Thursday, September 06, 2007

Are chimeras part of our future?

by Michael Akerib, InnovaX

In zoology, a chimera is an animal containing genetic material from parents of two or more distinctly different species. Chimeras are found in nature when fertilized eggs fuse or when a fertilized egg fuses with a sperm other than the one that fertilized the egg.

Chimeras can breed but only part of the genetic material is transmitted to the offspring.

There is a major difference between chimeras and hybrids. Hybrids, such as the mule, are formed from the interaction between a sperm and an ovule of two different species, while a hybrid is formed from the mixing of the cells of two zygotes.

Experiments have been undertaken of transplanting embryonic cells of a human fetus into an animal embryo. The first such human / animal chimera has reportedly been created at the Shanghai Second Medical University in China where human and rat cells were fused.

While the creation of animal / animal chimeras may have one of several objectives such as the understanding of embryonic development or the carrying of fetuses of animal of protected species, animal / human embryos while also enabling researchers to study the behavior of human cells in experiments that could not be carried out on humans, they also serve a different purpose, namely the production of human stem cells. This is particularly true in countries that do not allow the use of discarded embryos from fertility clinics for that use.

There are also several projects to use animal / human chimeras to produce cells or organs for use in patients. Thus, sheep at the University of Nevada have human liver cells.

Biologists are clearly redesigning life. Rather than redesigning our environment to suit human life, they will redesign life to suit the needs of humans.

Redesigning life starts from the premise that we can imagine and create a better world than the one we live in today.

Two types of considerations arise. The first is medical while the second is ethical.

During the process of creating a chimera by injecting human cells into an animal embryo, a major unknown remains the extent to which such cells will migrate into the various organs of the body and thus ‘humanize’ the animal. Conversely, if animal cells are introduced into a human fetus, there would be a degree of ‘animalization’ of the human. The question of degree also arises from the perspective of the observer who may, or many not, recognize the result as part of an existing species or not.

An obvious danger in transplanting cells or organs from a chimera to a human is that of transmitting animal diseases to humans. There is no obvious solution as to how this could be prevented.

We are also assuming that our knowledge of the genetic mechanisms is, or will be in the future, sufficient to prevent unexpected developments and side effects. But will this be the case?

Assuming the ideology of those who represent the people, politicians for the most part, leads them to allow the creation of chimeras and scientists are successful in overcoming the numerous technological barriers that inevitably will present themselves, a number of ethical question arise.

Ethical issues can be sub-divided as follows:

  • Should men change the destiny of the race by considering genes as objects? In other words, should human selection replace natural selection thus permanently altering our relationship with our environment?

  • Evolution being partly synonymous with selection through competition, at least to some extent, and assuming the chimeras cannot compete with humans, could they evolve?

  • Are we creating chimeras because we understand unconsciously that the world will be devoid of other species as the world’s biodiversity is shrinking? Chimeras as ersatz of the animals we are eliminating from the face of the earth …

  • Chimeras themselves become objects rather than animals or humans, and the birth process is replaced by a manufacturing process.

  • If so who should hold the decision-making power to decide which genes should be kept and which altered? What role will scientists play in this process?

  • Should chimeras be considered as a form of domesticated animals, pets, or rather as a human sub-species? If the latter is the case, is it less of an ethical issue to experiment on or destroy them than it is to experiment on, or destroy, human life. This is particularly true of chimeras in which human brain cells are implanted or developed in other primates.

  • What kind of rights would chimeras have, considering that animal rights vary from country to country and in some are totally non-existent

  • Were chimeras to breed with humans, what status would be that of the offspring?

  • Could a sub-human species be thus produced to perform tasks humans refuse doing or simply to be exhibited in zoos or circuses?

  • Could we create a breed of chimeras that can look forward into time and realize their own mortality?

  • Are we entering an era of post-humanity where humans as we know them will serve no useful purpose any more? Will this be a harbinger of chaos with multitudes of chimeras and few, if any, real human beings?

