June 2009, Issue 118
to our bi-weekly
of Amsterdam Journal.
Club of Amsterdam visits the
of the world, scarcely imaginable a generation ago, continues to fire
our imagination as newer, smarter connectivity inspires and reshapes
Ever increasing connectivity has been scrutinized by academics, researchers,
journalists and hosts of others. Falling between the cracks is the essence
of the connectivity itself. Where now for the devices, networks, software,
and dynamics which define our patterns of connectivity?
Smarter applications - and more of them could soon see our social
and business associations aided by processes of ever-learning connectivity,
guiding us and learning from our habits and preferences.
Collective intelligence directs us through the spaces we move in, defining
how we negotiate and interact with our surroundings. Powerful, ever-learning
search engines could deeply impact the ways in which we connect with
and move in our shared spaces.
These forces are not only changing our lives, but learning and adapting
as we increasingly interact with them.
Join us in London at
future of Connectivity,
the Global Practitioners of Tomorrow
by Prof. Dr. Mihai
Spariosu, Distinguished Research Professor, University of Georgia,
Member of the
It is a fairly common
complaint, nowadays, that education in general and higher education
in particular seem to be lagging behind other sectors of our society.
The causes of this lag are many, but a number of them can be traced
back to the fact that our current educational systems are rooted
in the nineteenth-century transition from agricultural- to industrial-based
economies and the creation of the modern nation-state. Therefore,
they have largely been structured to prepare our youth for citizenship,
employment, and a moral and productive life within the nation-state,
focusing mostly on the national economy, security, and welfare.
But we are now moving toward an entirely different world, in which
old national boundaries will no longer serve the same purposes.
Our communities have become increasingly interdependent and our
patterns of living as well as our language, ideas, culture, ethics,
environment, health, security, trade, and systems of values and
beliefs are rapidly changing under a renewed human drive toward
a global society.
But rapid change can also be socially and culturally destabilizing.
Problems have become highly complex, nonlinear, crossdisciplinary,
and transnational in nature, requiring the best innovative solutions
on the part of our communities in order to achieve sustainable patterns
of human development and avoid human suffering through deprivation
and violent conflict. Yet our traditional centers of higher education
and research have not been designed to address such problems. In
the United States, for example, whereas individual practitioners
and exceptional scholars at outstanding universities are currently
utilized as consultants in tackling global questions, it is difficult
to assemble multidisciplinary teams of committed faculty and students
in sustained programs to address real-time, global challenges. Departmental
course requirements and the prerequisites for tenure-track preparation
inhibit the efforts to build transdisciplinary and crosscultural
curricula at most universities. To compound the problem, academic
administrators often perceive study abroad and experiential education
as expensive extras that interrupt most students' commitment to
campus life, athletics, and extracurricular activities. Consequently,
today's academy largely misses the opportunity to identify and encourage
intercultural civic entrepreneurs, those few remarkable students
in each class whose career service will make significant contributions
to the peaceful and prosperous development of our world communities.
The importance of global education has increasingly come to public
attention in the wake of recent world events. But our educators
and other practitioners in the field of learning and research have,
at least so far, stopped short of adopting a genuinely global approach
to world education. For example, a white paper on "Beyond September
11: A Comprehensive National Policy on International Education,"
generated by the American Council on Education (ACE) and signed
by thirty-three other US higher education organizations, calls for
extensive reforms in the world of North American higher education,
especially in terms of what it calls global competence. The paper
defines global competence as "in-depth knowledge required for
interpreting information affecting national security, the skills
and understanding that foster improved relations with all regions
of the world; . . . foreign language proficiency and an ability
to function effectively in other cultural environments and value
systems, whether conducting business, implementing international
development projects, or carrying out diplomatic missions."
(ACE 2002: 1) The paper also calls for the creation of "global
experts in foreign languages, cultures and political, economic and
social systems throughout the world." (ACE 2002: 2)
Global competence and expertise are certainly very important talents
and skills to be developed in our national citizenry and workforce.
