This study focuses on the growing ascendance of consciousness in life today. Our working hypothesis is that modern nations are living beyond knowledge in a state of subjective consciousness. To put the question more sharply, are we living beyond knowledge? Is the modern world now entering an Age of Consciousness? This study is not concerned with the implications of consciousness at this point but simply to establish the extent of this crucial shift in social evolution.
The following background evidence is provided to evaluate this issue:
Beyond Knowledge Prof. Halal’s book by this name sums up how the digital revolution is automating knowledge, driving social evolution beyond the Knowledge Age into an emerging Age of Consciousness. This suggests that subjectivity has been increasing and it is likely to increase even further.
Escalating Crises The climate crisis is becoming severe, the pandemic lingers on, inequality is mounting, and other threats form a “Crisis of Global Maturity?” The WashPo noted that 40% of US counties had wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and other extreme weather in 2021.
Social Media The explosion of the post-factual phenomenon is consciousness in the form of political speech. Liberals insist on being woke, politically correct, cancel culture, defunding the police, etc. — while conservatives are convinced of the big lie, anti-vaccination, and climate denial, etc.
Broader Corporate Purpose The move to “stakeholder capitalism” is transforming business goals to include social interests in addition to profit. CEOs and executives are struggling to reconcile these goals into a common purpose.
Kissinger Finds Consciousness Henry Kissinger recently wrote in Time: “… what fascinates me is that we are moving into a new period of human consciousness which we don’t yet fully understand.”
Coming Revolution All stages of evolution have been powered by revolutions — the Agrarian, Post-Industrial, Industrial, and Digital Revolutions. The Age of Consciousness is likely to produce a Mental/Spiritual Revolution to resolve the crisis of global maturity.
Transformative Change The World Economic Forum called for a “global reset” in all spheres of society, and a PEW survey finds that two-thirds of modern nations demand major changes in political, economic, and health care systems.
Moment of Truth With former President Trump likely to seek reelection, an escalating climate crisis combined with the results of Trump’s first term is likely to make 2024 a critical turning point. The 2022 elections may also be critical.
Other Forces A variety of other trends may influence consciousness. The privatization of space is taking off, and Capt. Kirk’s emotional discovery of global consciousness when in orbit with Jeff Bezos is revealing; space exploration may introduce global consciousness on a huge scale. And the digital age rolls on, so we may see more disruption by cryptocurrencies, VR/AR, NFTs, AI, etc.
Doubts People have always used subjective thinking, so why is this new? It’s also hard to know which factors affect decisions.
Study limitations Results will obviously reflect the views of only the small sample of people who volunteer to participate. Without similar data from the past, we cannot judge the rate of change in our results, if any.
Focus This study simply focuses on estimating the amount of thought devoted to subjective versus objective factors. It does not concern the effects of this type of thought.
Research Questions – Round One
This study estimates the proportion of major issues/decisions involving either “objective factors” versus “subjective factors.” See the hierarchy of consciousness in the pyramid below. Comments below from our experts were used to guide this research method where possible.
Definitions of consciousness abound but they are vague and limited. TechCast provides a more precise definition consisting of various cognitive elements that comprise the domain of consciousness — the sense of awareness, learning, making choices, pushed by emotions, guided by purpose, values and beliefs, all emanating from some tacit vision that propels life. The totality of all this mental traffic makes up the stream of consciousness that flows through life moment by moment.
We also estimate how the level of consciousness varies in three main spheres of life: 1. Individuals and families (micro-level), 2. Management of organizations (meso-level), and 3. Government and politics (macro-level).
TechCast experts were invited to provide estimates and brief comments on the following questions. These questions asked them to judge the relative portion of critical issues/decisions made on the basis of subjective factors (emotion, purpose, values, beliefs, etc.) versus objective factors (perception, memory, knowledge, etc.)
Individuals and Families (personal goals, life purpose, relationships, love, finances, problems, etc.)
People are more inspired by entrepreneurial success stories and as a result, have become more ambitious. Our vision is to make the world a better place using mindfulness, a caring attitude and thoughtfulness. We all want to achieve the goals that we have set in life, not settle for second best and this is defined by our upbringing and values. The pandemic and other crises have helped to change the job market and many people have seen their incomes diminish. To many people, there are no such things as a permanent job therefore they will focus on having a steady flow of income and working on their side hustle in the meantime.
Note that the first question conflates two categories of issues.
The first four items on your list fundamentally involve no rational thought I have ever recognized, save in a few rather psychopathic individuals.
The last two are at least amenable to rational decisions. This is particularly true of finances, which are fundamentally a numbers game. How frequently people actually plan their finances rationally is unclear to me. At a guess, the average of rationality varies with income. Problem-solving is at least semi-rational, but for many of us reason does not kick in until the problem causes enough pain that it cannot be ignored. I am not sure how to turn that into a subjectivity number.
Most people want to make more self-actualized, subjective decisions about their destinies; they want to follow a vision for the future of their design. However, the countervailing forces of increasing income inequality and environmental pressures will continue to put focus on physiological and safety needs that encourage objective decision-making.
In this case, decisions about family issues tend to be based largely on personalities and how people have interacted with one another in the past.
This varies from person to person. Many people are loath to decide, opt for, choose, believe, etc., anything by themselves. However, their choices, decisions etc., are still subjective since they’re influenced by others’ views, opinions, choices and even ‘facts’. The others range from parents, siblings and friends to celebrities, experts and specialists.
I in general think that the impact of subjectivity is the highest on the individual level because all the decisions are more or less related to our emotions.
By including love and relationships here, it almost automatically weighs the decision towards subjective. It is rarely dominated by objective thinking.
These types of decisions tend to be amygdala-driven and deeply subjective by nature; even though a balance of objectivity would be extremely beneficial in making these types of decisions, people tend not to like what they see when they look through an objective lens, so they look the other way and fall back and rely only on their emotions
In addition, people either lack “financial literacy” and other skills necessary in order to incorporate objectivity into their decision-making, or they lack access to the right information/knowledge to make an informed decision.
Many of the issues that families face impinge directly on their subjective lifestyle values. People choose how to live (where, how to support themselves, what values are central to their lives, how to present their values to their offspring) based on subjective judgments of what different choices are worth to them. Some factors are out of subjective control, namely income, medical/health, and legal/political issues that frame the environment at large.
Management of Organizations (stakeholders, strategy, rewards, goals,
social purpose, etc.)
Stakeholders and leaders will be more interested in the value and purpose of their organizations. Issues like climate change, the various global health crises sweeping the earth and the potential for future wars and conflicts will drive the importance of good practice Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility even more. There will be a move to more conscious, responsible, thoughtful and mindful leadership.
The last two questions are at least amenable to rational decisions. This is particularly true of finances, which are fundamentally a numbers game. How frequently people actually plan their finances rationally is unclear to me. At a guess, the average of rationality varies with income. Problem-solving is at least semi-rational, but for many of us reason does not kick in until the problem causes enough pain that it cannot be ignored. I am not sure how to turn that into a subjectivity number.
Organizations, as economists might say, are predominantly rational actors. The majority of decision-making centers on return on investment and meeting market needs apparent on the horizon. With increasing market disruption that cannot be easily foreseen from a forecast or spreadsheet, imaginative, subjective foresight work will be required to compete in business.
This is really my feeling that the profit motive drives the assessment more than emotion even though there is some of the former involved since, after all, humans are the ones performing the management.
