Julian Crib FRSA responds to the RSA ANZ blogging challenge, hosted in collaboration with 92Y as part of the Seven Days of Genius Festival - a global festival celebrating the power of new ideas. Julian advocates for humans to learn to think collaboratively to tackle the greatest risks we face as a species.
Humanity is in the early stages of the most significant evolution in its history: learning to think as a species.
This is the linking of human minds, values, information and solutions at lightspeed and in real time around the planet, via the internet and social media.
Global thought may be arriving in the nick of time, opening the way to solving some of humanity’s greatest threats – including climate change, famine, global poisoning, weapons of mass destruction, environmental collapse, resource scarcity, pandemic disease, dangerous new technologies and overpopulation.
Thanks to the spread of the internet and social media, people are for the first time communicating across the barriers of language, race, nationality, religion, region and gender that have long divided us.
While the internet contains much rubbish and malignance, it also contains huge amounts of goodwill, trustworthy science-based advice, practical solutions to problems – and people joining hands in good causes. We just have to learn to choose wisely between the two.
There is a parallel. In the second trimester of a baby’s gestation a marvellous thing happens: the nerve cells in the embryonic brain begin to connect – and a mind is born. An inanimate mass of cells becomes a sentient being, capable of thought, imagination, memory, logic, feelings and dreams.
Today individual humans are connecting, at lightspeed, around a planet – just like the neurons in the foetal brain. We are now in the process of forming a universal, Earth-sized ‘mind’.
A higher understanding, and potentially a higher intellect, is in genesis – capable of thought, reason and resolute action to counter the existential threats that are building up around us.
Humans are learning to think at supra-human level by applying millions of minds simultaneously to the issues, in real time, by sharing our knowledge freely and by generating faster global consensus on what needs to be done to secure our future.
Today, hard scientific evidence confirms humanity faces 10 mega-risks, the result of our burgeoning population and the overgrowth in its demands on the Earth’s natural resources and systems.
However, practical solutions to all of these problems exist – and are capable of being shared universally.
The problem we face is that some governments and big corporations are reluctant to act. They are placing short-term self-interest above the interests of the human species in sustaining our existence on the planet.
The internet is showing that their time is up – the energy debate, and the way it is accelerating the transition to clean energy, is a perfect example of this. The growing worldwide resistance to toxic food and consumer products, from the US and China to Europe, Australasia and South America is another case.
What will take over from failing national governments and transnational autocracies will not be a ‘world government’, as some people imagine. It will be a human species that shares thought, ideas, values and solutions at lightspeed. An Earth-sized democracy, capable of disciplining any government or corporation that puts self-interest before human interest.
By 2020 there will be 4.1 billion internet users – over half the population. By 2030, it is forecast, everyone will be online. For the first time in history a conversation among the whole of humanity becomes possible – and what more urgent and appropriate topic than the survival of the human species?
Through the internet young people and elders alike are reaching out to one another in real time, across the divides of race, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, generation, gender, socioeconomic status and prejudice. They are learning how similar we all are. How many things we share. How we can ‘like’, help, support and depend on each other.
They are also learning how deadly are the prejudices, the ignorance, the fears and the hatreds of our parents towards other humans – the things which bred the wars of previous centuries. And how utterly pointless.
The antidotes to ignorance and fear are knowledge and understanding. The internet is capable of supplying both. People just need to be able to discriminate between what is good for humanity – and what isn’t. What is true and trustworthy, from ‘fake news’. We need to become ‘informed consumers’ on the internet, as we do in choosing foods or any other product for safety, health and sustainability.
Above all, we need to hear more women’s voices about the human future. I would argue, as a rule, women do not start wars, strip-mine landscapes, plunder the oceans, clear-fell forests, exterminate wildlife or poison the food, air and water we need for survival.
Women tend to consider the needs of the next generation. This is the thinking, and global leadership, we now need to ensure human survival in this, the century of mega-threats. A universal internet offers the vehicle for it.