FUTURODYSSEY
Volume 1, Number 2October, 2012
In This Issue
The Psychology of the Future
Book Review: The Power of Habit
Book Review: Evolutionaries
New Archive Web Pages
Websites: Science, Technology, Spirit, and Optimism
Center for Future Consciousness Website
 
Books by Tom Lombardo

   
 
 
 

 
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Upcoming Events



"The Psychology of the Future" - A five session new workshop and presentation at Sun City Grand, Chaparral Center, 19781 N. Remington Drive, Surprise, AZ. Dates: Nov. 1, 8, 15, and 29, and Dec. 6 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. 


The Psychology of the Future: Flourishing in the  Flow of Evolution 


In a recent conversation I had with Jeanne, I asked her  what takes precedence: What is real, or what is good? She quickly responded, "What is real." How can we figure out what is good unless we first understand the reality within which we are working? Ontology precedes ethics.

My question arose in the context of thinking out the proper order of topics in my new book and course on the psychology of the future. For years I have been writing about how heightening future consciousness leads to psychological well-being and improved quality of life. Thinking about the future is good for us. But how can we know what is good and what constitutes psychological well-being, unless we first determine the nature of human reality? What kind of a world do we live in? What makes up the basic features of the human psychology? It is within that context of environmental and psychological reality that we need to define the human good. Ethics and theories of well-being must be realistic.

Recently I read the new book Evolutionaries by Carter Phipps. At the beginning of the book is a quote from Teilhard de Chardin: "We are moving." Pondering the quote, it hit me in a flash, that that was indeed the answer to the question of reality--streamlined down to the essential. What is real? We are moving. We are evolutionary (dynamic) beings in an evolutionary (dynamic) universe. And hence, it is clear that whatever the good is, it is something that is realized in the context of motion. The good is not a static thing.

As I reviewed in recent newsletters, both Sam Harris (The Moral Landscape) and Martin Seligman (Flourish) have written new books grappling with the questions of ethics and well-being. Harris has argued that what is good--an ethical question--is what leads to or supports human well-being--a factual question. And Seligman, the psychologist, has argued that psychological well-being can be factually determined and measured, and indeed captured (or summed up) in the concept of "to flourish."

The idea that "to flourish" provides a factual foundation for understanding the good and the reality of psychological well-being is very appealing since "to flourish" is a dynamic, growth-oriented concept. To flourish is not a static concept. It fits into an evolutionary theory of reality.

And further, the concept of flourishing aligns well with the hypothesis that we should guide our lives through heightened future consciousness. Aside from being dynamic, "to flourish" is directional; we are growing relative to the future. (A dictionary definition of "flourish" is "to grow well or luxuriantly, to do well, to prosper, to thrive, to be highly productive.") So if we want to maximize our growth into the future--if we want to flourish--shouldn't we develop all those psychological capacities relevant to building a constructive and positive future? This is the essence of heightened future consciousness.      

Though evolution is directional as well, it is messy--filled with sound and fury; becoming and passing away; chaos and catastrophe; possibilities and uncertainties. This is reality. One can flounder--indeed even wither and die--within our evolutionary reality. Though there is relative persistence, it is not absolute, and hence, it seems to me that it is best to view reality as "Grow or Die." There is no standing still.

So how does one flourish, as oppose to flounder or die, in the ongoing flow of evolution? What kind of psychology--what capacities and traits--are needed? How do we enhance those future-focused emotional, motivational, cognitive, personal, and behavioral character traits and virtues that will support flourishing in the flow of evolution? This is the good; this is reality.
If you live in the Phoenix metropolitan area, join me in November for the five-week course on "The Psychology of the Future: Flourishing in the Flow of Evolution." For those of you not in the area or not able to attend during the scheduled time, check  out the Center for Future Consciousness website within the coming months for streamlined one-day and weekend workshops to be offered in other locations and at other times. These events can be booked for your club, group, or organization through the Center.

Finally, stay tuned for my latest book based on this new series: The Psychology of the Future: Flourishing in the Flow of Evolution.
 

Sign up for the course.

Hope you enjoy what we have included in this issue of Futurodyssey.