The irony here is that for the most part while businesses, institutions etc., claim to be more objective, at the end of the day they are fictions consisting of people and their strengths, foibles, beliefs and feelings. So while this category may be a bit more objective than the first it is still primarily subjective and subject to the same forces as in my initial comment.
Corporate culture is tightly controlled by financial reports and numbers on profits and costs and mostly data-driven decision-making.
As long as the bottom line of an organization is profit, the objective will prevail. Some companies, of course, are now pursuing a triple bottom line, but a lot of that is lip service and greenwashing.
Traditionally, these types of decisions tended to be heavily weighted on the objective side, however, the trend has recently moved sharply toward incorporating more subjectivity, a good indication of how raised awareness/consciousness is creating more balance in measuring organizational performance, as opposed to using mostly financial metrics.
Shareholders and company governance demand that most decisions have a strong basis in data-driven material — what projects will result in financial success for the company. The subjective part here is related to what goals the organization strives for — what content do they want to pursue (eg, for a manufacturer, what objects do they want to build and then sell). This is determined by what they value. Notice that in this I have limited my discussion to for-profit companies, eliminating the non-profits that pursue a lot of important work because these have different objectives and parameters to measure success. However, they are important so one question for the study is whether they are in fact different….I’m thinking that the subjective vs objective factors will not differ for non-profits. For nonprofit organizations, the aim of the organization will be to promote a specific endpoint, chosen by the organization for its value to the organization’s beliefs of what it considers important. The difference between these organizations and for-profit companies is how they measure success, changing attitudes of the target audience versus financial success.
Politics and Government (climate, pandemic, inequality,
immigration, gun safety, abortion, etc.)
This aspect is very belief-driven but is also driven by the quest for power, staying in power and making money.
Representative democracy was designed to be deliberative, so to a large extent, subjective decision-making is designed into the system. The struggle that governmental organizations have had formulating a response to crises like the pandemic and global warming are indicative. As a result, the question of how to approach a problem, a nation’s beliefs and values, and what vision we have for the future will become more relevant. This shift is both an opportunity and a threat.
Sadly, it is all too apparent that thought and opinion about these important issues have been degraded over time such that rationality is suppressed at the expense of emotion and personal bias, not to mention misinformation.
My initial comment and my comment about management, above, pertain here too. So, unless I am misunderstanding the question, my estimation is that most of our lives are run through subjective mechanisms (per the Consciousness Pyramid) but that doesn’t account for the fact that most people are subject to others’ influence and persuasion at best and manipulation and control at worst. Those factors are still in the subjective realm.
The situation in politics and government the process is mostly under the influence of the culture of a society. In some cases, even the dreams of the leaders and the deep mythologies-theologies tend to determine the values and the alternatives of key decisions.
Science-based policy does exist, but mostly politics is dominated by ideology.
Because government is driven mainly by political interests, and given the recent phenomena of tech-driven social amplification (where a single “tweet” can set off a firestorm of protest), most issues/decisions tend to be addressed purely from a subjective, amygdala-driven perspective
In the rare instance in which objectivity is used, data and analyses are carefully “cherry-picked” to present only one side in a favorable light, while ignoring/suppressing any opposing viewpoints. This is a strong indicator as to why so many government programs have resulted in failure
Politicians may decide what/how to work on issues based on what they think their constituents value. One recent example of this is how the GOP in the US Congress decided to not impeach Trump after the January 6th event.
Analysis and Conclusions – Round One
Yes, An Age of Consciousness Seems to be Here. Really!
The results of this simple survey are striking. The experts think subjective factors make up 73% of thought among individuals and families, 42% of organizational decisions, and 63% of politics and government. That averages 60% across all three categories. Even the lowest level suggests that nearly half of all organizational decisions are subjective. This includes corporations, the very model of rationality.
There are limits to this study, as noted in the background information, so we make no claims on precision. But the broad message suggested by this data is that modern societies are now living beyond knowledge and making decisions based on emotion, values, beliefs and other forms of subjective thought.
This means that the subjective factors making up what we call “higher consciousness,” or just “consciousness,” now dominate modern life. It also supports the central thesis in Prof. Halal’s new book.
Subjective thought has always been a crucial part of any society, of course. But something unusual is underway when the bulk of critical issues and decisions transcend knowledge because they involve consciousness.
This conclusion is so meaningful that we will now shift attention to studying these implications.
Is the level of subjective thought increasing? Why?
Bill’s new book, Beyond Knowledge, claims that the digital revolution is automating knowledge, driving thought beyond knowledge into the realm of subjective consciousness. This suggests that subjectivity has been increasing and it is likely to increase even further. Has subjective consciousness increased in past decades? What forces are driving this shift in consciousness? How much is it likely to increase in years to come?
Will an Age of Consciousness produce a “mental/spiritual revolution”?
All previous stages of evolution have been driven by “revolutions” — the Agrarian Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Information Revolution. Does this mean that a “mental revolution” is coming? Would it take the form of a “global consciousness” to resolve climate change, pandemics, inequality, conflict and other current threats? When this is likely to happen? What is the probability that this revolution occurs successfully? What is likely to happen if this revolution is not undertaken or if it fails?
What else can we anticipate in an Age of Consciousness?
Consciousness is a new frontier, so little can be known about its purpose, challenges, institutions, lifestyles, etc. What can we expect in these facets of an Age of Consciousness? How will they differ from today’s equivalents?
Research Questions – Round Two
Round Two Posed the Following Questions:
1. What explains the dominance of subjective consciousness?
Our previous study suggests that subjective consciousness dominates critical issues and decisions today. Has subjective consciousness increased in past decades? What forces are driving this shift in consciousness? How much is it likely to increase in years to come? Which of the following forces (A – D) is driving subjective consciousness today? Will it grow and become more intense? Decline?
A. Digital Revolution is driving this shift in consciousness.
The smartphone, social media, and AI are automating knowledge. This historic evolutionary trend is moving attention up the hierarchy of consciousness from objective factors (perception, memory, knowledge, etc.) to subjective factors (emotions, values, beliefs, etc.) Social media, for instance, has now become the driving force for “post-factual” beliefs that ignore the facts – a form of subjective consciousness.
The value of subjective thought has been prioritized as we move into the post-information age.
I and many other authors have recently written about the phenomenon of technology-driven social amplification, in which threats to human existence are emotionally perceived as far greater than reality would indicate. This is due in large part to exponential increases in speed, quantity, questionable veracity and other aspects of the zettabytes of information with which society is bombarded, making it more difficult to separate fact from fiction. Overwhelmed, people naturally respond by turning toward more subjective aspects of consciousness such as deeply-rooted values, beliefs, etc.
The digital revolution, pandemic, crisis, climatic change, world turbulence and other phenomena are drawing attention to consciousness, as well as strong advances in neurosciences, intelligence and Artificial Intelligence. This trend in evolution is a natural inner force of human nature, now concentrating on spiritual issues. Humans are participating in this process via “conscious evolution” (Transhumanism, Posthumanism, Longevity). It is also related to the end of irrationality foreseen by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger and XIX century French philosophies.
I think that subjectivity has definitely increased over the past 2 decades. One driver of this trend is the increased connectivity of communication worldwide. The internet and the rise of smartphone use have led to a world population that is always interconnected and aware. Events that in the past would have required weeks to become apparent now spread to large numbers of people in hours. More people sample, comment and react, spreading news rapidly and creating a growing global awareness of everything that occurs worldwide. This includes populations in the third world that were previously unaware, giving them the agency that they previously lacked. This has increased the number of people included in global communication by a factor of 3 or more.
