Volume 1, Number 3November, 2012
In This Issue
Editorial: Debating and Voting on a Preferable Future
The Life Ethic: A Post-Modern Ethics by Robert Brem
Featured Website: Club of Amsterdam
Featured Website: The Worlds of David Brin
Update: The Psychology of the Future
Ray Kurzweil's New Book
Archive: Futurodyssey and Wisdom Page Updates
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. 

This Month's Highlights:  
  • Editorial: Debating and Voting on a Preferable Future
  • The Life Ethic: A Post-Modern Ethics
  • Featured Website: The Club of Amsterdam - Shaping Your Future in the Knowledge Society  
  • Featured Website: The Worlds of David Brin  
  • Update - The Psychology of the Future: Flourishing in the  Flow of Evolution - The Pilot Begins
  • Kurzweil's New Book: How to Create a Mind    
  • Archive: Futurodyssey and Wisdom Page Updates   
Editorial: Debating and Voting on a Preferable Future 


There are many ways to look at governmental elections. But one way--which I think is critically important--is to see elections as forums for determining our preferable futures and how to get there.

Being inundated by umpteen political ads, news shows, commentaries, and televised debates on the impending presidential election, and attempting to extract from it all the main points of contention and critical issues being discussed, it strikes me how myopic, simplistic, shallow, self-centered, divisive, and short sighted our national conversation is regarding our preferable futures.

I say "myopic" because the main issue being highlighted (drowning out all other critical issues) is the national economy. Not that money isn't important as a foundation for living the good life, but prior to the recent economic recession there was (and still is to some degree) considerable discussion of why people in modernized countries, having lived through significant economic growth, are not really any happier--in fact, there were various indications of increases in collective depression, drug abuse, and generalized anxiety amidst growing wealth.

Further, we have been debating for several decades (at least) how to modify or expand our concept of progress to include humanistic and quality-of-life variables above and beyond GDP. Money isn't enough to measure how good things are getting or not getting; life satisfaction and psychological well-being correlate with a whole host of factors beyond simply money in one's pocket (Flourish, Quality of Life Index, The Progress Paradox, and Affluenza).

I had hoped that with the economic recession people might reflect more on what the good life really is, what really makes them happy, and direct their energies and attention toward other "things" besides just being able to buy more stuff. Being in debt or losing one's job or home is no fun, granted, but a big part of our present economic predicament and collective angst is assuredly due to greed, envy, shortsightedness, a need for power, and a lack of business ethics.

Is anyone focusing on how to improve our overall national character?
Also, what about the critical importance of environmental management and climate change regarding our future? What about the multi-faceted and troubling state of education? What about the ongoing and extreme ethical and cultural divisiveness within our country and within our national government? How can we have a collective vision about our preferable future when our values are so polarized?

These issues, at best, get lip service and peripheral attention. But, from listening to the news and debates, you would think that our salvation revolves around improving the economy. Perhaps, indeed, our economic downturn is a symptom of deeper, more psychological, social, and ethical problems?

I say "simplistic" because, among other things, I watched the Presidential candidates debate whether individuals are responsible for their own success, or whether success always involves the help and support of others. Both answers are right; both answers are wrong. No one ever does anything alone, but given similar circumstances and social support systems, different individuals do better or do worse. Turning it into an "either-or" issue, with a definitive answer, is simplistic and polarizing. Worse, it is fundamentally stupid, with the intent to simply get attention and votes.

Can't we evolve to a higher level of thinking, where we see that the correct answers to things are more complex? If everything has to be a "sound bite"--a twitter, with a limited number of characters to work with--we will be increasingly left with a citizenry of "tweet addicts" whose minds and attention spans are limited to the fifteen second TV commercial--a populace incapable of reflective and nuanced thought. We are already in "the shallows"--a term popularized by Nicholas Carr in reference to the debilitating impact of computer and web technology and the social media on the human mind. But it doesn't take Facebook and Twitter to draw us even further into the shallows--politics will do it just as well.

Aside from greed and lack of ethics being reflective of self-centeredness, I should also mention the ongoing debate and concern over our national economy in relation to other national economies. Are too many of our jobs being outsourced to other places? Are we holding a competitive edge over other countries or are we losing it? Is China a threat to our world sovereignty? Are we being screwed over by foreigners?

