Saturday, February 18, 2012

Flourishing in Time

New Director of The Wisdom Page

 With the enthusiastic support of Copthorne Macdonald’s wife Beverly and the members of The Wisdom Page Advisory Board I am going to become the new director of The Wisdom Page. We are going to “move” The Wisdom Page to our server/host and while preserving the legacy, content, and spirit of Cop’s years of dedicated work in developing it, we will in the near future start to evolve it more, in both design and content. As I am sure Cop would have agreed, the way to preserve the site’s value and philosophical thrust is to keep it growing and transforming. There will be Wisdom Page Updates again—with new articles appearing as people submit them. It is both a great honor and opportunity to assume responsibility for this website. As I have told everyone for years, The Wisdom Page is the best resource for readings on wisdom on the Web.

Expansion of the CFC Advisory Board

 I have added two new people to the CFC Advisory Board, Mike Trier and Kiko Suarez. Both Mike and Kiko have been contributing ideas and input into the ongoing growth of the CFC, and given their intelligence (both practical and theoretical), their spirit of collaboration and cooperation, their philosophical support for the CFC, and their overall positive vibes, it became obvious to me that they should be board members. I am very happy that they both agreed to become members. Their pictures and bios should be up on the website within the next couple of days.

New Reviews of Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future and Mind Flight

“...when you complete [Mind Flight], you may transcend it, envelop it and pass through it to the other side. In doing so, you will end up being more. You will see who you want to become and how you want the future to be. And you will understand why.”

Wendell Bell, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Yale University

“Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future... is not only a deep discussion of where human consciousness has come from and where it may go, but also an eloquent statement of humanistic futurism.

Rick Docksai
World Future Review - World Future Society

[In Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future] one central thesis is clear: attention and commitment to the character virtues the author identifies can equip us with an enhanced capacity to wisely choose among the often confusing and competing alternatives that life presents to us. Certainly the publication of this thoughtful and articulate book is testament to the value of applying such virtues to one’s own life.

Vahid Motlagh - Tehran, Iran
Journal of Futures Studies

Three new reviews on my new books are now available. Wendell Bell has posted a Five-Star Review of Mind Flight on Amazon. A review of Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future, written by Rick Docksai, was just published in the World Future Society journal World Future Review. And finally, Vahid Motlagh will have a review of WCF coming out in the March issue of Journal of Futures Studies. The entire reviews of Bell and Motlagh can be accessed on the CFC website. All the reviews are very positive. Buy the books; read them; I guarantee you will find them enlightening, thought-provoking, and personally elevating.

Future Consciousness, Ethics, and Psychological Well-Being

In the last CFC Blog I reviewed Sam Harris’s new book The Moral Landscape. Harris’s basic argument in the book is that ethics (determining what is good) should be based on the science of human well-being; morality should be grounded in empirical facts. Well, this last month I read Martin Seligman’s new book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. In Flourish, Seligman presents a theory of psychological well-being, grounded in psychological research (that is science). Seligman sees the concepts of “flourishing” and “well-being” as roughly synonymous, including but not limited to “happiness.”

His theory is fairly simple and straightforward. Well-being (or flourishing) consists of five major factors: Positive emotional states, engagement, positive social relationships, meaning in life, and accomplishment—PERMA for short. Each of these five factors can be measured and empirically assessed, and most noteworthy, can be enhanced within people. It is noteworthy that at least two of these factors—meaning in life and accomplishment—have a future quality to them, and that the general term “flourish” which literally means “to grow well or luxuriantly, to do well, to prosper, to thrive, to be highly productive,” also implies a positive directionality in time or toward the future. “Engagement,” for Seligman, literally means “flow,” a concept based on the work of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, that I have highlighted in my discussions of heightened future consciousness.

Hence, if we pull together Harris and Seligman, and embed their ideas within the context of future consciousness, we see that a theory of ethics based on psychological well-being can be grounded in a set of fundamental psychological qualities (subsumed under the general concept of “to flourish”) and that this theory of well-being is strongly anchored to features of heightened future consciousness. In reading Seligman’s new book I found a wealth of interesting ideas and information, along with a variety of psychological self-assessments the reader can take and score. There is also a great discussion of “True Grit,” a concept developed by one of his former students, Angela Duckworth, which captures the psychological dimension of tenacity and perseverance, another key concept in my theory of heightened future consciousness.

