Welcome to the Club of Amsterdam Journal.
The Future Now Show about Breaking the laws of thought with Mathijs van Zutphen
The world is changing fast, but is it getting better? We all want the same things… Mathijs van Zutphen argues that the obstacle to the real breakthroughs we need is our loyalty to outdated ways of thinking. Some of our deepest assumptions are standing in the way. He argues for a bit of ‘illegal’ philosophy by breaking some of these ancient ‘laws of thought’… and show how that becomes a position of innovation prowess.
Felix B Bopp, Founder & Chairman
For the love of technology! Sex robots and virtual reality
Sex with robots will increase, as technological developments produce new love interests. Shutterstock Neil McArthur, and Markie Twist.
Sex as we know it is about to change.
We are already living through a new sexual revolution, thanks to technologies that have transformed the way we relate to each other in our intimate relationships. But we believe that a second wave of sexual technologies is now starting to appear, and that these are transforming how some people view their very sexual identity.
People we refer to as “digisexuals” are turning to advanced technologies, such as robots, virtual reality (VR) environments and feedback devices known as teledildonics, to take the place of human partners.
In our research, we use the term digisexuality in two senses. The first, broader sense is to describe the use of advanced technologies in sex and relationships. People are already familiar with what we call first-wave sexual technologies, which are the many things that we use to connect us with our current or prospective partners. We text each other, we use Snapchat and Skype, and we go on social apps like Tinder and Bumble to meet new people.
These technologies have been adopted so widely, so quickly, that it is easy to miss what a profound effect they have had on our intimate lives.
It is fascinating to study how people use technology in their relationships. Not surprisingly, in our research we can already see people displaying different attachment styles in their use of technology. As with their human relationships, people relate to their technology in ways that may be secure, anxious, avoidant or some (often disorganized) combination of the three.
There is a second, narrower sense, in which we use the term digisexuals for people whose sexual identity is shaped by what we call second-wave sexual technologies.
These technologies are defined by their ability to offer sexual experiences that are intense, immersive and do not depend on a human partner. Sex robots are the second-wave technology people are most familiar with. They don’t exist yet, not really, but they have been widely discussed in the media and often appear in movies and on television. Some companies have previewed sex robot prototypes, but these are nothing close to what most people would consider a proper sexbot. They are also incredibly creepy.
There are several companies, such as the Real Doll company, working on developing realistic sexbots. But there are a few technical hurdles they have yet to overcome. Truly interactive artificial intelligence is developing slowly, for instance, and it is proving difficult to teach a robot to walk. More interestingly, some inventors have begun experimenting with innovative, non-anthropomorphic designs for sexbots.
Meanwhile, VR is progressing rapidly. And in the sex industry, VR is already being used in ways that go beyond the passive viewing of pornography. Immersive virtual worlds and multi-player environments, often coupled with haptic feedback devices, are already being created that offer people intense sexual experiences that the real world possibly never could.
Investigative journalist Emily Witt has written about her experience with some of these technologies in her 2016 book, Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love
There is compelling evidence that second-wave technologies have an effect on our brains that is qualitatively different from what came before.
MIT professor Sherry Turkle and others have done studies on the intensity of the bond people tend to form with what she calls “relational artifacts” such as robots. Turkle defines relational artifacts as “non-living objects that are, or at least appear to be, sufficiently responsive that people naturally conceive themselves to be in a mutual relationship with them.” Immersive VR experiences also offer a level of intensity that is qualitatively different from other sorts of media.
In a lecture at the Virtual Futures Forum in 2016, VR researcher Sylvia Xueni Pan explained the immersive nature of VR technology. It creates what she describes as a placement and plausibility illusion within the human brain.
As a result of its real-time positioning, 3D stereo display and its total field of view, the user’s brain comes to believe that the user is really present. As she says: “If situations and events that happen in VR actually correlates to your actions and relates personally to you, then you react towards these events as if they were real.”
As these technologies develop, they will enable sexual experiences that many people will find just as satisfying as those with human partners, or in some cases more so.
We believe that in the coming decades, as these technologies become more sophisticated and more widespread, there will be an increasing number of people who will choose to find sex and partnership entirely from artificial agents or in virtual environments.
And as they do, we will also see the emergence of this new sexual identity we call digisexuality.
