DATE: October 7, 2017
PREVIOUSLY UPDATED: October 7, 2017
OBJECTIVE: Proposal to world leaders to help ensure the best future for Life and Earth.
ASSUMPTION 1: The side effects of technology represent existential threats to Life and Earth.
ASSUMPTION 2: Humankind is entering a time where global cooperation is necessary for survival.
ASSUMPTION 3: Some of the committees and suggestions made in this memorandum may currently exist within the United Nations but the intent is to emphasize them if that is the case.
NOTE: This memorandum is under continued development. The most recent change date is shown above.
PROPOSAL: Decisions regarding the future of Life and Earth need to be more intelligent especially with regard to the side effects of our technologies. It is necessary to either create a new global decision-making body, or give one such as the United Nations, the power to enact greater centralized global decision-making that would encourage cooperation between countries and cultures and have them redirect more of their resources toward the welfare of the planet. Creation of a Global Education System (GES) based on the contributions of all countries would be done through the UN. The GES would be a knowledge base based on science and philosophy that would help in the implementation of world policies, especially with regard to technology and related side effects such as climate change and risks related to artificial intelligence.
The GES would be considered the most up to date, researched, and credible source of concentrated knowledge for world leaders and corporations.
The GES would provide the knowledge and infrastructure for the creation of a multilingual education program available for schooling to all countries and cultures.
The GES would include a world library through the internet that would be accessible to all participating countries.
The GES would be a preemptive cooperative approach by humankind to reduce conflict, and help humankind gravitate toward a mode of thought that will take Life and Earth to the best future possible while maintaining some level of diversity. Though the GES might be a slower means to give countries a common vision for the future of Life and Earth, it has become our best alternative. The need for such a system has gone up exponentially in relation to the risks associated with many of our technologies. Global misinterpretation of our physical world, careless global decision-making and policy, and conflict between countries, are luxuries we can no longer afford given that the side effects of our technologies have made existential risks more probable for Life and Earth (e.g. nuclear conflicts, climate change, etc.).
Acknowledgement by the global community that the side effects of our technologies exhibit existential threats, significant enough such that they warrant global cooperation.
Gradual integration of countries and cultures through the creation of a global education system (GES), as opposed to the imposition of force and other distancing approaches that tend to cause conflict.
Empower the United Nations (or divisions such as UNESCO) so that it acts as the primary global body for facilitating the creation, development, and availability of a global education system. For the purpose of simplicity, "global education system" will be referred to as "GES". The collection of accurate data, interpretation, and processing of the global data would be a continuously evolving process hence the GES would be adaptive, especially with regard to evaluating and monitoring the development of new technologies that might represent existential risks.
The global education system would be based on science and philosophy. This would require the continuous collection of global knowledge and resources (including capital) from countries, institutions, and corporations worldwide. The GES would not only be a source of scientific knowledge but also a philosophical foundation to answer some of the deeper questions we have about Life, our belief systems, and our existence. The GES is often referred to in "Life and Earth" as a "Universal Philosophy" which was meant to imply some basic global understanding of science and philosophy that would blanket, or complement, the existing education systems offered by countries.
Creation of a method to make the GES easily available to all countries and cultures.
Creation of new committees so that the United Nations can have greater influence with countries and perform broader tasks that will improve the global community.
Overall vision - The influence of the United Nations would become enhanced in order to deal with global issues directly. This is based on the assumption that a GES could be created to enable the most intelligent decisions possible from both a scientific and philosophical standpoint. In addition the infrastructure within the UN would be changed such that a number of new committees would be created to deal with some of the aforementioned objectives. This restructuring in general would be aimed at facilitating the development of a GES for humankind that would make us more collectively intelligent. The GES would help us learn to interpret the physical world more accurately and hopefully this would improve the decision-making ability of humankind. Ultimately the primary objective is to ensure that Life and Earth endures as long as possible, while at the same time we maximize the pleasure that humankind gains from its existence.
The following are the numerically corresponding details for the items listed in the "Summary of topics related to the proposal" noted above.
