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Updated: Mar 7

We have reached a crossroads in human evolution. A juncture that goes to the heart of whether we are just another species on the path to extinction, or one able to conjure a more sophisticated and advanced capacity for endurance.


While technocrats offer positive scenarios with an edge, where artificial intelligence is used to eliminate drudgery and powerful computers are able to solve all the problems facing us, including the inevitability of death, many others feel as though our civilization is on the verge of collapse and that our lives are losing all meaning. These two conditions can also inhabit the individual mind concurrently as we swing between optimism and anguish on a daily basis.


Much of what we have made, and then taken for granted, appears to be broken. Old operating models stopped working long ago and absurdity seems to have parachuted into so many facets of life where social interaction and cooperation are key. Our eyes are glued to screens from the time we wake to the time we retire, exhausted by incessant rounds of advertising fictions and tacit capitulation to routines that insist on dragging us back to our manufactured normalcies.


At the same time we are endeavouring to cope with an estranged exterior presence, facing volatile uncertainties while taking refuge from nature’s novel impulse to punish us for our greedy indiscretions and lack of ecological stewardship. Confused and anxious cannot explain the half of it.


Excessive surveillance by governments everywhere, a unilateral response to complexity driven by a fear of the future, has become just another unacceptable intrusion into our daily lives. Social media is proving to be more alienating than not, whispering half-truths and outright deceptions that many believe and take to be sacrosanct. Mainstream media have morphed into propaganda machines, constantly churning out the dogma and slogans demanded by old empires hell bent on preserving hegemony for its own sake.


Celebrities who become famous for their fame are revered by hordes of ordinary men and women as the embodiment of human perfection. Our children know the names of every Marvel hero yet cannot name a single shrub or tree.


The industry of fakes that started so innocuously with cosmetic surgery now extends to pop songs, paintings, and voice-overs composed by computers and interpretative analyses delivered in seconds by large language model-based chatbots with the capacity to scan almost the entirety of online knowledge in seconds.


The latest international trade agreements guarantee greater wealth for those already extremely affluent while tenaciously ignoring the needs of the poor. Organized religions are quietly fading or splintering into a confusion of incoherent yet violent flashpoints. Dualism reigns supreme as it did in the centuries prior to the Enlightenment. Indeed we seem to be falling into neofeudalism on so many levels. And just as we are confronting the limits imposed by nature on what we can and cannot do, so an impasse has been reached in our capacity to deal with critical issues in a collective manner that might benefit us all. 


Meanwhile several scientists are seriously persuaded that we’re living in a hologram. If that is our reality then the potentate coders (God if you will) must have a very warped sense of humour. And if we assume that their jesting is likely to persist then perhaps none of this matters anyway. Nothing is within our means to control. On the other hand if there is no higher intelligence, if we are all there is and we do have agency to take a new path, we must come to terms with the need for an unprecedented ontological revolution. Namely, an appreciation that all life is sacred, and that if we are exceptional, that must be reflected in our responsibility to steward life on Earth virtuously and not merely for our own convenience or craving.




During the coming decades we will face a cascade of massively disruptive events that will fuel each other both economically and ecologically. Many of these will disable conventional institutional power structures, opening up space for alternative socio-economic, governance and political innovations to embed. As these changes are embraced, collaboration on an unprecedented scale will be needed if we are to transition the human family into a global community that is more empathic, inclusive and adaptive. For this is also a genesis moment – pregnant with energy for purposeful renewal.


Obviously there are massive impediments already impacting us on a daily basis that will ultimately decide whether we can emerge with our collective sanity and physical wellbeing intact after the inevitable failure of our most life-critical systems. The ferris wheel of desire and consumption, fueled by greed and driven by the competitive demands of corporate marketing, is one of these. As we buy more and more stuff we don’t actually need, we are simply amplifying this cycle, adding to our physical problems of pollution and waste and health problems of anxiety and depression. Evolving a theory of economics that serves human purposes better than capitalism is another. Primitive emotional instincts stimulated by war yet another. All three of these ingrained doctrines are leading us down a path to ruin.


Capitalism is no longer killing us silently. Divisions between the owners of capital and the poor have now become the number one enemy of just about any viable civilization one might imagine. Another shadow cast over our capacity to transcend the human condition is the toxic legacy of colonialism. The patriarchal gerentocracy of the Global North must cease their increasingly unashamed pillage of the Global South if we are going to go beyond the wholly specious notion of exceptionalism and racial superiority. And although people deride my logic when I speak about the need to understand and possibly integrate ancient wisdom traditions more thoroughly into present practices, it’s actually no laughing matter.




So how should we design our way into better futures? I’ve always thought the standard foresight toolkit offers fairly formulaic solutions compared to the emancipation of more inventive play in the context of capricious complexity. And so I will avoid nominating any one example from an infinite number of futures that might evolve from the conditions I’ve outlined here. Instead I want to propose, in the most general of terms, a radical renewal of the existing worldview, to a more joyous and just world-system, interrogating ways we can undertake that journey – noting that the critical mass of change-makers needed will be possibly less than 10 per cent of open-minded citizens. It’s been estimated that the European renaissance originated from the ideas and funding from about 8 per cent of the population, while today China is controlled by about 7 per cent of its inhabitants.


Obviously the engagement of key influencers from all sectors of society will be critical, but the outcome cannot be a top-down, one-size-fits-all model needing huge amounts of corporate PR to convince people of its merit, especially as sacrifice will inevitably be a part of untangling today from whatever comes next – a political necessity we’re still not yet ready to accept as it jars with our sense of linear progress.


Targeting specific communities at a grassroots level will help grow acceptance, creating added coherence as the familiar becomes strange and the unfamiliar common place in a dance between past and future. In terms of messaging and dissemination of information, integral inquiry and small group conversations will play a vital role. How all these are brought together will depend on how quickly activists and the owners of capital can engage, and obstacles dealt with, in a manner that does not hark back to outmoded values and toxic practices.


I would imagine different industries requesting an opportunity to forge their own paths – if only to avoid public humiliation and the need for forgiveness when confessing to a range of degenerative habits. The legal profession might want to convene meetings in camera when holding up a moral compass to some of its more cruel, commercial, and less compassionate rituals. That should not be condoned. Governments should be compelled to sit down with big business and peak industry bodies when redrafting their critical relationships. Public sittings would need to be mandated, with corrupt practices exposed to the full light of day. Anything else would simply be hiding from the truth, returning to a status quo which we are still only grudgingly accepting as being unsustainable.


If love and appreciation do take root, supplanting greed and envy, and laws such as ecocide are unreservedly embraced in any next empathic world-system, the professions most affected will be the law, accompanied by the systems of justice and correction, politics, along with industrial manufactures like pharmaceuticals and chemicals. They will all need encouragement and help, insights from the public, and alternative ways of thinking about their future, to transcend a past that could still try and stick to them like superglue.


Of course what I’m suggesting here is the most optimistic of situations: a world where collapse has been embraced and eclipsed rather than resisted; a world configured to include and transcend the very best versions of what it means to be human; and the thwarting of fate by a desire to endure, made possible only through a giant leap of consciousness.


Dr. Richard David Hames, based in Bangkok, is a senior statesman in the field of strategic foresight. Founder of the Centre for the Future and a Fellow of the World Academy of Art & Science, Richard is currently co-founder of The Ecority Trust, a small cadre of investors exploring new civilisational models inspired by love and stewardship. His mentoring clientele includes heads of state, government ministers, leading CEOs, and some of the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs.

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