To go back to the individualism versus collectivism theme, applied now at a national and global level, in the long run, we rise or fall together. Other countries--other economies--are our customers, our suppliers, our bankers, and our partners. It is important for each of us to individually pursue excellence--and the same is true of individual nations--but we can't see the "other" as necessarily the enemy; in a globalizing world we are all interconnected and interdependent.

We need to think more holistically. Our preferable future is a globally collaborative future. In considering commerce, for example, we may try shop at home, but we must acknowledge that pretty much everything is being made and being purchased everywhere.  In like manner, bringing peace to the world is a collective issue and not just a question of protecting our own asse(t)s.

Finally, I use the expression "short sighted" because it seems to me that the presidential debate centers mostly around the next four years. (This in addition to our expressed historical concerns centering mostly around the last four years.) In all these speeches and debates I see no inspiring long-term vision; in all of this I see no wisdom being gathered from the deeper past. Our consciousness is not only shallow but temporally constricted.

As the futurist Frederik Polak argued, in his The Image of the Future, without an inspiring and credible vision for the future, a culture withers and dies. Perhaps there is too much noise in the air; perhaps everything has become too complicated and thus inoperative; perhaps there are too many competing special interest groups and too much power exerted by the wealthy; perhaps we are worrying too much about survival and simply sustaining ourselves.

Whatever the underlying reality, we must ask the question: Where is there an intelligent, future-focused vision (or even competing ones) that will light our fires, illuminate and expand our minds, and propel us into the great adventure of tomorrow?

Tom Lombardo
The Life Ethic: A Post-Modern Ethics by Robert Brem

(Robert Brem, a CFC Advisory Board Member, posted the following short essay in response to the book reviews last month. Thank you Robert)  

One thing the post-modern perspective offers us is that there are no singular truths woven into the fabric of the cosmos.  There are no a priori standards of morality to  which we may appeal through some desired "Natural Law" that any reasonable person can deduce.  From this perspective: there is no justice nor injustice in the universe.  This is posited as being observable in the day to day interactions the myriad life-forms in nature.  Nice folk aren't necessarily rewarded nor mean folk punished (see the issue of theodicy).  There is birth, life, death, rebirth; some live brutish short existences and others comparatively leisurely lives.

Morality is really when it comes down to it a choice or preference.  The Postmodernism perspective offers an ultimate declaration of individual responsibility and freedom.  What is good is what you say is good and your only judge looks at you from the mirror.  Oh yes, there are socially agreed to standards of morality and system of sanction. But the post-modern perspective suggests these are just what is implied by the notion of "socially-agreed-upon"; they are social constructions; collective preferences; consensual reified realities.

It would be so much easier to appeal to a divine natural law that tells us how to live, but the myriad of alternatives in this category - minimally thousands of religious variations; quite a few contradictory - render the conclusion that such an alternative is unlikely.  Which is all different than saying there is no divine force in the cosmos - it is just that such a force is under no obligation to live up to human expectations.   Therefore, like it or not, it is our responsibility to choose.  We fear this freedom because it also leaves no one but ourselves to own the responsibility for our actions.

So how might we decide on the morality we might prefer?  Let us explore this question through a series of propositions:

Proposition: what may be defined as "good" is that which enhances the prospect of living organisms--and, in this context humans-to live in a healthy (nourishing thriving-survivability) fashion physiologically and psychologically.

Proposition: if what enhances life in this fashion is good, then what diminishes life in these terms is morally unacceptable (but only in the context that we claim to believe in that which promotes the capacity of life to survive and to thrive).

Proposition: any self-reflective organism that wishes to live beyond merely surviving unto thriving, would grant these first two propositions.

Proposition: what enhances the capacity of life to survive and thrive - biologically and psychologically - is determinable though the inquiry of the various health sciences.

We can call this "The Life Ethic"

Proposition: there are certain ways of ordering society in a manner that enhances the capacity of life to survive and thrive in a physiologically and psychologically healthy fashion (that can be determined by health science inquiry) that are differentiated from those ways of social order that diminish life or enhance life prospects to a lesser degree (also verifiable by health science).

