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"We are witnessing
the transformation of consciousness and its influence in all our social
systems at a planetary level. Economics is at the heart of this change
as it profoundly impacts the ways in which society organizes, makes
agreements, trades and write laws. In the emergent economics scene we
are writing a new story, people are becoming architects, conscious consumers,
storytellers, creators and players of a world that works for all. At
the consciousness level we are entering into 'The era of flow' and a
new expressive capacity for humanity. Come to be inspired and share
about this evolution which potential is to shift humanity to a new order
of consciousness and creativity.
How can we generate and
maintain new economic models designed to create the most beautiful world
we can possibly imagine?
What are you witnessing that indicates the transformation of a life-affirming
Join us at our next Season Event about
the future of Economy and Consciousness
- Thursday, November 7, 18:30 - 21:15!
Felix F Bopp, Founder &
our Future Evolution
Learning to Survive
and Thrive in the Emerging Global Paradigm
signs are that we are right in the middle of the transition from
one global paradigm to another. The one we are leaving is often
called "modernity". The one we are entering does not
yet have a name. But we already know enough about it to be sure
that it will profoundly affect all aspects of our lives. If we
wish to survive and thrive in what will be a very different world,
we need to learn how to navigate the transition. This will mean
major systemic changes in all our socio-economic institutions.
It will also mean major change in each one of us as individuals.
The End of Modernity
It is not generally
known that the current global paradigm, modernity, has many of
its roots in my home country, Scotland. There was a time when
Scotland punched well above her weight in thinking and creativity.
Many things that we now take for granted had their origin in Scotland.
The list is long - television, refrigerator, microwave ovens,
tarred roads, pneumatic tyres, golf, the steam engine, radar,
modern banking, antisepsis, antibiotics, quinine, the fax machine,
ATM machines, genetic cloning, logarithms, iron bridges, and many
other things. For reasons that need not concern us here, Scotland
used to be the most inventive country in the world.
is relatively well known. What is not so well known is that much
of the intellectual basis for the modern world was developed in
Scotland, during the Scottish Enlightenment (roughly 1740-90).
Of the personalities involved, Adam Smith and David Hume are the
best known, but there were many others who made important contributions,
such as Thomas Reid, Adam Ferguson and John Millar, as well as
notable pioneers in medicine, science, education and civic life.
It is difficult for us today to appreciate just how influential
Scotland used to be. Indeed, Scotland's intellectual leadership
was so powerful that Voltaire was moved to write: "...we
look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation."
Of course, the Enlightenment
was by no means confined to Scotland, but I think it is useful
to look at Scotland's contribution because it helps us to see
what the Enlightenment gave to the world. Scotland was very active
in the development of modern economics, modern medicine, modern
science, modern education, modern technology and modern government.
To express this another way, the Scotland helped to give us modernity
- the set of ideas, beliefs, values, institutions and practices
that have shaped, and continue to shape, the modern world.
Few would deny that,
for a long time, modernity made life better and easier. It raised
the material living standards of many; it increased life expectancy;
it enabled us to address many forms of ill health that had gone
unaddressed before; it brought education to the majority; it vastly
increased our knowledge of the physical world (i.e. science);
it has given us a lot of very useful technology; and, in theory
at least, it allowed many adults to participate in the big decisions
that affect them. All in all, we have much to be thankful for.
Any criticism I am about to make must be tempered by my belief
that there are many aspects of modernity worth retaining. The
bathwater must go, but the baby must stay!
brought us many good things, something has gone very wrong. We
have just come through the most destructive century in human history,
with major wars on nearly every continent, in which over 100 million
people were slaughtered, and with more damage to the planet and
the biosphere than ever before in human history. And the present
century has not begun well. As the 21st Century gets under way,
wars are raging on three continents, inequality within and between
nations is very high and rising, mental and emotional illness
are epidemic, the financial system is in permanent crisis, and
nature and the planet are more seriously threatened than ever.
There is a growing
sense that modernity has outlived its usefulness and that the
benefits it still brings are now greatly outweighed by the problems
it causes. The economics, medicine, science, education and politics
ushered in by the Enlightenment served us well for a long time
but, in some important respects, they are no longer fit for purpose.