Sexuality and stigma
A digisexual is someone who sees immersive technologies such as sex robots and virtual reality pornography as integral to their sexual experience, and who feels no need to search for physical intimacy with human partners.
Marginal sexual identities almost invariably face stigma, and it is already apparent that digisexuals will be no exception. The idea of digisexuality as an identity has already received strong negative reactions from many commentators in the media and online.
We should learn from the mistakes of the past. Society has stigmatized gays and lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, asexuals, consensually non-mongamous people and practitioners of bondange/discipline-dominance/submission-sadomasochism (BDSM).
Then, as time goes on, we have gradually learned to be more accepting of all these diverse sexual identities. We should bring that same openness to digisexuals. As immersive sexual technologies become more widespread, we should approach them, and their users, with an open mind.
We don’t know where technology is going, and there are definitely concerns that need to be discussed — such as the ways in which our interactions with technology could shape our attitudes towards consent with our human partners.
Our research addresses one specific piece of the puzzle: the question of how technology impacts sexual-identity formation, and how people with technologically based sexual identities may face stigma and prejudice. Yes, there are dangers. But whips and paddles can hurt too.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.
teamLab Planets TOKYO
teamLab is an art collective, interdisciplinary group of ultratechnologists whose collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, design and the natural world. Various specialists such as artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects form teamLab.
teamLab aims to explore a new relationship between humans and nature, and between oneself and the world through art. Digital technology has allowed art to liberate itself from the physical and transcend boundaries. teamLab sees no boundary between humans and nature, and between oneself and the world; one is in the other and the other in one. Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous, borderless continuity of life.
teamLab’s works are in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; Asia Society Museum, New York; Borusan Contemporary Art Collection, Istanbul; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Amos Rex of Helsinki, Finland.
The Future Now Show
Shape the future now, where near-future impact counts and visions and strategies for preferred futures start. – Club of Amsterdam
Do we rise above global challenges? Or do we succumb to them? The Future Now Show explores how we can shape our future now – where near-future impact counts. We showcase strategies and solutions that create futures that work.
Every month we roam through current events, discoveries, and challenges – sparking discussion about the connection between today and the futures we’re making – and what we need, from strategy to vision – to make the best ones.
Mathijs van Zutphen
The world is changing fast, but is it getting better? We all want the same things… Mathijs van Zutphen argues that the obstacle to the real breakthroughs we need is our loyalty to outdated ways of thinking. Some of our deepest assumptions are standing in the way. He argues for a bit of ‘illegal’ philosophy by breaking some of these ancient ‘laws of thought’… and show how that becomes a position of innovation prowess.
The Future Now Show
Mathijs van Zuphen, Owner at AdValorum, the Netherlands
Club of Amsterdam
Mincome was an experimental Canadian guaranteed annual income project that was held in Manitoba, during the 1970s. The project was funded jointly by the Manitoba provincial government and the Canadian federal government under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. It was launched with a news release on February 22, 1974, under the New Democratic Party government of Edward Schreyer, and was closed down in 1979 under the Progressive Conservative government of Sterling Lyon
the Canadian Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI), known as Mincome, took place in Dauphin, Manitoba between 1974 and 1979. According to a research into the effects of Mincome on population health, conducted by a University of Manitoba researcher Evelyn Forget in 2011, the experiment has resulted in significant reduction in hospitalization, specifically in case of mental health diagnoses. Among all the people, only two key groups were found to be discouraged from working by the Mincome project – new mothers and teenaged boys, who, instead of entering the workforce at an early age, decided to study until grade 12, increasing the proportion of students who graduate high school.
Mincome in Canada (Past, Present & Future)
News about the Future
Social Biking challenge
16-22 September 2019
The European Commission is launching its Social Biking challenge across Europe this year from 16 September (start of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK) for three weeks. The Social Biking challenge aims to encourage cycling as a social habit. The challenge promotes physical activity, the use of a sustainable transport mode (the bicycle!), and also aims to increase the modal share of cycling by creating a network of cyclists.
Targeted seeding featuring swarm technology
They are mobile. They are cloud-controlled. And they are many. They are the field robots of the future from Fendt. As a team, they collaborate in a completely autonomous and efficient way and with high precision. The basic idea is simplification. Each robot has its own integrated planting unit and is driven electrically. Communication with the Logistic Unit is done via the Cloud.
