Global Challenge of the Global Challenge


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

¿ In-quest of a decision-making framework appropriate to a world in crisis?


26 Dec 2016 – This is a response to the announcement of the surprising Global Challenges Prize for a New Shape Remodelling Global Cooperation (2017). As articulated in a letter to potential participants, it has been instigated by László Szombatfalvy, founder and chairman of the Global Challenges Foundation, created in 2012 with the aim of deepening understanding of the greatest risks to humanity — and catalyzing ideas around how these global risks can be minimized or eliminated.

Acclaimed as one of Sweden’s most successful investors of all time, László Szombatfalvy is urging the younger generation to rethink global governance. The Global Challenges Prize takes the form of $5 million USD in prizes for the best ideas that re-envision global governance for the 21st century (Tom Turula, This Swedish billionaire has issued a $5 million award for anyone who invents a UN 2.0, Nordic Business Insider, 25 Nov 2016). The founder is inspired by the belief that radical measures are required to tackle inequality, and that the world’s rich need to take more responsibility. Proposals are to be submitted before 27th May 2017, with results to be announced in November 2017 after evaluation by a panel of academic experts followed by a high-level international jury of respected global figures. The jury will choose the final winners based on how well they meet a set of criteria.

The following is a reflection on the global challenge of any such delightfully provocative global challenge. How best to apprehend the possibility it represents and the nature of the response it is expected to engender? The new challenge is of course unique and original but it also emerges within a context of invocations to creative new thinking over decades past — all evoking hopes for their fruitful outcome.

There is clearly a case for learning from the past, given the oft-cited warning of George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. There are of course the other oft-cited learnings of Albert Einstein (Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results and We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them). There is also the precautionary insight of H. L. Mencken: For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

None of these may be significant if the primary purpose is to evoke a process of engagement on the part of those making submissions — to evoke hope, if “hope-mongering” is not to be called into question. There is however a concern with how best to benefit collectively from this process, whatever its effect with regard to elaborating a more effective decision-making framework.

For those who have long been concerned about the evident problems of global civilization, and the frustrated potential in that regard, there is a further concern. How have past responses been so ineffectual, despite the commitment variously applied at different stages by the best and the brightest — with whatever level of funding? Given the focus on decision-making of the new Global Challenges Prize, is there then a case for implicating its own decision-making process in envisioning possibilities for the future and how these are to be selected? From the self-referential perspective of cybernetics, this suggests the need to recognize that: unless a proposal takes account of how it is itself part of the problem, it is unlikely to comprehend or encompass the nature of the solution required.

Such a consideration applies equally to the following commentary. To indicate a necessary break from potentially outmoded conventional patterns in the English language, the subtitle is a question. It is prefigured by the inverted question mark ¿ to recall the need for the unusual — possible even an inversion of perspective of which the emergence of populism is perhaps only one indicator. The subtitle also exploits a play on “in quest”, variously understood as “in quest” and “inquest”, as well as offering some sense of “questing within”. “Inquest” is a reminder of the relevance of any probable future perspective in evaluating the current response to crisis.

In that spiruit, given the hopes engendered by past initiatives — and their track record — it is questionable how seriously any new proposal should now be taken. In taking it seriously however, there is a case for doing so somewhat playfully as suggested by the following account (Enacting Transformative Integral Thinking through Playful Elegance: a Symposium at the End of the Universe? 2010). What should a Global Challenge Prize evoke in anticipation of a collapse of global civilization — as variously imagined?

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