is a revised version of a plenary lecture and available in the APLS Journal.
was delivered at the
Eighteenth Annual Meeting of the Association for Politics and the Life
Sciences, September 4, 1998, Boston. Comments were invited for the
Twenties APLS 2000 Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. August 31-September
3, 2000 and printed in APLS, Vol.
Abstract. As the
twentieth century ends, we may identify both constructive and destructive
trends that will influence the future of humanity. Which set of trends
will dominate the future is uncertain. Attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors
all interact to direct the flow of change over time. However, the options
and constraints of human life are ultimately fixed by those cosmic elements
of the environment over which humans have no control. The modern
assumption of a world without end or limits risks collision with that obdurate
reality. Facing threats to its long-term survival, humanity is challenged
to learn how to build a sustainable future. A successful effort will require
a concerted and cooperative effort among all fields of knowledge. This
article identifies some of the trends that threaten humanity's future and
suggests four lines of action that should be pursued in order to reduce
the likelihood that humanity will destroy itself.
The attached comment
by Heiner Benking was invited by L.K. Caldwell and will be subject to editorial
changes. Please see the Journal and Society hompage http://www.lssu.edu/apls/
and Caldwell's site in Indiana http://www.indiana.edu/~speaweb/perspectives/humanity.html.
see the Comments of the Symposium:
Commentators include: Herman
E. Daly, Is Humanity Destined?, Back to Basics in Environmental Politics,
Sheila Jasanoff, Our Predicament: We Can’t Know Enough to Know, Donald
N. Michael, The Hare and the Tortoise: Dead in the Heat? Cross-National
Differences and Knowledge Gaps in Environmental Policy, Nicholas Watts,...
the full list of the twenty-eight
contributions can be found at the end of my comment or at the APLS
Invited Comment by Heiner
Benking in APLS Round-Table:
Caldwell (1999) allows us a look behind the facades or under the surface
of the dangers threatening humankind. I subscribe to his analysis and synthesis
of the threads and dilemmas, including his four lines of action.
this unique chance to comment on such a fundamental and basic article,
I will not lament over words, dates, or issues left out in his piece, as
this would be the typical trick of people avoiding the big picture and
the urgencies and immediacies at hand. Instead, I will try to go with him
on a higher plateau of pondering where humankind is going and what the
issues and challenges are in my view after reading his article.
Images and Models
definitely agree with Caldwell that we are in danger of losing our shared
rationality. This danger is real, as we are not equipped by evolution for
such fundamental and rapid change. Subject to this glut of new ways, means,
and messages, we are out of touch and subject to confusion about the basics
of our existence, like the "loss of distance" and the questioning of our
feelings, positions, and perspectives in this new, strange environment.
Being and feeling "lost in space" (slide 6), we try to avoid confronting
our outdated world-models and views; instead, we invent "spaces of flow"
or "a second flood" as part of a post-modern cyberculture. There are alternative
and non-dualistic models that we can structure, merge, and morph (more
about this later), but we are afraid of leaving the mold, afraid of leaving
the shores and sailing into new lands. I will return to alternative models
and views, even on very central terms like "net" or "space" later; at this
point, I just want to give an example of how we use language metaphorically.
I invite you, for example, to see "space" as an extensional potential that
allows us to make issues real, and solid, and allows us to make issues
and contexts real instead of making us feel "lost in space." So please
take our terms for real, not as empty in a void of nothingness. We focus
here on terms, as the modern technologies have usurped central terms like
"space" or the "net." (slide 6)
a series at the Humboldt University in Berlin at the end of the millennium,
which we called "Zeiten-Wende" or "Zeiten-Welten-Wende," (slide 4) I focussed
on the modern media impact, on pictures and icons we use to paint and communicate
possible futures. Examples from thinkers and writers through the ages included
"show" (Illich), "varieté" (Huxley), "sweet mash" (in German, "brei"
or pastry) according to the Grimm’s fairy tales. These pictures or analogies
describe our modern world of edutainment, politainment, lawtainment, or
bread and games as we know from Roman times, as in the following examples:
images describing loss of control or freedom include "prison" (Orwell),
"(second/final) flood" (Bible, Ascott, Lévy) "bomb" (Einstein for
telecommunications impact). Lynton Caldwell is obviously not alone when
pondering about our destiny, but he does more—he invites us take a "middle
Concepts Real and Adding Context
that is exactly what I am working on and want to outline here: real alternatives.
We have three alternatives: we can either immerse ourselves in the issues,
or take on an observer status that makes us a little more immune to the
details, or as the middle path, oscillate between the different perspectives,
but in a way that we know where we are and what we are looking at, and
in which context. Our exercise is one of physical and of mental mobility
at the same time, bridging objects and subjects, re-establishing of creativity
and fantasy in combination with questioning identities, values, levels,
proportions, and consequences along and across scales, cultures, languages,
and times. In this physical and deep immersive model, called "House
of Eyes", children have tested alternative positions and perspectives
middle route here is trying to leave dualistic traps of being right or
wrong. It is not an easy perspective, especially if we only can use words
instead of concurrently feeling and showing what we do. So just consider
one moment not being right or wrong, or only in one place or one model,
at any one time, but instead being able to see their relativity, the various
aspects, and be able to be concrete or solid in an artificial terrain or
model. If we follow this thread just one further moment, we can imagine
embodying issues in extensive spaces as peace rooms, situation rooms, or
order spaces, instead of "playing" in war rooms or with models like architects
and designers. By considering the difference of abstract "spa-t-ial"
and embodied "spa-c-ial" conceptions, we might be more prepared
for modern times of media and tele-technologies, and use the new "space-scapes"
to combine concepts and their context.
has urged us to try something new, especially when we are confronted with
high risks and have no safe and clear direction to take. He has encouraged
us not only to share and care, but to dare! We have done so over the years
with children, and also tried to open the eyes and ears of "elders" with
varying results. So the way forward may be a way back, by eliminating too
much abstraction and coming back by drawing on many senses/intelligences
(Gardner), or poly-aesthetics in the sense of Kueckelhaus,
Mozart. In our "House of Eyes" we invite such a concert of perspectives
and senses in order to not get lost in the one and only right view. Immanuel
Kant warned us that "concepts without percepts are empty, percepts without
concepts are blind." So what I propose here is to look into other ways
and means, to study how, for example, the Japanese bio-holistic "baa" concept
might allow us to appreciate other forms of space, nested spaces, and space-scapes.
section with the figures was later inserted into the comment!
see also the "postscript" file below.
On the WWW we are able to include picures
and links, giving you and idea and structure which allows you to go deeper.
I have added an arbitrary collection of presentation folios to help you
get where and how I want to explore issues like I learned to explore with
models pleases we can not go to, like in the deepers regions or levels
of Planet Earth or some Outer Stars. I will reference in the article
to the figures but can not "develop" the whole story in this very short
comment. Please also note the later added "epiloge" which provides some
entries into the context and background.