The question, though, that first emerged in my mind when I was reading Harris, is what exactly is involved in determining what goes into psychological well-being. Seligman provides a great example of unpacking the concept and empirically grounding it, but I kept thinking: Is his definition sufficient? Does it capture all the important elements? What might be missing? And how would I decide on this? My intuition tells me that it might not be so straightforward to determine well-being simply based on facts, since well-being (and consequently flourishing) probably contains value judgments. More to come.

More on the Evolution of the Theory of Cosmic Evolution

In my review last month of Eric Chaisson’s book The Life Era, I noted that it appears that the most pervasive and fundamental fact about our universe is cosmic evolution. As Peter Watson has stated, “Evolution is the story of us all” and that includes atoms, galaxies, stars, planets, chemicals, life, humans, culture, and technology—the whole ball of wax. If one were to formulate a “global ethics” or even “cosmic ethics” based on scientific fact, it would need to be grounded in the most basic fact of all: evolution. How does one do this? Kevin Kelly takes a shot at it in his recent book What Technology Wants. He presents a list of thirteen “evolutionary directions in nature and technology” (including increasing freedom, diversity, complexity, sentience, etc.) that he believes we should embrace and purposefully pursue the development of—we should ride and guide the wave.

And then there is synchronicity. After reading Chaisson’s book I received an email from a gentleman in England, Amnon Eden, who had discovered my work on the web and was co-editing a new book of readings on the “technological singularity.” Amnon wanted to know if I could write a short essay for this volume, reviewing—of all things—a volume article by Eric Chaisson titled “A Singular Universe of Many Singularities: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context.” In essence, Chaisson, in his article, argues that there is a fundamental law of cosmic evolution that applies across the board from quarks to culture and computers; that our universe has shown throughout its history “multiple singularities”—that is, significant and highly dramatic jumps in complexity; and hence, though we might think/feel that computers exceeding human intelligence (the theory of the technological singularity) is some very special event in the history of nature, perhaps to be avoided or prevented at all cost, it is not unique (such momentous jumps have happened before) and it is coming—that’s the fact Jack—for it is an expression of the deepest and most pervasive natural process in the universe.

In researching Chaisson’s ideas further and exploring more the general theme of cosmic evolution, I have been reading two new books that I highly recommend: Chaisson’s Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos and Cosmos and Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context, published by NASA, and edited by Steven J. Dick and Mark L. Lupisella. The questions addressed in these two books are deep and exceedingly interesting. How do life, mind, culture, and technology fit into the cosmic scheme of things? Are these levels of evolution natural expressions of the ongoing directional transformation of the universe? Further, should we anticipate that life, mind, and consciousness are phenomena we will find throughout the cosmos? In particular, for Chaisson, how does all of the intricate order of nature emerge out of the great energy whoosh and expansive flow we call the “Big Bang”? We are all riding as ripples and whirlpools on this turbulent gargantuan wave. Both books are a trip.

Cosmic Science Fiction and the Possibilities of Mind

And speaking of the cosmic, as you may recall, we left the Time Traveler in 1891, after just recounting to his friends his trip into the far future, where he encountered the child-like Eloi and the gruesome Morlocks, who fed on the Eloi for supper. Feeling guilty and despondent over losing Weena (an Eloi) in the dark woods of the distant future (802,701 AD), the Time Traveler disappears again. Perhaps he intends to go back and save Weena?

Now let us assume that one of the Time Traveler’s friends in 1891 is a writer, who takes copious notes on the Time Traveler’s tale and writes it out as a book and publishes it. The writer is H. G. Wells and the book published (which is indeed an accurate chronicle of the Time Traveler’s fantastic tale) is The Time Machine in 1895.

This is exactly where we take up the tale again. The Time Traveler sets out once more into the future to rescue Weena. But as he is traveling through thousands upon thousands of years he begins to notice that things do not appear the same, as on the first trip, and in the year 657,208 AD, he stops the machine. The earth is dark and cold and there is no sun or stars in the sky. His first trip—his recounting of the trip to his friends, including Wells, and the subsequent publication of The Time Machine—have changed future history.

This is the beginning of Stephen Baxter’s science fiction novel The Time Ships, the sequel to Wells’ The Time Machine. It is the best science fiction novel I have read in years—indeed, one of the best science fiction novels I have ever read. We travel to a war-ravaged Europe in the 1930s where the First World War never ended; we travel fifty million years into the past, where humans create a colony and begin an entirely different human history on the earth; we travel to a future where the Morlocks are cerebral, scientific, and peaceful and the Eloi are warlike, but on a scale almost incomprehensible in scope and carnage; and finally we travel to the beginning of time—the Big Bang—where our A.I. descendants, in “time ships,” create an infinite and eternal universe. What a cosmic trip!