But, for the ACE paper, the operative word remains "national."
Although it deals with global issues, this paper adopts a national
or an international, rather than a global perspective on such issues.
A global approach would take into consideration not only the perceived
national or "local" interests of the United States or
any other country or region. Of course, those local interests are
extremely important, and genuine global practitioners will neglect
them only at their peril. But such global practitioners would also
look beyond what might turn out to be short-term and limited national
interest to long-range interests serving the entire global community.
From this global perspective, the concept of national interest itself
may gain a new dimension and be redefined, in a larger reference
frame, as that which ultimately is in the best interest of and benefits
all nations and cultures.
Consequently, higher education itself and the very purpose and organization
of our academic institutions must now be rethought and restructured
within a global reference frame. Rethinking education within such
a frame will, to give only one example, require restructuring geopolitical
models, based on a Cold-War concept of area studies and interdisciplinary
approaches that leave the traditional disciplines largely intact.
A global perspective will lead to remapping the old disciplinary
divisions and will generally call for new ways of educating the
elites of tomorrow. Indeed, it will ultimately require that learning
become a lifelong process and extend well beyond formal education
and certain age groups to all members of our local-global communities.
Under the impact of lifelong learning, these communities will ideally
become genuine laboratories of cooperative, intercultural discovery
and creativity. Therefore, the global learning and research environments
for which I plead here are primarily meant to advance global intelligence,
of which global competence and global expertise may be side benefits.
I define global intelligence as the ability to understand, respond
to and work toward what is in the best interest of and will benefit
all human beings and all other life on our planet. This kind of
responsive understanding and action can only emerge from continuing
intercultural research, dialogue, negotiation, and cooperation;
in other words, it is interactive, and no single national or supranational
instance or authority can predetermine its outcome. Thus, global
intelligence, or intercultural responsive understanding and action,
is what contemporary nonlinear science calls an emergent phenomenon,
involving lifelong learning processes. In turn, global intelligence
involves a new ethics or systems of values and beliefs and social
practices that are based on a mentality of peace, rather than on
a competitive and warlike mindset. Just like global intelligence,
this ethics is an emergent phenomenon, which can be developed only
through a long process of intercultural learning, dialogue, and
It is clear, then, that from the perspective of global intelligence
we need to generate new types of knowledge through learning processes
that are quite different from the prevailing ones. There are complex
feedback loops between knowledge and education, which become even
more complex in a global reference frame. Before we can consider
them in this larger frame, let us briefly examine the notions of
knowledge and education operative in mainstream Western circles,
particularly as they are embedded in the widely used term "knowledge"
or "information" society.
One can begin by observing that, when speaking of information- or
knowledge-based economies and, by extension, societies, Western
analysts implicitly refer only to a Western-style system of commercial
values and practices and, within that system, only to a small, if
currently privileged, fraction of it: the subsystem of utilitarian
values. By "knowledge" and "information," they
mean utilitarian or instrumental knowledge, that is, information
and/or know-how deemed to possess significant commercial value.
They also operate with a tacit distinction between (commercially)
profitable or relevant knowledge/ information and unprofitable or
irrelevant one, typical of the utilitarian value subsystem.
This economic subsystem has, moreover, taken shape only during the
last three centuries, with the rise and successive development of
industrial, market, and network capitalism, paralleling the rise
and development of rationalist, reductionist, and positivist kinds
of science, with which it forms a complex network of feedback loops.
Thus, our so-called new information technology and technosciences
are far from being universal instruments of knowledge. They are
merely expressions of the utilitarian economic subsystem that aspires
to impose itself not only on Western culture as a whole, but on
all other cultures as well.
By the same token, for many neoliberal and other Western scholars,
a "knowledge" or "information" society in effect
means a society that embraces Western-style, instrumental values.
