26 December 2004 | Draft
Future World Council Creation
reflections of an ancient futurist
-- / --
The following groups of questions merit some attention when considering a new
collective initiative -- notably those of an international, interdisciplinary,
intersectoral, intercultural and/or interfaith nature. The questions build on
related articulations in papers identified in the references
below. Through Mankind 2000, the author participated in the processes leading
to the creation of the World Futures Studies Federation
in 1973, and the production of the Encyclopedia
of World Problems and Human Potential
in 1976 (online
since 2000) in collaboration with the near-centennial Union
of International Associations
. A series of papers have been contributed to
futures related conferences and projects [more
The author has also participated in a variety of "save-the-world" initiatives.
Learnings from the past
Naming the challenge
Calls for self-awareness
"Good guys" vs "Bad guys"
Image and metaphorical framing
Learnings from the past
With respect to the many honourable new initiatives to add to the number of world
bodies concerned with the future of the world, such as the World
- Has understanding of the initiative benefitted in any way from the past
history, even the recent past history, of such initiatives -- in which
some of the participants may themselves have been key players?
- Have we not been confronted with very similar initiatives before? What
happened last time? Are the previous initiatives still continuing in some
form? Or are the apparent similarities an illusion?
- Does the new initiative make reference to past initiatives having the
same or related ends -- whether to show how it builds upon them, or complements
them, or to show how it is avoiding the errors previously made?
- Why have those who select themselves into such groups not been more
successful in the past? Are the learnings they bring from such experiences
to the articulation of the new strategy of greater significance than the
assumptions they bring about what they have failed to learn?
- What is the insight that is encouraging those undertaking the initiative
to believe that they have the key to success in the future?
Naming the challenge
- Reports on such initiatives tend to focus on the events with which they
were associated, the key participants, the publications, the projects,
the recognition accorded to them by mainstream authorities. Why is so
little mention made of what went wrong and how mistakes might be remedied
-- as in any healthy experiment, whether in cooking, music-making, gardening
or in a scientific laboratory? Or is the cause of failure too awful to
name, or too intimately associated with the characters of those involved
to be mentioned in polite society?
- Have save-the-world initiatives got into the habit of avoiding reference
to the nature of the dynamics -- whether between factions or personalities
-- which undermine their potential for success? Why is such analysis left
to outsiders, who may not necessarily wish them well?
- To what extent is the initiative based on an unstated compact amongst
participants: "I'll acclaim you as a 100% good-guy if you'll
acclaim me as a 100% good-guy -- I will not mention how you tend
to inhibit the success of such collaborative initiatives, if you avoid
mentioning how I tend to inhibit the success of such initiatives"?
- In order to sustain the potential for such an initiative, is it vital
to deny the possibility of failure? And to reject comparison with any
previous initiative -- or with other existing initiatives with which they
might more fruitfully collaborate?
- To what extent is the power-mongering and influence-peddling associated
with launching the initiative of the same nature as that used by those
undertaking initiatives that it seeks to counter-balance and constrain?
- Given the existence of seemingly similar initiatives in the past, often
of only modest success, is the tendency to adopt the same structural pattern
and dynamic not a matter of concern? Is it possible that there may be
something inherently problematic in the formula itself, if not in the
unquestioning use of it?
- Why might some people continue to favour use of that same formula given
its propensity for failure? Does using what amounts to the same medium
effectively guarantee the same message -- and the same benefits to those
Calls for self-awareness
- In collectively calling for "new thinking", "new paradigms",
and "alternative approaches", does the initiative effectively
address the need to apply that call to its own processes?
- Is it not the case that even amongst the most wonderful people, some
have a marked tendency to:
- speak excessively or inappropriately, notably as keynote speakers?
- monopolize any dialogue situation, or avoid those situations where
their views are not allowed to predominate?
- have considerable difficulty in hearing and integrating useful perspectives
from outside their field of concern?
- polarize dialogue in order to assert their preferences and to devalue,
marginalize and stigmatize complementary concerns that they perceive
- promote preferentially other initiatives with which they are personally
- covertly seek funding for their own initiatives?