What we have long assumed to be the main solution to our problems
- modernity - may have become one of their main causes. While
it is true that many of us are materially richer, we are in some
important respects poorer. We have more money and things than
we ever had, yet how many of us are truly happy? We receive more
schooling and training than ever, yet greed and superficiality
are the hallmarks of modern culture. We have more technology and
scientific knowledge than ever before, but we struggle to use
them wisely. And although we continue to call ourselves "democracies",
many of us wonder what the point of voting is when the outcome
of elections can be determined in a few marginal constituencies,
when there is little to distinguish the main parties, when big
money determines policy, and when leaders ignore the people's
views on major issues, such as war. Since it has been, and still
is the dominant global paradigm, modernity must be seriously implicated
in all these problems.
The time has come
to replace modernity with a set of ideas, beliefs, values, institutions
and practices that are appropriate to the very different conditions
of the 21st Century. The time has come, in other words, for a
Second Enlightenment that will take us beyond modernity to a new
paradigm, and provide us with an economics, a medicine, an education,
a science and a politics that are better suited to the conditions
of today. But what will these be, and how will we create them?
In an attempt to answer these pressing questions, I am going to
ask not what modernity has given us, but what it has taken away
At the very heart
of modernity is a set of core beliefs that is, effectively, the
worldview of modern science. I think it fair to say that these
beliefs are as follows:
The universe and
everything in it, ourselves included, is physical. All
those things that seem to be "non-physical", such
as consciousness, can ultimately be explained in terms of the
The universe and
everything in it is essentially a lifeless "machine"
very sophisticated machine, but a machine nonetheless. We human
beings and the universe can best be understood as "mechanisms".
Matter is primary
and consciousness is secondary. Consciousness is a product of
matter, and not the other way round. For example, consciousness
is understood to be an "epiphenomenon" of the brain.
We human beings
do not exist before conception or after the death of our body.
is upwards. This means that "ultimate reality" is
at the sub-atomic level and that all other levels, including
our everyday experience, are secondary derivatives of this.
The universe has
no intrinsic meaning. On the contrary, it is full of
"chance" and "chaos" and "randomness".
Religious and spiritual
traditions may be useful as a moral compass, but they are
no basis for "real facts". The only real facts come
Although we might
not realise it, these beliefs have become so powerful and influential
that all metaphysical, religious and philosophical claims that
contradict them tend to be rejected. This has effectively devalued
and marginalised many important discussions and much potential
knowledge. And it has, to a significant extent, relegated religions
to the role of providers of a moral compass. The strange thing
is that the classic science worldview persists despite profound
discoveries in physics, cosmology and biology that suggest that
the universe is anything but a machine, that "chance"
may lie only in the eye of the beholder, that the universe is
rich in intrinsic meaning, and that some aspects of the human
being may survive the death of the body. The "near death
experience", for example, has been extensively documented.
Yet if, as science continues to insist, the universe began suddenly
for no reason (the "Big Bang") and life on this planet
emerged by chance, then the world that science wants us to believe
in must itself be totally meaningless. The fact that this statement,
as part of that world, must also be meaningless is little consolation!
In my view, then,
one of the big unintended consequences of modernity has been loss
of deeper meaning. Although it is true, of course,
that religion provides a sense of meaning to many people, it is
equally true that many others are struggling to find meaning in
their lives. Some are lucky enough to find it in their work. For
too many, however, work is a meaningless drudge, often poorly
rewarded. By removing deeper meaning, modernity has unwittingly
created a vacuum. Many people feel that something big is missing
from their lives. They may not be able to put this into words,
but they feel an empty space inside them that cries out to be
filled. They experience this in many ways, such as anxiety, discomfort,
insecurity, despair, or a sense of pointlessness. Understandably,
they try to fill the emptiness, and they do this in a huge variety
of ways. They eat too much, they drink too much, they shop until
they drop, they watch a lot of television or play a lot of video
games, they rush around too much (no surprise that being busy
is regarded as a virtue today), or they use sex, drugs or alcohol
as pain-killers. These behaviours, worrying in themselves, often
lead to other problems, such as alcoholism, obesity, addiction,
depression, and anti-social behaviour. So long as there is a vacuum
of meaning, people are likely to resort to desperate means to
If I seem critical
of science, that is not my intention. Science has given us a great
deal and will no doubt continue to do so. What I am talking about
here are the unintended consequences of what science has become,
and of the paradigm it spawned (modernity). Another of these consequences
is loss of wisdom. But what do I mean by this? As
Martin Luther King once pointed out: "Our scientific power
has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles, but misguided
men." We know how to create wonderful cars, planes and mobile
phones, but we do not know how to use these and other technology
wisely, in ways that cause no damage to ourselves and the planet.