These values include privileging the kind of knowledge that leads
to the creation and accumulation of material wealth. Calculation
in all senses of the term is at the basis of this society, where
quantitative values and measurements largely replace qualitative
ones. It is no wonder, therefore, that in the contemporary "knowledge"
society, everything must be expressed in numerical terms and must
have commercial value, with a price tag attached to it. What is
incalculable has no value, i.e., no potential for commercial profit,
and consequently is irrelevant. It is this assumption, moreover,
that allows some Western economists and sociologists to speak of
"information-poor" and "information-rich" societies,
substituting information that is commercially relevant or irrelevant
for all other kinds of information or knowledge.
In turn, such commercially relevant knowledge or information becomes
obsolete almost as fast as it comes into being, sharing the throwaway
quality of all the other products of a consumerist society. This
throwaway quality allows some neoliberal scholars and journalists
to argue that a college education or a college diploma will become
irrelevant in the societies of the future, where today's "knowledge"
or information becomes yesterday's news and where ethics turns into
From the perspective of global intelligence, therefore, speaking
of a "knowledge" society obscures, rather than clarifies,
the most important issues that humanity is confronted with and should
be working on in the foreseeable future. Far from assisting us Westerners
in resolving these urgent issues, the concept of a "knowledge"
society appears, within a global framework, as smug, (self-) deceptive,
and overreaching. Instead of a "knowledge" society, global
practitioners would be much more advised to speak of a "learning"
or an "intensive learning" society. This would stress
the fact that in the increasingly complex global environment in
which we are now living, the notion of "developed" and
"developing" countries has become obsolete. It belongs
to a national, industrial subsystem of values that should be replaced
with a value system that is more in line with an emergent ethics
of global intelligence. From the standpoint of the latter, there
is no country that is more "developed" than the rest,
and all countries, geographical regions, and world cultures can
bring their specific, invaluable contributions to human development.
If we truly wish to change our global paradigms, then we need to
change the focus of our worldwide efforts from social and economic
development to human development. It is this kind of development
that in the end will help us solve our practical problems, including
world hunger, poverty, and violence, and will turn the earth into
a welcoming and nurturing home for all of its inhabitants, human
In turn, we should reflect on our notions of education and training
before we attempt to apply them indiscriminately in a larger, global
reference frame. Education is the process by which certain systems
and subsystems of values and beliefs are passed down from generation
to generation, whereas training is the process of transmitting various
professional skills or know-how. Most of our large research universities
in North America have effectively given up their traditional educational
goals and have become primarily places of training. Even worse,
they have largely adopted the utilitarian equation of training with
education. Of course, the distinction between the two terms is not
essential but functional, because training and education are continuously
involved in amplifying feedback loops, with one reinforcing and
nurturing the other. The consequence for the research university
is that utilitarian values are reinforced at both the level of training
and that of education.
Furthermore, there are complex amplifying feedback loops between
education, training, and knowledge. A utilitarian education will
largely base training on utilitarian values, including utilitarian
knowledge or "know-how," with the main educational goal
of attaining "professional competence" and "expertise."
In turn, utilitarian knowledge, reinforced by utilitarian education
and training, will masquerade as a universal, eternally valid category.
It thus obscures the cultural, ethical, and relative dimensions
of any kind of knowledge, validating, in turn, utilitarian education
and training. Finally, it equally recasts the traditional distinction
between knowledge and wisdom in a utilitarian form.
For example, what appears to be vital knowledge or information in
some cultures, such as sailing at night by the position of the stars
without the help of a sextant, or distinguishing among various animal
and bird calls, taboo and non-taboo foods, acceptable and unacceptable
social relations and behaviors, or composing and reciting oral narratives
as a means of codifying and transmitting the community's system
of values and beliefs may, from a purely utilitarian standpoint,
appear to members of other, "developed" societies as useless
information, poverty of knowledge, illiteracy, or even misinformation.
Consequently "developed" societies either discount or
actively denigrate traditional knowledge, which in traditional cultures
is often entrusted to old sages of both sexes. In these cultures,
the difference between knowledge and wisdom is one of degree, rather
than one of kind: knowledge is only the first step toward wisdom.