Proposition: said social ordering modality would be the optimum or "good" and best social order in the context of this life enhancement perspective.

Proposition: a social order in which interactions (behavior) within the system are defined by the boundaries of democratic values (not necessarily procedures) can be said to be that social order which enhances the life prospect to the highest degree of success.

Proposition: any social order that is not democratic is not an optimum social order in that it diminishes the life prospect of the people within its system.

Proposition: on this basis, it is possible to determine the morality of a given course of action.

(Editor's Note: I added the "Six Ethics of Life" image below --thought it fit with Robert's essay. Tom Lombardo)


Featured Website: The Club of Amsterdam - Shaping Your Future in the Knowledge Society

"The Club of Amsterdam (website) is an independent, international, future-oriented think tank involved in channeling preferred futures. It involves those who dare to think out of the box and those who don't just talk about the future but actively participate in shaping outcomes.

We organize events, seminars and summits on relevant issues and publish findings & proceedings through various off-line and online media channels. Our goal is to become a global player and catalyst for innovation in industries, science and society."

Felix B Bopp
Founder and Chairman

The Club of Amsterdam publishes an excellent, highly informative monthly journal containing intelligent and  thoughtful essays, book reviews, news on futures events, and discussion/brainstorm forums for interested readers. Easy to subscribe to the electronic journal.

Featured Website: The Worlds of David Brin 

David Brin is unequivocally one of the best writers and thinkers at synthesizing science fiction and futures studies. An award-winning science fiction writer, he also speaks and writes extensively on general issues pertaining to the future - with great intelligence, knowledge, optimism, and personal energy.

As he states on his superb website: The Worlds of David Brin, which contains a host of interesting videos, "On this page I share information about my three main "careers" -- as a writer of science fiction, an authority on future trends (in business, politics, and radical transparency, among others), and a citizen of this amazing world."


The Psychology of the Future: Flourishing in the Flow of Evolution - The Pilot Begins

In last month's CFC Newsletter I introduced the new course and book I am doing: The Psychology of the Future. The course pilot is beginning November 1st at Sun City Grand at the Learning Center in Surprise, AZ. The course pilot will run for five two-hour sessions, Nov. 1, 8, 15, 29, and Dec. 6 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, to be followed for each session with an hour dialogue over lunch. Even if you miss the first session you can still catch up with the content easily. You can register at: AZ Grand Learning.

The course announcement keeps evolving. Here are some highlights of the latest one:

Become more Informed, Empowered, Creative, and Wise in Your Approach to the Future

Three Big Things You Will Learn from the Course:
  • You will better Understand the Big Picture of Reality and the Future
  • You will better Understand the Good Life and Psychological Well-Being
  • You will better Understand and Strengthen all those Essential Psychological Capacities Necessary for Realizing the Good Life -- for Flourishing -- in the Future

We create ourselves through the habit of willpower. We bring ourselves to life through emotion, passion, and our visions of the future. We define ourselves by the stories we tell ourselves. And we flourish as a result of our life long-pursuit of wisdom.  

Ray Kurzweil's New Book 
How to Create a Mind


This month Ray Kurzweil, the author of The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near, is releasing his new book --with the provocative title--How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Thought Revealed.

Readers can advance order the book by going to How to Create a Mind. As of last week, pre-ordering the book came with a free tee shirt and download of Kurzweil's film
Transcendent Man.

For readers not familiar with Ray Kurzweil, he is one of the most important and influential thinkers in the world on the future. There are a host of videos of him on the web where he presents his ideas on exponential growth, the coming technological singularity, the promise of immortality, and the transcendence of humanity. Many find his ideas and predictions on the future totally fascinating and inspiring--many find his views absolutely frightening. See his website: KurzweilAI.Net.    

Archives - Futurodyssey and Wisdom Page  Updates

This fall 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. There are Archives for both newsletters. You can view earlier issues of each newsletter by going to:   


That's it for this month: Elections and preferable futures, postmodernism and a "life ethic", the Club of Amsterdam, The Worlds of David Brin, an update on The Psychology of the Future, Kurzweil's new book, and our growing Archive for CFC and The Wisdom Page newsletters.
Tom & Jeanne Lombardo
Center For Future Consciousness