Indeed, many of the big problems of our time - such as climate
change, pollution, and stress-related illness - can be traced
back to the unwise use of technology. This is what I mean by loss
of wisdom. We have lost much natural wisdom, common sense, if
you like, because we have devoted too much of ourselves to one
kind of progress - economic and technological - and not enough
of ourselves to another kind - spiritual and ecological. The consequences
of this imbalance are plain to see.
With the decline
of wisdom and common sense, "experts" in science and
economics have become today's high priests. As a result, we pay
too much attention to them, forgetting Bernard Shaw's perceptive
observation: "An expert is a person who knows more and more
about less and less, until, eventually, he knows everything about
nothing." In the modern world, the "truths" of
experts outrank all other "truths", and we have become
overdependent on them. This dependency has extended into other
areas of our lives too. One of the hallmarks of modern societies
is their increasing dependency on business, government and experts
for goods, services and knowledge that, in many cases, individuals
and communities would be better providing for themselves. As a
rule of thumb, dependency is unhealthy and self-reliance is healthy.
Although we sometimes think of indigenous tribes as "primitive",
the fact is that they are self-reliant, empowered communities.
They are living cultures, rather than vicarious cultures. They
do things for themselves, rather than having things done for them.
They recognise the central importance of basic human capacities,
such as caring, growing their own food, cooking, healing, educating,
creating, and entertaining, and would not dream of having these
things provided as commodities and services by government and
I believe that modernity
has had one other big unintended consequence, and that is loss
of ecology. The few societies around the world that have
retained wisdom and deeper meaning at the centre of their lives
know just how important it is to live in harmony with each other
and with the planet. How many of us can put our hands on our hearts
and say that we truly live in harmony with each other, let alone
the planet? On the contrary, the modern world has made many of
us feel desperate and insecure. It is little wonder that we engage
in frenetic activity, such as work, shopping and travelling, when
we should be finding ways to live gently and simply, with ourselves
and with the world around us.
Modernity and Economic Growth
When we add together
loss of meaning, loss of wisdom, and loss of ecology, there is
not much left going for us, apart from making money and spending
it. This is almost certainly why we live in an era of unprecedented
materialism. For many people, acquiring and consuming material
things must seem like the only meaningful thing left for them
to do. Our economics, our politics, our medicine, our education,
our science and our culture have become steeped in material values
and beliefs and the behaviours that flow from these. It is surely
significant that schools and universities have become little more
than training centres in how to participate in the economy, while
hospitals in the USA and elsewhere are often referred to as "profit
centres". We are paying a high price for our obsession with
material things, as we exploit and damage each other and the planet.
Meanwhile, it is short step from materialism to economism, one
of the more recent and toxic additions to modernity.
Economism is the
tendency to view the world through the lens of economics, to regard
a country as an economy rather than as a society, and to believe
that economic considerations and values rank higher than other
ones. Economism is clearly evident all over the world these days
and is a powerful influence in business, political and media circles.
It is an extremely narrow way of seeing the world, and it prevents
us from seeing whether we are making genuine progress. We assume
that if there is more money and economic activity (economic growth),
things are getting better. In reality, they might be getting worse
and our devotion to economic growth and money is probably one
of the main reasons for this. Since the pursuit of economic growth
has become such a central feature of modernity, I make no apology
for discussing it at length.
