyle. To avoid dangerous tipping points, we must move forward into a “visceral and directly experienced relationship with Nature.”
Ruben Nelson focuses on the passing of today’s “modern techno-industrial” civilization, with no workable replacement for it in sight. While he is not hopeful about a solution, he does think what’s needed is a “wise, integral and meta-reflexive form of consciousness.” In other words, rather than thinking of economic growth, “The only way to grow, is UP.”
David Passigfinds two phases that could unfold from the MegaCrisis. The first will disrupt the present idea behind globalization as mutual collaboration based on voluntarily respect and common interests. The second will establish the idea of ”entanglement” as symbiotic undetachable ties with enforced collaboration that respects mutual dependency on each other.
I am pleased to provide this summary of my forthcoming book, Beyond Knowledge. This is simply a quick outline of the central theme, but the book should come out later this year.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and constructive criticism at Halal@GWU.edu.
The Age of Consciousness Is Here
After flying large aircraft in the Air Force, working on the Apollo Project and a stint in Silicon Valley, I became an academic at UC Berkeley and promptly became fascinated with the revolutionary power of the technology revolution. Although I also study business, economics and the social sciences, I introduced a course on Emerging Technologies in 1980 when information technology began taking off. Soon, a few colleagues and I developed what is arguably the best forecasting system in the world. The project won awards, was featured in a full-page article by The Washington Post, and I was flooded with requests by corporations and governments.
I also began to understand that the real story was not about the technology itself, or even its social fallout. Instead, it seems the technology revolution is driving an unrecognized social upheaval from “knowledge” to “consciousness.” The most striking example is the advent of today’s “post-factual world.”
The post-factual phenomenon forces us to see that the Age of Knowledge, which dominated the last two decades, is receding under today’s flood of smart phones, social media, artificial intelligence and autocrats like Trump. Knowledge is still crucial, but the tech revolution is driving the world beyond knowledge into a new frontier governed by emotions, values, beliefs and higher-order thought. I think this means that an “Age of Consciousness” is here, though one may not like its current form. Whatever one thinks of President Trump, almost all would concede that he is brilliant at creating an alternative reality. He is a master at shaping consciousness.
But why should we be guided by this epidemic of fake news, ignorance and outright lies? Because this eruption of unreasonableness has enveloped the globe, and it provides a clue to the new world of consciousness now being born. It’s like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, and a shot across the bow of ships of state. Politicians in Russia, Turkey, England, and Brazil, to name a few, now take refuge in dismissing criticism as fake news. Authors have called it an “Assault on Intelligence,” “The Death of Truth,” “A World Without Facts,” “The Death of Expertise,” “Truth Decay” and “The Fake News Fallacy.” 
This rule of unreason pervades life today, and numerous examples suggest it is epidemic. The US government, for instance, has been locked in stalemate for decades, even though Congress has more knowledge than it can handle. Emotional issues like abortion, gun control, immigration and the other roadblocks to a sane society have been studied to death, yet gridlock persists because of conflicting values, self-interest, and a hunger for power – consciousness again.
This brutal reality should make it rather obvious that the roots of disorder that plague our time are not rational problems to solve. They involve all the complex, messy, emotional baggage generated by normal people; they hinge on matters of subjective consciousness. The domain of consciousness is where the problems lie, and so it is also where the solutions are to be found.
Beneath this tectonic shifting in consciousness is the driving force of artificial intelligence (AI), automating knowledge work and driving us into this new frontier. The rapid advance of AI is probably the most powerful force for 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 result has left business, government and the public alarmed at the impending crisis in which roughly half of present jobs are eliminated and causing social chaos. AI poses one of the most perplexing questions of our time: what lies beyond knowledge?
As this book will show, everything beyond knowledge is subjective consciousness, and the advance of AI is more evidence that we are moving into this confusing new domain. This historic shift in social evolution is illustrated by the graph below which makes the case vividly. I have struggled with this problem for years, and the result is this accurate plot of what I call the “Life Cycle of Evolution.” The logarithmic time scale is needed to encompass the billions of years at the start of the LCE as well as decades today. Without a log scale, the shape of the LCE would not be recognizable. The curve would simply make a sharp turn up.
In this clarifying light, the next stage of social evolution becomes rather easy to envision. The data show accelerating progress through the earlier stages, and the logical next stage is the culminating birth of an Age of Consciousness, about now in 2020. A global level of consciousness is needed because it is increasingly clear that we are all dependent on one another in this single planet, that we should strive to become global citizens. The inspiration for this concept is provided by the brilliant insight of the Jesuit anthropologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who envisioned the world guided by a web of consciousness that envelops the globe. 
