Sunday, April 05, 2009

Visions for a Sustainable Future

by Hardy F. Schloer, President and Managing Director, Schloer Consulting Group

The world, as we know it, is changing. Not that this is something new and unusual, because change is the essential definition of time: as time passes in our reality, change naturally must occur. Throughout history change has often been relatively gradual. No less often, however, temporal shifts occurred suddenly and with extraordinary consequences. The violent collapse of empires, natural disasters of epic proportions, or the emergence of disruptive technologies such as man-made nuclear reactions are some examples that readily come to mind.

Such sudden changes cause a radical reorganization of perception in all of those whose reality becomes affected. The current global financial crisis is a good case in point. Greed and euphoria transition into fear and then into depressed resignation. Prestigious values of yesterday suddenly become the ostracized and scorned concepts of today. The neighbor that was an envied financial fund manager suddenly becomes a scoundrel. Even the memory of our own actions and thoughts becomes very short as we begin to exist in a new value and reality experience. Human psychology, particularly that of collective groups, changes in a heartbeat when ‘critical mass’ is reached.

So why is this so important to understand? Because the current shift in psychological reality is so unusual, so profound, and so rare that it will be a major subject for the history books, perhaps equal to the emergence and use of nuclear weapons in the last century, or the realization, a few centuries before, that our planet is not flat, but round and circling the sun. Nevertheless, because several important shifts are now occurring simultaneously, they are creating a perfect time storm, so that current and future human actions will be radically affected. Nation-states have been on the move, for the past 20 years, to realign their orientations, associations, and dogmas. At an increasingly fast pace, old countries and empires are collapsing, and new societies and nations are born. Unfortunately, ethnic cleansing, torture, social and political injustice, oppressive commercial competition and irresponsible behavior have also become more frequent in this process of change. As historical transitions took some 50 to 100 years to unfold in past millennia, in modern times, due to effective communication and other technologies, this shift is occurring much faster and more dangerously.

Perhaps at no other time in history were national and global leaders more challenged than now to find the right path to a sustainable future. The world has become unprecedentedly complex and complicated. The effectiveness and speed of modern communication technologies and public media allow local and global leaders little time to catch their breath and think carefully about their decisions. Momentous decisions must be made almost instantaneously, in realtime, often with unforeseen, devastating consequences for humanity. This speed escalation and volume explosion of flawed political, environmental and economical decision-making has begun to produce an avalanche of global instability and uncontrolled change that leads to more turmoil and confusion at all levels.

But the condition just described is only the ‘background radiation’ of this perfect storm of time and reality. There are several other, and equally troublesome, changes that compound this precarious global condition even further. For example, the lack of clean and affordable energy, the diminishing supply of clean water, the imminent global collapse of protein and, soon carbohydrate, food supply to a vastly expanding human population, the fast growth of pollution due to the increasing industrialization of developing nations, climate change issues, and the absolute impasse of philosophical and conceptional differences, all of these are factors that decision makers are called upon to accept as reality and, therefore, find solutions to. The unequal ability of many societies, nations or communities to compete for resources and affordable solutions is an additional dimension of intensifying conflict.

Yet, the news is not all bad, as there are some good ways to overcome this bleak scenario. In the last two decades alone we, the global community, have made tremendous progress in devising new, environmentally responsible technologies, and novel methods of applying traditional technologies, so that it is entirely possible to solve most, if not all the challenges, of the present epoch. However, we must act now, and we must be willing to implement and use those new tools in an intelligent manner. We must set aside all dogmatic beliefs and ideologies, and begin to embrace our differences rather than fight with each other over their validity.