I believe it is fair to say that this memorandum, and my entire effort on "Life and Earth", are primarily a reaction to the potential dangers from the side effects of technologies created by humankind. The advancements in technology that humankind has made in the last few centuries are a new phenomenon since the beginning of our evolution on Earth. It means we must change how we move forward into the future, primarily in that we need to gravitate more toward cooperation versus competition. Competition and conflict have been a part of survival for humankind but a change in this script is now due given that we have changed the game of survival with our technologies. This memorandum is a message of care, hope, and optimism to world leaders so they might act collectively in the best interests of Life and Earth.
Humankind has learned to manipulate matter and energy in order to increase the probability of our survival and also improve our life condition. The improbable combinations of matter and energy that we create, our technologies, rarely exist by chance in Nature. Whether it is a recipe for a cake or a recipe for a nuclear reaction, such combinations are rare on Earth, or virtually impossible, without human intervention. Humans have become so proficient at mixing and matching matter and energy that we have created an exponentially changing environment for Life and Earth. Humankind has even come to the point where it can reformat matter and energy so that it can duplicate human intelligence. It may be that in the future this duplication, often termed as artificial intelligence, surpasses the intelligence of humankind itself. This is often termed as the technological singularity. Our quest is never-ending to develop technologies so that we can survive, adapt, and improve the pleasure we gain in this condition we call "Life". Technology might save us but, even with all the benefits of our technologies, the side effects may lead to our demise as we tread more in the unfamiliar waters that lie ahead in the future.
If one chooses to believe that human caused climate change, growing proliferation of nuclear weapons, or the risks related to artificial intelligence are irrelevant, then there is no need for this memorandum. Going further, if one concludes that the "good" in technology will always solve the problems related to the "side effects" of our technologies then this memorandum is also not relevant. It is only relevant if we are willing to acknowledge that there may be very real and significant repercussions from current and future technologies.
In order to clarify that "good" technology may not always resolve the side effects, imagine the Earth to be the size of a small island, and that nuclear weapons existed that could virtually vaporize the island. There would be no question in one's mind that if they were detonated that Life would end. It really therefore is just a matter of degree to which the side effects impact the Earth. We do know that the size of the Earth is limited like an island, and also that there is no immediate equivalent replacement for Earth. The benefits of technology may not necessarily always resolve the side effects.
We are the creators and primary benefactors of the amazing technologies that we have brought to Life and Earth. We must also be the responsible guardians of our creations. If we can accept that technological side effects may represent problems of global magnitude, then countries and cultures should recognize that cooperation is necessary in order to control the consequences of these side effects.
Humankind is entering a future where it must cooperate. Countries and cultures have severe difficulties cooperating due to their different belief systems and economic interests. Our conflicts often leave us confronting each other aggressively in such ways as sanctions, or even war. For example, in 2017 North Korea expressed its determination to maintain its interests by displaying their nuclear capabilities. The possibility of war and the use of nuclear weapons was a clear possibility. At the time I write this it is still a pending possibility.
Conflicts between countries and cultures such as this are predominant but we can no longer use force to deal with them as we might have done in the past, especially given the presence of our world impacting technologies such as nuclear weapons. One needs only to imagine what it would be like if every country had the technological ability to cause existential risk to the entire planet, either for example through the side effects of new age nuclear weapons or some future advanced form of AI. If a precedent is set now whereby force is acceptable, such as the aforementioned conflict with North Korea, then in a similar future scenario where existential risks are possible, such a precedent would not be logical if we wish to survive. Situations such as North Korea are the true tests of how we will be able to handle even bigger conflicts and risks in the future. Will we be able to change the nature of countries and humankind so that such conflicts do not occur, or will we learn to cooperate and appease our differences in the face of such conflict? Ultimately when the side effects of our technologies become existential threats, these will be our only options.
We are now at a point where we can no longer engage in conflicts. The only solution is to reduce the possibility of conflict between countries and cultures. This means that our behaviour must follow the path of a common goal - some degree of common thinking. I believe the best approach is to find some way to integrate how countries and cultures interpret the world. This can only be done through global education that is accurate and considered useable by countries and cultures.