Two other noteworthy science fiction novels I have read in the last few months are The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, last year’s Hugo and Nebula winner for best science fiction novel of the year, and The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge, his sequel to his epochal science fiction classic A Fire Upon the Deep. The Wind-Up Girl is a dark, gritty, and highly visceral tale that takes place in Bangkok, Thailand in the 23rd century; the heroine, Emiko, a wind-up girl, is a genetically engineered “pleasure doll” seeking freedom from the exceedingly corrupt, brutal, and treacherous city in which she is repeatedly, cruelly, and quite graphically humiliated and enslaved. A complex story—with a host of conniving, nefarious characters—not for the faint of heart. In Vinge’s new novel, he takes up and further develops his depiction of a world of “pack-minds,” where the aliens are groups of dog/wolf-like creatures who think as single conscious minds; it is the pack that has an ego, a consciousness, and not the individual members. Again, Vinge excels at describing a truly alien form of intelligence and mentality, introducing in this new novel “choir minds,” and also, once again, he creates a host of interesting villains, human and other-wise.

Fantastic New Web Page on Science Fiction

Becoming immersed once again in science fiction this past year, I was inspired to put together an updated “Best Science Fiction Novels of All Time” list. (I had created such lists a couple times in the past.) While there are other lists out there, this list pulls together classic science fiction with current award-winning novels of the last two decades. It is a great resource for science fiction fans looking for recommended readings and a good starting point for readers unfamiliar with the genre. This list is a culmination of over fifty years of reading, thinking about, and teaching science fiction. You will also find a link to it on CFC home page.

Friends and Colleagues Publishing Books

I must be hanging out with the right people. In the past few months, five of my friends and colleagues have published books.

Memories of the Future by Wendell Bell, Transaction Publishers, 2012.

I wrote a review of this autobiography; it should be appearing in the World Future Review, as well as on the CFC website, in the next few months. Wendell Bell is one of the most highly regarded futurists in the world today.


Market Whipped: And Not By Choice by Joan Foltz, Alsek Research, 2012, .

Joan directs the Arizona Chapter of the World Future Society. As Forbes magazine stated about this book, “It does what 'futurists' do when they do their job right."


Science, Wisdom, and the Future: Humanity’s Quest for a Flourishing Earth by (Ed.) Russ and Cheryl Genet, Collins Foundation Press, 2012, 
Both Jeanne and I have articles in this new anthology; the conference participants who wrote the articles for this book are an interesting and highly diverse group of individuals. See all of Cheryl and Russ’s books at their website, the Flourishing Earth Project.

Maligned by Kathy Papajohn, Martin Sisters Publishing, 2012

I presumably inspired this new science fiction novel through my course on the future—specifically my lectures on the future of biotechnology—which Kathy and her late husband Steve took from me many years ago.

Internet Interviews with Tom and Jeanne

While Tom has done several Internet radio interviews by himself, both Jeanne and Tom recently did an interview on the Dr. Bob Rose Show. We discussed Mind Flight, covering ethics and character virtues; pain and chaos in life; love, marriage, and family; technology and the future, etc. We will be back again to do more. Tom also did an interview on wisdom and future consciousness with Dr. Sirkka Heinonen, Professor of the Finland Futures Research Centre at the WFS conference this last year which can now be viewed on YouTube.

Well, that’s it. This blog is long due to “compressed time.” A lot happened in the last month and undoubtedly there is more to come. The Wisdom Page needs to get up and running again. We will be doing presentations on “utopia” and “progress” in the next couple of months; see our schedule of events. And there are retreats, videos, a series of talks for my fans/students at the Florence State Prison, and a futures course program in the planning stages. Thanks for reading; thanks for your interest and support.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Virtue and Wisdom, Death and the Past

My evolving definition of wisdom, at this point in time, reads...
“Wisdom is the highest expression of self-development and future consciousness. It is the continually evolving understanding of and fascination with the big picture of life, of what is important, ethical, and meaningful, and the desire and creative capacity to apply this understanding to enhance the well being of life, both for oneself and others.”