How? Fewer sensors, robust control units and a clear hardware structure make each individual Xaver robot extremely reliable and productive. At the same time, the use of a large number of small, identical robots operating in a swarm enables smooth running of the job, even in the event of the failure of a single unit.
A Tale of Cells and Cities – Our Human Evolutionary Agenda
by Elisabet Sahtouris, PhD
dedicated to the Rockefeller Foundation’s
100 Resilient Cities initiative
An evolution biologist and futurist, noting the visual similarities of naturally evolved biological cells and cities with long histories, makes an actual comparison of the two as complex adaptive living entities in evolution and concludes that cities have greater evolutionary potential for leading us into a mature and peacefully cooperative future than either nations or transnational corporations. The RC100 initative thus has enormous potential for leading the way.
Looking down on Earth’s surface from an airplane, whether by day or night, our cities look remarkably like cells-nucleated cells, with their obvious nuclear ‘downtown’ hubs, scattered smaller concentrations of buildings like cell organelles, flowing transport systems, extensions into the surround like the pseudopods of amoebae.
This has struck me again and again in flying around Earth as an evolution biologist and futurist seeking answers to our big questions on whence we came and where we are headed, all the while teaching my evolving take on them. Eventually I realized that cities were indeed living entities in their own right, and now undergoing a rapid evolution comparable to the origins of the nucleated cells they so resemble.
I became an evolution biologist, seeing myself as a deep ‘pastist’ fascinated by how our evolutionary trajectory could help inform my work as a futurist, working to envision the best possibilities for co-creating a future that works for all. The ancient Greeks had defined science as the study of nature for the purpose of seeking guidance in human affairs and had thus named it philos sophias – lover of wisdom, later renamed sciencia by the Romans. That suited me perfectly.
In my university training, however, I was only taught a scientific understanding of biological evolution within the framework of the Darwinian concept of competition among individuals in situations of scarcity. That cooperation within and among groups produced abundance, thereby trumping competitive rivalries in scarcity, seemed obvious to me, but that is only now, well over half a century since my post-doctoral fellowship at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, coming seriously into our scientific purvue (See for example David Sloan Wilson’s Does Altruism Exist? Yale University Press 2015.).
Darwin acknowledged that the theory best fitting the findings of his extensive researches came from his economist friend Malthus (Thomas Malthus, head of Hailybury College, founded by the first multinational corporation, the East India Company, became famous for his conclusion, after surveying the world, that humans always outstrip their food supplies. Charles Darwin wrote about his own theory in his Origin of Species: “This is the doctrine of Malthus applied to every aspect of nature.” This agreement between the ecomomist and the biologist rationalized colonial exploitation and ). This theory of fierce competition in scarcity was widely adopted and came to inform our very concept of human nature, as well as virtually all our prevailing economic (business and financial) theory and practice.
However obvious cooperation in nature has been to countless people all along, it took the gradual adoption of cellular synthesis and evolutionary group selection, along with the discovery of our wonderfully cooperative gut bacteria-all within science-to publicly acknowledge cooperation as the critical aspect of evolution it always has been.
Cities, unlike nation states whose artificial boundaries have been drawn and then redrawn by conquests or other shifting political decisions, have, unless built all at once by plan, grown naturally from beginnings as small cooperative villages, and their histories have surprising parallels deep in biological evolution.
The first cells of Earth, called archea – ancients – were our most remote biological ancestors. They were the only creatures of Earth for two billion years, fully half of biological evolution. Creating themselves from available molecules (This language is in keeping the definition of life as autopoiesis, the self-creation of living entities, given to biology by Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana, first publishing it in Autopoiesis and Cognition:the Realization of the Living (1st edition 1973, 2nd 1980)), they also invented new ones, and their original WorldWideWeb of DNA information exchange enabled them to trade genes with enthusiasm as they multiplied wildly. Thus they morphed into new configurations and lifestyles as they gradually occupied every niche from the depths of oceans to the benign interface between land and sea, onto the land and even floating to the heights of an atmosphere they co-created through their own excretion of gases. As atmospheric scientist James Lovelock showed us, life created its own conditions for survival and thrival (This is the Gaia Hypothesis of James Lovelock (with Lynn Margulis), that life creates its own conditions for flourishing, as expounded in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, Oxford Univesity Press, 1979 as well as a plethora of subsequent books on this subject, including my own.).