The issues are so important that they question our very sense of morality

To these purely ethical questions, one must add religious issues, which are of quite a different nature and need not necessarily concern those of us who are non-believers, agnostics or atheists. They are therefore not covered here.

Science has always made strides forward. We know of no technology that could advance the interests of humanity that has been discarded, however dangerous its outcome could be, even when we perceived the long-term consequences of adopting it.

In fact, the final question with regards to chimeras is our willingness to live in a very different world, in other words, our acceptance of profound change. Acceptance, perhaps, rather than intention. Sliding into post-humanity rather than making a decisive well-informed step.

Thus, the successful creation of chimeras, and their adoption as an ordinary object of our technological creativity, would be an alternative foundation to a post-human society.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Importance of Multiculturalism Expertise, and a Program to Acquire It

By Dr. V. H. Manek Kirpalani and Dr. Leif Thomas Olsen

Multiculturalism is growing by leaps and bounds due to three driving forces.

Ø Multinational Enterprises with their explosive expansions into different regions.
Ø Emigration and Immigration.
Ø Increased Communication Speed and the Internet Highway.

The rationale for the growth of these driving forces and the environment they create are the following:

The Rationale for Growth of Multiculturalism

Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) have been growing at some 8% a year in terms of total revenues for the last 50 years or so. The environment of globalization has helped. International trade talks have aided the creation of a substantially large world market for many products and services. Other types of international cooperation have helped speed up growth in previously stagnant economies by providing investment and credit opportunities across the globe. Thus the business environment has encouraged the expansion of MNE products and services, and facilitated the internationalization of production. The latter has allowed the MNEs to produce and/or purchase many components from countries with lower costs of production. Today the total revenue of MNEs is greater than the GDP of any country in the world, even greater than that of the USA which produces roughly 25% of the world’s GDP. Moreover the MNEs dominate world trade with a roughly 60% overall share of this trade. The MNEs thus need the cross-cultural expertise to produce and market their products and services in countries worldwide, to deal with component suppliers from different cultures, and to manage employees who come from diverse countries and cultures. Further the successful manager and/or business owner must learn about a range of cross-cultural experience in order to continue their success. Furthermore every manager and policy maker in business or government and its public sector organizations has to deal sooner or later with people from different cultures who are workers or consumers.

Emigration and immigration provide other driving forces that contribute to the creation of diverse cross-cultural environments in many countries. All in all it is estimated that worldwide over 600 million people or some 10% of the world’s population are living in countries outside their country of origin. The richer North American and Western economies have served as a magnet to draw immigration from all over the world. The USA and Canada have been importing well over one million people a year as immigrants from overseas for the last 50 years. Further, today the USA has some 50 million Hispanic immigrants, legal and illegal (the term for the latter is ‘undocumented’). The European Union has served as a draw for immigrants from the colonies of its imperial countries. Furthermore today it is seeing a strong flow of people from its Central and Eastern European segments into its Western regions. Emigration from China and India has been large over the last 100 years or so.

Increased communication speed and its constantly decreasing costs, coupled with the Internet highway and the flow of information technology have resulted in more direct communication between head offices and subsidiaries, emigrants / immigrants and their original home bases, and by the flow of global promotion of products and services, and of global news via established outlets such as CNN and BBC World, as well as more recent additions, such as Al Jazeera and Russia Today.

Demand and Supply of Graduates with Multicultural Expertise

All the above developments have increased the need for cross-cultural expertise. But the demand for graduates, trained with the capability of doing well in multicultural environments, is far greater than the supply.

In a multitudinal world, where issues like sustainable development, shareholders' value and ethnic-religious conflicts are all 'hot', and the North-South divide seems to be getting wider by the day, corporate, technical, political managers and professionals must become more able to see beyond their own respective area of direct involvement and responsibility. Future leaders and managers have a rapidly growing social responsibility to the society their employing organization operates within - a task that current management training programs tend to underestimate. An elective course or two on good governance or socially responsible investments is unlikely to change the thinking deeply enough, especially as they usually are just electives rather than high-profile mandatory courses. Moreover, snapshot courses are no longer enough. One must go deeper and develop knowledge and thorough understanding of the subjects that are being learnt.