What I do not include in this present definition is the fact that wisdom is always manifested through unique human beings. Wise people (or more precisely, people on the journey of wisdom) bring a special color, nuance, and personality to their expression and their pursuit of wisdom.

One such person was Copthorne Macdonald, the creator and editor of The Wisdom Page. Cop and I were virtual friends, having never met in person, for the last six or seven years (I do not exactly recall when we first communicated with each other). We exchanged countless emails and talked on the phone—flowing philosophical and personal conversations that turned into hour-long calls—quite a few times. Cop read and reviewed many of my books and published, on The Wisdom Page, many of my articles. Reciprocally, I read and reviewed a number of Cop’s writings on wisdom.

Just prior to Christmas, Cop (1936-2011) died from Wegener's granulomatosis, an autoimmune disease. Cop faded quickly; we were communicating with each other via email till the end of November.

I was extremely saddened by Cop’s death. Cop was dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom —to providing a clearinghouse of literature and ever-growing, incredible array of wisdom-related resources on his website. He not only possessed an excellent mind and sharp intellect, but he emanated a calm optimism and deep goodness of spirit. That is to say, he walked the talk, synthesizing the heart and the mind. He was a person of virtue and character. I will miss him very much.

When someone dies, their reality becomes something belonging to the past. (An eerie metaphysical quality emerges regarding their existential presence.) And, of course, the death of a close friend reminds us of our own mortality. It is therefore quite appropriate that the “new year” begins with this reminder—that it is important to make the best of our future, however long that future may be. Sooner or later, the future becomes the past, and the story has been written.

Cop told a very good story.

* * * * * * *

Though published over a decade ago, I just recently read Eric Chaisson’s The Life Era: Cosmic Selection and Conscious Evolution, a superb book that beautifully and intelligently explains the broad scope of the theory of cosmic evolution and integrates this theory with an ethical and global vision of the future of humanity. Additionally, Chaisson provides a great historical review of theories of time and an excellent discussion of order and chaos in the universe. I highly recommend this book.

Sam Harris’s new book The Moral Landscape is a second book I would highly recommend, one that in an important, though not immediately obvious way, connects with Chaisson’s The Life Era. Harris’s central thesis is simple: Morals (or values in general) can be determined by the facts. Contrary to the philosopher David Hume, Harris argues that one can derive an “ought” from an “is.” Harris believes that what is good is what leads to well-being and what is bad (evil) is what leads to misery and unhappiness. And we can determine scientifically what constitutes well-being; well-being is a constellation of empirically determined facts. Hence, what is morally good is grounded in the factual conditions of well-being.
In his book, Harris is critical of both liberalism and religion. Religious morals, though authoritarian in tone, are often not grounded in facts (based as they are on superstition and the pronouncements of sacred texts) and frequently lead to misery and unhappiness. Liberalism, unwilling to take a moral stand, “tolerates” different moral views (especially religious views) that clearly lead to human misery and unhappiness. Liberals believe (quite mistakenly, according to Harris) that one can’t determine in any logical or empirical fashion which, among different moral views, is better or more correct. Harris believes that you can compare moral views (and cultures) and determine, based upon facts, which view (and way is life) is better.
The connection between The Moral Landscape and The Life Era is simple: Both books attempt to derive a moral position based on science. For Chaisson, the basic scientific (and hence factual) foundation for a global ethics is the evolution of complexity and intelligence in nature and the cosmos. For Harris, the scientific grounding for a theory of morals is to be found in the psychological and biological study of humans and what makes for a healthy, happy, and flourishing personality and mind. The arguments within both books are thought-provoking, at the very least.

* * * * * * *

It feels like spring already. (Perhaps wishful thinking, but we have passed through the darkest days of the year.) I will be doing a number of presentations over the next few months, as the sun continues to rise higher into the sky.

I am continuing my consciousness series at RISE.

I am doing a three-part series on progress and the future at Arizona Grand.

And together Jeanne and I will be doing our “Utopian Visions and Values for the Future” presentation twice in the coming months.

For all these events, see details (dates, times, and location) on the right.
As other new events for the year emerge, we will send out notices in future blogs.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mind Flight: A Journey Into the Future

With a great deal of help and effort from Jeanne—including substantial contributions to the text of the book—Tom has finished Mind Flight: A Journey into the Future. It has now been published by Xlibris. Our good friend Ora Tamir has once again provided the fantastical artwork for the cover of the book.