These invisibly tiny pioneering ancestors, having divided themselves prolifically for billions of years without break, are with us even now, far more numerous than any of the other life forms they gave rise to, even coating our human guts and skins, living in concert with our much larger cells to protect our inner and outer surfaces from the dangers we bring on ourselves. But let me not get ahead of my story, for there are further developments in my tale of cells and cities between their pioneering of cellular life on a possibly cellular Earth and the human existence we owe them (Lewis Thomas, author of Lives of a Cell, saw Earth itself as a huge living cell and quippeed that ancient bacteria may have invented us as giant taxis to get around in safely, a friendly thought that looks ever more plausible as we discover more about them.).
My work in evolution biology revealed a repeating maturation cycle in which a unity diversifies into individuals, which then go through a creative, competitive youth, eventually negotiating their differences, and in the best case scenarios forming large new internally cooperative living entities which start the cycle anew on a larger scale. The tipping point from youthful competition to mature cooperation apparently is reached when the energy expenditure of hostilities escalates to life threatening magnitude and gives way to the energy saving survival and thrival brought about by the greater efficiency of cooperation.
The wonders of scientific research permit us to see how the archea play out the first instance of this cycle, beginning when the early Earth’s crust is packaged into bacterial individuals, which then go through their very long creative, youthful phase. In the course of their lengthy youth, they create several global crises: the first a crisis of hunger when they had consumed all the sugars and acids that were their free food, solved by making their own food through the invention of photosynthesis; the second when oxygen, the output of the hugely successful photosynthesizers, proves to be a highly toxic atmospheric pollutant, solved by evolving a new lifestyle in which oxygen can be consumed as an energy source.
How fascinating that our ancestral archea are the only creatures to cause global crises of hunger and pollution until we humans come along billions of years later, and that they solved both crises without benefit of brain! It would seem that our own big brains are an experiment for which the results are not yet in, and so it behooves us to look deeper into this question of maturation, which is leading us to the origin and capabilities of cities.
Back to our story, we find that having solved their global crises, the archea are still in their competitive youth, practicing a form of bacterial colonialism in which the orignal type of archea that make their living as fermenters, which I call ‘bubblers’, are now invaded by the new ‘breathers’, the hi-tech consumers of oxygen that have invented electric motors (Nanotechnologists are fascinated by these bacterial motors, made of over 40 kinds of proteins, configured as rotors, stators, cam shafts, ball bearings, etc, in an amazing parallel with motors we humans build, though far more efficient!) permitting them literally to drill their way into the bubblers and occupy them, living off their rich molecules, eating them away from within. This proves, however, to be a poor long-range strategy as the entire ‘colony’ of reproducing breathers within the bloated bubblers proves to be unsustainable.
Crises of unsustainability appear to push the archea to new strategies for survival, this time the colonialists taking on board (all this happening in liquid environments) some photosynthesizing ‘bluegreens’ to make food for the beleaguered colony. Lo, the first big leap in evolution since bacteria formed from crustal materials comes about as the archea, having reached energy crises via their exploitative ways, experience the energy efficiency of cooperation.
The most successful of these archaic colonial enterprises become nucleated cells as their now cooperative participants engage in friendly divisions of labor, with the motorized breathers attached to the outside, pushing the host bubblers into areas with enough light for the on-board bluegreens to produce food for the whole colony. All of them streamline by stashing most of their DNA collectively into a central library of information persisting to this day as the amazing nucleus. (My story of bacterial evolution is based on Lynn Margulis’ brilliant work on the evolution of nucleated cells. She thoroughly approved my way of telling what is really her story, as told in her popular book Early Life, Science Books International, 1982 as well as more academic texts.)
Although the fruit of mature cooperation, the nucleated cells are now new living entities in their own right, and so have to begin their own cycle of maturation in the competitive, creative mode natural to evolving biological youth. Just like their bacterial forbears-which continue to flourish as individuals side by side with their cousins inside the huge new nucleated cooperatives-these big new cells now begin to diversify, evolving countless new forms and lifestyles of their own.
After a billion years-half the time it took for them to evolve – nucleated cells make the next big leap in evolution by maturing to form their own cooperatives as multi-celled creatures. Thus they bring into play the whole evolutionary story of fungi, plants and animals that spells out the last quarter of Earthlife’s evolution, the part with which we are most familiar, so we can now fast-forward to the dawn of humanity.
