Web-seminar Report - The Role of Crises in Social Evolution: Lessons from History

This WAAS web-seminar held on May 13, 2013 was designed as a follow-up to the Trieste conference and preparation for discussions at the United Nations in Geneva and the Library of Alexandria. Recognizing the need for a new paradigm of human development, the Trieste forum called for a trans-disciplinary theory of social change and evolution. The web seminar reviewed the historical role of crises in social evolution and sought insights relevant to addressing the present global challenges confronting humanity today.

Ivo Šlaus emphasized the centrality of Human Capital. He pointed out some paradoxical characteristics of modern times regarding development of Human Capital, such as the tension between freedom and social responsibility in a multicultural world, and stressed the need for evolved ways to reconcile them.

Re-asserting the need for a new paradigm, Garry Jacobs emphasized that the complexity of these challenges necessitates a transdisciplinary, integrated approach, illustrating how the problem of unemployment was linked not only to economy but also to public policy, education, health, psychological well-being, crime, social stability, and terrorism. He urged the forum to go beyond analysis of causes to the formulation of a set of ideas, values, principles, strategies and policies that will lead to inter-sectoral and integrated action.

Mila Popovich offered insights from past world crises by focusing on the decline and break-down of former empires and their ambiguous nature, by which they possessed both the most unifying and the most destructive power. Evaluating crises in their simultaneously disintegrative and regenerative potential for social evolution, she identified key systemic features that need to be taken into account for present solutions and future organization.

Ruben Nelson examined the grand civilizational design and progress of humanity, inquiring about the choices of forms of civilization and human culture. When we call for the preservation of civilization, Nelson observed, we rarely question what we mean by civilization. He pointed out the complete absence of critical reflection on the inherent desirability of the modern industrial civilization as it exists today.

Drawing on examples from history, Suleika Reiners of the World Future Council examined a set of policy measures for future finance. She proposed key initiatives to reclaim money creation for the public, taxation to eliminate destabilizing financial speculation, implementation of slow finance, and the benefits of a global currency.

Alberto Zucconi quoted Einstein’s observation that we cannot solve problems with the same tools with which we created them. In the lack of effective tools to observe the problem, Zucconi traces reductionist thinking and denial as the causes of the failure to adopt a different matrix. He presented compelling evidence that investments in human well-being, such as preventive protection and promotion of health in the workplace, generates significant return on investment.

Janani Harish concluded by examining the advantages and challenges of online education as part of a global strategy for higher education. The current paradigm of higher education is inadequate to eliminate the qualitative skills gap faced by economically advanced nations and the enormous quantitative gap in access to higher education faced by developing countries. Online education is the most effective strategy to address both these needs in the shortest time and most affordable manner. She called for the establishment of a truly global delivery system capable of providing quality higher education to hundreds of millions of additional students.

The proposal was made for creation of a New Paradigm Working Group to review and consolidate the insights of this seminar and the upcoming conferences.


Mila Popovich