The digital revolution is fueling the impact of social trends in the shift to an UNSTABLE subjective consciousness, a significant factor in the rise of the post-factual phenomenon and the loss of diversity in the breadth of perspectives. This loss of diversity is a result of the technology-enabled, overly polarized, reductionist media, causing stagnation, lack of actionable knowledge, and a delay in the shift to global consciousness.
Social media are definitely the driving force behind the current upheavals. Sadly, people have come to accept whatever they read on the Internet as a “fact” simply because it is written down (or seen in video format) because they do not seem to perform any analysis of what is being read.
Digital and social trends are the tools of the trade, but society is also waking up to a new world of fears, stoked using social media to shift the societal view so dramatically that fact and fiction are one and the same.
The first two factors are so tightly interwoven that I don’t think they can be separated. I think social trends are dominant, but as with McLuhan, we shape our tools and then they shape us. I believe the core of global consciousness is intrinsically related to deeper structures such as patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism. Agriculture. Industrial consumerism. Bureaucracy. I think consciousness technologies, including digital, could have a profound effect, but I fear too little too late. The positive trends towards higher consciousness are oftentimes now impeded by or corrupted by technology, particularly algorithms, social media, and organizational behavior. People appear to become more ignorant up and down the social consciousness hierarchy.
As we all experience the digital revolution gaining momentum, parts of society are increasingly feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of input channels, esp. in social media. Trustworthiness, fact focus, and reliability vary dramatically. In addition, science helped make life better by providing with new technology, new cars, new ways to travel. But today science also brings downsides like climate change, new viruses spreading over the globe. All this increasingly results in non-fact-based consciousness sometimes offering easy pseudo-solutions for the large problems of this time.
Subjective consciousness has increased in past decades. The Digital Revolution is driving this shift in consciousness. The increased use of smartphones, Ipads and social media has led to a greater dependency and need for people to feel connected. This dependency on social media and the ability to access various types of news and information and being able to comment on various online discussions has led to an increased adverse effect on people’s emotions and lives. Easy access to information whether it is false or accurate is starting to challenge or alter people’s values or belief systems and people are becoming more passionate and more opinionated about various causes and the way the world works or operates.
It seems reasonable that we are moving away from a simpler, binary world where Walter Cronkite always told us the truth, the media was there to objectively report facts. Knowledge, though widely available, was only disseminated through a few, reasonably hard-to-replicate mediums: the printing press, TV, radio. Information is now ubiquitous, as are the means to ‘create’ or influence, and so there appears to be the elimination of objective truth.
As the need for top information involving the intellect has greatly reduced, one gets more time and bandwidth to think in a more holistic and personal way on issues encountered by world citizens. This makes for the possibility to allow for a deeper intuitive reaction to the stimulus. The other thing that the digital revolution enables is the ability to grasp information in a more natural manner that makes the crux of issues very easy and an intuitive outcome becomes very easy to obtain.
In at least one context, subjective thought has expanded dramatically. For several decades, politicians have systematically undermined whatever faith in reason their followers may once have had. As a result, close to half the United States has abandoned rational thought entirely. Anyone who doubts this should look at the decline of rational thought in the Republican Party since Rupert Murdoch saw that Fox “News” would be vastly more profitable if it gave up news and specialized in far-right agitprop. Social media are vastly more influential. I never have seen a post on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook that inspired objective thought instead of an emotional response. Purchasing decisions have been mostly subjective since the rise of brand marketing. Add these factors together, and technology becomes an important element in the rise of subjectivity.
The digital revolution and social trends are working synergistically toward dominance in social consciousness. The poet T.S. Eliot prophetically asked “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” The information age and data-centric approaches to societal problems lead to an explosion of information. The wetware that runs our consciousness, the heuristics capable of relating how the law of large numbers can inform individual actions, demands the development of a subjective consciousness for decision making.
B. Social trends are driving this shift in consciousness.
Fear of disruptive change, divisive politics, reaction to people of color, the pandemic and a variety of other trends are changing attitudes. But is this a driving factor or just caused by the above?
Spiritual experience has withered since the 1700s under the force of materialism (claiming it is illusion) and orthodoxies (claiming it is supernatural). Both are no longer credible, and both science and religion-free people from bad metaphysics. Some developments are halting, such as “Religion for Atheists,” a concession that spiritual practices are beneficial and perhaps even necessary for human flourishing.
I think it is a combination of things that are driving subjective consciousness. Greater awareness of our interdependence, globally – perhaps enhanced by the pandemic, uncertainty about the future. The ever-increasing rate of change – from biotech to cryptocurrency and AI, climate change’s effects, now being experienced with wildfires, viruses, etc. The rise of authoritarian regimes, the accompanying emigration, and the lack of confidence in institutions like government, church, corporations, states, municipalities, family even are all driving the ascendancy of subjective consciousness. The fast-emerging environmental changes that we label climate change are driving subjective consciousness. At the deepest level, the human-animal senses that this is the existential issue confronting us.
More people become aware and thus included in everything that occurs worldwide and comment on these incidents and facts. This brings a broader world view to the world stage, the inclusion of third world peoples who in the past were marginalized and thus left out of the discussion. They are no longer silent and marginalized but equally able to offer opinions and commentary. This changes the content and possibly also the direction of communication. One example of this occurs around the discussion of the effects of climate change. Populations whose land will disappear under the rising seas are speaking up and demanding to be heard.
It is nothing new that there have been anti-race and anti-ethnic attitudes in the United States. Examples include the Tulsa race massacre in 1921 and the anti-Irish race riots in the mid-1800s. In a sense, these were localized since social media (as we currently call it) did not exist but the newspapers served much the same purpose at that time.
For nearly all of humanity, the meeting of basic needs will trump other considerations. As the two great disruptors of climate change and accelerating automation further and further destabilize worldwide economies, this visceral and emotional need for security will be attractively addressed by authoritarians, whose simplistic and emotion-stirring messages will resonate while more thoughtful and nuanced messages will not.
American history teaches us that social change always promotes subjective thought. Witness the Civil War and the response of immigrants to waves of Italian, Irish, and most recently Hispanic immigration. The triggers in all these cases are the expected loss of income or power, factors that can be considered objective or something vaguely like it. The responses are almost purely subjective. In life goals, affection, religion, and other personal matters our values our thought is inherently subjective. Even apparently rational decision-making is shaped by premises formed subjectively. The most rational of us unavoidably push subjective thought as far as it can go.
Subjective consciousness dominates critical issues and decisions only to a limited group of ultra-rich people who already have objective factors of their lives under control. To the rest of the world population, mundane objective elements dominate their lives, and unfortunately, things will not change anytime soon. And changing from an objective cognition to a subjective one does not mean an increase in empathy. Corporations are capturing technological evolution and social trends to increase their dominance, while people are using that in a more individualist way.
C. Subjective consciousness has always been dominant so little has changed.
There is no evidence to support this view, but it is possible.
