Archives for posts with tag: future

Recently picked up The Varieties of Scientific Experience by the one and only Carl Sagan.

Carl attempts to make sense of current theology in the context of modern scientific knowledge, posing, above all, that humility and compassion should govern the human experience. Given our relatively recent ability to cause our own annihilation with nuclear weapons, this may be the only way humankind can survive. Further, he points to reasonable understandings of God and life given the context of the universe’s and earth’s history.

But I couldn’t help but feel that his arguments, though poignant, respectable, and logical, lack the fervor and heat required for humanity to move away from the disastrous possibilities we have created. Namely, he gives no alternative to the logistics of how we live and run our society other than better knowledge, understanding, and more perfect distributions of information.

Everyone should be wary of a dependence on a trajectory toward perfect knowledge, for with it comes power, which makes it political and costly (in more ways than monetary).

So, I propose Saganomics, a re-framing of economic theory (which by-and-large is a bastardization of more complex, dynamic, and chaotic systems we could not possibly comprehend completely). What could happen if we re-form the fundamentals of economics with a new assumption of humility and awe in the face of scale and history over rational self-interest. Not to discount self-interest as a motivation (of course it exists and would be silly to ignore it), but to credit the phenomenon of human life and its necessity to persist through our compassion.

Consider the cooperative (shared ownership) business model, which recently was pointed out to me to have a unique characteristic. Cooperatives tend to grow only as much as they are needed, largely by demand, and by the roles they fulfill in a community. Cooperatives do not grow for the sake of growth. That is the kind of economic structure that is consistent with a Saganomic principle of humility and that successfully transcends naive assumptions about rational self-interest.

Reading a few old sources for a research project, I came across this snippet by Anya Kamenetz in DIY U. It’s written in the context of technology and education, offering some new perspectives (like those of Edupunks and Edupreneurs). However, I think it’s nearly universal:

Our best hope is to get better at empowering individuals to find answers for themselves. In other words, forget about giving the guy a fish, or teaching him how to fish, either. Teach him how to teach himself, and he’ll always be able to acquire the skills he needs to find food, skills you haven’t even thought of yet for things you didn’t know you could eat.

and from there, the anecdote gets real:

Fishing itself, it happens, is a great example of this. Today, 90 percent of fish species are over-exploited. Fish farming is people’s fastest-growing source of food and will probably remain so until 2025, says James S. Diana of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. The world needs people who can figure out new ways to repair the oceans and to find or grow renewable sources of food.

Here, here, Anya!

Although it does a great job of flipping the old “Teach A Person to Fish” story, there’s something to be desired in terms of community, cooperation, and social capital. Oh well, I’ll have to be on the look-out for that next great anecdote.

OKAY, so the title is a little brash. And everyone’s got an opinion about the fall of journalism, the great tragedy of the dying newspaper, the vacuum of local news media… but here’s one more, with a twist!

Let’s depart from all this mourning and woe-bearing, away from the image of the journalist laden with heavy wood cross, dragging it about for the benefit of the rest of us. Don’t get me wrong here. I love journalists, and I will sing them praises any day. But can we please stop pretending there’s something so precious about 20th century American journalism?

If we look at the state of the world today (or perhaps pre-2000 for the sake of argument), how effective has journalism been? How has the news industry served a noble role? Undoubtedly there were many issues (some we will never know) that came to resolution through both the active work of journalists and the realistic possibility of journalistic investigation. The processes and the social construction of journalism can have positive, wide-scale effects! However, what has journalism not been able to mitigate?

The rise of the corporation, the corruption of our government (sometimes of money, but mostly of dependence and influence), the continued destruction of the Earth’s environment (to a degree that threatens all life on the planet), illegal wars waged on the basis of no real evidence, and (of course) the list continues.

Journalism can’t–and shouldn’t–be held responsible for any of these things. But, these are things its practice has not been able to prevent. Great, all this argument and we’ve figured out journalism isn’t perfect–so what!?

Well, instead of mourning journalism, why not take this opportunity to reinvent it? Why not take this opportunity to create forms of journalism-esque practices that succeed where journalism has not?

Take for example that a dominant portion of journalism (with all its damn integrity) were for-profit ventures! Today we have the opportunity to support a non-profit journalism industry that is not fueled by sensations that supplement bottom-lines.

Further, and this is the crux of my argument, I suggest that in the stead of the independent, investigative journalist, there may rise the role of the 21st century activist. Using this word with caution (activist is a tricky one indeed), I mean to say that individuals with pointed goals, with narrower scopes of interest, can fulfill the roles (and more) of the 21st century journalist. Why? We can have more of them. So many more. The term activist has often been a specialized term, but the one I draft here is much more broad–anyone can be an activist, and we all should. No, we all must, else the misgivings of this last century continue through the next.