If future professionals and academics, whether in business, governance or technology, have to keep pace with todays, and even more so tomorrow's, development speed, a different approach must be instilled in people through the educational system. The ambition of a learning program must be to install a multi-cultural base and a more socio-economic oriented leadership focus. The graduate with such leadership training will be able to apply it in a scientific or social environment, and/or in a corporate or political context. Leaders and managers who do understand their responsibility in its broadest meaning will also understand that there is no contradiction between ROI and social responsibility. A good example of this lies in the industrial tradition that built most of the companies now considered backbones of the societies from which they emerged. Had it not been for hardworking entrepreneurs with very long-term vision and far-reaching social responsibilities, there would be no Ford Motor Co, no Sony Corporation, no IKEA and no TSMC (Taiwan's largest chip manufacturer). Only leaders who can read both the social and the financial sides of the socio-economic equation will succeed.

Program to Acquire Multicultural Expertise

The overall objective of a multicultural expertise program for managers across the corporate, political and social spectra must be to offer a curriculum with a leadership focus that can be adjusted to the respective cultural and socio-economic environments in which it is to be consumed. For managers with social or political ambitions, such cultural sensitivity is already a 'must'. Nevertheless it is rare to find evidence for development of this insight when looking at the curricula offered by most business institutions.

Future managers must develop good abilities to see different societies in different lights. The same goes for social workers, politicians, and international officials, such as those at the International Monetary Fund, United Nations, WTO, and the World Bank. It once took an almost nationwide boycott of McDonalds' hamburgers in India before McDonald executives realized that their products had to be diversified for cultural reasons; righteous Hindus found it unacceptable to eat beef. Nowadays all international fast food chains offer localized menus. The 2005/06 boycott of Danish products of any sort in many Muslim markets, as a result of what came to be known as the 'Mohammed-cartoon incident', indicates how important cultural understanding is in an increasingly global marketplace.

A program designed to address the need to acquire multicultural expertise should build on three interrelated cornerstones. Each one is outlined with its underlying logic.

Corner Stone 1:

Multitude culture-sensitive. It must not assume a global westernized mono-culture such as most MBA programs tend to do.

Underlying Logic:

The cultural issue will never go away, and multitude culture-sensitive importance will increase once China, India, Korea and other countries with different cultures gain fuller influence in global matters.

Corner Stone 2:

Open social platform. Rather than viewing management as a limited task

Underlying Logic:

The management of just about any entity, whether public or private, now affects significantly larger circles of society than it used to do. The Internet as well as other open access platforms also has dramatically increased the possibility for information-sharing. This have allowed also participative democracy representatives, who for long mainly expressed their views and opinions through NGOs and/or street rallies, access to, and increasingly efficient use of, the kind of information that was formerly controlled by ´the establishment elite,’

Corner Stone 3:

Future oriented. Rather than business-as-usual.

Underlying Logic:

The speed of development in general and technical development in particular, is in-creasing. Therefore to be successful a future orientation in thinking and strategy is necessary.

Rushmore University New P2M Program

The new Rushmore University P2M program emphasizes the post-modern need for a global horizon with a depth understanding of cultural silos. . It is worth looking at and can be seen at Rushmore's website It consists of 30 credits spread over the following five courses plus a thesis in your preferred cultural area. :

1. World Religions and Philosophies

Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam are the six major religions that historically, as well as in terms of current affairs, have a global impact. Metaphysics, Ethnocentrism, Relativism, Socio-biology, Individualism, Collectivism, Utilitarianism and Pacifism are some philosophies that also, with varying success influenced, or tried to influence, our societies over time. Students are requested to analyze at least three different accounts of each one of these.

