New Frontiers of Social Change
It has often been observed that common crises create common bonds. While people seek advantage during the times of prosperity, shared suffering tends to draw people closer together. We have seen this behavior repeated time and time again throughout the centuries, during times of flood, famine, fire, or other natural disasters. Once the threat is resolved, however, scarcity patterns once again begin to steer people back to their behaviors of seeking individual advantage. Sensationalist motion pictures such as Independence Day depict a world united for the purpose of repelling an invasion by a hostile alien culture. Indeed, it seems that the only force that would mobilize the world in a unified direction would be one that poses a common threat, such as a colossal meteor hurling towards the earth, or some other major catastrophic event. If such an event were to occur, all border disputes would become irrelevant in the face of impending disaster. While many would call upon divine intervention for salvation, all nations would surely combine their efforts and call upon science and technology to deal with this common threat. Bankers, lawyers, businessmen, and politicians would all be bypassed. Every resource would be harnessed and mobilized, without any concern for monetary cost or profit. Under this kind of threatening condition, most people realize where the key to their survival lies. For example, during the Second World War, it was the collective mobilization of both human and material resources that lead to a successful resolution for the U.S. and its allies.
As the amount of scientific information grows, nations and people are coming to realize that even in today’s divided world there are, in fact, many common threats that transcend national boundaries. These include overpopulation, energy shortages, pollution, water shortages, economic catastrophe, the spread of uncontrollable disease and so forth. However, faced even with threats of this magnitude, which are common to all nations, the direction of human action will not be altered so long as powerful nations are able to maintain control of the limited resources available.
Although many people, publications, and multi-media presentations portray various aspects of the future and paint spectacular pictures of the developments to come in such areas as transportation, housing, and medicine, they ignore the fact that in a monetary-based economy the full benefits of these developments continue to be available to a relative few. What is not touched upon is how these new technologies of the future can be used to organize societies and economies efficiently and equitably, without the necessity of uniformity, so that everyone would benefit from them. The few think tanks devoted to brainstorming newer approaches to bring social organization up to speed with today’s technological capabilities do not deal with social change as a global systems plan.
Neither are there any overall social plans in government or industry to totally eliminate the negative effects of the displacement of people by machines, nor does there seem to be any genuine concern to do so. Many people believe that in the event of any social breakdown the government will bring about the necessary changes for their survival. This is highly improbable. In the event of such a breakdown the existing government would most likely declare a state of emergency in an attempt to prevent total chaos. It would then institute measures that may address immediate problems, at the same time attempting to preserve existing institutions and power structures, even though these may be a chief contributing factor to the problems.
Many people throughout history have taken politicians to task for actions that have not been entirely in society’s best interest. The reasons for this become clearer when one realizes that even in modern democracies, these leaders do not benefit the lives of the average person. Rather, they maintain the preferential positions of much of the established order. There are growing indications of awareness on the part of people in many areas of the world that events have gone beyond the control of their political leaders. Everywhere we see political figures and parties come and go, political strategies adopted and discarded for their inability to satisfy the demands of one faction or another.
The reason that we do not suggest writing your congressman, or any number of governmental agencies, is that they lack the necessary knowledge to deal with our problems. Their focus is to preserve existing systems, not to change them. It appears that there are few within present-day societies who want to phase themselves out. In modern industrial societies the cause of inaction lies within the cumbersome political process itself, an anachronism in an era when most decisions can be made on any important issue in a split second by the objective entry of relevant data into computers.
The prime conditions that would really effect social change will come about when conditions have deteriorated to such an extent that governments, politicians, and social institutions no longer have the support and confidence of the people. What once worked is acknowledged to be no longer relevant. If the public were better informed, only then would it be possible to introduce a new and improved social arrangement.
Unfortunately, today the majority of people respond to simplistic answers, which tend to repeat the cycle of events. When faced with intolerable social conditions, many of the older patterns will emerge again as people attempt to find someone or something to blame for the conditions, e.g. minorities, immigrants, negligence in adhering to religious principles or family values, and the influences of some inexplicable supernatural forces.
True social change is not brought about by men and women of reason and good will on a personal level. The notion that one can sit and talk to individuals and alter their values is highly improbable. If the person one is talking to does not have the fundamental knowledge of the operation of scientific principles and the processes of natural laws, it is difficult for them to understand how the pieces fit together on a holistic level.