Mind Flight follows Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future, published in July. Find out more and order both Mind Flight and Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future, on the Center’s website. Both books are available in print and e-book. Anyone interested in doing a review on either book (perhaps for Amazon), can contact Tom to get a review copy of the book.

Tom will be doing a kick-off presentation on the books—with some selected readings—at RISE on November 1st starting at 1:00 pm, with a social and book signing to follow beginning around 3:30 pm. See directions to RISE under the Upcoming Events bar on the right.

Also note that Tom will be doing two new series this coming month: The Psychology of Consciousness at RISE 10:00 am to noon on October 3rd and 17th (both Mondays) and Evolutionary Cosmology and Human Progress at Sun City Grand 10:00 am to noon on October 4th, 18th, and November 1st (all Tuesdays).

Hope to see you at one or more of these events.

New and Improved Website

Our website has a host of new features, including direct links on the Home Page to highly recommended websites. One of these websites is the inspiring The Flourishing Earth Project hosted by our dear friends Cheryl and Russ Genet. Read Tom’s new blog post “Why I’d Rather Be Flourishing than Sustaining Myself.”

We have also added a direct link on the Home Page to Copthorne Macdonald’s The Wisdom Page , a superb resource for a vast array of readings on wisdom. Cop, who is another very good friend, has without a doubt the best site on wisdom on the web. You can also read the first three chapters of Mind Flight on the site.

Finally, we should mention the site for Journal of Futures Studies edited by Jose Ramos. All of the high-quality, scholarly articles published in this journal are free to read on the site. Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Consciousness and the Future

To combat the mental lethargy induced by endless triple-digit temperatures here in the Phoenix area, we invite you to join us as Tom presents on “Consciousness and the Future” at a local MeetUp group.
This should be a highly stimulating event, bringing together people with interests in science, technology, philosophy, and psychology.

Where: Tempe Physics and Philosophy MeetUp group
Date: Tuesday September 6th
Time: 7:00 PM

Here is the announcement for the event:

Tom Lombardo, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Future Consciousness and author of several books and numerous articles on consciousness, wisdom, psychological evolution, and the study of the future, will discuss his two new books, Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future and Mind Flight: A Journey into the Future. Drawing upon two essays included in WCF, “The Ecological Cosmology of Consciousness” and “Educating the Wise Cyborg,” his talk will highlight his ideas on the nature of consciousness and its interdependency with the physical ecology of the cosmos; the connection between mind and technology; and how time and evolution figure into the further development of human consciousness. In this context, he will also be discussing Antonio Damasio’s new book on consciousness Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain.

Tom has been reading Robert Sawyer's new trilogy on the emergence of consciousness on the web, Wake, Watch, and Wonder. No doubt he will be sharing his thoughts on this and other recent science fiction as well.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future

As the winter blossomed into spring, and the spring heated into summer, I have been sequestered away writing with Jeanne by my side editing and re-editing a steady flow of new articles, culminating in two new books being published this summer and early fall. The first book is finished and now for sale: Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future (WCF). You can find it at the publisher’s website. It is also up on Amazon.

WCF is a collection of essays that I have published over the last seven years brought together into one volume. The essays deal with human virtue and enhancing future consciousness; wisdom, ethics, and the future of education; the nature of consciousness and creativity; the “New Enlightenment;” and the future evolution of technology and the human mind.

Central to the theoretical vision articulated within the book is wisdom. In the essays I explain how wisdom is the highest expression of future consciousness; how it is the key ideal that should be modeled and taught within education; how wisdom subsumes all of the other important academic virtues; how wisdom aligns with our ongoing technological evolution and global-ecological awareness; and why wisdom is the appropriate ideal toward which we should strive in our individual and collective evolution.

WCF is a blueprint for a new and integrative wisdom-based model of education and the purposeful evolution of mind and human consciousness in the future.

We are planning a number of book events for the fall, including a presentation at RISE in Sun City scheduled for November 1st, from 1 pm to 3 pm. (See the listing of new talks for the fall.) The RISE event, though, will not only be introducing WCF but the second book coming out this year—Mind Flight: A Journey into the Future. We are in the final editing stage with Mind Flight, which should be released probably around September or early October.

