Organizing the Future of Humanity

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 4 May 2020

Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

Critical Dimensions to Be Born in Mind

4 May 2020 – Commentary on Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century: a discussion and Call to Action on Global Catastrophic Risks (2020) arising from a roundtable of the Commission for the Human Future

Introduction

The Commission for the Human Future convened an expert roundtable of Australian scientists, business leaders, public servants and academics which has called for the world’s nations to come together to develop a strategy for human survival. This was announced as a Call for a Global Plan for Human Survival (Media release, 28 March 2020) and subsequently as a Call to Action on Global Catastrophic Risks (Media release, 22 April 2020). This has resulted in a report (Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century: a discussion and Call to Action on Global Catastrophic Risks, 2020).

The report is divided into three Parts:

  • The Challenge, in which ten risks are identified
  • Pathways ahead
  • Towards solving our greatest risks.

It includes a set of five Appendices:

  1. Contributors to the CHF Roundtable Discussion and Report
  2. Commission for the Human Future Communique, March 28, 2020
  3. Resources on Catastrophic Risk and its Solution (listing activities and reports on global risks by a “growing network of august institutions and individuals round the Planet, and their invaluable contribution to our own deliberations“).
  4. About the Commission for the Human Future (indicated to be “a body of researchers and concerned citizens dedicated to finding and developing solutions to the greatest challenge in human history — the complex of catastrophic global threats that now confront us all“)
  5. Become a Supporter of the Commission for the Human Future

Most of the contributors prepared a page of key points for consideration by participants in the Roundtable before the discussion began. Three separate sessions were held by Zoom, each lasting more than 1.5 hours. Each was attended by 30+ of the participants. Each of the three sessions was recorded and the discussion was transcribed and distributed to all participants. This report has been authored for the Commission by an editorial group of five: John Hewson, Arnagretta Hunter, Bob Douglas, Julian Cribb and Alison Leigh, who have drawn from the transcripts and key points.

In commenting on this initiative, the concern here is not to focus on the content, since the points made feature to a varying degree in the articulations of other initiatives, as the Report notes in Appendix 3. The concern here is the role of yet another articulation in a context in which such reports have tended to be ignored — to the point of being readily forgotten. How is that phenomenon to be self-reflexively recognized and addressed within reports contributing to that pattern? Insights in that regard are themselves dangerously neglected (Michael Wogalter, Handbook of Warnings, 2006; Karen A. Cerulo, Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst, 2006).

Potentially more problematic is the tendency of such reports to ignore the specific contributions of their predecessors without accounting for what they consider to be irrelevant. In this case the argument focuses on how such a report can be organized in terms of “ten risks” without clarifying why a larger or smaller number would not be more appropriate — given the complexities of a crisis of crises, as recognized to varying degrees by others.

The ambiguity of a homonym is deliberately implied in the subtitle to emphasize that the number of critical dimensions discussed is both cognitively engendered and sustained thereafter by psychosocial processes. This is considered consistent with the arguments of George Lakoff and Rafael E. Núñez (Where Mathematics Comes From: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being, 2000).

The commentary concludes with a variety of dynamic representations in 3D of any 10-fold pattern of “risks”, values, or strategic commandments reframing the tendency to represent them as bullet-points or “pillars” (Coherent Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference, 2008). These follow from earlier experiments of current relevance (Spike-endowed Global Civilization as COVID-19: Humanity “bristles” as the world “burns”, 2020).

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