2. World History as Viewed by the World's Major -isms

Many ideas have grown so strong over time so they developed into social and/or political systems, entirely governing the societies over which they wrestled control. The most influential ones, here identified as "-isms", are Feudalism, Capitalism, Imperialism, Nationalism, Colonialism, Modernism, Liberalism, Post-Modernism, Neo-liberalism, Secularism, Globalism Consensus, Fundamentalism, and Good Governance-ism. The course will cover all these, and some others, in depth.

3. A Changing World: Ecology, Anthropology, Demography and Economic Geography

Climate-change is only the most recent of many pressing issues showing how interlinked are ecology, anthropology, demography and economic geography. When the UN's Security Council finally took this issue on in 2007, it simply confirmed what was already well known: migration - whether caused by war, economic inequality or climate-change - is a serious cause of concern, whereas millions of people are moving, and will continue to move, to new localities, in turn affecting those millions of people who already live there. We must learn how to adapt to it, and make good from the situation it creates. This requires leaders and managers with the right abilities and a strong social sensitivity. These aspects will also be discussed in depth.

4. Future-Studies Related to Cross-Cultural Issues, including Social Research Methodology

Future-studies related to cross-cultural issues can help predict developments and prevent problems, assuming they build on a good methodological platform. This course on such future studies as a means to understand and influence the future, therefore also includes social research methodology.

5. Cross-cultural / Interdisciplinary Interaction and Psychology

With globalization comes cultural interaction. There is very little evidence to say that a homogeneous global culture will develop. It is more likely that the concept of glocal - a mix of the two words global and local - will best describe the future world order.

To understand and facilitate this development one must understand what constitutes a culture, and how and why cultures clash. Cultures are however not only social, they can also be religious, professional, disciplinary or otherwise. By understanding the psychology and methodology of bridging cultures one can help not only peoples from different parts of the world to co-habitation, but also specialists from different disciplines to co-operation. Using such insights one can also more easily understand how the world can develop, as development always is a result of such co-habitation and co-operation.

6. Thesis: Linking directly to a Chosen Elective

Students are asked to submit a thesis discussing one of the four electives listed under item 6.1 to 6.4 below. They are:

6.1 Capacity Building for Diverse Cultures, focusing on managing human capacity creation and development, as well as evolutionary processes and technology transfer on a micro as well as macro level.

6.2 Structures and Systems, analyzing how institution-building processes take place; how they are managed and influenced, including not only the processes aimed at developing a State's administrative and juridical bodies, but also those developing capital markets and political - as well as multilateral - institutions.

6.3 Inter-Cultural Leadership, through (i) case research based on the past, (ii) scenario building based on the future, communication theory and/or technology, and (iii) negotiation techniques looking towards the future.

6.4 Western-styled Corporate Philosophy; intended for those non-westerners who wish to have a thorough introduction to western corporate philosophy and behaviour. This thesis would typically focus on similarities and differences between your own cultural setting and the type of cultural setting that the western-styled corporate philosophy would assume. It should also discuss how your own cultural tradition can serve as a platform not only for a local enterprise, but for an internationally viable business model. Further, it should identify steps for how western MNEs can adapt to local conditions, not only in order to respect cultural diversity, but also to better tap into markets that are culturally sensitive.

Leaders who possess the insights that this program offers will be better suited to meet the challenges that our future has in store for us, no matter where we live or in which segment of the society we wish to succeed.

Four Planets

by Chris Thomson, School of Consciousness

If the whole world were to consume energy and resources at the same rate as the USA, we would require approximately four planets to meet the demand. Clearly we do not have four planets. Some might therefore think it odd that we are constantly encouraged to consume more and produce more. Despite increasing evidence to the contrary, economic growth is still seen in mainstream and official circles as highly desirable.

It seems less odd when we remind ourselves that we inhabit an Alice in Wonderland world of topsy-turvy values, in which many of us overprovide for our material needs - getting fat, sad and unhealthy in the process - while underproviding for our spiritual needs for peace, beauty, love, truth and deeper meaning - getting anxious, confused and unhappy in the process.

