The Wisdom Page
& The Center for Future Consciousness
Wisdom Page Updates
This Month's Highlights
Included in this month's issue of Wisdom and the Future:
Turku Finland Futures Conference
World Conference of Futures Research 2015
"Futures Studies Tackling Wicked Problems"
University of Turku
This last month Jeanne and I journeyed to Turku, Finland, where I participated in the World Conference of Futures Research 2015 "Futures Studies Tackling Wicked Problems: Where Futures Research, Education, and Action Meet."
I delivered the opening keynote presentation "The Psychology of the Future: Flourishing in the Flow of Evolution." I also taught a pre-conference one day course to graduate students at the University of Turku on "Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future."
The wonderful people at the Finland Futures Research Center and the Finland Futures Academy, both affiliated with the university, invited me to give the presentation and teach the course. The Center and the Academy offer undergraduate and graduate level education (including a Ph.D. degree) in futures studies. Aside from all the great people at the Research Center involved in the conference, and a couple of hundred additional researchers and futurists from within Finland, there were over one hundred participants from countries outside of Finland attending the event. One very friendly and generous gentleman from Iran, Ali Rahneshin, gave me as a present honoring my keynote address a bedazzling illustrated copy of Omar Khayyam's Ruba'iyat.
After the conference Jeanne and I visited for a few days Stockholm, Sweden, a fantastically beautiful city, filled with incredible colorful buildings and scenic waterways, and Jeanne took hundreds of pictures, many of which are viewable on
Although there were numerous topics addressed at the conference, one central issue that came to the forefront in my own mind, as I listened to various speakers and compared what they said with what I highlighted in my presentation, was the oppositional clash of optimism and a pro-development philosophy of the future (which I offered) and a more pessimistic and "pulling back" philosophy presented by other speakers.
As several speakers profusely illustrated with tons of statistics and facts, it clearly appears that various world wide environmental conditions (climate change, resource reserves, pollution, environmental degradation, and the accelerative extinction of species) are all moving in a negative direction. Without colossal efforts at a global level to rectify these various conditions in the relatively near future, both our natural environment and our modern hi-tech civilization, are going to drastically deteriorate, if not go into a catastrophic tailspin. Our present way of life, as the argument goes, is not sustainable, and is heading toward disaster, and we need to drastically modify how we live. We need to put into place a way of life that is sustainable. Our global philosophy and practice of ever increasing production and consumption is self-destructive. We need to quickly and decisively move in the direction of constraint and conservation. We need to go into a survival mode of existence.
The message I presented in my keynote address was much different in tone and overall philosophy. I proposed that humans are evolutionary beings living in an evolutionary universe, and our sense of happiness and personal and collective fulfillment is only fully realized when we are experiencing transformation and growth in our lives. We are happy when we flourish and become unhappy and dissatisfied when we are stagnant.
Moreover, optimism is the preferable state of mind regarding the future. It is both more empowering and realistic than pessimism. We are smarter, more creative, and better able to realistically assess problems and solve them when in hopeful and emotionally positive states. Optimism toward further growth and development does not involve ignoring challenges and problems; optimism though does not emotionally and motivationally collapse in the face of the difficulties in life. Optimism is being able to see the opportunities for improvement and not just the roadblocks and looming disasters.
Although I did not explicitly state so in my presentation, I have always found the philosophy of sustainability lacking, in so far as it connotes and argues for a state of continued stasis as the desirable or preferable future. Life is transformation, and nothing is absolutely stable or sustainable. To a significant degree, we grow or we die; there is no standing still. Further, standing still is frequently associated with a defensive posture -- a mindset operating primarily in terms of apprehension, fear, and caution.
To be fair, sustainability theorists talk about "sustainable development," but both history and evolutionary science seem to indicate that development across time involves deep transformations from one mode of existence to another; systems do not always maintain (sustain) themselves as they evolve -- they transform. "Sustainable development" may be oxymoronic.
The concept of growth within a pro-development philosophy does not necessarily or exclusively imply "physical growth" (in the sense of increasing physical production and consumption), but humans are psycho-physical realities (we are cyborgs), human life being a combination of the physical and the mental. Perhaps humanity has been too concerned with physical reality and not enough with the development of our psychological, social, and ethical capacities, but the physical can not be excluded from our visions of growth.
Overall, it is much more preferable that we embrace a philosophy of flourishing in the future rather than simply sustaining ourselves -- indeed, the latter may not be achievable. Sustainability is not sustainable.