In modern societies, by contrast, there is either a sharp separation
between knowledge and wisdom, or an equation of wisdom with utilitarian
knowledge. This has led in modern societies (but also in traditional
ones) to a gradual loss of traditional wisdom/knowledge, including
valuable socioeconomic and ecological practices that are increasingly
replaced by reductionist scientific dogma and Western-style technological
know-how, in the name of modernity and progress.
The first task of an intensive learning society, then, is to become
aware of its complex links to traditional culture and fully fructify
such links. At the same time, it should move toward a larger, intercultural
reference frame, away from myopic, reductionist, and utilitarian
views. Adopting such a larger frame is more important than ever
in the current global circumstance, unless we in the West wish to
continue clinging to the cultural imperialistic practices of the
so-called "free-market" ideology, with the same unhealthy
prospects for genuine human development. It would involve reforming
our current educational institutions, as well as developing alternative
ones, appropriate for local-global, intercultural frames.
Furthermore, the models of knowledge to be employed within a global
reference frame will be quite different from the disciplinary or
interdisciplinary ones that currently prevail in our universities:
according to disciplinary thinking, one must first constitute the
discipline, i.e. an organized body of knowledge, before one can
teach it, for instance, through a doctoral program. Such doctoral
programs serve the purpose of both codifying the study and practice
of a field of knowledge through disciplinary standards and requirements
and of transmitting this code to a body of students who will in
turn contribute to consolidating and expanding the disciplinary
knowledge and practice that have been passed down to them.
In other words, in disciplinary and interdisciplinary models, knowledge
is first acquired (learned) and then transmitted (taught). In a
transdisciplinary model of knowledge as emergence that we would
need in a global reference frame, learning and teaching are codependent
and simultaneous processes, so that new, transdisciplinary cognitive
fields co-arise with the academic programs that codify, or rather
continuously recodify, their practice. Consequently, in a transdisciplinary
university, teaching becomes learning and learning becomes teaching,
as new knowledge continuously emerges and is continuously codified
The transdisciplinary model of knowledge as emergence obviously
requires institutional frameworks that are different from the ones
that are currently in place in our universities. In two books, Global
Intelligence and Human Development (MIT Press: Cambridge, Mass,
2005) and Remapping Knowledge (Berghahn : New York and Oxford,
2006), I have proposed a number of such institutional frameworks,
including new fields of study and practice such as "intercultural
knowledge management" and "intercultural global learning
and leadership." Within these new fields I propose a number
of cross-disciplinary and intercultural programs, whose objective
is to prepare new leaders and civic entrepreneurs for the public
and private sectors of tomorrow's global communities.
Such leaders and practitioners will learn how to produce, as well
as how to recognize and manage new forms of knowledge and competencies
in a global intercultural environment. They will become aware that
intercultural project management and problem-solving involve an
integrative, transdisciplinary approach that takes into account
the political, social, economic, and cultural conditions, as well
as the systems of values and beliefs, of local communities from
around the world. They will possess a thorough understanding of
and a strong sense of responsibility for the "local";
will care for the natural and human environment, and respect and
encourage cultural and biological diversity; will be deeply committed
to seeking peacefully negotiated solutions to conflicts and have
the ability to bring about such negotiated solutions; will know
how to operate in a culturally diverse environment and across disciplines
and professions; will develop more than one career track in a lifetime,
pursuing lifelong learning; will comfortably serve in both the public
and the private sectors and know how to generate new employment
and ways of wealth-making, based on wise management of the planet's
human and natural resources; and will generally engage in lifelong
creative and meaningful activity that is both service-oriented and
I shall conclude my present reflections with a list of some of the
most important intercultural skills and talents that the future
global leaders and practitioners will, in my view, need to develop,
through the programs I propose in my books, or similar intercultural
and transdisciplinary learning programs:
Intercultural Linguistic and Communication Abilities
In addition to English, which, for practical reasons, will most
likely be the lingua franca of these transdisciplinary programs,
global practitioners will need to undertake an in-depth comparative
study of at least two of the principal languages of the world,
in their cultural and intercultural context. These languages include,
but are not necessarily limited to: Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish,
Bengali, Arabic, Portuguese, Malay-Indonesian, Russian, Japanese,
German, and French. If they are native speakers of any of these
languages, they will choose two of the other principal languages,
preferably those that are farthest removed from their mother tongue.