There is widespread recognition that all is not well. There is a sense of deep malaise that makes many of us uncomfortable. We hear every day about drugs, crime, violence, corruption, war, poverty and inequality, disease, pollution and many other problems. But we continue to believe that by creating even more wealth and money, we will be able to solve these problems. More money is widely regarded as the universal solution, or at least the precondition.

We talk glibly about economic growth, but how many of us ever stop to ask ourselves what we mean by this? When we take a closer look, we discover that many of the things that are growing are undesirable - such as traffic, crime, stress, noise, ugliness, pollution, violence, dishonesty, greed, unhappiness, inequality, and pressure on the environment. We don’t like these things, but we have a schizophrenic attitude to them because some of them register as growth in the economy, which we think is desirable. Our chief measure of growth, GDP, registers the bad and the ugly as well as the good, without telling us which is which.

GDP is the total of all those transactions in an economy where money officially changes hands. At first glance, this looks perfectly reasonable. But a closer look reveals that GDP registers the costs of growth as if they were benefits. If dealing with crime, congestion, pollution, and medically treating an unhealthy population involve legal money transactions, as they clearly do, then these costs will be shown as part of GDP. If an increasing proportion of our GDP is going on this kind of expenditure, as it is, are we justified in saying that we are doing well?

In any event, it does not make sense for countries to compare themselves with each other on the basis of GDP when so much economic activity in so many countries is either outside the official economy (transactions involving cash but which do not get recorded) or does not involve money at all (e.g. people doing housework or other unpaid work or bartering goods and services).

How do we know whether we are doing well?
There are better ways of assessing how we are doing as a society. The Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) is one of them and the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) is another. It is significant that although GDP, ISEW and GPI grew at about the same rate in the UK, USA, and Germany until the early 1970’s, ISEW and GPI declined after that point, while GDP kept growing. If ISEW and GPI are better indicators of what is really happening, this tells us that, although we were experiencing economic growth, things were getting worse, not better. Comparisons between ISEW and GDP should tell us that, after a certain point in the development of any economy, the pursuit of economic growth causes at least as many problems as it purports to solve. In economically developed countries, promoting yet more growth in the hope that it will ultimately enable us to solve our problems is rather like using petrol to try to put out a fire.

Of course it is true that when people do not have their basic needs met, there is clearly a case to be made for growth. Economic development is undoubtedly required in those parts of the world where there is inadequate water, food, shelter, and health-care and education. However, once these basic needs are met, the desirability of more growth becomes increasingly questionable, especially when it is associated with a form of “development” that usually means disrupting the sustainable patterns of centuries. We make the mistake of thinking that because some people have less money or material wealth, they are worse off. Happiness is not necessarily synonymous with having more.

Indeed, after a certain stage has been reached, economic growth is rarely synonymous with human development. On the contrary, it is closely associated with the many social problems of our times, and with pressures to work longer and harder and to spend more. This begs the question: will this process - of having to work harder, and having to become more competitive - ever stop, or will it go on until the end of time as we keep trying to overtake each other in order to get ahead? That is a dismal prospect. Is it not time to make well-being, human development and happiness the central purposes of society? And is it not time to acknowledge that these desirable goals may be in fundamental conflict with the goals of economic growth and ever increasing competitiveness?

Truly Sustainable Human Development
There are some chinks of light. The mood is changing - away from the focus on economic growth pure and simple. The Holy Grail of many governments these days is “to promote economically, environmentally and socially sustainable development”. At the same time, many businesses are trying to tread the fine line between being, on the one hand, profitable and competitive and, on the other hand, socially and environmentally responsible. Increasingly, businesses know that they need the good society. They need happy, healthy, educated, energetic, creative people, and an attractive natural and built environment. The challenge remains: how to have this and to pursue profit and competitiveness at the same time?

