Thinking Without a Banister

Hence, at the moment and perhaps even in the future, human evolution is more a matter of changes in the environment and changes in the social attitudes, ideas, and mentalities of people rather than changes in the biological and genetic makeup of people. In terms of the “human factor” behind change in the environment and the overall social order – especially during a period of political and social turbulence as a result of advancements and evolutions in globalization and technology – Henry Kissinger wrote:

“Increasingly in a time of technological and political upheaval, wisdom counsels that a different path must be chosen. By definition, in leading a society from where it is to where it has never been. A new course presents advantages and disadvantages that will always seem closely balanced. To undertake a journey on a road never before traveled requires character and courage: character because the choice is not obvious; courage because the road will be lonely at first. And the statesman must then inspire his people to persist in the endeavor.”

But as Kissinger noted, such character and courage are hard to develop and hard to find in today’s society. The inability to find such quality and character, in a sense, stems from the inability for the overwhelming majority of people to adjust to the novel circumstances being prompted as a result of globalization and technology, as Hannah Arendt noted. For one, the internet and social media means that a great deal of labor and work has shifted to the cyber world, which in turn has changed collective and individual behaviors and lifestyles. Second, globalization and technology have led to a global situation where the migration and movement of people is coupled with the mixture of cultures and ideas. Thus, the changes in behavior, lifestyle, and the mixture of cultures and ideas is something which is hard to adjust to for many people without the proper education, leadership, and training which would enable them to make the adjustment. 

Changes in the environment and social order also coincide with the diffusion of economic and military power as a result of changes and evolutions in technology. This diffusion can either bode well or bode ominously poor for international society. As Jeffrey Sachs noted:

“In the early twenty-first century, we are again entering into a new geopolitical era; power is becoming more diffused, most notably with Asia joining Western Europe and the United States in technological, economic, and military preeminence. China, India, North Korea, and Pakistan are nuclear powers. The new age of digital technologies is abetting the global shift in power relations generally, but also through the advent of new forms of cyberwarfare.”

Hence, the diffusion of economic and military power through technology can impact the environment and social order either in a positive way or a negative way, depending on the psychology and social attitude of international society. Political and social turbulence and upheaval always accompany changes and evolutions in globalization and technology, as Sachs noted. The question is whether the political and social turbulence and upheaval this time around can be overcome in a smooth and successful manner.

Also, just as Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia had to cope with Western technological power and the abuses which came from that technological asymmetry and imbalance starting from about 500 years ago, the Western world now has to cope with the diffusion of such technological power to virtually all parts of the world. And in terms of the drastic and rapid changes in the environment and social order which are occurring as a result of this diffusion of economic, military, and technological power through technology, Sachs employed a few lines from a Bob Dylan lyric, which state:

For the loser now

Will be later to win

For the times they are a-changin.’

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