I believe that consciousness has always been subjective and will remain so. Despite our evolution as a species, all our advancements, refinements, technology, and achievements, we are and will continue to be driven by instinct, sprouting from our reptile brain, by the compulsion to procreate and provide the best possible opportunities and advantages for our offspring. As we advanced, our circle of protection expanded from our immediate family to include progressively enlarged circles of our extended families, friends, communities, towns, cities, states (or provinces), and eventually countries.
We have evidence for the historical role of subjective thought in our own understanding of the human experience. As farmers, much of our mental energy would have gone to reasonably objective decisions about what to grow, when to plow and plant, and other issues of our occupation. Yet, worrying about the weather, loving our families, and mourning the death of a child was as purely subjective as anything in life.
D. Other explanations (specify):
Increased literacy, increased democracy, and increased unregulated access to ubiquitous tools/technology like blogs, websites, social media, etc to express an opinion. Nietzsche’s point of view about the harmful effects of bad consciousness and corrupt subjective thinking on a massive scale: “The fact that everyone can learn to read not only spoils writing in the long run but also thinking. Once the spirit was God, then it became a person and now it is even becoming a mob.”
I don’t accept the premise of subjective dominance, which is probably what you could expect from a physical scientist. But apart from my shrinking cohort that still believes in science, I think a lot of decisions are being made these days by algorithms which by definition are not subjective. The poor masses who are having their decisions made for them by these algorithms may be more inclined to be subjective but leave the difficult decisions like which advertisements to watch to a very rational piece of software.
While subjective consciousness has always been dominant and fed by those who shape public opinion, you didn’t get as many countervailing viewpoints. Never before have our trusted institutions been subject to such public, visceral and effective counter-points that will resonate with our subjective selves. So whereas before your choices were Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley or John Chancellor, nowadays your choices are a myriad panoply of choices. And while the ability for a society to be manipulated has always existed, just as we now can mass customize Nike shoes — so too we can ‘mass customize’ our information — which serves to fuel our subjective consciousness.
I believe we have entered an unprecedented age of existential risk and uncertainty, which is giving rise to irrational fears, primitive tribalism, and perhaps collective pathologies (e.g. paranoia, narcissism, delusion, denial). Rethinking the “hierarchy of consciousness” I would like to suggest that this is actually the reverse of cognitive progression – a regression towards lower primitive levels of consciousness in the form of badly informed emotions, black-or-white worldviews, and unscientific superstitions, while ethical wisdom and scientific rationality are losing the authority they once enjoyed. Our civilization is at risk of falling back into pre-enlightenment maturity levels. The spread of misinformation and conspiratorial thinking through social media serves as an amplifier, and it is enabled by a lack of critical/logical/scientific thinking training in our education systems and poor quality news journalism.
The rise of psychology eventually considered objectivity and subjectivity. The West’s growing awareness of Asian philosophy teaches that our entire view of the world is subjective. Digital media are an important but distinctly second-generation factor here. The bottom line is that none of these answers completely explains the growth of subjectivity. Any real understanding of this issue will include them all.
2. When is a shift to global consciousness likely to happen?
The transition between stages of evolution is accelerating dramatically. It took roughly 10,000 years from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age in 1850, about 100 years to the Services Age in 1950, 50 years to the Knowledge Age in 2000, 20 years to an Age of Consciousness about 2020 – today. The year 2020 is a conservative estimate. Today’s “post-factual” madness started about 2010, but the pivotal date was 2020 when the US experienced a political insurrection.
This raises profound questions: The pandemic has convinced most people that a social transformation is badly overdue. The status quo is unable to address pandemics, climate change, inequality, conflict, and other existential threats. Most sense civilization is not likely to survive without a revolution in thought. How long will the world tolerate these escalating damage, costs, and pain without taking bold action? When are we likely to witness a “mental revolution” of “global consciousness?” to form a sustainable global order?
We are already creating a global network of interconnected learning machines that understand the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As we hand over some consciousness and tasks to machine consciousness, this frees human consciousness towards higher-level questions that are interconnected and cybernetically enhanced. So, if current trends hold, we arrive at greater consciousness not necessarily because we strive for it but because our tools allow us to do so. It becomes more of an evolution than a revolution toward an age of consciousness.
When thought leaders advocate and model global consciousness worldwide, it will catapult us to critical mass so we see the change where humanity lives and acts as part of the overall system and not as if we “have dominion over it.”
Global consciousness might arrive and we still may experience disaster. Because systemic change, no matter how awake, adult, globally conscious we are, takes time and no one fully grasps how enormous the required changes are to affect a sustainable civilization. The challenges that confront humanity are “wicked problems.” These are beyond the ken of the species until that global consciousness is normalized. To quote Einstein, “we will not be able to solve the problems we have created with the same level of thinking that created the problems in the first place.” That means that not only will we require the consciousness we allude to, we will also need to raise our intelligence.
Just because people do not believe that humanity will not achieve global consciousness, doesn’t necessarily mean that they believe doomsday is inevitable. Perhaps it, like most other species we know about, will be culled by pandemics, weather-related disasters, fires, drought, etc. Once that occurs perhaps a smaller population with global consciousness will restart and new and very different ways of being on the planet will be the norm.
In essence, yes, we are seeing a shift in global consciousness occurring right now, but such shifts are always FIERCELY resisted…always. This is why even though people don’t like to talk about civil war, such an occurrence is highly likely, not only in the USA but in many other countries as well. As a result, forces build up on both sides, much like the pressure on tectonic plates, ultimately resulting in turmoil and bloodshed.
This will clearly come to a head in the 2022 and 2024 elections – as extremism on both sides intensifies (boosted by technology, social media, disinformation, etc. The GOOD NEWS IS, a new day always dawns after the bloodshed and turmoil
so, yes, we are seeing a shift in global consciousness that will ultimately resolve the threats we’re facing, but ONLY following a period of turmoil, upheaval, and even bloodshed that typically accompanies major change. Remember, the “Old Guard” never likes to see their monopoly taken away.
Without a doubt, people in the coming years will pay more attention to the world of emotions and feelings, the world of the spirit and to rationality. It will, however, be rationality different from that of the Enlightenment
I would like to think that this new stage of evolution will result in a global consciousness that will resolve the multiple massive threats that are combining to destroy global civilization. Unfortunately, one possible outcome of this evolution is the emergence of massive destruction that aims to derail actions that are crucial for the survival of human civilization. This is the possibility of a failed revolution…I estimate that this has at least a 35% probability of occurring, maybe even higher but I tend to be an optimist. My estimate is based on my thoughts about the present world turmoil exemplified by the covid pandemic and the climate change crisis. Both of these may be pushing the need for global change in the very near future.
I believe that the leading-edge recognition of the reality of something like global consciousness is likely by the year 2035 if not sooner. But, if the post-factual perspective continues to dominate, such leading-edge recognition may be hard-pressed to gain traction. Even if the advocates of global consciousness can prevail, it may take until the year 2100 or even longer to reverse and overcome the stagnation, if not outright loss, of global knowledge triggered by the post-factual perspective. Only then will we be positioned to enable the shift to a true, expansive and sustainable global consciousness
It would seem to me that while a social transformation is overdue it is not likely to occur in our current environment. Historically, the social transformations that have occurred have been driven by external factors. A prime example of this is how the Black Death in the mid-1300s resulted in a complete change of the social and economic structure of Europe. While some might consider COVID-19 to be such a factor in the present it is not nearly the magnitude of the disruption caused by the Black Death.