Tom Lombardo    

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

        

The Power of Habit provides a general theory of the nature of habits. Though rather simple and streamlined in form, it illustrates, through numerous and diverse examples, how habits structure and determine our lives, both individually and collectively. (Just as people do, organizations have habits too). Finally, the book offers varied examples and practical activities for gaining control over our habits and changing them.

In fact, for Charles Duhigg, habit is a universalist idea: In his view, it appears that all of individual human psychology and all of social and collective behavior can be understood as nothing but sets of habits. Given this mindset, at times it seems that he is trying to forcefully squeeze or confusedly jam all manner of elements and nuances of human life into this one model, stretching the model beyond credibility.

After touching on many of these varied illustrations of the expansive nature of habits, when the author comes to the topic of willpower (and if the reader is familiar with Baumeister's and Tierney's book on willpower), he may initially provoke incredulity when he states that willpower is a habit as well. But after deeper consideration, it will hit you that looking at willpower as a habit is enlightening and illuminating. Willpower --through acts of willpower--is something that is practiced and can be exercised and strengthened.

Habit, indeed, as Duhigg argues, is a powerful theoretical concept. It provides an explanation for the stability we observe in human behavior, but it also provides a framework for understanding psychological change: We stay the same by repeating our habits; we change by changing our habits--a simple and direct formula for life. Habits can explain why we are stuck (in the past), but it is also true that the tenacious and repetitive exercise of certain behaviors is the way by which we can realize future goals and change our way of life. Routinely eat well and one gets healthier; exercise regularly and one gets more fit and stronger; read and study on a regular basis and one gets educated (all other things being equal).

In fact, following Aristotle, as well as many contemporary thinkers, one develops character and becomes virtuous by repeatedly expressing (and hence practicing) virtuous acts. One becomes a better person by doing virtuous acts--by living the life of virtue. The good is a habit. (As Gretchen Rubin points out, it's what you do everyday--and not just once in a while--that is really important.)

In contemporary educational theory and practice, repetition has gotten a bad name: As the modern argument goes, students need to develop creative skills and not just engage in rote learning and practice. But without practice, without the repetitious and often exhausting exercise of skills and capacities, excellence does not emerge. Moreover, habits become motives: The more something is practiced, the better one gets at it and  the greater the desire to repeat it. The more you learn, the more you want to learn; the more you exercise, the more you want to exercise.

In my opinion, though, the biggest flaw in the book is how oblivious the whole exposition is to the classic history of psychological research on habits. Duhigg cites recent research, but he says nothing about B. F. Skinner, Pavlov, Watson, or almost any other psychologist from earlier times. (Duhigg does discuss William James a bit.) In this regard, it is noteworthy that Duhigg's theory of habits and human motivation, in fact, is essentially a model of operant conditioning (see Skinner and Clark Hull). Skinner and Hull also believed that habits were pretty much everything. But there is no credit given to or discussion of the rich and informative work of these psychologists, among others. Further, Duhigg does not discuss the central importance of "association" psychology and philosophy--the foundation of habits--that runs back over two hundred years.

I don't know whether Duhigg believes he is saying something new in his book, but almost all his basic ideas can be found in earlier psychological research and writings. In fact, he totally misses many central elements and implications pertaining to habits simply because he does not seem to be familiar with the great wealth of information to be found in experimental psychology. As someone interested in the history and evolution of human thought, it is fascinating to me how frequently people believe that they have discovered something new when in fact it has been (often repeatedly) observed or thought out before by others. Such is the ignorance and arrogance of the present relative to the past.

Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science's Greatest Idea by Carter Phipps   
Evolutionaries is an interesting and informative book--I read through it in a flash. The writing style flows; it held my attention from the opening; I learned a
lot, thought a lot along the way; and the book significantly helped me to pull lots of themes together in my mind. The book weaves together narrative and theory, introducing different evolutionary thinkers through stories about them and then describing the essence of their theories. Through the book Phipps delves into the lives and key ideas of around forty or fifty different evolutionary thinkers, from scientists and psychologists to philosophers and spiritual leaders. He includes discussions of Darwin, Teillard de Chardin, Lynn Margulis, Howard Bloom, Sri Aurubindo, Alfred North Whitehead, Ken Wilber, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Robert Wright, and Ray Kurzweil, among others --a rich and wide array of personalities and perspectives.

