We are in desperate need of a new social vision -- one that insists that freedom and prosperity is contingent on the transparent use of reason.
I call my vision the Enlightenment Economy.
For over a decade, we have been taught that the capitalist market economy has taken on the form of 'experience economy': Paraphrasing B. Joseph Pine II and Joseph H. Gilmore, the intellectual godfathers of this business paradigm, experience economy denotes an economy in which "companies use services as the stage, and good as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event."
In the experience economy, success is measured by the extent to which businesses are able to make a sensory impact on the bodies and minds of individuals by meeting their simple, immediate, and unreflected needs as triggered by emotion, passion, and impulse.
But the trials of our time cannot be met by the satisfaction of immediate personal needs or even by reviving the notion of a Great Society. Instead, we need to come to terms with the brutal fact that, all ideological connotations and differences aside, human survival as such is in danger.
As a renewable energy professional, most of my waking hours are spent worrying about resource management and the impact of our growing world population projected to peak at 9.5 to 10 billion later this century according to leading demographers. The threats and imperatives that global developments present us with are almost incomprehensible. And my conclusion is that, more than ever, it is time for us to sober up and realize that the pursuit of freedom and self-fulfillment serve as no guarantee against idiocy.
Even the greatest insights of human faculty and the most promising breakthroughs of technological progress, holding so many promises and such big potential for us, are undermined by the private satisfaction of personal needs, political infighting, as well as the economic pursuit of short-term particular interest and gain.
Together, these modes of behavior blend in a collective stupidity that leaves the very future of mankind itself at peril.
Global heating causing water levels to rise dramatically, with one meter of sea level rise being well within the range of recent projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); shortness of fresh water supplies leaving 780 million people with unsafe drinking water sources according to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP); a loss of 75 percent of all genetic diversity of agricultural crops jeopardizing future food supplies estimated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); spread of poverty causing migration and threats to international security -- all at a pace never seen before in the history of Man.
Brad Johnson of Forecast Facts stated recently: "Politics may be the art of the possible, but climate change is an inflexible reality." He is more right, I believe, than any of us would want him to be. Indeed, so many of our most pressing problems seem to define an inflexible reality of such a depth and magnitude that we are really left with no choice at all.
If we are to survive as a species, we need to undo the deadlock of partisan politics. We need to operate in the global marketplace in a way that we don't today. And we need to change the way we live our personal lives.
Licking the open wounds from global financial breakdown, we now know that Francis Fukuyama's proclamation that the spread of liberal democracy and free market capitalism had put history to an end was premature. If we are, however, to reclaim our common future, we owe it to ourselves to settle for no less than reason to guide us.
I look forward to elaborating on the specifics of Enlightenment Economy, its different layers, aspects, and implications. Stick around: I'll keep you posted!
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