Human Potential Movement 2.0

, San Francisco

Exponential technology alone is not enough; we need a new global cosmology.

As Yuval Harari has correctly stated in his book “Sapiens,” one thing that differentiates us from other animals, and what enables us to organise in immense complexity, are stories. In fact this is what helps us to abruptly re-orient ourselves at crucial turning points of history. According to Harari: ““Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. That’s why Sapiens rule the world, whereas ants eat our leftovers and chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.”

Hence the inventions that facilitated stories were so important. The appearance of writing enabled us to pass on stories to strangers and the next generation. The invention of the printing press along with the mass production of books enabled stories to travel wider. And the internet and age of information has enabled stories to move quickly beyond borders and be disseminated instantaneously around the world. We have the technology now to re-orient ourselves very quickly. The timing is excellent.

Many futurists and thinkers are writing dystopian futures now. Especially after 2016, the media is full of stories about hatred, fear and separation as we face multiples crises – economic, geopolitical, ecological and perhaps spiritual.

The changes I perceive on the horizon are even more immense.  A tsunami of change approaches. Perhaps those of us who spend a lot of time thinking about the future and the evolution of our species, can see its magnitude more than most , but its probably beyond the ability of any of us to fully predict it.

However, everyone senses it. Like the animals that flee an area days before an earthquake strikes.

Most do not know what to do. The default mode for many of us is to hide in metaphorical bunkers and save and store for impeding difficulties, that is to live in fear. But this only perpetuates separation. What we need now is unity and collective action.

Whether we like it or not, our lives are unlikely to be able to continue as they are. Our individual journeys and stories will inexorably meet with the planetary story. So what is this new planetary story and how can we shape it?

Some futurists and technologists think we are merely biological machines, and therefore can be replaced by more efficient machines. This depressing narrative could indeed turn the age of robots and AI into a truly dystopian future. The alternative narrative is that we have yet to fully harness the true potential of the human mind and our creative genius. The age of AI and robots might well be the catalyst to ask much deeper questions such as “What is it to be Human?” And with greater automation, and perhaps universal basic income, we can give people more time to discover their unique gifts and purpose that they want to share with humanity. I recently spent a day with the Founder of the Millennium Project, Jerome Glenn, and he buys in to this vision.

The first Human Potential Movement was part of the counterculture of the 1960s. Many great writers from Arduous Huxley to Alan Watts contributed to the dialogue.  What we need now is a recognition that exponential technology alone will not solve our problems. Landing on the moon alone did not remove human suffering or war. What we need is ‘exponential humanity.’ The ground work has been laid, with immense progress we have made in understanding the nature of reality through quantum physics, the science of consciousness, new studies of creativity and the recent dialogues between the ancient wisdom traditions and modern science.

I find it fascinating that at a time of great crisis (crises), we are making these huge inroads in our understanding of how the brain and consciousness function. There is a huge interest in how to enhance creativity. Today, we are asking how is it that Finland has such an amazing education system. And we find that they build it upon co-operation instead of cutthroat competition.  Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk was the no 1 popular talk ever. Design schools have taken off in importance in recent years with design thinking and other approaches that recognise that human intelligence is not limited to merely the intellectual. We see D-Schools taking consulting work from B Schools. The next phase will be a move to C-Schools perhaps?

Perhaps the greatest trend is that people are striving more than ever to find purpose. In a post industrial revolution world, where both science and business replaced meaning with engineering, and everything was modelled on Isaac Newton’s clockwork world, our lives became barren of purpose. The desire for purpose seems to be stronger than ever. You can see this in growing numbers of spiritual seekers, the thousands of executives in Silicon Valley and elsewhere flying to Peru for ayahuasca-based vision quests, the re-opening of pilgrimage routes around the world, Stanford’s most popular course being “Designing your life”, and the desire of millennials to work for purposeful companies and movements.

I think that we are starting to awaken to the magic of what it is to be human.

As Alan Watts once wrote:

if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. 



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