I have been doing a lot of study on climate change specifically over the past year and feel that we are very close to a tipping point that may well be irreversible. For example, we are very close to a major breakup of one of the largest ice masses in the Antarctic, the ice coverage in Greenland is rapidly deteriorating, we have seen record temperatures in Alaska and Siberia, and there is major instability in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) [i.e., the Gulf Stream]. All of these taken together are very bad signs which cannot be counteracted by planting a few hundred million trees. My bottom line in this regard is that I am not at all sure that we can do much to avoid the climate change catastrophe.
This may never happen. As a believer in chaos theory, a wild card will need to randomly occur (think Covid as an exemplar of this type of event) that changes everything. A future world populated with no more secrets will counterbalance the lies and fiction peddled for profit or personal gain that have skewed subjective consciousness. This battle will determine if and when we get to an age of subjective consciousness.
Actually, there is a movement now toward a global consciousness/sustainable mindset but if you mean a sweeping, worldwide movement, I think it will happen but it will not be a smooth, trouble-free action but a very rocky road, resistance to change, etc. Some people are threatened by big change while others embrace it (the early adopters). As more people travel into space, it will change them, but not enough numbers will have that opportunity in the short-term, not even by 2030. But, I still think the resistance to a global sustainability movement will be strong. It would take a global event more powerful than the current pandemic to push people into embracing global consciousness.
I don’t really share the somewhat rosy view that I think the concept of a global consciousness entails. The whole terminology reminds me of Peter Russell’s book White Hole in Time from 30 years ago which, while taking a markedly different approach and belonging to the ‘new age’ school of thought back then, basically called for the emergence of global consciousness as well as means of preventing a global disaster.
That didn’t happen, and I don’t see the signs of it happening anytime soon either – on the contrary, there are more divisions, more splitting into extreme points of view, and much of that is driven by technology. Unfortunately, I don’t see the technology doing a 180-degree turn anytime soon to start helping humanity with it.
I don’t subscribe to that end of the spectrum either; we are not necessarily looking at doomsday, but we are, I believe, looking at a very challenging, disruptive and occasionally violent period of several decades as we re-adjust to the new world that emerges as we enter deeper into the 21st century.
I question some of the basic assumptions in your pyramid of social consciousness. I’m not happy with the literature review either. Seems to me that many of those functions happen simultaneously. Cognitive research seems to show that consciousness of the gut/somatic systems and body knowledge have important roles to play in our overall consciousness. We are a LONG way from that, collectively or among thought leaders.
More fundamentally I question how global consciousness comes about. I am no doubt influenced by Kuhn’s Structures of Scientific Revolutions and other work on paradigm shifts. Amy Webb’s latest is about biological technology, so maybe the next scientific paradigm is going to be sociobiological? I don’t think it’s digital, despite the popular media opinion to the contrary. I don’t think it’s consciousness, per se, either. I am also heavily influenced by McLuhan — that’s where I will pick up below.
I think this question is impossible to answer in a meaningful way. It is like predicting when the Singularity or super AI will emerge. It depends on too many variables. For example, some form of peak planetary crisis might shift the collective consciousness. I am very fond of spiral dynamics and the role of complex adaptive systems in the emerging global consciousness. What is the threshold not only of leading thinkers but of the population as a whole that is required to support such a consciousness shift? Civilizational culture is too fragmented, fractured, and diverse for this to happen. So, “it depends.” I offer Jim Dator’s New Beginnings: maybe global consciousness requires the collapse of Western civilization/take over by AI or the Galactic Federation.
People are fed up with sitting on the sidelines whilst governments do nothing. Trust is also starting to erode in political leaders due to exposure of various lies and the trend of not practicing what one preaches. People are also very concerned about the catastrophic impacts of climate change, the potential for a global conflict and a lack of coordinated action to tackle new global health crises. Some sort of call to arms in the form of a consciousness movement/task force urgently needs to be taken to address the various issues facing humanity before it is too late.
I believe there is a profound shift that is taking place in human consciousness. Our consciousness has been always evolving, opening, widening, etc. for millennia. We are at the threshold of another phase in an infinitive journey. At this early stage of the emerging phase, it looks like subjectivity is dominant, but I believe it’s only a prelude to a deeper inward and outward reach of sentience. That stage will be experienced by more and more people after the pandemic will be a thing of the past. It might take a few decades to be noticeable by the masses.
I believe the assumptions on which the “profound questions” in the framing are based are wrong, or at the very least somewhat biased. For example, the statement “The pandemic has convinced most people that a social transformation is badly overdue” is simply not true. Who are the “most” people referred to here? It certainly does not include me. If anything, in my personal opinion, social transformation has already gone too far, for me and a lot of the more conservative folks out there. Worldwide, life in every conceivable metric has been improving dramatically for at least two or three centuries. Thinkers like David Pinker have provided verifiable evidence to this effect. Perhaps I should add that the idea of a “sustainable global order” is a really bad idea. In fact, it is terrifying!
This shift is, tragically, not the rise of a collective consciousness–mediated by either the metaverse or something more mystical–but rather groupthink enforced by Orwellian masters. I expect many if not most authoritarian regimes to import China’s system, and a post-democracy American fascist regime to reverse engineer it.
If subjective thinking does become dominant it is more likely to foster tribalism and the breakdown of the nation-state rather than bring everyone together in some quasi-nirvana. The US is already divided in two and that is a country that is supposed to have a functioning education system. Maybe the vaccinated and unvaccinated will form a separate schism. What it means for countries that are already tribal doesn’t bear thinking about.
Democracy vs Autocracy vs Socialism provides a wide range of divergence of the characteristics that peoples and cultures will (and won’t) accept. The Arab Spring of 2010 fizzled just as the EU is slowly, but seemingly inexorably, cratering. China has huge pressures and basically is a police state suppressing various populations. And so while I’d grant that there are enlightened souls, global consciousness can overcome the all too human traits of bias, competition, tribalism, prejudice, or thirst for dominance.
[The shift to global transformation] will be the landmark year when people start to change operating systems and methods to encompass consciousness as a tool in decision making even for commercial enterprises.
I do not understand the basis of “global consciousness,” do not see much of a global anything except a vast panoply of what I perceive are very worrisome existential societal issues that require a shift to longer-term strategy and major changes. With the population being terminally change-averse, and with the overarching continued drive for profits, we humans are lemmings at this point making progress toward going over the many edges we are heading for. Global Consciousness is not required to muddle through. When things get bad enough, changes will happen, there are MANY solution spaces for almost all of it, but folks hate change.
It will take some major disruptions to awake us from our collective fever dream. It currently feels like there is a 20-33% chance of long-term decline and a dark age (doom), and a 66-80% chance of potential future progress (although it will be hard times).
The argument might be made that many thought leaders have already reached this insight. Unfortunately, leaders without a critical mass of followers have little influence on public policy, which will be an essential part of any such shift. My best guess is that global consciousness will not arise, or at least will not be practically relevant, until the wealthy and politically powerful fear their lifestyles will crumble if our path remains unchanged.
Peter von Stackelberg
I think we need to look at what is happening from the bottom up rather than the top down. We will see political systems and established hierarchies of power in government, academia, media, and business begin to change as society changes underneath them. Political systems in their broader sense only begin to change when the societal systems they are built on beginning to shift underneath them.
A new global consciousness will not happen all at once. Rather, there will be a decade or so in which academics, politicians, business leaders, etc. begin to shift. It has already begun, although it is very small at this point and the “leading edge” will actually lag behind what is happening at a societal level. Leaders in our society are actually laggards who are only responsive when change is already painfully obvious.