Force and aggression on occasion may be the only option, but should be explored only after all alternatives have been exhausted. Sometimes one must cut off a finger to save the body but if the infection has spread so far one must find some other way to adapt to the infection. If the side effects of our technologies are not curable we must adapt by finding a cure. One of our best options seems to be that we should cooperate as if we were the organs in a body working toward the welfare of the body. Instead of confronting each other based on territorial and emotional imperatives, we must work from the very beginning, and that starts with global education. It may be a slower process to change global thinking, but its effect should be more broad and enduring. What we learn we carry with us. This leaves us prepared in advance for new technological side effects that we may face. In one way a global education system might be considered a type of immunity that we can build that contends with the infection of new technological side effects that humankind might encounter. Global education, especially intelligent in science, is our immunity to potential infection before it starts. We must be educated and intelligent in both science and philosophy in order to deal with our future.
One of the best options we have available in order to create an intelligent centralized decision-making body that could also introduce a global education system (GES), is to broaden and increase the decision-making capability of the United Nations. Individual countries could contribute in its development by offering their science and philosophy from individuals, institutions, and corporations. Participation in decision-making would be based on their level of participation. For example, countries that contribute the most useful scientific data through their institutions or corporations, or that contribute in the process of making the education system made available globally, would have a greater impact on the final decisions. Some countries, though with smaller economies, might still have a significant impact depending on what percent of their resources they provide. The greater their contribution, the greater say they would have in its creation, content, and implementation. In the following section I propose two key elements of a global education system, which are science and philosophy. If the United Nations were given greater influence over global decision-making I might recommend that two new divisions be created being UNOS (United Nations of Science) and UNOP (United Nations of Philosophy).
Throughout "Life and Earth" I have emphasized how the flow of matter and energy, that which we perceive the universe to be, governs our physical existence. Regardless of our beliefs or religions, we all acknowledge that gravity exists. Our confirmation in our belief in gravity simply occurs when we acknowledge that if we release a ball from our hand, it will drop to the ground. Our diverse beliefs are virtually infinite but the reality of the physical world, that which is expressed in the language of science, is the one we can come closest to agreeing on. We all must have a grasp of science if we are to move forward in this New World of complex technologies and deal with their respective side effects successfully.
In the following I have outlined two new, or possibly reconstructed, divisions of the UN that might be helpful in creating the foundation for a global education system (GES):
UNOS (United Nations of Science)
Science is critical in understanding the physical universe. It allows us to see the micro world of the atom and the macro world of the celestial bodies of the universe. These worlds are not obvious to the senses of human beings. They can only be made known to us through education in science and the use of scientific tools (e.g. telescopes and microscopes). One cannot know that there is a universe of solar systems, stars and galaxies unless we are educated on the subject. One cannot know that there is a world of bacteria, atoms and molecules, and even a limited number of only about 100 elements that we are aware of, unless they are educated on the subject. If we can know that the world is bigger than we see, and smaller than we can see, then maybe we can all realize that there may be more to care about than just what we see in our everyday lives. Maybe we can come to the realization how fortunate we are to live on such a lush, fragile, and rare planet. If we can see just how relatively small we are in the universe, and also how unique Life and Earth is, maybe leaders and individuals would place more of their effort on the preservation of Life and Earth. It might be that we could even learn to show empathy and care for the Earth, just as we might show empathy and care to family and friends.
Only through scientific knowledge of the rarity of Life and Earth will it become logical to all of us that we must take action to protect what we have. Education in science will help us know how quickly we can move forward with our technologies, when to stop, and when to retreat backwards when necessary. Education in science can be the way for us all to find a common language and a common way of interpreting the world around us - the world that we are all a part of.
UNOS (United Nations of Philosophy)
The philosophy of whom and what we are as human beings is critical. We must be educated in such a way that we can look objectively upon ourselves and see our unique qualities as human beings, and our flaws. We must realize that our sense of ego and self-image can take us in directions that may feel good in the short term but place others and ourselves at risk in the physical world. We must realize the value of cooperation and understand when diversity and competition are also important. We must understand what we are.
I don't claim to have all the answers but I have tried to address many important questions in the section called "Understanding Ourselves" in "Life and Earth". Questioning reality, consciousness, and Life itself is all a part of our philosophical reflection on the human species. My hope is that the combined minds of all the countries on the planet can help us gravitate to a better understanding of what we are and where we want to see ourselves in the centuries to come. Such knowledge would be very valuable as part of a global education system (GES) because it would help shape our values, ethics, and goals. For example, bringing together representatives from various cultures and countries of different religions, and opening discussion regarding our religions within the grand scheme of our existence, might be a useful step in understanding how we come to our diverse belief systems, and to our various interpretations of the world.