- seek to affirm, confirm and promote their own status, possibly irrespective
of the status of others or of the new initiative?
- simply enjoy the travel opportunities offered by the initiative
and the pleasure of the encounters they offer?
- Does the initiative effectively attract "professional do-gooders"
who, like those classically described as the "development
set", always benefit disproportionately from involvement in such
initiatives -- irrespective of the benefits derived from it by those for
whom it was purportedly conceived?
- As a measure of their action out of a new paradigm, what constraints
are participants in the new initiative endeavouring to impose on their
own behaviour, or is it expected that it is others who should be required
to make the necessary sacrifices for the project to succeed?
- In calling for transparency, and in deploring the secret agendas and
conflicts of interest widely associated with conventional decison-making,
does the initiative openly acknowledge the interest groups supportive
of its agenda?
- Is any association of key participants with particular belief systems,
and various semi-secret societies, appropriately acknowledged, or is avoidance
of such issues considered acceptable and irrelevant to the outcome of
the undertaking -- despite the suspicion it now arouses in a society with
increasing reason to question such lack of transparency?
- To what extent is any individual (or collective) pattern of denial acknowledged
amongst participants in the initiative -- to the point of encouraging
"Good guys" vs "Bad guys"
- If those who select themselves into the initiative explicitly portray
themselves as the wisest and best of humanity, does that not effectively
define and stigmatize the rest of humanity as lacking in these finer qualities?
- To what extent is the proposed initiative an example of "good-guy-itis"?
Is it a case of the "good guys" who care versus the "bad
guys" who do not? With nothing "bad" in the "good
guys" and nothing "good" in the "bad guys"?
- How good are the good guys? If they have failings like other humans,
how are they recognized in relation to the initiative? Or can they be
politely ignored? Or are good guys assumed to be without "shadows"?
- How is it that so many of the "bad guys" are perceived as
"good" people by their own communities? How is it that some
of these purportedly "bad guys":
Do such considerations affect evaluation of the resources made available
to the initiative? How "bad" do "bad guys" have to
be before their funding is unacceptable? To what extent should the intiative
offer a process through which "bad guys" can redeem themselves
in the eyes of others?
- may start "good guy" foundations and projects, seemingly
without any intention of tax avoidance or self-aggrandizement?
- may take up what are hailed as "good guy" initiatives
on their retirement (or in preparation for their "maker")?
- If those associated with the initiative claim to represent the "good",
for the good of all, are those who have reservations about the initiative
necessarily part of the problem, rather than of the solution? Another
case of "either you are with us, or against us"?
- How are the claims of the representativity of the participants in the
initiative to be evaluated? Or of their support?
- To what extent is the support of a purely token nature? Or possibly
conditional, as in modern democratic processes ensured through the generosity
of backers who expect due return on their investment?
- Given the value of the association of the key participants with other
complementary initiatives, do such cross-linking relationships work to
the benefit of the new initiative -- or do they serve to drain scarce
resources from it (or to it)?
- From where does the initiative draw its resources, at whose expense,
and why? Who will subsequently -- as time goes by -- deprive the initiative
of its resources, and why?
- If conventional failings are assumed not to apply to the new initiative
and its members, how is this to be proven or -- despite the hard lessons,
now widely learnt, concerning the duplicity of the most eminenet and respectable
authorities in many sectors -- is it still a case of "just trust
us" and "we know best"?
- In a period when value manipulation is becoming the norm, how are those
claiming to represent particular values to demonstrate that they are not
themselves manipulating values in ways they do not declare? Should this
be a concern for any new initiative?
- In highlighting the vital key values it claims to uphold, will the initiative
make it possible to determine whether it does more than exploit the popular
appeal of those values to enhance its own image -- as so many initiatives
have done in vainly appealing for peace in a world increasingly embroiled
- Are such initiatives a fruitful example of hope-mongering to counter-balance
the tendency to doom-mongering? But just as there is both manipulation
and truth to doom-mongering, is there not both truth and manipulation
- In systemic terms, how is it possible to account for the multitude of
uncoordinated, unrelated, and even mutually unknown, save-the-world initiatives
-- faced with the worsening conditions, instigated by humanity, which
they all claim to address?