Perhaps a better question is: can we evolve and practise a form of socio-economic development that automatically enhances personal growth, wellbeing, social justice, and environmental improvement? Can we, in other words, move away from a world based on competition for, and exploitation of, people and resources to a world based on cooperation and the wise development of people and the planet? The answer to these questions has to be yes. If it is not, then we are in serious trouble. If we carry on pursuing material growth and the belief that more money is the answer to most of our problems, while treating the other two points of the triangle - people and the environment - as secondary to the main objective, the chances are that things will only get worse. Yet we are unlikely to stop carrying on as we are while we continue to subscribe to the belief that more is better. So long as economic growth remains the central purpose, we will continue to have to use specifically targeted policies to try to counteract the negative fallout of our obsession with material things and money. Meanwhile, the contrast between the excited expectations generated by the “knowledge economy” and the deterioration of the earth’s ecosystem could not be greater.

Contrary to the belief in some circles, sustainable development does not mean “economic growth as usual, while keeping a weather eye on the environment”, which is how the term is often interpreted. Sustainable development is as much about the sustainability of society and culture as it is about the sustainability of the economy and the environment. After all, without a society there can be no economy. Increasingly, people are asking: are we living to work or working to live? Does society exist to serve the economy or does the economy exist to serve society? Lying behind these questions is the bigger question: what is it that we really want?

However, we are unlikely to get to the point of knowing what we really want unless we make this possible for ourselves. This would mean giving ourselves the space and time to think and feel more deeply about what we are doing and why we are doing it. At present, much of our thinking is carried out in knee-jerk reactive mode, and many of our actions reflect this. There is an urgent need for deeper, reflective thinking.

Let us assume that we were able, as individuals and as communities, to work out what we really want in life and what we want to be as a society. We would then need to find ways of getting there, and we would also need to design much better indicators to tell us whether or not we are on track. In my view, we will get there only if the means are the same as the ends. Paul Ekins expressed this beautifully in his book “Wealth Beyond Measure”:

“Many enlightened capitalists, and socialists who connive with them for the sake of economic growth, believe that solving the problems of production will lead people, once they have enough, to turn towards the higher things of life: beauty, spirit, art, love. They are wrong. Making the market the principal instrument of human development has transformed it - in the form of shopping - into society’s principal cultural expression. It is no use changing the goals from economic growth to basic needs or sustainability, for example, if the means, the economics, remains the same. It is the means that determine where we end up. The challenge is not only to decide on another destination…but also to design an economics, and a development process to go with it, that is as sustainable, participatory, equitable and satisfying as the end that is in view.”

Many of us are confused. On the one hand, we are being asked to work harder, to be more flexible, and to be more enterprising and competitive, so that we can stay ahead of each other, other companies and other countries. We are caught up in what seems to be an endless race for competitive advantage, yet many of us instinctively feel that we - and the world - cannot continue this way. At the same time, we are being asked to do our small bit to help promote social justice and environmental sustainability. It feels very much as if we are being asked to go faster and slower simultaneously.

The “central purpose” of the modern world, and of most countries and many organisations, seems to be perpetual economic growth. Anyone who understands how systems work will know how important a system’s central purpose is. It literally determines what the system looks like and how it functions. If the world’s central purpose really is economic growth, then all other “purposes”, such as justice, equality, ecology and health, will always take second place. And the values of the system will always reflect the central purpose. It is no accident that we live in an age of rampant materialism. It is interesting to reflect that one of the fastest growing industries in the USA is the self-storage industry. This is where many Americans store goods that they cannot keep in their house or garage, because they have no more space. The industry reports the owners of these additional goods never see them again, once they have been put into storage. This suggests that, for many people in the modern world, the act of buying things is just as important, if not more so, than actually having them.

We urgently need a new central purpose for the world. And the world as a whole will have to decide what it wants this to be. My own personal preference is that our new central purpose be the spiritual development of the human being, this planet and everything in it and on it. I freely admit that, when I look around me at a world that seems to getting madder by the day, such a central purpose feels impossible. Yet, I wonder how long we can continue spiralling downwards, ever deeper into materialism. We keep getting wake-up calls – wars, natural disasters, man-made disasters etc. – and each time we wake up for a few days or weeks. But we soon go back to sleep again and get back on the materialist merry-go-round. How loud and painful will the wake-calls have to be before we really take notice?