For example, if they are native speakers of Hindi, they should
not choose Bengali, but Mandarin and Russian; if they speak Portuguese,
they should not choose Spanish or another Romance language, but
Hindi and German, and so forth. This will ensure that global practitioners
gain full access to linguistic and cultural worlds that are completely
unfamiliar to them, so that their level of intercultural and linguistic
understanding and, therefore, intercultural communicative skills,
will eventually become even higher.
One should stress the fact that the transdisciplinary programs
for global practitioners that I have in mind here will not train
linguists or polyglots, any more than they will train political
scientists, economists, lawyers, humanists, or any other specialists
or experts. Ideally, the young men and women who come into such
programs will already have genuine fluency in some of these languages.
In-depth knowledge of a number of languages, however, is essential
for the global practitioner to feel at home in several cultures,
move freely among them, and thereby gain a genuine global, cross-cultural
perspective. Language courses must be taught in an intercultural
comparative context so that the global practitioner will become
aware of the deep interconnections between the native speakers'
linguistic and cultural worlds, including their fundamental systems
of values and beliefs, religion, social, economic and political
behavior, historical development, civil institutions, and so forth.
Language courses should also be taught in the context of the global
practitioners' concrete research projects so that they will maximize
their ability to carry out these projects.
(2) Increased Intellectual Mobility and Flexibility
The transdisciplinary and cross-cultural nature of the global
learning and leadership programs of the future will require that
participants move between institutions in several regions of the
world, as well as across departmental divides at any single institution.
This kind of mobility will provide global practitioners with a
local-global perspective, that is, with the ability to view a
certain discipline or academic culture from both the inside and
the outside. They will become immersed in the local research culture
of a certain discipline or institution, at the same time that
they will be able to reflect on it, by comparing it with other
such research cultures. The global practitioners will learn how
to discern similarities and differences between them, which as
a rule remain hidden to a partial, local view, as well as how
to establish new links among them. A local-global perspective
will give them the intercultural responsive understanding and
flexibility needed to bring together specialists or experts from
various fields and from several cultures in order to design and
execute transdisciplinary and intercultural projects that none
of these experts would be able to implement on their own.
(3) Cross-cultural Insight and Sensitivity
One of the most important objectives of the type of intercultural
global learning and leadership programs that I have in mind is
to create group solidarity among a culturally diverse body of
students, teaching them how to cooperate in, and effectively interact
with, shifting cultural and linguistic environments. By working
together on intercultural and transdisciplinary projects, the
participants will become aware of their different cultural assumptions
in approaching a certain problem and will start negotiating among
themselves to find the best solutions that go beyond their own
local perspective or self-interest and advance the research project
as a whole. Cross-cultural insight and sensitivity will also emerge
from the daily interaction of participants who will live, work,
and play together as a group for an extended period and will be
asked to build and act on a common sense of purpose and a common
set of values for the rest of their lives. In other words, the
participants will be called on to seek global intelligence not
only in relation to their academic studies, but also in their
daily interactions both inside and outside their group. This kind
of learning objective will thus distinguish intercultural learning
programs from other foreign studies or study-abroad programs that
currently flourish all over the world. Global intelligence would
be hard to aim at, say, in the context of current US study abroad
programs or foreign student programs on US campuses, where each
individual student has his or her own life- and career-goal. "Cultural
sensitivity" training programs available through the international
offices of various universities often limit themselves to advising
foreign students to use body deodorants in Anglo-Saxon cultures;
or, in the case of US students, not to shake hands, hug, or keep
direct eye contact, say, with a supervisor or an elderly person
when in East Asia; or, more generally, "to do, when in Rome,
as Romans do."