Yes, this is a bold claim. I have earned a good living and a small measure of fame by forecasting change. Publications attest to the accuracy of my forecasts in the 1970s that the Knowledge Age would arrive about 2000.  At that time, I recall telling people that personal computers were coming, only to be greeted with “Why would anyone want a personal computer?”
Yet in 2000, PCs were everywhere, books on knowledge became rife, corporations competed to become “knowledge organizations” and the majority of jobs required working with computers to manage knowledge. I am equally confident that an age of consciousness is here today, and we simply do not yet understand this intriguing new frontier.
Consciousness has been around throughout history, of course, so what is really new? Information and knowledge have also been used in ancient civilization, but the Knowledge Age occurred when information technology matured into the most powerful force on Earth, occupying the bulk of the labor force and our very minds.
In a similar way, consciousness is becoming a powerful technology, although barely understood, and it is changing the world. The most prominent example is public media. Think of the explosion of opinion, hatred and forbidden desires released by billions of people blasting into loudspeakers like Facebook and Twitter. Anybody can use the media to shape public opinion instantly, for better or worse. We are awash with seeing actors, TV stars, politicians, athletes, ordinary people with heart-breaking stories, cute kids doing smart things and influencers like Kim Kardashian.
The challenge is to shape a unified consciousness out of this morass of differences to solve the global crises that loom ahead. As we will see in a moment, today’s threat to reason is challenging us to counter these wrong-headed beliefs and to provide more attractive visions that offer hope. To put it more sharply, we are all shaping consciousness because that is where the action is.
This historic transition also poses enormous threats that must be resolved to avoid disaster and reach global maturity. Climate change, automation of jobs, gross inequality, government gridlock, financial meltdowns, terrorism and more have formed a constellation of end-of-the-world challenges that a colleague and I call the “Global MegaCrisis” or the “Crisis of Global Maturity.  Our studies estimate that roughly 70 percent of the public thinks the present world trajectory is not sustainable. People have deep fears over today’s global crises and failures in governance, and they attribute it to a lack of leadership, vision and cooperation. The World Economic Forum published a report on Global Risks that stops just short of panic. 
The technology revolution will add even greater threats. I draw on my state-of-the-art forecasting system to show how the entire technology revolution is likely to unfold in the years ahead. It shows the vast range of benefits in store, but also the enormous problems of “eating fruit from the biblical tree of knowledge.” Smart cars, for example, will follow a similar path as smart phones. “A car is very much like a cell phone, and that makes it vulnerable to attack from the Internet,” said Jonathan Brossard, a security engineer. Among the AI threats, many are horrified at the prospect of robotic weapons turning on people. Now ponder what could happen when billions of intelligent devices like these are wired together in the Internet of Things?
Even today, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a global disaster, and it has shifted public opinion in favor of social unity and cooperation, the very changes in consciousness proposed in this book. This crisis serves to warn us of the even greater dangers ahead as climate change and the other threats comprising the MegaCrisis hit home in a few years.
This difficult transition can be compared to the transformation every teenager faces when passing through their own crisis of maturity. At some point, the problems become so severe that most teens eventually find the courage to act more wisely and become responsible adults. In a roughly similar way, this is humanity’s challenge to grow into a sustainable civilization. We are being forced to grow up, to develop a responsible global order, or suffer catastrophe.
This book will provide a sophisticated evolutionary perspective that shows how a global consciousness is emerging to resolve these threats and create a mature civilization. More than a theory, chapters will support this view by showing how people are changing their lives, their work, social institutions and global mindset. As seen in the chapter outline, I make a point of fleshing out these concepts with details, evidence, supporting examples and steps to consider.
I will show how consciousness is that inner place where we live our mental lives and it is changing rapidly. People are practicing mindfulness, living with Nature, using psychedelics and other “technologies of consciousness” to develop compassion and other integrative attitudes that improve health and well-being. Personal shifts in consciousness are also underway as many abandon the dogma of religion to use diverse spiritual resources to guide their own “human spirit.” All this work on consciousness is being used to make sense of a confusing new era and to help us to perform our jobs in a slightly crazed, high-tech world.