Based on my own research, we are well into the maturity phase of the Information Age. At the same time, we have just hit the rapid growth phase of what I’ve been calling the Molecular Age, which is a period during which the technologies to tinker with things at the molecular level advances and never-before-seen rates of change. I think the rapidity of the development of COVID vaccines is an early practical demonstration of the power of molecular technologies (biotech and nanotech).
I think the resistance to COVID vaccines is symptomatic of a broad realization within our society that major change is upon us, with science and technology driving change that many people are deeply afraid of. Resistance to the science and technology around COVID is coming not just from the right side of the political spectrum. I am seeing significant resistance from many on the left, although it is not quite as dominant as the resistance from the right. (See this timeline I created in 1998 for details… https://www.datavis.ca/gallery/images/timelines/futureswatch-org.pdf).
We are emerging from a period in which Christian conservatism played a huge role in American society. If we look back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, conservative Christianity reached a peak. It has been in decline for the past 10 to 15 years, as indicated by church membership, political influence, and several other variables. I think this points to the emergence over the past decade and into at least the 2030s of a new social morality and philosophy in American society.
Part of this, I believe, will be the emergence of “global” consciousness brought on by the combination of international communication, the global impact of COVID, climate change, and other factors that all point to the interconnected nature of life on this planet. At this point, I think the futures community needs to be looking past traditional indicators and trends and seek out evidence that will help us get a good fix on whether this shift to a global consciousness is actually underway and, if so, when and how it will manifest itself.
Cultures and people have survived for millions of years because of the strength of indigenous cultures and tribes’ sovereignty. Indigenous people and tribes serve relevant information to people that they can understand and act upon. We can all think globally and make more information available at a global level, but actions and relevance will remain in small communities. Those communities may benefit from information and knowledge shared globally but the concept of global consciousness is too complex and not relevant to be a global practice.
Pre-scientific societies presumably made all of their decisions subjectively and this resulted in some pretty nasty outcomes like witch-burning and ethnic cleansing. If this is a trend, what evidence is there that it is likely to be overwhelmingly positive? Could we descend into tribalism and only associate with people who have the same beliefs and values as ourselves? I think we know where that trend leads us – think Rwanda of a few years ago. Is this view of subjectivity globally, or does it just represent a predominantly older, white, Anglo-Saxon, male, academic view of today’s world, rather than the hip hop, TikTok, rap view of the younger generation, which at times seems to be not concerned about anything other than the immediate moment? Does it represent the semi-literate or even illiterate view of the global South, where science and objective information have not yet entered their decision processes, and they are still bound by traditions and indigenous knowledge (often drawn from nature)?
My prognostications indulge less empirical languages including those of spirituality and ethics. For example, the languages of ethics get empowered, as they are now, by the expansion of uncertainty and felt instability in the social-political order.
I have been privately predicting that we will witness a new spiritual wave/movement in the second half of this decade. That prediction is based largely on anecdotal evidence. The last significant worldwide spiritual movement/wave occurred in the 60s and 70s, took many forms, and in its latter stage gave birth to an evangelical movement that morphed into contemporary evangelical conservatism. This was perhaps in reaction to the more left-leaning New Age forms of spirituality.
It is important to note that the rise of the language of consciousness during that period was in pursuit of less religious and more secular, philosophical, and pseudo-scientific ways of talking about unusual psychological states, whether natural or as a result of psychotropic drugs. It was only with the emergence of the cognitive sciences in the 70s that the term ‘consciousness’ slowly evolved to become more scientifically acceptable. And even the search for a science of consciousness has left many prominent naturalistic philosophers in the field willing to consider “panpsychism”, the possibility that consciousness has a universal property and is not reducible to the output of biological systems.
So why all this preamble. Yes, climate change and the impact of emerging technologies will appear attractive to some political leaders as a way of catalyzing international unity around responses to geopolitical challenges. But this is only likely to be effective if accompanied by a spiritual/emotional demand for action. Indeed, we have a chicken or an egg problem as to the relationship between the emotive demand and the political challenges. While the politics might be represented empirically, the forces that give rise to emotive demands continue to be mysterious. We can of course speculate about some of the factors raising spiritual/political movements but should at least have the humility to recognize that our theories are just that.
Whether the early evidence I perceive of a growing spiritual wave will coalesce into a politically effective movement by the end of the decade or disintegrate as a last gasp effort to create unity around internationally shared challenges, is unclear at this time.
Analysis and Conclusions – Round Two
Digitalization and Social Trends Are Driving Consciousness
Round One above showed that the modern world is now living beyond knowledge and entering an Age of Consciousness. To recap the results, roughly 60% of major issues across individuals, organizations, and governments are based on subjective factors – emotions, values, beliefs, etc.
This remarkable finding is explained in the comments below. Scanning through the thoughts of our experts, it seems clear that many attribute the rise of subjectivity to smartphones, social media and other aspects of the digital revolution. This confirms our hypothesis that digital technologies are the primary causes of subjectivity. The downside is that many also fear that subjectivity leads to tribalism, disinformation and the other ills of our time instead of more enlightened behavior.
A parallel theme suggests that the pandemic, globalization, divisive politics and other social trends are also raising subjective consciousness. We think technology acts as an enabling force that amplifies these social trends and spreads the subjective level throughout societies. Both technology and social trends are flowing together into a wave of subjective thought.
Global Consciousness Is Likely to Emerge About 2030
The bar chart above shows two modes in the data:
The left mode from the present to 2035 estimates that some type of global consciousness is most likely to enter the leading edge about 2029 on average. The right mode includes data from 2041 to Much Later and Never. Comments reflect trends supporting the 2029 forecast and the many doubts that cause this group to challenge it.
How to resolve this stark difference? We note that the left mode contains 18 responses while the right mode contains 11 responses. This simple measure suggests that 62% of the total responses favor the 2029 forecast while 38% oppose it.
A final test is possible by considering the 3 data points from 2041 to 2050 as the right tail of the left mode. This interpretation would include all of the yearly estimates from 2020 to 2050. That would raise the average forecast to 2031 and raise the proportions to 72% vs 28%.
Based on this analysis, we conclude that the leading edge in modern nations is most likely to witness a shift to some type of global consciousness about 2030 +/- 3 years or so. We also conclude that 28% of respondents think it will happen Much Later or Never.
This analysis also suggests that the doubts supporting the right mode represent valid obstacles that must be overcome to realize this possibility. Comments above show serious concerns about the enormous social resistance to such a historic change in thought. Some are convinced that muddling through is enough to produce solutions. A few think that social change has been excessive and should be undone.
I think that AI/ML will take the thinking out of the living process. Even government will have to rely on a new social consciousness that is free from current tax-based models. Business models especially as we move into an inherited/transfer of wealth economy. In the age of disruption, possibly the world as we know it will operate as a global collective.
In my view, all elements of the pyramid describing the Structure of Consciousness are active for the three areas (Individuals and Families, Management of Organizations, Government and Politics) identified in the survey.
As a scientist, I think that objective knowledge is paramount and rational decisions that have wide acceptance over time. But I respect that subjectivity is separate and is sometimes influenced by objectivity, but in many instances is ignored. With misinformation/disinformation, rationality/objectivity is supplanted as the basis leading to various outcomes and decisions. Objective knowledge also changes with new evidence but subjective elements on many occasions far less so.