One of the new published articles this year (included in WCF) addresses the “mystery of consciousness.” Originally published this spring in The Journal of Cosmology and titled “The Ecological Cosmology of Consciousness,” I explore in the article the nature of consciousness and the self, and how the brain, the body, and the physical cosmos fit together with the phenomenon of consciousness. This coming week I will be giving a presentation at RISE on the ideas in this new article. The date and time are: June 30th (Thursday) 10 am to noon. I will be doing two follow-up presentations on the psychology of consciousness at RISE in the fall (See fall listing of events).

Here is the description for the first presentation:

Consciousness is an amazing reality. Yet, consciousness—of which we are so intimately acquainted since we are conscious beings—is paradoxically one of the great philosophical and scientific puzzles. What is consciousness and how does it come to be? How is consciousness, which seems so totally one kind of thing, connected with the physical world, which seems to be totally of another kind of thing? There are many answers, many solutions to the varied mysteries of consciousness, but all these answers and solutions seem flawed or inadequate. Consciousness remains a profound mystery. In this presentation I will describe the various traditional mysteries of consciousness, introduce an even deeper mystery, propose a new theory of consciousness, the brain, and the physical world, and connect the whole shebang with the nature and evolution of the cosmos. This is one to really stretch your mind and expand your consciousness.

Also this fall I will be doing a new three part series on “Evolution and Progress” at Sun City Grand. (See list of dates and times) Here is a description of this series:

A description of the comprehensive and cosmic scope of evolution as a general theory of all of nature, from the physical and biological to the psychological, social, technological, and even the spiritual. We will see why scientists and philosophers believe that the universe developed into its present form through a multi-faceted dynamical evolutionary process. (And it is by no means over.) But if evolution is true, how does this general progressive process connect with our present global reality? Are we making progress or are we heading for social and ecological disaster? What, in fact, is progress and how do we define it? We will connect evolution with the question of human progress: Is humanity evolving, progressing, and moving forward, and if so, how?

As one final note, I will be on Robert Rose Internet Radio, July 1st. I will be talking about my two new books and wisdom and futurist topics in general. See:

New Books:

Definitely read:

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, a comprehensive, evolutionary explanation of technology--a great read
Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? by John Brockman, the pros and cons of whether Google and the Internet are having a beneficial impact on human thinking and consciousness
Exultant by Stephen Baxter, a cosmological adventure 50,000 years into the future

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Creativity and the Future

“The future is the ongoing expression of the act of creation and we are all participating in it.”

I introduce the above quoted theory of creation at the beginning of my basic workshop on evolving future consciousness. Though inspired by others, for we all “stand on the shoulders of giants,” they are my words, my theory. We may envision the creation of the universe as occurring in the very distant past, but this view of things is, at the very least, highly misleading, if not simply wrong. As the physicist Paul Davies has noted, the universe is perpetually creative, continually pulling itself up by its own bootstraps, with novelty and surprises pouring forth. This efflorescence of the new is what the future is; new things keep happening, new forms keep emerging and evolving. The future is creation—creation is the future.
The reason why we experience a future—a “yet to be”—is that everything is not set and determined, everything is not pre-ordained. There is transcendence of what is and this is the experience and reality of the future.
We may think of creativity as something that humans exhibit in their thinking and behavior, and further, that it is a capacity that only some gifted individuals possess, but again this popular idea is fundamentally wrong. As Stuart Kauffman in his new book, Reinventing the Sacred, demonstrates, creativity and the ongoing emergence of novelty are fundamental to the workings of nature. And clearly, all humans to different degrees show creativity. We all create when we remember, when we think, when we imagine, when we talk, when we construct things. There are degrees of innovation and novelty, but nothing in human life, if not in the universe as a whole, is simple repetition.
It is one of the great ironies and stupidities of contemporary times that “creationism” and “evolution” are set in opposition with each other as two diametrically contrary explanations of reality, when in fact, evolution is creation, though creation not all at once.
This week I am giving a presentation on “Creativity, Wisdom, and Our Evolutionary Future.” See the schedule on the side bar for location and time. Pulling together two previous presentations on creativity, and serving as a foundation for an article I am writing this spring, I worked at synthesizing the pieces on creativity into a big picture. There is the mythology and physics of creativity; there is the psychological study of creativity as well. But there is a wealth of information on how creativity applies to biological evolution, social and economic development, and believe it or not, the creative evolution of technology and machines. Of course, there is also the study of creativity in art.
To me it seems that all of the pieces fit together. Creativity is the synthesis of the unique and the beautiful, of emergent Gestalts, and metaphorically speaking, its dual motive forces lie in death and chaos and sex and interpenetration. But this is as much a theory of the future, as it is of creativity.
In my last blog I recounted the hilarious and inventive narrative in Rudy Rucker’s The Ware Tetralogy. I am now on the fourth and final book of the series. Here, I have encountered aliens who live in two-dimensional time, travel not in spaceships but on cosmic rays, and worship a female Goddess who lives in four-dimensional space. The story is an act of sparkling and crazy creativity; imagine a book on the future written by an extremely smart, techno-savvy Hippie. Creativity jars one’s sense of reality; it unsettles logic, good taste, and common sense. This is The Ware Tetralogy. Back in the 1990s, Rudy Rucker edited (along with R.U. Sirius and Queen Mu) a real psychedelic trip of a book: Mondo 2000: A User's Guide to the New Edge—Cyberpunk, Virtual Reality, Wetware, Designer Aphrodisiacs, Artificial Life, Techno-Erotic Paganism, and More. Mondo 2000 argues for the necessary element of chaos in provoking creativity and inventiveness. (This theory, though, goes back to ancient times.) Like a Salvador Dali of chemicals, electronics, robotics, and words, Rucker mixes together the most bizarre assortment of elements, settings, and characters in the madcap chaos of The Ware Tetralogy. If one wants to experience the full flowering of human creativity—with a clear eye on the future—then dive into Rucker’s books.
Coming full circle, from science fiction to painting, I will close with a quote from one of the most creative, influential, and articulate artists of the twentieth century, Wassily Kandinsky:

“…every work of art comes into being in the same way as the cosmos—by means of catastrophes, which ultimately create out of the cacophony of the various instruments that symphony we call the music of the spheres.”

Contrary to popular belief (once again) and clearly at odds with the ancient notion that creativity was a gift of the gods, deep and penetrating creativity requires work and the tenacious pursuit and cultivation of the new. One sees this in the evolution of Kandinsky’s work. Chaos shakes up the mind, shakes up the ecosystem, shakes up the cosmos; and intelligence, intuition, and trial and error find the new order.

Hope to see you at some of the upcoming events listed on the right in this coming early spring.

Note: Special Event at Sun City Grand
Early this spring I will be doing a comprehensive review of my two books on the future, The Evolution of Future Consciousness and Contemporary Futurist Thought. I will be doing two chapters per two hour session with plenty of time for discussion set aside. See the schedule on the sidebar. Books will be available for sale.
Here is the latest review on the two books coming out in Future Takes magazine:

“A Protean undertaking—and he pulls it off! These two books constitute a remarkable achievement... ‘Awesome’ is a word that comes easily, and heroic must substitute foolhardy as the author concludes his ambitious project, ‘encyclopedic’ accurately describing the scope... To sum up, I could do worse than quoting from Wendell Bell’s praise on the cover of the second volume: A great book… a must-read book for futurists… a masterpiece… applying it on both tomes.”

Bengt-Arne Vedin, Professor emeritus
Fellow, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences
Fellow, World Academy of Art & Science
Life Member, World Future Society

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Future of Alzheimers Patients--From Despair to Hope

As the Babyboomers hit 65 and start tapping into Medicare, thoughts of a different kind of future tap at our consciousness...and it is not only the specter of mortality that raises its ugly head (despite Ray Kurzweil's assurances that if we can only hang on until new interventions are invented, we may not have to die). What if our bodies outlast our minds?

Many of us are seeing our parents descend into the murky and often agitated world of Alzheimers. We watch helplessly as they slowly disappear, their personalities eclipsed by the deterioration of their brains. In the past, care for these patients often translated into restraint and medication. Today new models are emerging however.

I am very proud to have a personal connection with a leader in the field of elder care. My sister Peggy Mullan is the CEO and President of a large "nursing home" in Phoenix Arizona which is being recognized for its innovative and compassionate approach to caring for Alzheimers patients. The Beatitudes Campus was featured on the front page of the New York Times on New Years Day. The informative and inspiring article describes how The Beatitudes has pioneered a more caring and humane approach to treating patients afflicted with this disease. My favorite quote from the artice? "For God's sake, if they want bacon, we give them bacon."

You can hear more about the Beatitudes this coming Tuesday, January 11, 2011 (1/11/11!) when Peggy is interviewed on NPR's Here and Now Program. The interview will be streamed live at 11:00 Mountain Time. If you miss the original broadcast, PRI offers podcasts.