2004 STATE OF THE FUTURE (cont)

 

Weblog Database

There are many methods for exploring prospects for the future, but probably the most fundamental way to support futures research is using a system to identify developments that promise change and to keep track of changes that are under way. Such a system is referred to as an early warning or environmental scanning system. The term “environmental” in this case does not refer to nature but to the “environment” being scanned for change. This could be the social, political, technological, or economic as well as the natural environment.

To facilitate an evolving collective intelligence, the Millennium Project is creating a weblog database to monitor global change and to update and improve the 15 Global Challenges and the State of the Future Index (see Chapter 7). Comments on the entries can be made by anyone (with editorial oversight). From time to time the entries will be reviewed for possible input to the 15 Global Challenges and SOFI. The results will be placed into a knowledge database tailored to support the updating process. This will provide an additional on-going feedback system to increase the collective intelligence of the Millennium Project. The database is available via a link at www.stateofthefuture.org.


Reinforcement for Previous Research

This year’s research supports much of the Project’s previous research, which merits repeating.

Globalization and advanced technology allow fewer people to do more damage, in less time, than ever before; hence, the welfare of anyone should be the concern of everyone. Such platitudes are not new, but the consequences of their failure will be quite different in the future than in the past.

Long-range goals like landing on the moon or eradicating smallpox that were considered impossible did excite many people who went beyond selfish, short-term interests to great achievements. The de facto decision system of the world is not adequately addressing the Global Challenges. The 15 Global Challenges or the eight UN Millennium Development Goals could be the basis for “trans-institutions”—a new concept of an institution that is composed of some income and personnel from governments, corporations, NGOs, universities, and international organizations without the majority from any one category of institution. Such trans-institutions would commit the resources and talent to address the goal and would act through each category of conventional institution.

Most people in the world may be connected to the Internet within 15 years, making cyberspace an unprecedented medium for civilization. This new distribution of the means of production in the knowledge economy is cutting through old hierarchical controls in politics, economics, and finance. It is becoming a self-organizing mechanism that could lead to dramatic increases in humanity’s ability to invent its future.

Because weapons of mass destruction may be available to single individuals over the next generation, we should begin to explore how to connect education and security systems in a healthy way to prevent their use.

The cost of military operations to comply with environmental regulations may become so high that the nature of conflict and military operations could change.

There are many answers to many problems, but there is so much extraneous information that it is difficult to identify and concentrate on what is truly relevant. Since healthy democracies need relevant information, and since democracy is becoming more global, the public will need globally relevant information to sustain this trend.

The great paradox of our age is that while more and more people enjoy the benefits of technological and economic growth, growing numbers of people are poor and unhealthy and lack access to education. World leaders are increasingly seeking a common platform among UN organizations, the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, multinational corporations, and other key actors of globalization in order to address this issue.

Creating global partnerships between the rich and poor to make the world work for all, which seemed like an idealistic slogan before September 11th, may prove to be the most pragmatic direction as the possibilities increase that individuals may one day have access to weapons of mass destruction.

The factors that caused the acceleration of S&T innovation are themselves accelerating; hence the acceleration of scientific and technological accomplishments over the past 25 years will appear slow compared with the rate of change in the next 25. The process of scientific R&D that uses peer-reviewed journals and government support is being challenged by those using venture capital and press releases to get products to the market more quickly. Since technology is growing so rapidly along several fronts, the possibility of it growing beyond human control must now be taken seriously.

National decisionmakers have not been trained in the theory and practice of decisionmaking, and few know how advanced decision support software could help them. Formalized training for decisionmakers could result in a significant improvement in the quality of global decisions. In addition to policymakers needing training in how to make decisions, processes to set priorities (local, national, and international) need further development.

We know the world is increasingly complex and that the most serious challenges are global in nature, yet we don’t seem to know how to improve and deploy Internet-based management tools and concepts fast enough to get on top of the situation.

The role of the state is more important in countries where there is little private-sector activity; hence policies that make sense in western industrial countries that include leadership from the private sector are less applicable in poorer regions.

When the actions of one country threaten the security of many, when do the many have the right to invade the one? The extent of national sovereignty continues to be a key element in the analysis of environmental security, terrorism, climate change, the International Criminal Court, and management of future S&T risks.

Since education is one of the fundamental strategies to address most global challenges, it is important to identify the most effective educational materials, curricula, and distribution media for global education as well as institutional arrangements to accelerate learning.

The lack of ethical behavior and moral underpinnings has given rise to a new hunger for global ethics and the need to identify common ethical norms. Coupled with this is the extraordinary growth of global standards and those who seek to meet them through mechanisms such as the International Organization for Standardization.

Although many people criticize globalization’s potential cultural impacts, it is increasingly clear that cultural change is necessary to address global challenges. The development of genuine democracy requires cultural change, preventing AIDS requires cultural change, sustainable development requires cultural change, ending violence against women requires cultural change, and ending ethnic violence requires cultural change. The tools of globalization, such as the Internet and global trade, should be used to help cultures adapt in a way that preserves their unique contributions to humanity while improving the human condition.



 

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