This is an extremely complex question.
I immediately need to highlight two additional dimensions that are not adequately reflected in the framing of this problem.
1) There will be a huge divergence between the developing and developed worlds.
2) There will be a large divergence along the political spectrum.
Only at the individual and family level every person in the world would be subjective no matter his/her level of development, income, means, education or political view. It is driven by instinct to procreate and advance our offspring in the best way possible. We each think our kids are the smartest/strongest/best.
There is a huge difference in the way business is conducted in the developing and developed world. In the developing world, many more decisions are driven by short-term goals based on emotion and culture than in the developed “west”. For similar reasons, political orientation will drive decisions with liberal companies (Meta, Twitter, Google) being more focused on (emotional) social issues than the more conservative and often criticized hardline profit motive (Tesla, Apple, Big Oil).
This is quite controversial, but the way nepotism and bribery are viewed in the developing world is very different to that of the developed world and these are driven by culture, not objective factors. And it is quite clear that even in that bastion of the west, the USA, liberal and conservative politics are worlds apart, but both sides are still influenced to various extents by subjective factors.
My favorite definition of consciousness is: “Consciousness is a state or condition in which an intelligent system is aware of itself, its surroundings, its situation, its intentions, and its feelings. (Albus and Mystel, pp xii–xiii, 2001). Given the extent to which humans lack this awareness, it is questionable to what extent, if any, humans are conscious).
Regarding consciousness though, there are certain things that are missing in my view. Intuition, instinct, hunches, feelings as distinct from emotion – could tie in with hunches. Urges, drives, cravings, addictions and awareness of them. Awareness, presence.
Also, topics like choosing, selecting, opting, deciding and so on as integral to consciousness. As well as responsibility, accountability and dependence.
I’m looking at your pyramid and agree that it works. Perhaps add a tier entitled Innate Characteristics. That would be a catch-all for instinct, intuition, etc.
Another thought is you might want to add dimensionality to the pyramid.
The 3rd dimension would be a temporal classification of Now and Not Now Consciousness. Some folks, very few, achieve full nowness consciousness. Something to which I personally aspire.
As a scientist, your questions evoke deep questions about where science is headed and why it has become so distrusted in modern times. My suggestions are as follows:
1. What other relevant facts should be added to the above list of background data? The outcomes of COP26 on climate change and COP15 on biodiversity, where science clearly shows a global crisis, but the response is derailed by political and industry interests (even where they believe the science, as the fossil fuel industry has done for nearly 50 years already).
2. What are your thoughts on the way questions are framed above? In view of the anti-science movement globally, the “values” question has to be framed as both positive and negative. We are not necessarily headed into some sublime paradise because people trust their selfish interests instead of the scientific, objective view of the world. We could be headed into extinction caused by our own self-destructive consciousness, including first knocking off the species that inhabit the planet with us.
3. Should other questions be added? I would add “why has the world turned to reject scientific knowledge in favour of ideologies, post-facts, fads and fashions?”
4. Any other comments on this study? I think the view that an emerging golden age of consciousness is going to lead us into some nirvana is sadly flawed, but I will be interested to see how your little community of futurists see this unfolding.
Other Relevant facts to consider: The perspective on other Global issues like- Global Warming; Reduction of / steady extinction of species on earth; Move towards renewable and sustainable lives. The fact of the matter is that the young generation sees these as logical topics (objective as defined above) that are evaluated with a calculative mindset. Older generations on the other hand look at these with great emotional attachment (subjective) , so a great deal of the conscious angles is evident in their evaluation as compared to the genZ.
The questions have been framed with a helicopter view and will not be able to unravel the link between whether future leaders (today’s genZ) have a completely different proportion of Subjective to Objective ratio when they make decisions. However, the older generation as I see it is going to pass on in the next 40 years, and the world will slowly wake up to the Conscious standards of the GenZ.
I feel it is very important to evaluate whether the shift in the Subjective vs Objective mindset is real or just out figment of imagination. I for one can vouch that my son ( aged 23) has a very clear view of global issues, which is almost 80% Objective. His mind works in the Objective domain very well as compared to the Subjective aspects of consciousness. Almost every discussion we have on global and other issues, he tries to sum up some kind of model to explain his view.
This means that the intelligent young generation has already contemplated a method of measuring how much emotion-ethics and personal views to devote to issues ( which is very low) as against me and many of my classmates who struggle to see things so Objectively even today.
The above two facets of my reply point to the need for a few questions that can actually grapple with the percentage difference in the world view as Subjective and Objective for different age groups as perceived by respondents to the survey. I seriously feel that this is essential as it shows the slow roll-over to a more pragmatic set of governing mindsets that don’t spend too much emotional energy on things they have already perceived to be Objective.
The question I would like to add to the survey:
Think clearly of the generation before you, your generation and the two generations after you. Based on your judgment, what is the proportion of Subjective to Objective approach you see in their decision making on issues at the three levels depicted: individual and family; corporate organizations and global or country levels.
Even if decision-making is believed to be “fact”-based, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is “rational” when the “facts” themselves are actually irrational or flawed – e.g. distorted by misinformation, misinterpretation, or unconscious/ideological biases.
There is also the aspect of practical constraints – decision-makers may feel they have little choice/options and are forced to make decisions they don’t personally prefer, e.g. due to shareholder primacy and fiduciary duty. A key problem with the modern corporation is that director duties are narrowly defined and constraint the voluntary action space.
I’m currently writing a commentary about a recent article by Nicholas Stern on the failure of current climate economics. Accordingly, many “rational” decision-makers are not well informed today and severely underestimate the stakes of climate catastrophe. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oVGX_QeF8pZTSLkfk7e2PRLOOqgdd-bI4JwegtJRPYw/edit?usp=sharing
As long as a large share of voters is not well-informed and behaves irrationally, politicians are driven to behave accordingly – in addition, the political sphere is currently subject to rampant lobbying, corporate capture and misinformation, which even worsens the quality of decision making. In spite of human intelligence, there is a lack of wisdom across the board. Another question to ask might be: “How high is the quality of decision making in relation to what’s ethically necessary, scientifically grounded and “wise”?”
In my opinion, measured by the dimensions of wisdom, empathy and time horizons, current human societies are still far from achieving an advanced level of consciousness, unfortunately.In this context, here is a brief text I wrote a little while ago:
Perhaps you are familiar with the old Greek proverb: “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” I sincerely hope that — as a civilization — we can learn to embrace this kind of intergenerational stewardship at a planetary level. Today, we are in a situation where “old” men and women would literally have to plant a trillion trees, in combination with establishing bold climate policies, in order to facilitate a desirable future that they know they may never see. But doing so requires a belief in something higher than individual and tribal self-interest, such as the abstract idea of humanity worth caring for, stretching across time and space far beyond the confines of one’s own lifetime. While establishing such a belief is certainly not a trivial task in today’s postmodern era of general confusion and short-termism, I believe that succeeding at it is what fulfilling mankind’s dreams of perpetual global peace and deep environmental sustainability require. It is what characterizes a truly advanced and enlightened civilization in my view, more so than any technological achievement.
I think you would get much more interesting results if you clarified the question. Your diagram doesn’t seem to correspond with anybody’s theory of the “structure of consciousness.” I would say that is more, not less vague than most other sources.