- Is the new initiative to be understood as a panacea? A beacon of hope
where all others have failed? Or as a short-sighted undertaking that will
take its place with others struggling to fulfil the hopes they inspired?
- Should any new initiative to save the world be welcomed, if it can attract
the resources to act? Irrespective of its ability to learn from the past?
Or its destabilization of initiatives with which it competes for resources
in the present? Or are there some valuable constraints that can usefully
be inspired by past experiments?
- Why does the emphasis on cooperation in such contexts disguise the extent
to which the initiative itself is in direct competition with other initiatives
which it may destabilize, undermine or supercede?
- If the process of undertaking such an intiative is itself valuable,
irrespective of the outcome, why do so many change agents and social pioneers
die in circumstances that history subsequently deplores?
- What are the global strategic implications of the "unsaid",
and is the initiative failing to address them through reinforcing any
collective pattern of denial?
Image and metaphorical framing
- Has the initiative been adequately envisaged to respond to the complexity
of the challenges and the probable higher dimensionality required of any
response -- or is it framed in the expectation that an appropriate shift
in the pattern of belief may well be all that is required?
- Could the initiative be best understood as a spaceship (a "knowship"),
with its own community, travelling on its own journey through the knowledge
space of the information society, picking up resources, and planting colonies,
as it may?
- Do those involved believe themselves to be "Knights in Shining
Armour", gathering to slay the "Dragon" threatening their
World Community -- or as "Warriors of Light" engaged in battle
with the "Dark Force"? To what extent should the initiative
then be understood as a "crusade" or a "fortress"
-- rather than simply as a gated conceptual community?
- How does the initiative distinguish itself from the multitude of distinguished
"think tanks" that may themselves be constrained by an inappropriate
root metaphor? [more]
- If such social darwinism is the underlying message in the emergence
of the new initiative, what is to be expected of the outcomes of the new
initiative for those for whose benefit it was purportedly designed?
- To what extent do those undertaking the initiative find themselves trapped
by the nature of their very mindsets in patterns of the past -- in the
light of the classic insight: "A trap is a function of the nature
of the trapped" (Geoffrey Vickers (Freedom in a rocking boat:
changing values in an unstable society, 1970)?
- By what metaphor will the future frame the fundamental flaw in the response
of the best and the brightest, gathered by the initiative, in response
to the current situation of planetary society?
|Does your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavor on the Bed post Overnight?
If I put it on the left side, will I find it on the right?
Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within
knowledge society, 2004 [text]
Confusion in the Moment of Dialogue, 2004 [text]
Global Strategic Implications of the Unsaid: from myth-making towards a wisdom
society, 2003 [text]
Tank-thoughts from Think-tanks: constraining metaphors on developing global
governance, 2003 [text]
Groupthink: the Search for Archaeoraptor as a Metaphoric Tale, 2002 [text]
The "Dark Riders" of Social Change: a challenge for any Fellowship of the Ring,
Evaluating Synthesis Initiatives and their Sustaining Dialogues, 2000 [text]
Why We Do Not Thrive: Challenges to universal thrival, 1999 [text]
Emptying Meetings and Fulfilling Participants: Ensuring that encounters are
fruitful, 1998 [text]
Reframing Personal Relationships between Innovators or Leaders: the unmentionable
challenge to sustainable paradigm shifting and social transformation, 1998 [text]
Distorted Understandings of Synthesis: Reconfiguring the challenge of wholeness,
Strategically Relevant Evocative Questions? 1993 [text]
Cooperation and its Failures: from the 1960s through the 1980s: 12 Metaphors
towards understanding the dilemma for the 1990s, 1989 [text]
Collective Learning from Calls for Global Action, 1981 [text]
Checklist of Nasty Questions: regarding development analyses and initiatives,
Principles of the Conscientized International Expert: political correctness
in international initiatives, 1979 [text]