Humanity, Cities and the Age of Empire
Where, then, are we humans in our own evolutionary trajectory within a world of bacteria, nucleated cells and other multi-celled creatures sharing the same Earth? Perhaps we have seen ourselves a bit simplistically as advanced civilized beings who bootstrapped ourselves from primitive, ignorant and nasty club-wielding cavemen to cultured creators of our hi-tech world of awesome artifacts.
‘Original’ or ‘indigenous’ peoples among us remind our hi-tech culture of pre-industrial ways of life. They have survived the predations of humans with the most advanced weapons and most devastating diseases, who claimed more and more of Earth’s surface as their property. (See Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, Norton 1999.) We struggle to see them as our equals, even though many of them, through their peoples’ historic experience with hostilities, both internal and external, eventually evolved cooperative values and practices that, upon respectful attention, are often acknowledged as more mature, more respectful of Earth, wiser, more caring and sharing, than the most evident values and practices of our globally dominant, yet now endangered, civilization.
We know from centralized city architecture and artifacts that some ancient peoples built impressive civilizations, to wit the ancient cities of the Aztecs and Incas in the Americas, the ancient cities of China, Asia, the MidEast and Africa. They are known for their spectacular palaces and temples, the most prominent artifacts of empire.
Empire building fits the competitive youthful mode of species in evolution. Whether ruled by actual emperors or by nations or corporations, as they have been in turn, they all fit the model. Thus the now long-standing human habit of empire-building seems to suggest, from a biological evolution perspective, that our civilization as a whole is still in youthful competitive mode.
Empire building is only 6 to 8 thousand years old, however, while complex social life artifacts go back a hundred thousand years and human tools as long as 2.5 million years. The World Atlas lists the oldest continually occupied cities, most in the MidEast, telling how they all began as small villages that “mostly flourished as centers of trade being strategically placed as meeting points of various trade routes.” Byblos, Lebanon, for example, was “consistently inhabited since 5000 BC. The city started out as a fishing village named Gubal. It grew in strides to become a major commercial establishment especially because of its busy port.” In short, it was trade among people meeting at crossroads-the original version of truly free trade-that inspired and grew cities from small villages. The city of Catal Huyuk in Turkey is at least 9,000 years old and tells a story of peaceful cooperation, its artifacts reveal the strong governance roles of women though men and women had equal social status, and excavations have shown a complete lack of walls or weapons.
Thus cities with long histories almost invariably grew as naturally adaptive living entities from small cooperative trade centers. This suggests that humanity completed the evolutionary maturation cycle in countless locations around the world long before empire evolved. If the formation of cities indeed repeats the maturation cycle leading to nucleated cells, and that leading to multi-celled creatures, then we can see why some of the cities beginning as cooperatives went on to begin their own cycle by forming competitive empires.
It is interesting to note another parallel with archaic evolution in the Eurasian nomadic peoples that did not settle down to build cities, but armed themselves against each other for territorial battle and used their weapons to invade peaceful early cities, taking them over (As described by Riane Eisler in The Chalice and the Blade, Harper 1987, based on the earlier work of archeologist Marija Gimbutas at UCLA.) much as the hostile breather archea drilled into the sluggish bubblers. In some the invaders merged into city cooperatives; in others they took over to begin competitive empire building. Like the great majority of single nucleated cells, most cities continued to evolve independently as sustainable cooperative entities in their own right.
As empire builders drew boundaries around territories, many cities found themselves included whether or not they had actually been invaded. The Incas of the Andes offered villages and small cities throughout their empire guaranteed livelihoods for all and freedom of worship, providing the state SunGod religion was also practiced. Thus they built a largely peaceful internal empire on what might be called paternalistic socialism, and were able to develop highly scientific agriculture that gave rise to half the food eaten in the world today according to the World Bank (Heard in a lecture given at the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC in the early 1990’s.). In other cases of empire building considerable coercion was involved.
The human practice of drawing and redrawing artificial boundaries has persisted for thousands of years, throughout the first two waves of empire building and has roots in the territoriality of many natural creatures including fishes, birds and mammals, albeit their skirmishes are almost entirely ritual and bloodless. National empires, however, were based on the uniquely human conquest of disconnected foreign acquisitions with a ruling ‘homeland’. Nation states, born of empire, were created along arbitrary boundaries that have little or no relationship to natural ecosystems except where they are coast or rivers, often cutting up previously settled human communities and creating new conflicts thereby.
