As with all living beings, we experience and perceive the world around us. In addition, through the use of our technologies, we have also gained the ability to shape the world like never before. We can create great cities to live in. We can capture solar energy to create light when there might otherwise be darkness. We can extract coal and oil from the surface of Earth, which in turn can power our great machines, such as aircraft that sweep us across the planet in a matter of hours. We can grow life, such as great forests, and in a matter of days clear them away just as easily.
Even though our technologies have given us this great ability to influence the world, there still remains one unsolved question. How do we want to shape the world, and why would we want it to be that way? What might the perfect world look like, if one could actually exist? When future generations might judge us, will their thoughts be ones of appreciation for the world that we have left them? Instead, might their thoughts be ones of disappointment and despair, as they try to fix the problems that we have left them, such as global warming, nuclear radiation, human-made viruses, or other unseen problems that may have come from the misuse of our technologies?
On the surface, this question might seem to be quite simple to answer. One answer might be that the perfect world would be one that is "secure, and peaceful, with an abundance of resources for all". This may be very true, but the question I propose is in a context of something beyond that. It is in the context of our entire existence within the universe. It is important for me to clarify that the phrase, "a perfect world", is not meant to speak as to how each of us chooses to live. One might still choose to live in the wilderness, instead of in a city, or one might follow one religion, while another follows a different set of beliefs. My meaning to a perfect world is on a larger scale, where countries address the issues behind how our technologies benefit us, and how they might threaten us. Defining a perfect world may be an unanswerable question, but I feel we must try to answer this question if we are to set clear goals as to how countries might shape our future world, together. One clue might be that only we can describe the perfect world, because it is for ourselves. Hence, we must understand our own existence, in order to understand what we consider perfect for us, and possibly for other Life as well.
In the following I have proposed only a few examples of questions that we might try to answer. Some of them extrapolate far into the distant future, where the answers might seem improbable and irrelevant. The purpose of the questions though, is to look at all possibilities that might affect us today, and in the future. The questions are to help set us on a path to determining what we believe is the best we can be. They are meant to cause us to ask ourselves, "as the beings that we are, and might become, what are we capable of within this universe?" They help us to understand the important obstacles that we might face as we forge forward into the future with our technologies.
It is my hope, as you will see in the following, that humankind might create a dedicated group to find answers to such questions as those proposed. They would then create a map, a type of Universal Philosophy, which world leaders could use as a guide, to help bring us closer to our perfect world.
HOW WILL CULTURES COMMUNICATE IN THE FUTURE? - Transportation and communication across the planet have changed enormously over the last 100 years. They connect all of us like never before. Are our diverse languages, cultures, and beliefs a product of the isolated nature of our past, or have they yet to catch up to the global interconnectedness resulting from our technologies (e.g. the internet)? Our many languages were largely due to the local nature of continents and regions, limited by transport and communication, but might humankind be better suited now to integrate our languages given that we have all become more interconnected on a global scale through technology?
There is another approach to possibly deal with differing languages. One of our greatest challenges today is to bring two of the greatest world powers to cooperate and plan together. The two primary languages spoken in the world are Mandarin (20%) and English (25%). Consider that in China, they might teach English as a second language, and in the U.S.A., they would teach Mandarin as a second language. China has already started to make English their second language. What if teaching both languages was made compulsory in their education systems? This might be the catalyst to help each country understand their cultural and political differences in a new light (e.g. authoritarianism versus democracy). Though such an approach might seem unrealistic, it might be the type of preemptive action that could avert the greater cost of a nuclear conflict in the future. Similarly, might they consider greater immigration between the two countries, with the same preemptive considerations in mind? As an empirical example, I thought it worth noting that nearly 30% of Vancouver, Canada, is now Chinese whereas decades ago, it was marginal. Nevertheless, the cultural diversity found in Vancouver does not prevent it from being a very desirable city to live in. In fact, the diversity may be partly why it is desirable.