There is an almost
universal belief that economic growth is highly desirable. China,
for example, is thought to be doing "very well" simply
because its economy has been growing rapidly in the last two decades.
This fact trumps all other considerations, such as human rights,
corruption, pollution and breathtaking inequality. Indeed, the
belief in economic growth runs so deep that it has a quasi-religious
feel to it. Any serious questioning of it is seen as heresy in
government and business circles. The truth is that there is nothing
intrinsically desirable about economic growth. It simply means
that more money was spent this year on goods and services than
was spent last year. It does not tell us anything about the desirability
or quality of these additional goods and services. It does not
tell us anything about the human, social and environmental costs
of providing them. It does not tell us anything about income distribution
and social justice. Most important of all, it does not tell whether
we are getting happier, wiser, and healthier and more fulfilled,
which is surely the point of it all.
The principal measure
of economic growth - GDP (Gross Domestic Product) - treats the
good, the bad and the ugly as if they were all good. So long as
money legally changes hands, it counts towards GDP. If there is
more crime to be dealt with, more divorces, more pollution to
be cleaned up, more illness to be treated, and more debt being
incurred, then all of this counts towards economic growth. In
fact, nothing boosts growth more than a war or a natural disaster.
GDP gives us the impression that things are going well when they
may be going badly. There are several good alternative indicators,
such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). In essence, this
subtracts the costs of economic growth from the benefits, to give
us a truer picture of progress. It is significant that while GDP
in all western countries has been rising more or less consistently
in the last 50 years, GPI has been falling or static since the
late Seventies. Adopting a more accurate flagship indicator would
be a major step in the right direction. Meanwhile, it is worth
examining the main arguments normally made in favour of economic
The advocates of
growth tell us that if GDP is not moving, we have "stagnation",
and that if it is declining, we have "recession". These
are both emotive terms. Yet, there is surely nothing wrong with
a society that is not consuming excessively. And there is surely
nothing wrong with a society that actually chooses to spend less
money on some types of goods and services. Imagine a world where
people walk and cycle more, where there is less divorce and less
crime, where people take more care of their health and need less
medical treatment, and where there is more self-reliance and cooperation.
In such a society, there would be less spending on goods and services.
But, in conventional terms we would be in "recession"
and considered to be doing badly, such is the Alice in Wonderland
world of topsy-turvy values we have created for ourselves.
Then there are those
who constantly remind us that less spending leads to unemployment
and the closure of businesses. In the short term this is often
true. But it is worth pointing out that what we regard as "stable
levels of employment" is based not on sustainable production
and consumption, but on excessive production and consumption.
That excess cannot continue forever. It is causing too many problems,
including record levels of personal debt. That is unsustainable.
It is much better to spend wisely and moderately and work out
the consequences of doing so.
Finally, many people
believe that economic growth is a kind of universal panacea. They
believe that if we have problems - poverty, inequality, unemployment,
injustice, disease, crime, whatever - then all we need is more
economic growth and the problems will eventually disappear. In
fact, the opposite appears to be true. Far from being a universal
panacea, economic growth may be a universal problem because, in
one way or another, it seems to be at the root of much ill health,
crime, social breakdown, inequality, and environmental degradation.
As Clive Hamilton points out in his book Growth Fetish: "Growth
not only fails to make people contented; it destroys many of the
things that do. Growth fosters empty consumerism, degrades the
natural environment, weakens social cohesion and corrodes character.
Yet we are told, ad nauseam, that there is no alternative."
Real Meaning of Sustainable Development
Of course there is
an alternative. It is sustainable development. But it is not the
kind of sustainable development that many people seem to have
in mind. Contrary to widespread belief, "sustainable development"
does not mean economic growth, while keeping a weather eye on
the environment. Growth means "getting bigger", but
development means "getting better." These are two very
different things. Of course, we have to sustain and enhance the
natural environment, but we also have to sustain the other systems
that sustain us, namely our health and the fabric of society.