In the development of corporate empires, the break from a natural evolutionary process becomes more obvious. Their ‘turf’ is even more scattered and shifts with their profits and losses, while their governance and financial transactions are increasingly virtual. Finance, run by increasingly complex and highly intervoven businesses, is mostly virtual now, its inner workings invisible to most people in the physical economy. MBA programs for the mostpart leave it out of business training altogether, settling for teaching within-business accounting.
Nevertheless, transnational corporations (TNCs) exert strong influences over national governments, not to mention institutions of higher learning. While their interest is limited to their resources, labor and markets, and so primarily in the laws that constrain or liberate them and the finances that tax or subsidize them, these interests lead to investing considerably in politicians friendly to their interests, as well as to putting their own people into government positions. As of 2014, ranking the biggest economies in the world by the GDPs of nations and revenues of TNCs, 37 of the 100 largest economies in the world were corporate rather than national.
For a while, it had looked as if nations would come together in friendly cooperation at a global scale. That was the stated intention in creating the United Nations, for example, with its mission of world peace. But as nations give way to TNCs through trade agreements that explicitly undercut national sovereignty and environmental policies, the wealth gap between rich and poor continues grows to unmanageable proportions, while our ecosystems continue to be degraded with species disappearing at the rate of past great extinctions. Now, evident climate change brought on by burning fossil fuels threatens to throw the entire Earth into a Hot Age that will last for millennia.
Unfortunately, continued warfare and fear thereof keeps fossil fuels burning as military expenditures create some of the greatest financial successes of corporate empire. We have not acted on the fact that it is cheaper to feed your enemies than to destroy them, because TNCs, by their charters, must look to lucrative projects such as war, in addition to cheap resources and labor, to maximize profits.
The Evolutionary Mandate for Cities:
In this scenario it is increasingly clear that naturally evolved and internally cooperative cities are our best hope for bringing humanity into its mature, peaceful and sustainable future. (New cities that are designed, built and occupied as wholes, as in the MidEast and China, are not living entities like those naturally evolved. Whether their living occupants can turn them into living entities as cities remains to be seen.) Cities were the fruit of our first wave of cooperation as humans and have the clear potential for completing their own maturation cycle now. Just as their nucleated cell forbears matured to form multi-cellular creatures, cities can home their internal cooperation and come together with each other in a distributed global multi-citied network that shares their best practices and divides global tasks appropriately.
In 1800 only 3% of the human population lived in cities; their exponential rate of growth shows well over half of us are now in urban areas, and predictions for 2050 have 70% of us living in cities worldwide-a percentage that holds already, and is even higher, in some developed countries. The overall trend is clear (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/11/world/more-than-half-the-global-population-growth-is-urban-united-nations-report-finds.html) and if nation states fail under the burden of our perfect storm of crises, cities will have to play ever more important roles in all aspects of human civilization.
The internal problems cities face now are the same glaring ones facing their nations and their world-joblessness, homelessness, health crises, unequal educational and other opportunities, racial tensions, environmental degradation, energy grid failures, traffic congestion, political corruption and so on. Thirteen of our twenty largest cities globally, as well as far more smaller ones, are coastal. Their sealevel airports, piers and sewage systems, as well as other infrastructure and populations, are directly threatened by climate change, as is already evident.
Our hope lies in the resilence of humanity itself-in the vast array of opportunities for engaging the citizenry of cities in peaceful means of solving their problems and developing resilience in the face of oncoming disasters. (Marilyn Hamilton’s Integral City, New Society, 2008, is a great handbook of solutions. See also the website at http://integralcity.com for lots of available supporting materials and consulting) Inspiring and building internal cooperation through truly democratic citizen engagement, each city can solve problems and become a healthy partner and role model for other cities.
The Rockefeller Foundation has recognized and is supporting this process of solutions and resilence in its 100 Resilient Cities project (RC100). Its stated mission is: Helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. My city, Honolulu, was appointed in the 3rd cohort of RC100, and we are fortunate that cities such as Oakland, California, two years ahead of us in the first cohort (http://www.100resilientcities.org/strategies/city/oakland#/-_Yz47OTk0OCdpPTEocz5j/), can help us design our own mission as we clearly share many of the same problems from homelessness to rising seas.
