Are we sleepwalking into a future that no one actually wants?

The changes the world has undergone over the past two centuries outnumber by far whatever happened over the past two millenia. Keyword: Scientific Revolution. Of course, this is not the first time our world as we know it has gone through a dramatic reshaping. There have been some more episodes over the course of time when people had to change and adapt their lifestyle to suit a new world order.

Tempora mutantur

Let’s only think about the Agricultural Revolution around 10,000 BC. Before that, people would live within small tribes and would gather and hunt food for themselves and the other tribe members. Back then they wouldn’t think about the other people of the world, let alone the possibility to trade with them or to cooperate with other humans on a larger scale. And then the Agricultural Revolution happened. No one was asked if they really wanted to lose sleep for a 12-hour workday under the scorching sun, trying to obtain more food and therefore, security and happiness. They genuinely believed that they would live a better life. But eventually the agricultural revolution proved to be history’s biggest fraud.

Perpetuum mobile

Humanity has undergone further times of dramatic change in the course of history. The Industrial Revolution of the 18th century is a similar, more recent example. The discovery of steam power enabled the transition from hand production to machine production. Then again, people did it in the hope of a better future and easier life, in which the exhausting physical work would be replaced by infinite machine power. But what happened in reality? The Industrial Revolution made only the life of a small elite better. Everyone else had to work their backs off harder than ever before to contribute to economic growth.

What do we want to want?

When times change, no one is asked if they are actually ready to face a new world order. We just go with the flow. We all feel that the world as we know it today is very different from what we knew 20 years ago. And what are 20 years on the time axis? Exactly, nothing.

We now have a global ecology, a global economy but national politics. This doesn’t work together and makes the political system ineffective. (Y.N.Harari)

We are now living in the age of the Information Revolution. It is the third huge revolution that has reshaped the world after the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. It was only toward the end of the last century that the authority started shifting from humans to algorithms. The amount of available information cannot be saved on traditional hard drives like the human brain and most of us can hardly imagine our life nowadays without computers. The fast-paced spread of information in our era contributes more than anything else to creating a “global village”. Economics and trade are no longer home affairs. The paradigm has shifted from the old divide between left and right, to the new divide: global vs. national.

So what’s next?

Today’s politics fail to address future, global problems. When something doesn’t work, the natural human reaction is to go back to times immemorial, when everything was perfect. Trump trumpets “Let’s make America great AGAIN”. He says nothing about the future. Israel dreams of going 2000 years back in time and build a temple again. The thing is, no matter how much nostalgic politicians would like to turn back time, the changes that the past 100 years have brought about are hard, if not impossible, to erase. Because today no step can be taken locally without having consequences globally.

Global governance

Today’s problems are no longer of national but of global nature. Income differences are global, but most politicians come up with national solutions. No American president will increase the taxes on the companies in Silicon Valley to provide workers in a Bangladeshi sweatshop with a higher income. The prospect of global governance is worth a closer look as a feasible solution to today’s global problems, but still a very scary plan for the far-right.

Watch this enlightening TED Dialogue between TED curator Chris Anderson and historian Noah Yuval Harari about how the new global world order needs to tackle its current shortcomings.

Harari is an Israeli historian and professor at the University of Jerusalem. His bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow have turned him into a regular guest speaker at conferences and debates on life’s biggest question: Where do we come from and where are we heading to? 

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