(4) Ability to Integrate Academic and Experiential Knowledge
Global intelligence presupposes that participants in intercultural
learning and leadership programs, from the first year of their
studies, begin to acquire and combine theoretical and practical
knowledge in order to address real-time, local-global issues.
This learning objective will again distinguish such programs from
current standard academic programs. The latter programs mostly
convey an abstract body of knowledge, which is often disconnected
from its practical, live context and which the student is supposed
to apply or make use of at a later date, after graduation. By
contrast, the new programs will organize their curricula and research
programs around the concrete problems that the future global practitioners
will be asked to solve, rather than solely on past case studies.
They will form cross-disciplinary teams and work on viable solutions
to specific real-world problems, rather than through the codified
practice of a particular academic discipline or culture.
Participants will, moreover, build capacity to identify and address
potential socioeconomic and other types of problems before they
develop into crises that threaten the peaceful development of
world communities or diminish the diversity of world resources.
They will also be called on to design workable, realistic blueprints
for the sustainable, sociocultural and human development of their
countries or regions. These blueprints will be based on the best
traditions of wisdom available in their cultures, as well as in
those of others, and on the most cherished aspirations and ideals
of their people. Last, but not least, the sustained, cooperative
efforts of the new types of global practitioners from all over
the world will decisively contribute to addressing and eventually
eliminating the causes of international terrorism, one of the
greatest threats to humanity in our time.
To summarize, the profile of a successful global practitioner
of tomorrow includes superior intellectual, linguistic, and communicative
capabilities, proven creativity, proven ability to think and to
relate to others in cross-disciplinary and intercultural contexts,
and high personal integrity. Field of specialization will be less
important than the global practitioner's willingness and ability
to work cooperatively with specialists in all fields to carry
out intercultural and cross-disciplinary projects. The most important
quality of this profile will be a candidate's propensity toward
global intelligence, that is, his or her ability and willingness
to engage in intercultural responsive understanding and action
on a global level, while never losing sight of the various local
To conclude, some practical-minded readers may wonder about the
"bottom line" or the cost of the kind of global learning
programs that I have envisaged here. The initial financial investment
would undoubtedly be substantial: one would have to build and
continuously update the complex infrastructure and the ICT needed
for this and other global learning and leadership programs that
would become part of a worldwide network. This ICT will involve
new AI technology platforms, such as Ravenspace II, based on Quantum
Relations Theory, and other platforms capable of supporting the
intercultural learning and research programs outlined above. The
costs, however, will not exceed those needed to train a regular
undergraduate student and/ or a master's student at an Ivy League
school in the United States, while the benefits to the global
society at large would obviously be much greater.
More generally, only a very small fraction of what is currently
spent in the United States and other countries on the so-called
"war on terror" would suffice to create a large number
of global learning and leadership programs and other innovative,
globally oriented educational programs throughout the world. Such
programs would, moreover, yield much better and much more secure
returns for both the United States and the rest of the world.
So, even in terms of utilitarian benefits or "returns,"
such academic projects would be a good investment. Indeed, they
would largely become self-supporting after the first three-year
cycle, because of their real-time research programs that many
multinational corporations and other transnational, private, and
public organizations would regard as very "hot" intellectual
In any case, the intrinsic value of such programs to the global
community at large will greatly exceed any financial investment
needed to establish and operate them. Whereas not ignoring cost/benefit
considerations, one would, again, have to redefine the notions
of "value" and "benefit," not in the utilitarian,
instrumental terms of material (self-) interest, but in terms
of the emergent goals and objectives of global intelligence. In
the end, it is a matter of choice on the part of a certain society,
or community, or nation as to what its investment priorities should
be. Will it continue to indulge in mindless waste of human, natural,
and financial resources with disastrous, worldwide repercussions?
Or will it finally start building a sustainable future for itself
and for all other life on earth?
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