One issue that repeatedly comes up is the ongoing depletion of various resources. I have often heard the argument that many of our resources are finite and that we are using them up. But both history and science seem to conversely indicate that mind empowers matter, and that our intelligence and innovative capacities repeatedly finds new ways to create more resources within the world. As I stated in my presentation, mind and matter are reciprocal realities, and there is no such thing as an absolutely given environment that is simple brute fact and can not be potentially altered.
As I noted above, there seem to be plenty of facts and numbers to support a pessimistic vision of our present global trajectory and where it will lead. Though not to discount or ignore the importance of empirical research in science, it is fascinating, in line with the phenomena of the "theoretical nature of facts," that both optimists and pessimists about the future can gather tons of data supporting their opposite views on the nature of the present and the probabilities of the future. Indeed, present advocates of a "doom and gloom" position also argue that earlier predictions regarding impending world problems have been corroborated in the present, whereas advocates on the other side have argued that "doom and gloom" predictions from previous decades have turned out to be significantly in error, in great part due to the lack of acknowledgement of human inventiveness over the last few decades. Both perspectives seem to believe that their respective theories are being confirmed by the facts. Indeed, as psychological research seems to indicate, optimism and pessimism create self-fulfilling prophecies, and in this case, self-validating positions, in some sense regardless of "what actually happens."
One of the central themes of my presentation was that the future is best approached through the multi-faceted capacity of wisdom. Our preferable future of flourishing will be best realized through the exercise and development of wisdom. As a multi-faceted capacity or virtue, wisdom integrates intellect, creative imagination, emotion, motivational attitude, ethics, and behavior. Wisdom is not just number crunching; the selection of data that supports our mindsets reflects various psychological dispositions and commitments. Moreover, wisdom is a psychologically internalized virtue; the futurist part of us can not and should not be divorced from the totality of our personality and character.
I would agree that our future -- a positive future -- does depend upon developing our psychology and our character. Our present modernizing world civilization, overall, does seem to put too much weight on economic and physical production/consumption measures and values in defining the preferable future. It seems to me though that deficits in our psychology and ethics are the primary cause of our difficulties. The central wicked problem in the world is humanity itself. We are evolutionary beings and we need to more proactively and purposefully engage in evolving our character, ethics, and psychological capacities.
At the end of my presentation I proposed that the philosopher and science fiction writer, Olaf Stapledon, not only integrated and synthesized in his writings both science fiction and futures studies, but he was a great exemplar of the wise futurist. The personal and the intellectual came together within him. His visions of the future took the form of "wisdom narratives," chronicling with a sense of deep purpose in his writings, the psychological and social evolution of mind and society.
Moreover, as I argued, no one in Western history has ever presented a more cosmic and mind-expanding vision of the future than he did. Stapledon was a cosmic evolutionist, and although there was a "tragic" element in his novels, he did envision great evolutionary journeys of psychological, social, and technological advancement for humanity (and intelligent life in the universe as a whole) in the future. He did foresee numerous challenges and disasters, but he maintained his cosmic evolutionary vision through all the twists and turns of his imagined future. His cosmic vision, of special note, provided an elevating big picture context in which to view the journey of our species through time; such a cosmic vision is critical to wisdom.
Indeed, although ascending into the vast reaches of space and time, cosmic futurist visions, such as presented in Stapledon, are essential to a flourishing human spirit. (Two component virtues I list within wisdom are expansive temporal consciousness and cosmic-global consciousness.) Cosmic visions, internalized within us, are personally inspiring and motivating, and ultimately very practical. As an expression of the virtue of transcendence, we need them to find fulfillment, tenacity, and deep purpose in life. To me a general philosophy of flourishing within an evolutionary cosmos is much more elevating and effective and a more preferable future than simply attempting to sustain ourselves, depressed and fearful, in the muck and mire of day to day survival.
All in all, the conference was an enjoyable, invigorating, and enlightening experience. The people of Finland, and in particular in Turku, were very friendly, interesting, and engaging. But I did more clearly gain an understanding of the "opposition" and, in particular, where I stood relative to them.
Wise people seek a life well lived. Our recent series on the virtue of the month provides moral guidance, but we must also focus our efforts on what matters most. While the virtues guide us in doing things right, focusing on what matters guides us in doing the right things. Therefore, we now begin a monthly exploration of What Matters. Each month we will explore one topic that suggests how you should spend your time to attain fulfillment and live a meaningful life. What is most significant to you, your family, your community, nation and the world? How does what matters most change as your needs are met, as you gain experience, and as you grow and mature? Series topics will address surviving, thriving, recreation, success, significance, transcendence, and avoiding distractions and dead ends.