If we can better understand what we are, we can then answer the question of where we want to see ourselves in the distant future. We need to understand what is really important to Life and Earth, and how we can best allocate our resources to achieve this goal. If we place our resources on efforts that will take us in the wrong direction, then they are not only wasted but also we diverge from the best possible path for Life and Earth.
Imagine for a moment a global education system (GES) comprised of the two components mentioned above, science and philosophy. It would essentially be a "Universal Philosophy". It would be made available to complement established education systems across the planet. How it would be integrated into various cultures and countries is another question in itself, which will be addressed in the next section. What is important though is that, regardless of how it is received, the global community must have available a reliable and credible education system that countries can use to get on the same page in order to make the best decisions possible for Life and Earth.
The internet is the most widespread means of communicating data on Earth but it is also such a vast sea of changing and diverse data. Though a challenge, I believe a global education system made available on the internet managed by such organizations as UNOP and UNOS would serve as a tool to help countries work together in order to make better decisions. I imagine for example that in the case of climate change, data could be collected and analysed which all countries could access. It would bring them closer to determining the most accurate probability estimates as to whether humans were the cause of climate change. The data would be considered reliable, accurate, and up to date. Data and trends would be provided and continually updated by world scientists, institutions, and corporations from all countries. Interpretations from the GES on this subject would be considered the best source for world leaders and individuals.
As mentioned earlier, in 2017 the U.S.A. chose not to participate in the Paris Climate Accord but if greater knowledge was available as part of a GES, the outcome might have been different. Suppose that a GES existed that estimated that the probability was 82% instead of say 55% that climate change was caused by human activity. The numbers could easily be the reverse but the GES would help us determine the most probable and accurate answer, whatever it might be. Such knowledge could easily change public opinion and the decisions made by countries, regardless of lobbying that might be to the contrary. These are arbitrary numbers but I believe a system such as this would assist. As another example, take artificial intelligence. If a better understanding of this technology was made through the GES then humankind might be able to be more prepared with a better understanding of the probable risks related to AI.
One of the responsibilities of the United Nations would be to ensure that the GES was made available in all languages. This would be critical and is one of the tremendous advantages of making the UN (UNOS and UNOP) responsible for the GES. As a trusted and unbiased worldwide representative, they could work in conjunction with all countries (scientists, institutions, and corporations) in order to create the GES. Likewise, as a worldwide representative, it would be easier for the UN to offer and integrate the GES with the education systems of various countries. Even if there were countries that were not in agreement with using the GES it should still be interpreted in the language of that culture or country for those that might find it of use. Even if it were made available in the language of a specific country or culture the GES would not be imposed upon them. It would be a resource they could access primarily through the internet.
Quite clearly many countries would not be interested in participating in a global education system. One primary reason might be that many of the scientific and philosophical interpretations proposed might be too divergent from the beliefs and objectives of different countries. Regardless there are two areas of interest where a global education system would be potentially very useful as follows:
The first area is communicating a GES to world leaders. Clearly when world leaders or governments need to create policies related to areas of concern such as climate change or other technological side effects, it would be useful to have a UN committee relay the knowledge accumulated in the GES. The information available could be provided directly through a UN committee or provided through the internet as a presentation tailored to the requirements of the specific country. The first step would be to provide all data in the GES pertaining to the subject, possibly what the policies of other countries are, and most importantly what the policies are as recommended by the UN global education system on the subject. Data and information regarding virtually all concerns of a government on a specific subject would be available in their language. In addition the UN committee could hopefully maintain direct contact with government representatives on a continuous basis in order to keep them informed in areas where they might be deficient. For example, if a country were experimenting with nuclear weapons or satellites, the UN committee would draw on the GES database and help keep the country informed and aligned with global rules, guidelines, and information related to side effects of the subject technologies.
The basic objective would be to have a UN committee to engage each country on subjects such as side effects related to technologies using the GES as the knowledge base and education system. This would in all probability help keep countries that are exploring new technologies stay in line with global thinking and objectives. Clearly the UN would approach countries and leaders that showed an interest in the GES first. Countries that were not so willing would have the option to engage through presentations in their language. This at least would be a start to the diplomatic process of establishing a relationship with all countries especially regarding side effects of technologies.
