Tag Archives: Big Think

Birth Pains?

Any woman who has given birth will confirm that the process is painful.  That analogy gives rise to a more positive way of looking at the multiple, seemingly insoluble problems we humans currently face–perhaps we are experiencing destruction that is necessary to make way for the birth of a better future.

That, at least, is the argument of The Great Progression, according to an article in The Big Think.

The author, one Peter Leyden, says that a “slow-moving, pro-progress story is being missed by most of the mainstream media chasing the minute-by-minute story of crisis and decline.”

The time has come for a positive reframe of what’s really going on in America and the world right now, and what’s actually going to happen in the near future. For far too long we’ve been looking at our current situation and the coming decades through the lens of the past.

Most people are stuck in the familiar default frame that sees many of our old systems breaking down in the face of myriad challenges like climate change, polarized politics, economic and social inequities, the paralysis of liberal democracies, and the rise of authoritarian states.

Yet we’re now at the point where we can view what’s happening, and what’s soon coming, through the lens of the future. That view sees the many nascent systems emerging that are superseding the old ones breaking down. This perspective sees many slow-moving positive developments coming to head, transformative technologies ready to scale, and new trends building to the tipping point. This perspective focuses not on breakdown but on rebirth.

Needless to say, this version of humankind’s current situation is infinitely preferable to the view that we are all doomed…..

Leyden writes that we will lay the foundations for a set of new systems over the next 10 years, after which they will “scale in the next 25 years.”  He calls this the story of The Great Progression, and asserts that

there’s also an emerging majority of smart, decent, and practical Americans who are realigning and getting positioned to make rapid progress in the years ahead.

This pro-progress story gets even better when you step back and think about the really big picture, when you think through how people living decades if not centuries from now will look back on our times. From that vantage point, we’re arguably at the beginning of a transformation that is going to change the world in profound and largely positive ways.

In the next 25 years, Leyden says, we will deal with climate change through transitions  from carbon to clean energy, and from internal-combustion engines to electric mobility. We will reinvent cities, scale up new industries and build a much more environmentally and socially sustainable society.

We very likely will reform capitalism around new economic priorities that counter the current imbalances and inequities. And we can be expected to revitalize our democracies and push back on authoritarianism around the world. People in 50, 100, or even 500 years from now may well look back on our era and marvel at the transformation that we’re about to go through.

Well, I’m certainly up for all those things…

Leyden says the evidence for this transformation is all around us–in powerful new tools like artificial intelligence, and unprecedented knowledge like the ability to understand and engineer the genomes of all living things. The  remainder of his essay lays out his version of the next 25 years, and he says we should hear him out because “I’ve been through this drill before, 25 years ago, and that story proved to be very prescient.” (This was a reference to his co-authorship of The Long Boom, a History of the Future, 1980 to 2020, a story for WIRED, which later became an influential book in multiple languages.)

It’s hard to debate his statement that the world we older people have spent lifetimes mastering is coming to an end. That, at least, seems self-evident.

Every one of those systems arguably is being superseded by new systems much better suited for the 21st century. Our uber-challenge is now climate change and so our energy system must shift to clean power and our transportation system to electric. Our culture now is dominated by the huge Millennial generation and our politics are becoming more progressive. Our economics is raising the role of the public sector and capitalism being pushed to include all stakeholders. Work is now taking place much more virtually, and production is on the cusp of becoming biological. And our geopolitics is recentering on Asia, and in particular on the new superpower, China.

The essay is long, and his evidence is at the link. It’s worth your time to read–and may lighten your mood…..It did mine. After all, he could be right!