Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Journeying Into the Future

The past is receding at the speed of light. Though the pathway that lies ahead is still a quantum distribution of possibilities enveloped within an ambience of the absolutely unknown and mysterious, the late spring (when I retired) seems very, very far away--already. When the past becomes so distant so fast, it must mean that an awful lot has happened in the interim; time speeds up when significant events compress.

For one thing--I had the strangest experience. On the 18th I gave the graduation speech for GED students at the Florence Prison. Jeanne came with me. The whole experience was elevating and utterly surprising. I talked on “Wisdom, Virtue, Self-Narratives, and the Future.” I talked about both external and internal prisons--“prisons of the mInd”--and the necessary connection between freedom and self-responsibility. One cannot be free until one accepts responsibility for one’s life--so I told them.

After my half hour talk, we spent the next three hours in a conversation with around ten of the inmate teachers--the cream of the crop.

Their minds are very much alive. They read and think and introspect on their inner psychological make-up and their lives. We discussed my writings (which they have been reading voraciously over the last few years), Ken Wilber, spiral dynamics, Freud, Albert Ellis, emotional catharsis, and cognitive therapy, among other topics, of which there were many. They are self-organized, self-directed learners. They have created an intricate and multi-faceted curriculum for themselves. Though they were all dressed in bright orange--their mark to define who they are--I forgot within a very short period of time that they were all prisoners in a jail. Some of them told me that through reading my writings on future consciousness I had changed their lives. They have been attempting to get me out there for the last couple of years and they want me to come back. They want to soak up as much knowledge as they can.

Who knows what the future has to hold? Is this some new calling?

This experience got me thinking that the prison is a metaphor on all of us. A mindset, a way of life, a paradigm of thinking and doing can be a prison. Lately I have been thinking that I have been in some kind of prison; I have trying to find/feel/sense freedom within my existential space and figure out where it is pointing me. Perhaps Sartre is right and anything is possible. But what would this mean in concrete terms? Perhaps I should follow the Tao? Follow God? Finding freedom begins with seeing the world differently. Freedom is connected with creativity. (See the last blog.)

If all goes according to plan, next year in Vancouver, at the World Future Society Convention, I will be doing a dialogue with the personal futurist Verne Wheelwright on creating a new life--an extended life--for oneself in the future. We will be working toward synthesizing Verne’s very practical and thoughtful advice on mapping and planning out one’s extended long term future with my ideas on creativity, virtue, future self-narrative, and transforming one’s life and self. (I am now doing the field work on this - cogitating on the whole thing.) See Verne’s new book, It’s Your Future…Make It a Good One! Verne is a resonant spirit and a wise soul.

This last month I did the forward for my friend and futurist colleague Marcus Anthony’s new book on “integrated intelligence.” Marcus believes that there is a cosmic intelligence that one can learn to tune into and use in guiding one’s life decisions and actions. (Sounds like “God” but Marcus is non-committal on this.) The notion of cosmic intelligence is not necessarily that fuzzy or super-natural--see my ideas on coordinative intelligence in my new book Mind Flight when it comes out.

Marcus’s new book is good. If nothing else, Marcus is clear, personal, and engaging; he covers a wide range of topics; he hits the nail on the head regarding many of the failings of modern civilization; and he lays his cards squarely on the table. See his site and book, Extraordinary Mind: Integrated Intelligence and the Future.

Freedom never occurs in a vacuum; it is always supported by both psychological and external factors. Philosophies can constrain and suffocate, or they can empower and elevate.

I am an evolving cyborg. This last month I turned in my desktop PC and bought a Mac. I am moving into the mind/perception/action space of the Mac. Jeanne is learning iTouch, and iTouch is taking her out into the world--the Web--into music/sensation/film. I am telling her that the Mac is drawing her in. Changing the instruments of one’s thinking and one’s experience transforms one’s self and mind; the mind is ecological. We are one with our machines. Our machines afford thinking, perceiving, and action spaces; they afford freedom and creation. See Andy Clark’s Natural Born Cyborgs.

Just for fun, and more, see the website Gajitz.

Our website is being significantly transformed--in conjunction with what is happening to us. The web and reading resources are going through a quantum leap forward. (I have been exploring the Web a lot more, and I have been going through my library--associations of both past and future are vibrating around in my mind and reverberating together. (If Ridley and Koestler are right this is the ground for creativity.) The number of slide presentations on our website is doubling. Videos are coming. Over the next few months different things are going to change their colors. Again, we are one with our machines--we reciprocally evolve together.

But the big thing for this coming month--if you are interested, email me or call. We are starting with the theme of creating a new reality--a new life--for the future.