In my opinion the much greater area of interest is how to integrate the global education system with the education systems of various countries. Given than countries have their own set of values and their own priorities in education, clearly to attempt to replace an existing system is not realistic. For example, if a specific religious belief is included in the education system of a specific country they may be less likely to accept something that is not congruent with their own beliefs. This is one reason why the GES must be "available" in the language of any country or culture through the internet. It is understood that even to the current day some governments restrict internet use in their country because it conflicts with their beliefs. This represents a hurdle but it does not change the fact that one cannot try unless the GES is at least made available. Clearly it would be a diplomatic process in order to facilitate the integration of a GES into existing education systems, but over time it gradually would be accepted at different levels depending on the country involved.
There are many benefits of offering a GES to the people of any country. Some countries may not have the tools to educate properly but with a proven organized education system available on the internet created by the greatest minds available, they might be very appreciative of such a resource. For example, it might be difficult to offer teaching to children in Africa who are impoverished and do not have access to many basic living needs. If they were given some help regarding basic living standards from other countries, they might then be able to engage in a global education system that was made available to them. In fact, given that computer technology is becoming so inexpensive, as a part of the UN program, children could be given a tablet with a complete education program in their own language on it so they had the flexibility to learn while also attending to their basic living needs. The GES might help the people in such a country become more self sufficient, make better decisions that affect their culture, and help them become greater contributors to the global community.
Imagine if a 12-year education program in any language could be offered through the internet as a part of the GES starting at say age 6. The GES could be created such that children worldwide would have access to a proven education system that not only offers scientific knowledge about the micro and macro world, but also philosophical issues about the very essence of what we are. Children are the most susceptible to developing their belief systems when they are young. A system that taught them that there are many beliefs in the world, and many religions, not just their own might allow them to see themselves more as a part of the global community. Their own religion could still be their primary belief system, but they would also understand why others might have their own religions and beliefs and that is not necessarily a bad thing. They would be taught about discrimination and why humankind might tend to do so, even when it is not warranted. Children could still base their thinking on existing cultural belief systems, but at the same time accept the blanket knowledge of the GES which would also give a planetary perspective on ethics, morals, empathy for other creatures and the Earth, ideas of right and wrong, and even in science. Over time the integration of a GES into education systems across the planet would help humankind get on the same page, while still maintaining cultural diversity. With these thoughts in mind, countries and cultures might gradually adopt the GES to some degree, even if it was not totally congruent with existing cultural beliefs.
In the grand scheme of our existence we must reduce the potential for conflict. That means that if the UN engages countries on any issues such as a global education system it is a diplomatic effort. It means giving, and taking, and learning to trust one another. Throughout history almost all countries have experienced atrocities where many may have died or suffered for reasons that might seem to make no sense. Almost every country has had their wars and conflicts where injustices were done. Often we look at the timeline of when they were done and if it is recent, a sense of injustice and conflict may endure, but the point is about learning. We cannot turn back the clock and dwell on our mistakes. We can only learn from them and then make the changes necessary so that they do not happen again. Countries and cultures that are approached by a body such as the UN with a global education system must be treated with respect and we must look to the future and not the past. If an organization like the UNITED NATIONS were to take on the task of sharing world knowledge with other countries and integrating them into the global community with a global education system, it would have to be done with an atmosphere of invitation, and if warranted, a sense of forgiveness. Ultimately countries must learn to trust each other before any will adopt the ways of others. The UN would need to approach countries and explain that the GES was an offering to assist them to becoming respected parts of the global community. We could then possibly move forward with our technologies in a more cautious fashion together and find the bright future for Life and Earth that we all seek. We could find the future where we could all continue to be who we are, yet endure the ages to come as happily as possible.
Creation of an "Educational Aid committee" that would evaluate the needs of specific countries and cultures in order to ensure that they meet basic living standards so that they could have the opportunity to learn the GES. The committee would be responsible for the redistribution and allocation of aid to various countries that might be deficient. One might ask how the United Nations would go about reallocating wealth globally toward a GES? My suggestion is that wealthier countries and individuals that might contribute need to understand that the funds are not a handout to poorer countries. They would be assured that the funds were being specifically allocated to global education to help make the planet better for all Life and Earth, and future generations. There would of course need to be a method in place to ensure clarity of how funds were allocated, and a way to measure the result of the efforts made toward the specified countries and cultures that appeared candidates for aid. For example, funds might be applied to offering laptops and creating schools to facilitate the creation of a complete education program in certain areas of need in Africa if the African leaders and governments were accepting of such an idea.