We will also see that our collective consciousness is shifting to transform the major organs of society that define how we live our public lives – 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 society. Drawing on numerous examples, we see how government can become lean and responsive, business is turning democratic, education becoming student centered, and religions moving from doctrine to a personal relationship with the spiritual dimension of life.
For instance, the Business Roundtable announcement that firms should serve all stakeholders rather than profit alone is historic. The New York Times called it a “watershed moment … that raises questions about the very nature of capitalism.”  Leading corporations like Whole Foods, 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), even directed the companies he owns to help address climate costs in their operations; within days, many firms announced climate abatement plans. 
Corporations are the most powerful institutions in the world. This impending shift to a cooperative form of business could set an example for societies at large, spreading tendrils of collaborative problem-solving throughout the social order.
Following these ideas for institutional change, I discuss methods being used to manage our consciousness in order to cope with the demands of high-tech life. We focus on applying what I have labeled “technologies of consciousness” (ToCs). ToCs are techniques, tools and methods we use to guide our awareness, mood, understanding and other facets of consciousness, or “human spirit.” As we will see, this includes hard technologies (drugs, brain prostheses, virtual reality, etc.); ordinary parts of everyday life (coffee, alcohol, media, etc.); leadership (purpose, cooperation, etc.) and many other tools for guiding consciousness.
A striking example serves as a case in point. A few years ago, the chairman of Aetna defused an audience of angry shareholders by wading into the crowd and asking forgiveness for his mistakes and shaking hands with the critics. Here’s how a board director described the result: “In 15 minutes he changed the mood of that entire room. It was one of the most skillful demonstrations I have ever seen.”  The chairman’s actions illustrate why higher-order forms of consciousness are likely to take off – they are simply more effective.
We briefly look at the use of meditation, prayer and other forms of inner guidance, the healing balm of Nature, and psychotropic drugs that relieve stress and provide insight. For instance, I cite a poignant story of a housewife who uses small doses of marijuana to relieve insomnia and anxiety, allowing her to become a “better mother to her children.” We then summarize evidence showing that managing the mind can instill higher-order values of cooperation, empathy, gratitude and compassion that are essential to a unified globe.
The superior power of higher consciousness provides the key to resolving the MegaCrisis. As shown in the LCE, each stage of evolution has been propelled by revolutions – the Agrarian Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, Post-Industrial Revolution and, most recently, the Information Revolution. Now, the world is awaiting a “Mental/Spiritual Revolution” to kick start the Age of Consciousness.
This transition can be explained using the Hegelian dialectic.  In Hegel’s terms, the Information Revolution forms the “thesis” that has been driving the world into a Knowledge Age, while the Global MegaCrisis represents the “antithesis” challenging this status quo. The coming Mental/Spiritual Revolution provides the catalyst to resolve this crisis and create a “synthesis” that becomes the new status quo – a unified global order.
This may seem outrageous, especially at a time when hostilities seem hopeless, and I could be proved wrong as the world descends into disaster. But the evidence outlined throughout this book supports this possibility pretty well. I suspect this transition is a normal but difficult process, and that it probably occurs on countless civilizations throughout the universe.
The main reason this seems optimistic, and even foolhardy, is because we have no experience in global consciousness. Huddled in our small section of a limitless universe, humans have little conception of planetary evolution, much less the transition to a unified world. Our understanding is roughly similar to a naïve person who first witnesses the agony of a human birth or a teen struggling to adulthood. Without previous knowledge, these painful transitions would seem awful, too hard to bear. Yet they are entirely normal and usually successful.
So too will our passage to global maturity appear in years to come. The current global order is not sustainable, and I think we should see a rising mental/spiritual revolution, global ethics, universal moral code or something similar about 2025 or so. A functioning global order is then likely to appear about 2050 +/- 10 years. In fact, I am as confident in this forecast as I was in 1970s that the Knowledge Age would arrive about 2000.
A unified global order will still bear the normal human failings, but it will make our current strife look as primitive as the brutal battles between kings’ armies in the feudal ages. This may sound too good to be true, yet I think most people today will live to see the coming of a unified planet and the triumph of human spirit, once again. Then it’s on to the Space Age.
Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved. William E . Halal
 Hayden, The Assault on Intelligence (New York: Penguin, 2018) Anne Applebaum, “A world without facts,” Washington Post (May 20, 2018) Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise (New York: Oxford, 2018) Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael Rich, Truth Decay, (Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation, 2018) Adrian Chen, “The fake news fallacy,“ The New Yorker (Sep 4, 2017)