Center for Future Consciousness
Think Tank and Educational Academy

First Saturday evening and third Wednesday evening each month
First meeting: September 4th, 2010
7 pm to 9 pm (or thereafter)

Location: Home Base
Patio under the stars
12578 East Poinsettia Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona
(Varied other locations in the future)


• To Develop Educational Ideas and Programs and Publications on the Future, Future Consciousness, and Other Themes Resonant with the CFC
• To Provide a Social and Intellectual Forum to Provoke, Inspire, and Stimulate Thinking
• To Pursue Wisdom, Enlightenment, and Heightened Future Consciousness
• To Contribute to the Thoughtful, Ethical, and Purposeful Evolution of Humanity

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Creativity, Evolution, Futures Education, and Wisdom

The summer, thus far, has been a time of great transition, but as much tenuous and portentous as real. Things are happening, but in stages and steps, with sputters and wiggles and the necessary elements of uncertainty, ambiguity, and struggle. If this summer is an “end and a beginning” (as I had hoped) it is an end that still needs to find itself and a beginning that still needs to realize clear consciousness and purpose. The Gestalts of time blur together and overlap; they vibrate forwards and backwards; nothing is clean.

For one thing, though I am officially retired, I have not functionally disconnected from my position as chair of psychology, philosophy, and religion at Rio Salado College. The date for the passing of the baton of leadership and responsibility to the new chair is August 16th. (I am counting the days.) In the meantime I have been working with faculty, dealing with disgruntled students, monitoring cases of plagiarization, re-writing courses, and putting together a final department report and list of accomplishments. Creating the report and list of accomplishments though did give me a sense of completion and achievement – part of the ending of things. After reviewing over the past and where it has led to in the present of things, I am feeling good about the goodbye.

Also, I envisioned finding a philosophical peace and solitude at home, with my library and garden out in back, spending the days in contemplation, reading, and writing, taking breaks listening to the birds, sunning by the pool, while Jeanne was at work. Instead, three of our offspring (late adolescent and early adulthood in chronological age) frequent the household (too much) during the days. I have tried to get them to leave during the daytime, but they have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no way to get there. They are in various very, very early stages of realizing future consciousness (I say with a snicker). They are addicted to gadgets and media. They are noon risers. They are hauntingly “present” – I can feel them even if they are asleep in their rooms. I tell them I hate sloth. Do they get the message? Is this part of my new beginning, I ask/I fear, to parent and teach and somehow be patient with their amorphous states of being that hover and linger around and permeate our communal space while I look for focus and enlightenment?

I would rather have Jeanne with me in the days – to work, think, swim in the pool, converse on numerous things, but …

Jeanne is once again participating in the frenzied madness that she left three years ago. Of course, she wanted to find some sense of professional and personal accomplishment, after having completed her Masters degree this year, and as she said, although she enjoyed working with me attempting to build up the Center for Future Consciousness, she wanted something of her own. And further, I realize, I couldn’t have “retired” at this point without Jeanne finding some source of additional income and her new job does just that. But she works long and exhausting hours, and instead of writing scholarly papers, blogs, and poetry, she is immersed in committee meetings, deadlines, personnel issues, never-ending, forever multiplying administrative responsibilities, and bureaucratic trivia, perfectly balanced and sandwiched on each end of the day with rush hour traffic. My poet, my fellow futurist and philosopher, my intellectual soul mate and romantic lover has dived into the very world that I so desperately wanted to leave and did.

What to do about this?

Jeanne and I did travel to Boston to the World Future Society conference this last month and we each gave talks on education – Jeanne on information technology and the future of education and me on wisdom and futures education. Although she only had two weeks (if even that) to put it together, Jeanne gave a very good talk on new models of learning institutions in the digital age. As part of the Education Summit at the conference, I outlined a two-year (pre-major) integrative and holistic college program that focused on the development of wisdom and heightened future consciousness. I pulled together many of the educational themes I have worked on over the years: how character virtues are the key to academic success and which ones are particularly important and how to teach them; how to integrate global, ecological, historical, and cosmic awareness into a curriculum, providing students with an expansive consciousness of reality; how one assesses deep learning, critical thinking, and higher cognitive skills; why psychologically holistic education (including motivational, personal, emotional, and social factors) is an essential foundation and framework for college instruction; the connection between wisdom and heightened future consciousness and how to pull all the above themes together within the program. I also discussed the importance of teacher mentorship and learning committees. One of the next papers I write will be a summary of this talk. But see my new article coming out in The Futurist in the September issue on wisdom and future consciousness.

And Boston was great; we toured Harvard; strolled through “Little Italy,” savoring several excellent meals there; walked the “Freedom Trail” and contemplated the gravestones of people who died hundreds of years ago; consumed huge amounts of seafood; found a fantastic bookstore for contemporary philosophy and intellectual thought – what an eye opening selection of scholarly new books; walked along the harbor, looked at the sailboats, and took a boat ride; and talked with many good friends at the WFS conference. I had a particularly provocative conversation with Verne Wheelwright (a fellow futurist) about creating productive long-term personal futures. (More on this topic to come.) I was inspired, once again, listening to Ray Kurzweil give an updated talk on the accelerative growth of technology and the promises of the expanded, extended life of the mind and the body in the future. And we did have promising discussions about possible visits and presentations in Edmonton, Canada, Tokyo, Japan, and Paris, France in the coming year. This is part of the reality where Jeanne and I should be – so I believe.

