The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The big question

Prospect Magazine (hat tip: The Belmont Club) has invited 100 eminent “thinkers” – scientists, economists, sociologists, politicians, writers, government officials, artists – to address the “big” question: Left and right defined the 20th century. What's next?. I’d suggest spending a bit of time reading their answers. As the magazine editors note: “The pessimism of their responses is striking: almost nobody expects the world to get better in the coming decades, and many think it will get worse.”

My own humble response:

I think the greatest challenge to those in developed and developing countries is grappling with complexity:

  • information/communication complexity evidenced by agenda-driven mass media, a torrent of competing sources, and a trend toward sensationalism over fact-based;
  • social complexity evidenced by competing needs of young vs. old, rich vs poor, educated vs. uneducated;
  • technological complexity evidenced by changes that are happening so fast that few have the capacity to absorb them;
  • economic complexity driven by globalization and its impact on local economies and work;
  • political complexity evidenced by retaliatory conflict among political parties that leads to poor legislation and poorer decisions;
  • ideological complexity exemplified by the current long term clash between Jihadist Islam and secular Western democracies.

The challenge of course, isn’t really complexity. It’s that most people flee a complex problem, preferring to abandon critical thinking and believe the demagogue who offers simple (some would say, infantile) solutions, to look for guidance from those who would take away the freedoms they hold most dear, to grasp at a utopian vision of a future that will never come to pass. The challenge is, as it always was, the human psyche and it’s never-ending quest to seek simplicity and calm when the world is neither simple nor tranquil.