Oakland, in its two-year report, says:
“A key action of the Resilient Oakland playbook is to devleop principles for community engagement in Oakland…The ‘secret sauce’ of Oakland is rooted in our people and the 75 neighborhoods they shape…Diversity is a source of economic vitality for many Oakland businesses. Small businesses represent the foundation of Oakland’s local economy, with 90 percent of businesses in Oakland employing less than 20 people. These businesses face challenges, such as rising commercial rents, increasing gentrification, and recent overall economic stagnation. Given that many of the City’s small businesses are also located in low-income, minority-based neighborhoods, protecting the viability of these businesses is also a matter of equity and social justice.”
To restate my case, cities are the most promising human-created living entities able not only to solve their internal problems, but to lead the way in evolving humanity to its second and this time global wave of maturity. Oakland’s report demonstrates the language of mature cooperative problem solving and Oakland is clearly drawing on its creative diversity as it works hard to rehabilitate its neighborhoods, support local economy and improve its self-governance.
That is exactly what is now demanded of us all as we must navigate this perfect storm of crises we humans have created. Increasingly severe natural disasters due to climate change, the growing refugee crisis due to both climate change and the persisting horrors of competitive warfare, the many problems resulting from an extreme wealth gap, are all inescapable now. We are caught in these stormy waters, like it or not, and have no choice but to navigate our way through them.
Living in Hawaii, I have become acutely aware of its marvelous ancient tradition of Wayfinding-of sailing oceans without compass by knowing the ways of Nature so well, so intimately, that one simply does not get lost. Wayfinding is exemplified by Honolulu’s global ambassador, the traditional double-hulled canoe Hokule’a, in its Malama Aina (Care of the Earth) circumnavigation of Earth, stopping at one coastal city after another on all continents to spread its deep Polynesian values of caring for each other as we care for and share our beloved Earth. (http://www.hokulea.com/worldwide-voyage/)
Only mature evolutionary mode, scientifically and spiritually inspired, physically expressed, will work toward a better future now. Hostilites must give way to harmonies and cities as natural living economic polities can lead the way. City by city we can learn and teach each other as role models in evolving beyond old top-down models of our youthful competitive mode that disempowered too many people by holding them down or leaving them out. Truly cooperative citizen participation can solve chronic problems creatively and build inclusive cooperative economies that are resilient in growing climate crises.
The greater purpose of building self-sufficiency and cooperation within cities is to prepare them for voluntary union with each other-the globally distributed networking alliance that replaces the old idea of centralized global governance. As multicelled creatures our bodies are an alliance of equally important organs in collaboration and mutual support. The brain is not a dictatorship or any other kind of centralized government; it is largely an information clearing house that passes on its knowledge 24/7 to all other organs, which in turn feed back their information. The RC100 project is a vital step in such information sharing as its cities work on their solutions.
Next time you look down on cities from high enough to see them in their entirety, see them in your mind as living cells on a cooperative human scale and send them love! When you come down, engage within your own city, or one near you, follow the RC100 cities for inspiration, and thus become a Wayfinder through crises. Just make sure you find a way to do that which makes your heart sing with passionate joy in the ecstacy of co-creating vibrant community and weaving that into a truly mature human family at last!
About the author:
Elisabet Sahtouris, PhD is an internationally known evolution biologist, futurist, speaker, author and sustainability consultant to businesses, government agencies and other organizations. She is a US and Greek citizen who has lived in the USA, Canada, Greece, Peru and Spain while lecturing, doing workshops and media appearances on all continents. She did her postdoctoral research at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, taught at \MIT and UMass, was a science writer for the NOVA-HORIZON TV science series, a UN Consultant on indigenous peoples, was invited to China by the Chinese National Science Organization, is an advisor to Ethical Markets and holds the Elisabet Sahtouris Chair in Living Economies at the World Business Academy.
Dr. Sahtouris a member of the Evolutionary Leaders , a founding member of Rising Women; Rising World, and has co-convened two international symposia on the foundations of science in Hokkaido and Kuala Lumpur. She is currently Professor in Residence at Chaminade University, teaching in the School of Business & Communication MBA Program and helping redesign it for entrepreneurship in Island economies.