MUST WE FOLLOW THE SAME PATH? - Do we want humans of the future to be of one mindset, or do we want many cultures with different values and beliefs? Currently, the planet is full of diverse cultures whereby often our beliefs conflict with one another (e.g. religions). What are the benefits to our diverse beliefs and what are the problems associated with them? Can we afford such diverse beliefs, given that now, one country can impact the planet on a global scale through their actions. Such an example might be the careless handling of dangerous technologies (e.g. creation of viruses and nuclear weapons).
POLITICAL SYSTEMS - On the subject of diversity, one of our most common reasons for lack of cooperation between countries is their political systems. Consider the two extremes, democracy versus authoritarianism. Is one better than the other, or can we learn from both of them, and possibly come to some compromise? We often think a communistic approach may be too authoritarian, and take from the freedoms that we each feel we are entitled too. Nevertheless, a strong leadership that exhibits guidance and control can provide a prosperous social system, much in the way that China has done in the last 50 years. In the same way, democracy can prove to have its advantages, and disadvantages. As more dangerous technology becomes available, it may mean that some of the freedoms that we had felt we were entitled to in a democratic society, may need to be restricted, such as gun control where certain weapons can now be much more dangerous. The dynamics of technology affect the way countries can govern their people. My hope is that powerful countries, like China and the U.S.A., can learn to focus on what they can learn from their different political systems, instead of finding conflict over them. As technology evolves, will countries be able to find common ground with their political approaches, for the welfare of the planet?
BALANCING WORLD POPULATION - Another major consideration is overpopulation. Greater population increases resource consumption, which in turn causes an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Is our sole objective to find technologies to service a growing world population, or should we consider the ethical issue of trying to reduce population, possibly through more education on birth control? China has taken several approaches to change population. During times of overpopulation, they set policies to reduce population. Currently they are setting policies to reverse a declining population (2021).
CONFLICTING ECONOMIC INTERESTS - Is there a need to redesign the economies of different countries, given that the actions of individual countries can damage the entire planet? For example, since the Industrial Revolution, coal has come to be the cause of nearly 50% of world carbon dioxide emissions. Countries that are vast emitters affect the entire planet. Do we need policies to compensate poorer countries that are impacted, which neither use coal, or products from coal energy? At the same time though, is it right that we condemn countries that are the largest emitters, if we ourselves buy the products from such countries? If we sell coal and oil for use outside of our own country, though we do not use it, are we not equally responsible? Might it be time for countries to question their inherent nature to compete, so that we might ensure the welfare of all Life and Earth? If we could leave the traditional competitive behaviour that exists between countries behind us, might it be easier for us to focus together on technologies that would improve our future?
COOPERATING TO DEAL WITH TECHNOLOGICAL SIDE EFFECTS - Have we now evolved to a level where we need to increase cooperation between countries in order to contend with the greatest common threat that all Life has ever faced? This threat to our survival that I refer to is the combination of all the side effects of our current and future technologies. Can countries cooperate so that we can move forward with technology more cautiously, and back off together when necessary, for the welfare of all?
WHERE IS OUR HOME? - Do we want Earth to be our sole home, or just one of many planets that we will colonize? Do we want to create gargantuan space stations with our robotic and AI technology that might house our future cities, which might then roam the solar system and galaxies? Regardless of whether our home is only the Earth, or other places that we might reach in space, how do we want to live? How many planets must we transform into the image of Earth, so that we might colonize them, before we have enough? Do we want to share the world with our other fellow creatures, as we have since our beginning? Do we really need them, and if so, why are they important? How important is Nature to us? Are the trees, mountains, and rivers something we can live without, if for example, humankind were one day to live in space stations such as the one shown in the image for long periods?
IN WHAT FORM SHALL WE LIVE? - Do we want to extend each of our existence indefinitely through the transformation of our bodies and minds with robotics and artificial intelligence? Will this lead to ourselves becoming cyborgs one day? Are we headed toward a future whereby humans will gradually have their consciousness and thoughts processed digitally to the point where we can be imprinted and duplicated? Might we one day be able to create a new species of life that can survive better than humans, such as robots? If we could do this, what does it reflect about us as unique sentient beings, and would such a scenario be a part of the perfect world that we might strive for?