We begin with the basics. We all share simple requirements for sustaining life and health. Our physiological needs are the minimal requirements of survival. If you are lacking in any of the listed physiological needs, please obtain the help you need to fill these urgent needs.
Beyond Olympic Gold - Toward a Global Human Rights Assessment
A proposal presented in narrative form for the ongoing comparative assessment of how well nations successfully realize the Universal Declaration of Rights
A Poem by Anita Rubin
"Anita Rubin, one of the pioneers of futures studies, passed away in Turku on Maundy Thursday, April 2, 2015 after a long battle with illness. She was born in Helsinki on October 31, 1952. Anita's colleagues in Finland and across the globe will remember her great significance as a researcher, teacher and visionary, and as a warm human being.
As colleague and friend and Finish futurist Vuokko Jarva, states, "Anita wrote poems to the very end of her traverse. She was so brave. I humbly mediate a simple translation of one of her last poems to honour her humanity."
Towards silence spins the clock time
one believes to measure the immeasurable
one believes to translate the untranslatable
and finally to end
the inevitable living heart sound
in the light nobility of being
and there is no end to the miracle
far from the oneness to which belong
lost ones origin
conscious of beauty
and ones beauty to the emptiness wasted
but the light
one and simple
unites to its oneness
accepts to its depth
And I do no longer rebel
No longer fight against it
But go where the internal pain leads
Because through the ordeals
Through the pain
And as gift
Rise the tears of light
To not fight
Does not mean giving up
And faith to accept the burning gift
And the principle
Is to use the time
To the manner corresponding to its value
Translated by Vuokko Jarva
The Information Philosopher:
Dedicated to the New Information Philosophy
From the website homepage, "Anyone with a serious interest in philosophy should understand how information is created and destroyed, because information is much more fundamental than the logic and language tools philosophers use today. The goal of the information philosopher is to add information analysis to every philosopher's toolbox. This I-Phi website aims to contain all that you need to learn."
An extensive and fascinating website on information and the relevance of the concept to classic philosophical and scientific issues. Link to the Website.
Shifting Patterns of Enlightenment:
America in the Mode of Janus
by Rick Smyre
From my long time futurist colleague and friend, Rick Smyre:
"We find ourselves in transition from one historical epoch to another....from an Industrial Age based on the principles and ideas of the First Enlightenment to an emerging age that is still shrouded by mystery, ambiguity and uncertainty. What new mental world will emerge that can encompass connections of the past and the future in a birth of intricate patterns which enables humanity to a higher level of consciousness?"Read the Essay.
Read my essay on Rick's Second Enlightenment Conference.
"Teach the Future" Educational Initiative - Peter Bishop
"Most of us believe that education prepares students for the future. It is strange, therefore, that we never tell them about that future. It's like preparing them for a field trip, but not telling them where they are going! Getting on the bus, they know where they are going. In the classroom, not so much.
That is why we have created a community, called Teach the Future
, to introduce futures thinking into schools.
That community includes teachers, administrators, students, their parents and anyone who believes that teaching our young people about the future is important, if not critical to their success in life.
Teachers are challenged, however, to teach the future because no one has taught them about the future either.
So the first goal of Teach the Future
is to produce a set of useful and effective teaching materials that teachers can use to teach the future. We will hire teachers in the summer to create those materials. And the money to hire those teachers comes from a fundraising campaign.
We hope that many people will become part of this community by joining in the conversation, by donating what they can and, for educators, by downloading some free material."
From Peter Bishop
Visit the Teach the Future
Sonnets by Alan Nordstrom
About things ultimate, I'd rather know
Than just believe, and be assured
My consciousness will not just simply go
Extinct, but of its waywardness be cured,
Then hopefully advance toward higher states
Of spiritual maturity to gain
Such wisdom as a life well led creates,
Lifting me to a more exalted plane
Where from that prospect I may better view
With full Akashic clarity the scope
That cosmic consciousness reveals as true
In actuality, not as a trope.
Enlightenment is now a metaphor,
But then a beam of brightness in my core.
for Copthorne Macdonald
Must we believe, or can we truly know
The answers to our deepest mysteries,
Such as if Homo sapiens can grow
More sapient and our fond follies cease?
Or whether there's intelligent design
Behind the workings of the universe
That over cosmic eons can refine
Our minds and lift our ancient curse?