Who Really Feeds the World?: The Failures of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology
by Vandana Shiva
In Who Really Feeds the World?, author and activist Vandana Shiva debunks the notion that our current food crisis is inevitable and must be addressed through industrial agriculture and genetic modification. In fact, Shiva argues, those forces are the ones responsible for the hunger problem in the first place. As an alternative, Shiva emphasizes agroecology, the knowledge and science of the complex interactions that produce our food. She succinctly and eloquently lays out the networks of people and processes that feed the world, exploring issues of diversity, the needs of small famers, the importance of seed saving, the movement toward localization, and the role of women in producing the world’s food. Refuting widely held beliefs about the global food crisis, Shiva delivers a powerful manifesto calling for agricultural justice and sustainability, drawing upon her thirty years of research and accomplishments in the field
What Is Biosphere 2?The Biosphere 2 facility serves as a laboratory for controlled scientific studies, an arena for scientific discovery and discussion, and a far-reaching provider of public education. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching and life-long learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe; to catalyze interdisciplinary thinking and understanding about Earth and its future; to be an adaptive tool for Earth education and outreach to industry, government, and the public; and to distill issues related to Earth systems planning and management for use by policymakers, students and the public.
Biosphere 2 consists of a unique large-scale experimental apparatus housing seven model ecosystems, a team of multidisciplinary scientists, a broad science education and public outreach program, and a modern conference center. The seven model ecosystems are:
- a mature rain forest with over 90 tropical tree species,
- a 2600 m3 ocean,
- forested swamps dominated by mangrove trees,
- a tropical savanna grassland,
- a 1400 m2 coastal fog desert,
- three desert hillslope grass-shrubland landscapes, and
- Biosphere 2, its campus, and associated buildings and facilities serve as a 162,000 m2 model city and urban ecosystem.
The Biosphere 2 Science Program addresses societal grand challenges related to water, environmental and energy management through design of large-scale experimentation in each of these model ecosystems. These experiments support the development of computer models that simulate the biological, physical and chemical processes to predict ecosystem response to environmental change. In return, these coupled-systems model simulations inform scientists about the next level of experimentation needed to advance understanding of these complex systems’ responses that can be tested against observations in natural systems.
Inside Biosphere 2: The World’s Largest Earth Science Experiment
Understanding The Science Of Climate Change | Earth’s Survival
Made in consultation with the IPCC and world-leading climate scientists, this groundbreaking documentary explains the headlines that are addressed in the Fifth Assessment Report in 2015, and how we may be in the middle of the most crucial moment of Earth’s history. It decodes thousands of pages of scientific data into digestible, easy to understand science, punctuated in places by clever, creative CGI.
Futurist Portrait: Ian Goldin
Professor Ian Goldin was the founding Director of the Oxford Martin School from September 2006 to September 2016. He is currently Oxford University Professor of Globalisation and Development and the Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technological and Economic Change. He is a Senior Fellow at the Oxford Martin School and a Professorial Fellow at the University’s Balliol College.
During his decade as Director the School established 45 programmes of research, bringing together more than 500 academics from across Oxford, from over 100 disciplines, and becoming the world’s leading centre for interdisciplinary research into critical global challenges.
Professor Goldin initiated and was Vice-Chair of the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, which brought together 19 international leaders from government, business, academia, media and civil society to address the growing short-term preoccupations of modern politics and business, and identify ways of overcoming today’s gridlock in key international negotiations. The Commission’s report, Now for the Long Term, was published in October 2013.
From 2003 to 2006 he was Vice President of the World Bank, and prior to that the Bank’s Director of Development Policy (2001-2003). He served on the Bank’s senior management team and led the Bank’s collaboration with the United Nations and other partners as well as with key countries. As Director of Development Policy, he played a pivotal role in the research and strategy agenda of the Bank.
From 1996 to 2001 he was Chief Executive and Managing Director of the Development Bank of Southern Africa and served as an advisor to President Nelson Mandela. He succeeded in transforming the Bank to become the leading agent of development in the 14 countries of Southern Africa. During this period, Goldin served on several Government committees and Boards, and was Finance Director for South Africa’s Olympic Bid.
Previously, Goldin was Principal Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London, and Program Director at the OECD Development Centre in Paris, where he directed the Programs on Trade, Environment and Sustainable Development.
Navigating Our Global Future – Ian Goldin