Does our ability to extend life spans through our technology, possibly up to a 1000 years or more, represent a better survivalist approach than reproducing and replacing ourselves with new life? In our quest to extend our lives by creating cures for all disease, are we threatening the natural life cycle of birth and death which has encouraged natural selection, thereby ensuring our survival since our beginning? Where is the balance to be found?
CARING FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS - Is it right for us to sacrifice the welfare of future generations so that we can indulge now, and enjoy pleasure in our existence today? Is it acceptable that we discount the side effects of our technology (e.g. climate change) for our own benefit today, while ignoring the cost to our future generations? How much of ourselves should we give to that which we are a part of? How is it that we decide on what is right, what is wrong, or even if such exists?
IS OUR PURPOSE ONLY TO SURVIVE AND AVOID PAIN? - Must we know pain in order to know pleasure, or is our ultimate quest to just find pleasure with no pain? Is our entire purpose merely to extend our survival as long as possible, and optimize pleasure in the time that we have? Must we know pain in order to know pleasure? Can we define the pleasures that drive us? Pleasure and pain are probably products of our quest to survive. They are the walls in the maze of life in which we travel. They tell us when to move forward, and when back off, or change direction. If we can create a world of only pleasure, would we call this a perfect world? If we eliminate all pain and need, that which is necessary for us to adapt and survive, might our senses of pain and pleasure become dulled, possibly reducing our ability to adapt?
HOW DO WE ALLOCATE OUR LIMITED RESOURCES? - One of the greatest problems that I feel humankind must address is where do we allocate our limited resources? If we are so intelligent, does it make sense that we are putting vast amounts of resources into nuclear weapons in order to protect ourselves from eachother? Does it makes sense that we are putting so much of our resources into exploring beyond Earth, while we are at the same time damaging our climate, our waters, and our forests? This is not to say that exploring the stars is not important, but possibly, might it be best to set such exploration aside for a short duration, while we first clean up our house called Earth? Are we allocating resources inefficiently, while we allow so much inequality and suffering to exist to our fellow human beings, and other life?
Our curiousity to create and explore new technologies brings many wonderful things, but there are also great associated costs and risks. How do we find the balance between moving forward with our technologies, and stepping back in order to allocate our limited resources in more prudent and efficient ways?
Consider this hypothetical scenario. What if we were to live more simply off the land as our ancestors did, in local communities? If we did so, in conjunction with many of our technologies (e.g. solar power), we likely would survive ice ages and other natural disasters. Quite possibly we would endure for 10,000 years, or even more, on this planet.
On the other hand, we may think we are so intelligent, but if we develop a technology that is capable of creating our extinction within 200 years, then which option would have been the perfect world? I do not suggest that we go back to our old ways, but might part of finding the perfect world, be that we move forward with greater caution, and with greater cooperation?
These questions seem so far reaching. Nevertheless, given the way that our technologies are having such a great impact on the world, they are questions that humankind must now address, and act upon. We must ask ourselves how we can use our technologies in the best ways possible. We also must ask ourselves how we can gain greater control over the side effects that can come from our technologies. As we find our answers, we can then apply our resources and technologies in positive ways that might help us to reach what we might call our perfect world.
As sentient beings, we accept this condition called Life gratefully. We know we are grateful because at any time we could choose not to live, but instead, we choose to live for another day. As we do so, we perceive the world around us, and we survive within it. We see ourselves as the centre of the universe and reality. Inherently, if not simply just to survive, to ourselves, we become the all-important.
Nevertheless, as you have seen from space, when we look at the Earth from light years away, we are nothing more than a speck in the universe. From afar, we are no more meaningful than any other planet or sun might be. On the speck called Earth, as shown in this actual photograph taken by NASA's Voyager 1, there is no human that has to our knowledge ever gone beyond our tiny blue dot in space. We are miniscule, contained on this small, but perfectly beautiful and habitable planet, called Earth. Our physical shape, in fact our entire existence, is a reflection of what this planet has evolved to be.