Part of the struggle – the tension between what is and what could be – is having momentary glimpses of where you want to be – to whet one’s appetite and fuel the flames of desire and aspiration.

After returning from Boston, I found myself facing another struggle – an intellectual one this time. (But, of course, there were personal overtones in this as well.) I had hit a mental block working on a project that involved trying to figure out how creativity, evolution, and wisdom fit together. Two weeks into thinking about these ideas, I had a big flash – actually two connected flashes. First: It hit me that creativity is critical to evolution and human progress and, in so far as we are riding the wave of evolution and progress (steering it to a degree), we need to be creative in order to survive. We grow/evolve through creativity or we die.

People have made similar points before, but the intimate connection between creativity and evolution all of a sudden became much clearer and important to me. I had just finished Matt Ridley’s excellent new book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, listened to Lynn Margulis explain her theory of symbiotic evolution, and read the beginnings of W. Brian Arthur’s The Nature of Technology: What is it and How it Evolves. All three of these writers/thinkers were into understanding creativity and how it works at a global level. Out of their writings emerged in my mind a theory of creativity and how it propels growth and evolution at the biological, social, economic, and technological levels. Creativity is synthesis and synthesis is a big part of evolution. (Ridley – tongue in cheek but half serious – proposes that social-economic evolution should be modeled on sex – there is exchange and sharing of ideas and products and the bonding together of formally distinct realities.)

After thinking out more deeply the connections between evolution and creativity, the concept of sustainability seemed even more so to be an erroneous and highly misleading idea. Nothing is sustainable, and the people who preach sustainability don’t really want to sustain things – they want to change things.

Thinking about trends into the future – the overarching trend is evolution. Evolution, though, is not simply cumulative; it is filled with disruption and new syntheses.

The project I was working on was a presentation I was developing for FM Global on “Innovation and the Role of Wisdom in the Future.” And the talk wouldn’t jell in my mind – my mental block. After realizing the important relationship between creativity and evolution, it hit me that I wasn’t articulating how wisdom and creativity fit together – two of the key themes of the talk. And understanding what I was stuck on, I had the second big flash: Wisdom is by its very nature (and recognized as such when you see it) creative. Wisdom synthesizes; wisdom synthesizes various pieces of knowledge (the big picture dimension of wisdom) into novel assessments and solutions that make sense; wisdom shows insight (the “aha” phenomenon); wisdom is imaginative; wisdom pulls together knowledge with ethics; wisdom is a journey, a growth oriented capacity, forever searching over the horizons for further enlightenment.

I have to think this out more.

This last month I finished a new article “Wisdom in the 21st Century: A Theory of Psycho-Social Evolution.” I will have the article up on the website soon. In the article I take a shot at explaining for the first time an insight I had a few months back: We should definitely aspire toward the development/enhancement of wisdom in the coming century as a central ideal in education and guiding our lives, individually and collectively, but with the ongoing accelerative evolution of information/computer/communication technologies and the potential for bio-enhancements coming, we should envision the wise person of the future as being a “wise cyborg.” What, in fact, will this mean? How do we integrate even more so our minds – our identities – with our machines – our informational/robotic/communication machines in particular – and not in some shallow, superficial, twittering, narcissistic, fragmented, trivial fashion? (The latter is what I see the other beings in the house doing, more often than not.) A key piece in this emerging concept of the wise cyborg is the ecological idea that the mind is not localized in the body/brain, but distributed within the constellation of tools and ecological support systems that the person uses to think with. (See Andy Clarke’s books.) I also discuss ecological and global wisdom in the article – an expanded consciousness networked and emotionally attuned to the Gestalt of the world.

So I continue to search for wisdom – to understand it, to teach it, to find it for myself in the existential challenges of my personal existence. I continue to have moments of enlightenment – of creative connections seen. Perhaps I will get some more this coming month - perhaps on the home front. I pursue evolution; let the others pursue sustainability.

I realize ambiguity and uncertainty are good; such states afford freedom. I started with a plan at the beginning of the summer – a three year plan in fact – but I think I should allow my mind to open up to the potentially infinite range of possibilities out there. At transition points – points of freedom – it is important to allow your mind to explore many options.

The website is going to transform in the next few months; a number of new articles are going up, among other things - some new presentations as well. In the coming months we are going multi-media – sound and action will be entering the scene.

At the WFS conference, a fellow futurist said that Ray Kurzweil was afraid of death. I say, “Who isn’t?”