What we have failed to do is to respect
What even ancient sages once surmised:
That human beings are indeed elect
To greatness-a gift we've sadly compromised.
Yet with contrition, we may realize
The promise of our race, by growing wise.
Visit Alan's Website and Blog
We Need a New Modern Origin Story: A Big History
A Conversation with David Christian
"In modern science, and I include the humanities here, science in a German sense of science-rigorous scholarship across all domains-in modern science we've gotten used to the idea that science doesn't offer meaning in the way that institutional religions did in the past. I'm increasingly thinking that this idea that modernity puts us in a world without meaning-philosophers have banged on about this for a
century-and-a-half-may be completely wrong. We may be living in an intellectual building site, where a new story is being constructed. It's vastly more powerful than the previous stories because it's the first one that is global. It's not anchored in a particular culture or a particular society. This is an origin story that works for humans in Beijing as well as in Buenos Aires.
It's a global origin story, and it sums over vastly more information than any early origin story. This is very, very powerful stuff. It's full of meaning. We're now at the point where, across so many domains, the amount of information, of good, rigorous ideas, is so rich that we can tease out that story."
Read/View the Conversation
Master Course on Science Fiction
at the WFS Convention -
"Terrific," "Concise, super well organized, very broad, excellent," "Great! Neuron blowing!" "Immensely informed, articulate presentation," "Great passion of knowledge and subject matter," "Extremely comprehensive...much food for thought."
Participant comments on Science Fiction Course
This year at the World Future Society Convention
in San Francisco, I will be presenting again my one day "Master Course" in "Science Fiction: The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future." The date and time for the course is Friday, July 24, 2015, 8 am to 3:30 pm. The conference runs from July 24 to July 26; see the website for details. You can register for the course and/or the conference at the above website.
The course description is: Science fiction is the most visible and influential form of futurist thinking in contemporary popular culture. It is the evolutionary mythology of the future, providing dramatic narratives of the future that both frighten and inspire us. This course provides a comprehensive overview of the history of science fiction from its beginnings in ancient times through the Golden and Silver Ages, the New Wave, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and contemporary cosmic fiction. The course will guide participants through science fiction literature, film, art, and fandom as a way of life, and consider how science fiction has both influenced our visions of the future and been influenced by the ongoing evolution of modern society, science, philosophy, and technology.
I will also be leading a panel discussion on "Futures Studies and Science Fiction," (with Jose Ramos and Linda Groff as panel participants), as well as giving a presentation on "Foresight and Science Fiction." The complete schedule for the conference with times and days for the above two events will be out shortly.
University of Chicago
Wisdom Research Network
Wisdom Power Club
Sajid Khan, a past contributor to newsletter and The Wisdom Page recently announced the launching of his new website, The Wisdom Power Club
. The new website is sponsored by The 4th R Foundation, "a non-profit education research foundation that researches informal/emotional intelligence education, human nature, brain, mind, conscientiousness, self, wisdom, life coaching, adult reeducation, shyness, self-image, emotional brain baggage etc."
As Sajid states, The Wisdom Power Club is "designed to help explain the path to wisdom through emotionally healthy parenting for the young and brain healing therapy for the old.Link to Website
Creating Change Through Humanism
by Roy Speckhardt
Reviewed by Leland Beaumont
"Good with God: This handbook for prospective humanists is an important resource for thoughtful people who are seeking real good. The book tells us what humanism is, why it makes sense, how it addresses real problems, and what we can do to create positive change." Lee BeaumontRead the Book Review. Link to the Amazon Review.
Archive Pages for Center for Future Consciousness and Wisdom Page
From the fall of 2012 to the spring of 2014, I published two newsletters: the revitalized and redesigned
Wisdom Page Updates and Futurodyssey (the monthly publication of the
That's it for this month
An editorial on my visit to Turku, Finland and the flourishing versus sustainability issue; a new educational series on "What Matters" and a new article on universal human rights by Lee Beaumont; a poem by futurist Anita Rubin and two sonnets by Alan Nordstrom; two highlighted websites on "The Information Philosopher" and "The Wisdom Club"; an essay by colleague and friend Rick Smyre on "Shifting Patterns of Enlightenment"; a new futures educational initiative spearheaded by Peter Bishop and other futurist educators; videos from the University of Chicago on wisdom and David Christian on big history and origins stories; a follow-up announcement on my science fiction course and other events at the World Future Society convention; and a new book review by Lee Beaumont on Humanism.