A great idea that will change the world! Wow, sounds exciting … but at the same time there is something about it that is a bit scary. We have seen too many world-changing ideas that were either wrong from the start or went adrift as they matured. I am a skeptic about most good ideas. The natural evolution of ideas isn’t working very well; just read the headlines in today’s newspaper. But neither have “man made” ideas like the Spanish Inquisition, Communism or the Third Reich. Millions have died and millions more have suffered from what have been hailed as great ideas. Rather than starting with a great idea, Jeremy Rifkin has looked at the history of man and found a very long evolutionary trend that suggests the world is on the verge of a new idea that has a good change of saving the world. His book, The Empathic Civilization, offers a mix of evolutionary trends and leaps in the quality of life. In a nutshell, our consciousness has evolved from “clan” which centered around blood relationships and local gods through a series of steps taking us closer to the brink of empathic relationships at the level of the biosphere–that forty mile deep envelope from the bottom of the sea to outer space that extends as “far down, and up, as any form of life exists naturally.”
That evolutionary process has been driven concurrent by the evolution in our ability to capture and use energy, the efficiency of our technology, improvements in communication, and enhancement in the tools and processes to manage increasingly complex and geographically dispersed social structures.
An evolutionary process that began at the level of clan expanded to the “hydraulic cultures” that began to tame nature by controlling major rivers like the Nile in Egypt, the Euphrates in Mesopotamia, the Ganges in India, and the Yangtze in China. A period of massive change that was self-limiting for a number of reasons including failure to care for the soil that was producing the crops. Evolution began again slowly with the agricultural revolution in the middle ages and then the first and second industrial revolutions. According to his analysis, we are approaching the horizon of the third industrial revolution based on dramatic expansion of communication (Internet and related), development of sustainable energy, and a shift in consciousness awareness from the “I” centered historic past to an inclusive empathic consciousness. A consciousness that recognizes both the self and the interconnectedness that defines who we are and how we are related. We may be reaching a point in human history were we have both the means and the desire to care for and preserve the biosphere and move humanity to undreamed levels of caring and sharing.
Undreamed? In my lifetime I have seen undreamed progress in technology and the evolution in our understanding of the structure and workings of our minds. Both are fundamental steps in a continuing process of evolution.
Skepticism is warranted. It is easy for progress to get diverted to self serving ends. On the other hand, optimism is also warranted. We are inventing and applying new solutions to larger and larger problems every day. The Empathic Civilization is long, 616 pages, but the story is tells is also long. It reaches from our earliest knowledge about our forbearers to predictions of the near future. It is a great history book that tracks and provides insights into the evolution of technology, government, and how human beings have viewed themselves and their gods over time. It is also an optimist view of the future.
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I have participated in the work of Landmark Education and its predecessor since 1974. It fundamental concepts have changed very little but the expression of those concepts in Landmark’s programs has gone through dramatic evolution. A process closely aligned with Rifkin’s description of the near term evolution of consciousness. And, Landmark is now poised at the brink of new technology that may change the way we view ourselves as human beings, our relationship to each other and the world around us.
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This morning on Google+ there was a link to a TED presentation by Peter Diamandis who is a co-founded and is chairman of the Singularity University. The presentation is titled: Abundance is our future takes yet a third path that points to a similar set of opportunities for the future.
When different paths begin at different places and begin to move in the same direction in mutual support there are additional grounds for optimism. I invite you to explore all of them.