The solutions to our problems will not come about through the application of reason or logic. Unfortunately, at present we do not live in a reasonable or logical world. There appears to be no historical record of any established society’s leader who deliberately and comprehensively redesigned a culture to fit the changing times. While there is no question that political leaders, to a limited extent, modify some modes of behavior, the real factors responsible for social change are brought about by bio-social pressures, which are inherent in all social systems. Change is brought about by natural or economic occurrences that adversely affect the immediate circumstances of large numbers of people.
Some bio-social pressures responsible for social change are limited resources, war, overpopulation, epidemics, natural disasters, economic recession, downsizing on a mass scale, technological displacement of people by machines, and the failure of elected officials to overcome such problems. The introduction of the medium of money to the exchange process brought about a significant change in society, as did the introduction of mechanized agriculture and the Industrial Revolution.
Unfortunately, the world’s outmoded social, political, and international order is no longer appropriate to these times. These obsolete social institutions are unable to grasp the significance of innovative technology to achieve the greatest good for all people, and to overcome the inequities forced upon so many. Competition and scarcity have caused an atmosphere of jealousy and mistrust to develop between individuals and nations. The concepts of proprietary rights, intellectual property, copyrights, and patents manifested in corporate entities and in the sovereignty of nations, preclude the free exchange of information that is necessary to meet global challenges. The European Union represents an attempt to bridge the present with the future, but it falls far short in that it relies on the crutch of the monetary system.
We cannot regress to traditional values, which no longer apply. Any attempt to retreat to the methods of the past would condemn untold millions to a life of needless misery, toil, and suffering.
However, it is not enough to point out the limiting factors that may threaten the survivability of all nations. The challenge that all cultures will encounter in this technological age – some more than others – is that of providing a smoother transition, which would introduce a more appropriate way of thinking about ourselves, the environment and the management of human affairs.
The ultimate survival of the human species depends upon planning on a global scale and to cooperatively seek out new alternatives with a relative orientation for improved social arrangements. If humankind is to achieve mutual prosperity, universal access to resources is essential.
Along with the introduction of new paradigms towards human and environmental concern, there must be a methodology for making this a reality. If these ends are to be achieved, the monetary system must eventually be surpassed by a world resource-based economy. In order to effectively and economically utilize resources, the necessary cybernated and computerized technology could eventually be applied to ensure a higher standard of living for everyone. With the intelligent and humane application of science and technology, the nations of the world could guide and shape the future for the preservation of the environment and humankind.
What is needed to attain a global society is a practical and internationally acceptable comprehensive blueprint. Also needed is an international planning council capable of translating the blueprint and the advantages that would be gained through world unification. This proposal could be presented in the vernacular, in a way that non-technical people can easily understand.
In actuality, no one should make decisions as to how this blueprint will be designed. It must be based on the carrying capacity of our planet, its resources, human needs and the like. In order to sustain our civilization we must coordinate advanced technology and available resources in a total, humane, global systems approach.
There is no doubt that many of the professions that are familiar to us today will eventually be phased out. With the rate of change now taking place, a vast array of obsolete occupations will disappear more rapidly and more extensively than at any other time in history. In a society that applies a systems approach, these professions will be replaced by interdisciplinary teams – the systems analysts, computer programmers, operation researchers, and those who link the world together in vast communications networks that are assisted by high-speed digital computers. They will eventually lead us to large-scale computer-based methods of social operation. Social operations are far too complex today for any elected politicians to handle.
It appears that most politicians do not give serious attention to this and other problems. Only in times of war or national emergencies do we call upon and assemble interdisciplinary teams to help find workable solutions to varying social problems. If we apply the same efforts of scientific mobilization as we do during a war, large-scale beneficial effects can be achieved in a relatively short time. This could readily be accomplished by utilizing many of our universities, training facilities, and staff to best determine possible alternative methods to solving these problems. This could eventually help us to define the possible transitional parameters for the future of a sustainable global civilization.
The process of social change must allow for changing conditions that would continuously update the design parameters and allow for the infusion of new technologies into emerging cultures. Design teams utilizing socially integrated computers could automatically be informed of new developments. As this process is continuously updated, it would generate a more appropriate code of conduct. By appropriate conduct we mean the necessary procedures to accomplish a given task.
All the limitations imposed upon us by our present-day monetary system could be surpassed by adopting a global consensus for a worldwide resource-based economy, in which all the planetary resources are viewed and treated as the common heritage of all the earth’s inhabitants. In this manner, the earth and our technological procedures could provide us with a limitless supply of material goods and services without the creation of debt or taxation whatsoever.