Creation of a "Technology liaison committee" specifically focussed on diplomacy and communication to world leaders and governments on key subjects related to the impact of human technologies. The committee could be composed of individuals such as scientists, corporate representatives, and specialists from educational institutions. They would be the liaison between the GES to global decision-makers.
Creation of a "Global technology policy committee" that would investigate the impact of the side effects of our Earth impacting technologies, especially ones that might have existential risks. They would set rules and policies for dealing with technological side effects for the countries that make up our global community.
Emphasis would be placed on the impact of AI given that it is evolving at an exponential rate and also because AI represents a significant risk when combined with other dangerous technologies such as nuclear weapons.
Creation of an "Individual technology policy committee" that would investigate the impact of the side effects of technologies within countries. They would set rules and policies for dealing with technological side effects on an "individual" level within countries.
This is important given the increased amount of goods, and individuals, that cross over borders between countries. For example what might the rules be for individuals within countries regarding the use and accessibility of drones, 3-d printers that might be used to make weapons, or even guns? Many of these types of decisions are made as policy within countries and might better be evaluated and controlled globally by a UN committee.
For example, if the global education system could combine the greatest minds, lessons from history, and expectations for the future, they might be able to come up with a "best solution" related to gun laws. Global gun law policies could be offered depending on the environment that existed in different countries. The UN could then offer to countries a global gun law policy that might be considered optimal depending on the situation for that country. They could then work with countries to help them gravitate over time toward a more universal global gun law policy at their discretion. What is important is that the UN committee could provide to countries important information as to when specific gun laws might be appropriate and the reasons why a global gun law policy seemed the best. Statistics and empirical data from the experience of other countries could be used to support this. The UN committee could also clarify how technological advances occurring in guns and other weapons available to individuals would affect their society.
This memorandum is the result of many of the thoughts offered in "Life and Earth". It takes examples in "Life and Earth" and applies them to the world as it is today. I will continue to update the memorandum periodically but the main message does not change.
I cannot stress more how the impact of humankind has changed the surface of the planet. Imagine for a moment the Earth as a grey sphere floating in space that has had a constant temperature since it was created. Now imagine the surface heating up exponentially over the last 300 years. I don't mean this in the physical sense but only as an analogy. The surface is now radiating heat and starting to glow as if red-hot. The surface has changed unlike ever before and we have the technology to cool it down or heat it up. The problem is that we have no reference to how our technologies will affect Life and Earth. The changes that we are making whether they are nuclear weapons, climate change, or artificial intelligence are very scientific and they are very capable of creating real physical changes to Life and the surface of the Earth.
It is a time for us to reduce our conflicts and work together so we can move forward cautiously, and pull back when warranted. We must know what is intelligent and we must be able to apply this intelligence cooperatively. Our cooperation starts with us all having the capability to access a global education system that will provide the accurate data and understanding of what surrounds us. My ideas above are guidelines for the implementation of a GES that will help navigate us into a bright future.
As a final word, this takes me to my thoughts of my late friend "Dusty" who to me represented the trust in humankind that we all wish we could find. His expectations were only to feel the good in each day and to have only what he needed. In receiving the kindness that he did from all humankind, he did not discriminate because he did not see the many reasons why we often do so. He could only see the good in each of us. Is his wisdom something that we all have within us, but we do not see it because of what we have become?
It seems so ironic that we think of ourselves as so intelligent but, whether individuals or countries, we distance ourselves from each other through our self-centered interests, our desire for power and control, our egos, and our personal ambitions. There are those few who have so much wealth, while at the same time, there are so many that are less advantaged who put out so much effort and resources to the world, only to become servants to its disparity.
I wonder if humankind will find the way to cooperating, possibly through a global education system, and placing more of what they have and what they are toward what we are a part of? I wonder if humankind will see the strength and urgency of working together as we move forward into the future?
We will make our choices and we will create our destiny.