Phipps' basic argument is that evolution is a cosmic, interdisciplinary world view, including but not limited to the natural or biological sciences. All of existence, from the metaphysical and cosmological to the social, psychological, and spiritual can be subsumed under the framework of evolutionary thought. There are diverse individuals, from diverse disciplines, cultures, and ways of life, actively working toward this integrative (or integral) perspective. That indeed is the main point of the book: To show how evolutionary thinking is being applied across the board to nature, society and culture, technology, human psychology and creativity, and theology and spirituality.
Furthermore, evolution, as a world view, not only informs us regarding the nature of things, it also provides a basis for ethics and morality--a "moral imperative," as Phipps identifies it, to consciously and purposefully further facilitate the ongoing evolution of humanity and the cosmos. Though grounded in a story of our origins, evolution, both factually and ethically, points toward a vision of the future and inspires us on our journey through time.

In fact, as Phipps points out, the evolutionary world view is still in evolution--the pieces of this grand narrative are just coming together; the insights are still arising and taking form. As some have argued, evolution as a natural process is evolving, and our understanding of it likewise is in a state of ongoing development. As Chardin stated, "We are moving," and this applies both to our ontological reality and our evolving knowledge of the world around us.   

Where, I believe, the book suffers is in its treatment of evolutionary theory within the physical and cosmological sciences. It is light and highly selective relative to more humanistic and spiritual evolutionary perspectives. Phipps does include scientific thinkers such as Walter Kauffman, Kevin Kelly, and Elizabet Sahtouris, but there is little, if nothing, on physical and biological evolutionary thought as represented in the works of Lee Smolin, Eric Chaisson, Murrary Gell-Mann, David Loye, Paul Davies, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Frank Tipler, among others. The evolutionary perspective on physical cosmology and the biological sciences is simply not sufficiently developed.


I also found that though Phipps attempts to provide the big picture of evolutionary thinking, generally he describes each evolutionary thinker and then moves on to the next. He doesn't integrate the ideas and major themes of all the different individuals anywhere near as much as he could.
Yet all in all, I highly recommend this book, especially for readers who have a rather limited biological conception of the idea of evolution. Clearly the book provides an expansive vision of evolutionary thought that goes far beyond biology.
New Archives - Futurodyssey and Wisdom Page  Updates


Starting last month I began publishing two redesigned newsletters: Futurodyssey--the online publication for the Center for Future Consciousness--and the Wisdom Page Updates--the online publication for The Wisdom Page. I have now created Archives for both newsletters. You can view earlier issues of each newsletter by going to:   
 

 

Featured Websites: Science, Technology, Spirit, and Optimism about the Future

One of the recommended websites on the CFC Home Page is Ray Kurzweil's very popular and influential KurzweilAI. His website is decidedly pro-science and technology, as well as being very optimistic about the future. Inspired by Kurzweil's theory of the technological singularity, another pro-science, pro-technology website--also highly optimistic and well worth exploring--is The Singularity Hub. It is easy to understand the psychological draw of contemporary technology, as well as technological visions of the future: Things are continuously happening--new inventions, new discoveries, new possibilities emerging-- and hence, through the eyes of science and technology, the future seems to just get better all the time. People are inspired by good news and positive visions of tomorrow.

Not all futurists though are as optimistic about the promises of technology. Perhaps the key to a better future does not involve technology, but rather the development of the human mind and the human spirit. As two sites that emphasize spiritual and mental evolution themes pertaining to the future, I would recommend: My friend Marcus Anthony's MindFutures and Andrew Cohen's EnlightenNext. Both websites explore how the human mind could (and should) evolve in the future.

Yet finally for a real visual trip--pulling together the cosmic, philosophical, scientific, and technological, with an artistic, adrenaline flair--have a look at the website of Jason Silva. Though Silva may be a bit too pro-technology for some, Silva is clearly in search of enlightenment and expanding one's consciousness, and bringing awe, wonder, and mental exhilaration into visions of tomorrow. Watch some of his videos--your mind and your senses will sail off on a rocket into the cosmos.   
 
That's it for this month: Reality, evolution, the good, flourishing, the psychology of the future, consciousness, technology, and some recommended websites. 
Tom & Jeanne Lombardo
Center For Future Consciousness