Earth is our home. If we go beyond this home, we must simulate it's environment in order to survive (e.g. with a space suit for lack of oxygen and extreme temperature). Our other option is to change our new environment to be the same as Earth (e.g. dealing with gravity issues on a space station or possibly on Mars). Our existence has been tailored to that of our tiny planet, and to underestimate the importance of what the environment provides to us, is a mistake.
Our meaning comes not from looking upon ourselves from the stars. If we do so, we will only see that small speck in the universe, as in the image shown. Instead, our meaning comes from within ourselves. How we choose to interpret eachother, the Earth and stars, all other life, and ourselves, is how we will define the meaning of our existence. Our meaning will come from how we see our world against the infinite backdrop of the universe. We now can choose and shape the reality that will come to define us. It is our responsibility to shape it together in the best way possible, for ourselves, and for our future generations. We alone are responsible for our future. This responsibility may start simply by countries working together to preserve what the Earth has provided for us since our beginning.
Our main objective, as we take on this responsibility, is to survive. Ultimately, unless we survive, the questions of our goals, our perfect world, and even our existence, become meaningless. Going beyond survival, there is much to consider though. One such consideration is that no one would want to survive if they were in continuous pain for the remainder of their existence. For example, we might not want to survive if we were to damage the Earth's atmosphere with nuclear radiation, or if we were to create a bleak world full of poverty, despair, and inequality. Hence, there is more than just survival.
Survival is like the cake, and the icing on the cake may be quality of our survival. The icing is made up of the pleasures we can find from life, that ensure that we will always want to live another day. We can now only hope that, as we now take on this responsibility to create the cake, that it will be one that lasts as long as possible, and be one with icing that will bring us happiness and pleasure.
As a final note, before I outline my proposal, I just want to offer a thought. After all the questions we might ask ourselves, such as those that I have presented, it may be the case that we already have the perfect world. We may just need to move forward a bit more carefully, learn to appreciate what we have, and, in the time that we have, take greater care to protect all that gives us pleasure on this place called Earth.
I will now be more specific about how we might begin our quest for the brightest future for Life and Earth. Basically, as a first step, I would suggest that all countries of the world create their own individual committee by combining the greatest philosophers and scientists within their country. Let us call these committees, "Country Committees". The participants would exchange their ideas on what they believe to be the key elements to ensuring the future welfare of Life and Earth. The country committees would all begin by working through answers to such questions as the ones I have proposed.
The country committees would then get together as a group, Let us call the collection of all country committees the Global Committee for Life and Earth (GCLE). The GCLE, the combination of all country committees, would take on the task of planning a world vision for Life and Earth. Through exchanging ideas between countries, and trying to find common ground, hopefully the GCLE could create a Universal Philosophy for Life. This might become a type of map, which would no doubt be ever changing, that might guide us to the brightest possible future.
The human species holds the key to the future with our technologies. By combining some of our greatest minds collectively, might we be able to design a better future? Do we not have a responsibility to take life today to a place, where one day, our descendents might say the following words? This is the future that we wanted. This is the future that we worked together to create. Let us thank our ancestors for their wisdom in having made the choices that have kept us from harms way, and allowed us to be where we are today.
In the next section of this book, called "Memorandum to Life and Earth", I have described the idea of two world councils UNOP (United Nations of Philosophy) and UNOS (United Nations of Science) that might be assigned as liaisons with countries and world leaders. They would deal with the philosophical and scientific considerations of our future. Further, I described a Global Education System (GES) that might be made available world wide through the internet to help keep us on the same path. The GES would only complement existing education systems, in order to ensure that diversity was maintained.
This section, "The First Step", the creation of a Universal Philosophy, a map for our future, would hopefully evolve to become the foundation of knowledge on which the aforementioned global education system (GES) would be based, and from which UNOP and UNOS would evolve. Hence, it might take many years for the GCLE to draft some form of Universal Philosophy that could be shared with leaders, and humanity. Probably the most important aspect of this path though, aside from the many disagreements that would occur between the committees from different countries, is that they would all be working toward a common goal - the future welfare of all Life and Earth.