We must refocus and look at the world as a homogeneous, functioning system. This is as true for political and economical realities, as it is true for science, technology and education. The world in all its facets must become transdisciplinary and intercultural. Studies of problems, decisions, and implementations of policy must be done from an integrated and transformative global partnership and as such, from the viewpoint of global consciousness. We must begin to understand that the insistence on buying a very low priced T-shirt in a Washington mall will cause someone else on this planet to work for wages below the poverty level. We must consciously realize that the CO gases of a factory somewhere in India or China will make breathing the air even more unbearable, and some day impossible, say, in Southern California. We must understand that any form of war and aggression towards another nation, group or society must become a concept of the past; now more than ever we need a global community of cooperation and intercultural arrangement and mutual respect.

The relentlessly aggressive political and administrative behavior and the emergence of potentially dangerous and disruptive technologies have seemingly and extensively outpaced human development, to the detriment of global intelligence, ethics, and the responsibility and willingness to cooperate on all levels, everywhere and anytime. Perhaps, it was fine to be irresponsible, destructive and hostile in ages where we had bow and arrows to settle the questions of emerging superiority. However, in the age of nuclear power and other harmful technologies and concepts, this line of behavior cannot continue without devastating consequences for all involved.

We must not only become educated about the consequences of our decisions, but also begin to understand the complicated interrelations and hidden dependencies of global reality. This, however, requires, in our age of fast moving realities, a much more committed approach and willingness to investigate and understand the issues on hand across all ideologies, philosophies, societies, and nations. We are also forced by the speed of today’s life to understand the most complex problems and find answers to them in real time.

One of the premier flaws in our current response to this critical global transition is that we are much too reluctant to use advanced information technologies to make important decisions. It is not that they are never used in this scope of application, but the technologies that are used are often much too simplistic as models of conceptualization and computation, mostly resulting in simplistic linear computational ‘thinking’ that fails the test of time in producing useful results. Naturally, they are then used as prime examples by all technology opponents to argue why they should not be used and why we should choose the ‘old ways of conservative and none-adaptive decision making’. For example, I was told by a major insurance company that they were still using the same FORTRAN risk-management program that they had developed some 35 years ago, when most of the risks that could wipe out any major insurance company today are completely different from those of three decades ago.

And yet, very powerful new models of artificial intelligence have emerged in the last decade that could bring true value to automated and computer-assisted knowledge development and complex real-time decision-making. The Quantum Relation Technology is only one such example that must be considered by global decision makers. Such technologies are still rather expensive, as they require very powerful supercomputers with complex and clinical data collection systems, together with hybrid real-time network infrastructures. But the question is: can we afford, with the emergence of so many local and global problems, not to use them? The answer should be obvious.

There is other good news, in addition to the availability of advanced decision-making technologies. All branches of science and technology have advanced dramatically in recent years. Biology, physics, chemistry and medicine lead the progress side by side with information and communication technologies. We have all the tools at our fingertips to change this planet to a sustainable community. But we must no longer look at partial patchworks of fixes, and begin thinking in terms of interrelated and integrated technological strategies to fix the errors of the modern age of industrialization and globalization.

The Schloer Consulting Group is committed to helping bring this kind of intelligent change to the global community, striving for a cooperative, transdisciplinary and intercultural problem-solving on both local and global levels.

Finally, we, the global community must become a transdisciplinary and intercultural real-time learning organization that is willing to make the adjustments and vital changes for a sustainable future. One indispensable step toward this goal is to embrace science and technology as tools for our higher, ethical development, instead of abusing them for destructive, competitive, and greedy or selfish purposes.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Len Goodman said...

In my soon to be released book "The Meltdown Chronicles" i discuss the use of a world wide network of supercomputers to process all transactions (except for barter) to enable immediate tax collection (flat 10%) and create a world wide digital currency. The same data collection system could also track prices, all balances-private and public- and provide economists with real time data to help formulate more timely and accurate economic models. It could also form the basis of the globalizing of the inevitable one world economy.
Of course there are many devils in the details but it will happen-hopefully sooner than later.

The future economy is moving toward homogeneity and it will need a uniform infrastructure to make it work.

June 10, 2009 8:14 PM  
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