You say you want me to “estimate a level of consciousness,” but when the actual question comes, there is no level at all. You are asking about the balance between subjective factors versus objective factors.
And then you asked me to give a 1 to 100 score. I should really be giving you a response on a Likert scale: zero in the middle, with 1,2,3 going out either side, subjective and objective. And the question is: “Across society as a whole, is this issue being interpreted and advocated for using a mix of functions that favors either subjective or objective functions of consciousness, and it one side is favored, is it favored weakly 1, strongly 2, or very strongly 3?” That is a question I can answer for cases that are more specific than your three categories, which are overly broad. Those responses might be interesting.
You have an additional interpretation of these responses: that increased subjectivity is a sign of an advance of consciousness. But that is NOT something that your respondents are necessarily agreeing to or confirming. If you want to know whether anybody agrees with you, you could ask two additional questions: “Do you think that an overall increase in subjectivity is
1) evidence of a serious, civilization-scale change in culture
2) this change is an evolution of consciousness that may aid humanity in developing a sustainable existence?
Regarding an ‘Age of Consciousness’. I think you’re on the right path but maybe aren’t quite asking/phrasing the questions fully. I hope this critique is constructive but also gives you some ideas about how to nail down the questions a bit more … quantitatively.
As note, we are going through a period whereby ‘Truth’ is harder and harder to come by. I still remember in the MBA Capstone hearing you, presciently, talk about upcoming societal upheavals as institutions proven unable to adjust to new realities. And we are seeing, and living, that as people no longer trust their church, their government, or even their neighbors. I think this is fairly self-evident and undeniable.
So how do we handle it? People are busy and just as it’s not helpful to have 47 cereal or beer choices in the grocery — having to hunt and kill your truth is probably too much to ask most people to do. A lot of this is cultural. As Americans, we generally want to believe in our institutions and leaders. We tend to believe people are truthful. But this is NOT the case for many people. One need look no further than Russians, Chinese, (North) Koreans or even Easter Europeans to see, if not understand, the pervasive nihilism that throws ice water on any objective truth. Interestingly this lack of objective truth is creeping into American society as we question ‘lived truths’, who our heroes are (statue controversies, Columbus, etc..), and even around COVID. So we all need help.
Ironically technology was supposed to help: essentially something like dis-aggregating the news among many sources would magically ensure the ‘truth’ would prevail. But what we’ve seen is that tech, as it becomes focused, has become too good at allowing everyone to publish, and as a corollary, much too easily spread misinformation if not outright disinformation.
If this fabric: 1)Objective Truths, 2) Cultural views towards truth, and 3)Technology is all working against us, how are people who are new to jobs, or starting families, or want to enjoy retirement, to have any chance??? I think the answer is through technology and specifically AI. We are seeing AI drive truths at two of your three ‘Organizational Realms’ (e.g. the Gov’t, Business, Individual), specifically the Government and Corporate levels but not nearly as explicitly on the Individual level. There are deep and complicated algorithms to drive efficient decisions (even if the algorithms are often imperfect) for the best policy, the best stock trade, the best judge to get in a Court Case. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds do not hesitate to shovel outrage and dopamine driving clickbait our way. And so Tech has gotten really good at knowing your likes and feeding us what you like — whether it’s Facebook outrage, or suggestions to music on your playlist (you’ve played Moonlight Sonata every day, perhaps you would like XYZ by Wagner) or on Netflix. And I think that’s the next step: Easy, Personal AI. Easy, personal AI gives people a chance whereby they’ve never had it. Some may argue we have some of that: for instance, we can select our news feeds — but it’s all ‘hard coded’ and often not well correlated. We need ‘easy AI’ to help us with our objective truths. To better curate what we see, what we get, and to understand the counterpoints. To better shape the bottom of your pyramid below (the Structure of Consciousness) to help drive better knowledge, better decisions, more accurate memory and emotions to then reset the foundation.
In conclusion, we are at the cusp of an age of Consciousness. However, unlike our last Renaissance, it’s not humans that will be awakening. Rather it’s the merger of tech and humanity at the personal level. The consciousness you’re speaking of will be software-driven — but it has to be programmed in. The very act of being sentient, of consciousness, is to realize that it was missing previously, to be self-aware. And so as we know subjective factors ALWAYS trump [bad word choice?] objectivity in the human animal. Sociologists often say you need to compliment a loved one eight (8) times to every perceived slight to ensure they feel safe, loved and comforted. Eight times the good vs the bad — and that’s in a trusted relationship!!! We are nowhere near that out there in the tech wilderness. All in all to say Tech has not yet had that moment of realizing that Consciousness exists, can’t be assumed, and so needs to be hardwired in — but it is about to. And it will be a wild ride applying binary decisions to non-binary live choices. But that’s exactly where we are and it’s coming faster than anyone realizes. The best inventions have always been time-travel — things that save time (Amazon makes shopping take minutes rather than hours) — and that’s exactly what is needed in the AI space. An easy, functional, personal AI.
I have no confidence in these aggregate numbers. As a trained political scientist, I found these levels of analysis a bit off. That is, I would separate individuals and families. The organizational level is fine, but I would disaggregate government and politics – I see those as separate entities. Governments can be studied as a level of analysis, but not politics. And I find it difficult to aggregate any of the categories because of the wide diversity in each. It does not seem useful, to me. I agree with some of the initial comments about whether there is an agreement whatsoever about what consciousness is. That, to me, is a more interesting question.
1. What other relevant facts should be added to the above list of background data?
These do not appear to me to be data but categories and events. In futures work, I would prefer emerging issues trends in STEEP categories. I’m not sure why you are not using more traditional typologies that are more standardized and potentially consistent over time. The list does not seem sensitive to international, cross-cultural, or global issues. Very Western.
2. What are your thoughts on the way questions are framed above?
Framing and assumptions are a problem for me. For one thing, this seems very technologically oriented (a strength of yours, to be sure) and exclusive of new or evolved concepts about consciousness, that is, cross-species, intestinal, somatic, and planetary. There is an assumption, based on a quick read, that AI will somehow mirror or parallel human consciousness. I took a brief dive into your new book, and from a deep ecology or deep Mountain approach, this scheme neglects the human/Gaian aspects of emerging planetary consciousness. Transhumanism and posthumanism do not see human agency the same way.
4. Any other comments on this study?
I am uncomfortable with the hierarchy and the apparent belief that human consciousness is necessarily the peak, the Omega point. There is certainly no consensus whether that is a good thing, and it seems to me we are becoming more fractured, polarized, and individualized — certainly barriers to a global transformation. At least in spiral dynamics, there is a sense of moving from stages, and not all people, not all societies, are at the same level in emerging consciousness at the same time.
I have only begun looking at your book, but I do not understand how knowledge fits into consciousness, it seems to me knowledge and facts are external to consciousness — but that’s a big epistemological debate.
Finally, the whole quantitative approach seems misguided to me. Selection bias will be an issue, and I’m not convinced that the numbers mean anything in the scheme of things, given global driving forces, such as climate change, wild cards, such as the Kessler Syndrome, or any other number of increasingly likely events (the next bird flu epidemic). I do not see how we get “enlightened” transformational consciousness until the bottom billion are fed.
as we know it will have to rely on a new social consciousness that is free from current tax-based models. Business models especially as we move into an inherited/transfer of wealth economy. In the age of disruption, possibly the world as we know it will operate as a global collective.