One can only imagine a committee that combined philosophers and scientists trying to deal with the issues of our future. No doubt their thinking would be very divergent, and agreements might be very difficult. Why then might we start this way?
It is always easier to solve problems when those around us already agree and think the same as we do, but though easier, this often prevents us from considering all aspects of a problem. The challenge might be monumental in finding common ground between philosophical and scientific thought, when dealing with questions like those that I have mentioned. Nevertheless, by approaching the problems in different ways, the reward might be much more meaningful.
Even more difficult, can you imagine committees from different countries, founded on different religions and beliefs, trying to lie out a path for what might be considered a perfect world? It might seem impossible, but here is a thought.
Though each person in this world may have different beliefs, we can all agree, for example, that if we step off a cliff, that gravity will cause us to fall.
We can all agree that we do not want humans to create viruses that may destroy all Life.
We can all agree that we do not want to have to struggle through the pain and suffering that might come through radiation from our nuclear weapons.
We can all agree that we do not want our atmosphere contaminated so that we can no longer breathe, nor do we want to have our pristine waters become polluted, and scarcer.
My point is clear. There are things that all countries can agree upon, and if we can agree on them, then we can solve them together. Committees, representing each country of the world, could work together to possibly create a philosophy, and a plan, that would ensure a bright future for Life and Earth.
In the following I have presented a few considerations if we were to follow this path.
If country committees were to contribute to the GCLE, they must not be political. The fundamental idea is that we disconnect from the differences between countries, and plan the future in the light of humanity. One such example is the International Space Station (image shown). In this great human endeavour, Canada, Japan, U.S.A., Russia, and other countries have contributed. They have put aside cultural differences in order to focus on their project, together. As the astronauts and space station circle the Earth, political differences on Earth are set aside. If we were to have committees work together to plan our future, this must be done in a similar fashion, without political bias, for all Life, and Earth.
I have suggested that if a country were to create their committee, possibly comprised of 10 or many more, they might choose between their best scientists and philosophers. Scientists as a category though would include our greatest physicists, climatologists, environmentalists, astronomers, chemists, AI developers, and so on. Philosophers might also include theologians (religion), historians, and anthropologists. Anyone that might contribute intelligently and constructively would be welcome. Guests outside of the pre-selected committee members, such as Nobel Prize winners, might join. Certainly, if Albert Einstein were with us still, his thoughts on the future would be of interest, especially given our new technologies.
One key issue would be translating the languages for the committees of each country. Currently there are about 195 countries in the world and over 6500 languages. Of the languages, about 25% are English, 20% are Chinese, and 8% are Spanish. Approximately 75% of the world speak the top 10 languages. If all countries were to participate, this would mean that translators would be necessary. Regardless of how big a country was, they would have their own perspectives regarding what they feel was important to the future of the planet. Hence, they would be given equal respect and an equal weight in contributing. Just as an additional note, we now have the internet, and not only can internet meetings be used to bring our great minds together, we now also have access to AI translating technology.
Clearly some countries would have much bigger economies and populations, but it would be important not to allow economic power to influence the weight that a specific country might have from their conclusions. The very fact that economic power tends to drive our future choices, is the very reason its impact should not be a part of the decision-making between committees. This way, smaller countries would be assured of their contribution. The planning for our future has little to do with the economic size of any specific country. It has only to do with our values, and finding a future that fulfills the needs of ourselves, other life, and our future generations.
Over a number of months, or years, the GCLE would create a document, which we might call our Universal Philosophy. It would be only a start, but it would be something that we knew was created by the greatest minds on the planet. The Universal Philosophy would become a guide that leaders, and educators, could rely upon because they knew it was done in an unbiased fashion, with contributions made from every country on the planet. At least we would have found a way to cooperate intelligently, on a global level, and set the stage whereupon humankind might come together and create the brightest future possible for Life and Earth.
The next section, "Memorandum to Life and Earth", discusses how we might apply the Universal Philosophy, to finding our way to the best future possible.