"The new life needs to be inspired with the realization that it has all kinds of new advantages that have been gained through great dedications of unknown, unsung heroes of intellectual exploration and great intuitively faithful integrities of people groping in the dark. Unless the new life is highly appreciative of those who have gone before, it won't be able to take effective advantage of its heritage. It will not be as regenerated and inspired as it might be if it appreciated the comprehensive love invested in that heritage." R. Buckminister Fuller, 1963
In an age where information seems to be doubling every few days - where one innovation stands on the shoulders of another that is just a few days old - it is difficult to see the future, to find what matters. Every system seems to be falling apart; Our political, financial and corporate leadership are failing the ordinary citizen, too busy taking care of each other's business.
Then an article by Jeremy Rifkin shows up in the news and there is hope again. Two paragraphs in the article define a radical shift in how humans define themselves. It is interesting that we need science to know and give legitimacy to our feelings, our sense of self.
If human nature is as the Enlightenment philosophers claimed, then we are likely doomed. It is impossible to imagine how we might create a sustainable global economy and restore the biosphere to health if each and every one of us is, at the core of our biology, an autonomous agent and a self-centered and materialistic being.
Recent discoveries in brain science and child development, however, are forcing us to rethink these long-held shibboleths about human nature. Biologists and cognitive neuroscientists are discovering mirror-neurons--the so-called empathy neurons--that allow human beings and other species to feel and experience another's situation as if it were one's own. We are, it appears, the most social of animals and seek intimate participation and companionship with our fellows.
When I was directing The Learning Exchange in the 70s, a CEO of a major corporation asked me if adults could learn. He knew they could be trained to type, and follow templates, and do simple tasks, but learn he wondered.... When I asked the dean of Education at UMKC why this was even a question, he replied that it was during WW II this question was asked for the first time. Men were wondering if women could really learn to learn how to run assembly lines so the men could go to war.
Today of course, we think, "How strange" as women now lead the number of graduates from medical, law, architectural schools. The glass ceiling has not shattered, but it is cracked. Time lags are interesting. Traditionally there has been more than a generation between a new awareness about human capabilities and its ubiquitous into the culture.
Only recently have we begun to reconsider creativity as a natural trait within every baby born. Bucky Fuller said "We are all born geniuses, we just get de-geniused along the way." Very few believed him. It was far more prevalent to think that only a few people had creative powers and in fact, we did not need people to be creative because this kind of mind simply caused trouble ... particularly in the business and political fields where control from the top was the only mode of operation.
Now the concepts of design and emergence are beginning to circulate. There is a growing belief that we can design our future and that there is a better way forward than either/or; win or lose. The concept of AND is now a possibility, not as a compromise where everyone loses but rather as a property with the possibility of emergence embedded into it creating a space where there are far more good choices than poor one.
Adult learning, creativity, design, emergence, empathy have always been the reality. How else could we have survived and thrived as we do? Yet, it takes academia to tell us this ... to prove it. Once approved, the concept moves forward with great force and power. Strange isn't it? We don't see what is really happening until we are told to see it. Think about the empathy shown during Katrina, and recent devastating earthquakes. Think about how you relate to friends and relatives in times of need. Consider the difference between government response and the response of individuals who showed up to help with Katrina. Government tried to follow rules, to sequence things, to control chaos. Individuals and communities spontaneously showed up to help and put systems in place that proved far more effective in dealing with the human cry. Does our empathetic nature really need to be proven?
We come to know human nature in waves. We let our behavior be established through the sciences instead of by self-awareness. As we unfold a new paradigm, one I call Panarchy , I wonder how we will teach each other to see and become more of our real selves, and not let a few experts define our humaness.
Of course I appreciate the shoulders of those who have come before us regarding our humaness. Step by step new openings are discovered, more beauty and love is revealed as natural, not man-made or imposed. These are all good things, but if we could just learn to see human nature in all of its wonder, maybe it would not take a generation to inform ourselves of what we naturally want to do. Maybe we will not doom ourselves and our planet.
This video was created to go deeper into Rifkin's work.