Just as the natural environment is under serious threat, there
can be little doubt that health and society are under just as
much threat, yet this is rarely mentioned in the sustainability
debate. If we take the view that "development" means
"making things better" and that there are several things
we have to sustain, then the concept of sustainable development
begins to look very different. It can be redefined as:
development is the development of people, communities and planet
in ways that sustain the three vital systems that sustain all
of us - our health, the fabric of society, and the natural environment
Expressed in this
way, it stands in stark contrast to economic growth, which is
increasingly identified in public consciousness with exploitation
and diminution of people, communities, nature and planet.
To be fair, economic
growth itself is not the only problem. It is the set of values
and pressures that lie behind it. As a society we seem to value
money and things more than we value people and nature. And many
of us feel under constant pressure to perform and compete and
consume. Such values and pressures wreak havoc on our health,
our families, and our communities, not to mention the planet.
Whatever else it does, economic growth does not bring health,
happiness, wisdom and meaning. And trying to use economic growth
to solve problems is like trying to put out a fire by throwing
petrol on it. It is true that some things have improved over
the years, but there seems to be an increasingly high price to
pay for this. For example, we have more speed, but less time for
reflection; more choice, but less satisfaction; more competition,
but less sense of being at ease; more schools and universities,
but less education in the true sense; more doctors and hospitals,
but less health; more communications, but less listening; more
public services, but less self-reliance; and more police and prisons,
but less security.
You can read the full article on our blog click
Event: the future of Economy and Consciousness
future of Economy and Consciousness
Thursday, November 7, 2013, 18:30
Location: Waag Society, Nieuwmarkt 4, 1012 CR Amsterdam
[Center of the Nieuwmarkt]
Tickets: Euro 30, Euro 20 (Members etc.) or Euro 10 (Students)
between Waag Society, Dialogue Cafe and the Club of Amsterdam.
Ibarra, Co-founder, Collective Intelligence Research
Invisible architectures: the key to a
healthy and thrivable Economy
Founder, Gaia Villages
Professor, Tilburg School of Economics and Management
Artificial Intelligence and
Dialogue Host: Sacha
and get your Season Pass 2013/2014
the next level Club of Amsterdam - connecting globally!
Optical Glass House by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Optical Glass House,
Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Co., Ltd., www.nakam.info
Photograph:Koji Fujii/Nacasa & Partners Inc., Movie:Yumi
of Amsterdam blog
of Amsterdam blog
Green Buildings Help
our Future Evolution
The Humanities! Why STEM Shouldnt Take Precedence Over the
Rides and Robots are the Future of Space Travel
about the Future
Financial Services for the Poor
by Gates Foundation
Transforming the economics of payments to build sustainable,
inclusive financial systems
Poor people do not live in a static state of poverty. Every
year, many millions of people transition out of poverty by successfully
adopting new farming technologies, investing in new business
opportunities, or finding new jobs. At the same time, large
numbers of people fall back into poverty due to health problems,
financial setbacks, and other shocks. However, it is costly
to serve poor people with financial services, in part because
most of their transactions are conducted in cash. Storing, transporting,
and processing cash is expensive for banks, insurance companies,
utility companies, and other institutions, and they pass on
those costs to customers.
The Gates Foundations Financial Services for the Poor
program (FSP) believes that effective financial services are
paramount in the fight against poverty. Nonetheless, today more
than 2 billion people live outside the formal financial sector.
Increasing their access to high quality, affordable financial
services will accelerate the well-being of households, communities,
and economies in the developing world. One of the most promising
ways to deliver these financial services to the poor
profitably and at scale is by using digital payment platforms.
These are the conclusions we have reached as the result of extensive
research in pursuit of one of the Foundations primary
missions: to give the worlds poorest people the chance
to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.
Fuel From Sunlight
Weve developed a method by which molecular hydrogen-producing
catalysts can be interfaced with a semiconductor that absorbs
visible light, says Gary Moore, a chemist with Berkeley
Labs Physical Biosciences Division and principal investigator
for JCAP (Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis). Our
experimental results indicate that the catalyst and the light-absorber
are interfaced structurally as well as functionally.
We look forward to adapting our method to incorporate materials
with improved properties for converting sunlight to fuel,
Moore says. We believe our method provides researchers at
JCAP and elsewhere with an important tool for developing integrated
photocathode materials that can be used in future solar-fuel generators
as well as other technologies capable of reducing net carbon dioxide
creativity in post-production
creativity in post-production
In the throng of the film set, camera operators have to determine
the camera angle, the aperture, and depth of field of the camera.
In the future, they will be able to change these parameters, even
in post-production thanks to a new camera technology.
The set resembles an ant hill. Actors, actresses, extras, cameras
and in between all of this, the director is calling out
his instructions. The camera operator has to make sure of the
correct settings, pay attention to the flow of the scene, and
instruct the camera assistants. Which camera angle should be assigned
to which camera? Which part of the image should be sharp, and
which should retreat, diffuse and out of focus? Because once the
recordings are in the can, as they say in the movie
biz, these parameters can no longer be corrected. At least, not
until now. An algorithm combined with a new type of camera array
i.e. an arrangement of several cameras should enable
these changes to be made retroactively in the future and
thereby allow for more creativity in post-production. Filmmakers
can then still decide afterwards which area of the scene should
be portrayed sharply. Or move around within a scene virtually
like in the film Matrix. The actor is frozen in the scene,
hanging motionless in the air, while the camera moves around,
capturing the scene from all sides.
the light field: The new array from Fraunhofer includes 16 cameras
(see it in pictures right above angle). So it is possible
to rejust sharpness and camera angle even after the original recordings.
© Fraunhofer IIS
instead of just one
Researchers at the
Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen,
Germany, have developed a camera array that makes this feasible
and will be exhibiting it at this years International Broadcasting
Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam. The array consists of 16
cameras in total, arranged in four rows and columns, explains
Frederik Zilly, Group Manager at IIS. Instead of having just one
single camera as usual, which records the scene from just one
position, the 16 cameras collect the light rays at various points
in the plane over which the cameras are distributed. The researchers
speak of having captured part of the light field from the scene,
instead of only one specialized perspective. Although the array
consists of 16 cameras, its cross section is only 30 cm by 30
cm (12 x 12). So it can be conveniently and easily
employed on the set and in the studio.
But how does that
work, being able to edit the recording so much better retroactively?
The software estimates a depth value for every pixel recorded
by the cameras. It therefore determines how far from the camera
array the object portrayed is located. Intermediate images can
be calculated in post-production from this depth information,
so that we have virtual data not from just four columns and four
rows of cameras, but from 100 x 100 cameras instead. As the camera
operator films the subject, each of the outer cameras is able
to look a little bit behind the subject they have a different
angle of view than the cameras located in the middle of the array.
After the recording is made, the filmmakers are able to virtually
drive around a person or an object, and to change the camera angles
and depth of field.
have already developed the software for processing the recording
from the camera array. The graphical user interface is also ready
for recording on set. The researchers are still working on the
user interface for the post-editing at present; they should be
finished in about six months. The scientists are planning then
to produce a stop-motion film that is particularly suited as a
test run of the software. Later, we would like to use it
as a demo film, discloses Zilly. Then we can show
interested parties the kind of possibilities and opportunities
offered by employing a camera array.
from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies
by Otto Scharmer
(Author), Katrin Kaufer (Author)
Our Time Is Now
We have entered
an age of disruption. Financial collapse, climate change, resource
depletion, and a growing gap between rich and poor are but a few
of the signs. Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer ask, why do we collectively
create results nobody wants? Meeting the challenges of this century
requires updating our economic logic and operating system from
an obsolete ego-system focused entirely on the well-being
of oneself to an eco-system awareness that emphasizes the well-being
of the whole. Filled with real-world examples, this thought-provoking
guide presents proven practices for building a new economy that
is more resilient, intentional, inclusive, and aware.
Michael Akerib, PhD
of Eurasia is a unique land mass including both Europe and Asia
with Europe barely accounting for 20% of the land mass but the
largest proportion of the land mass. With the exception of the
Sakha peninsula in Russia and the Arabian and Indian subcontinents,
these lands lie on a single tectonic plate.
Europe and Asia are
separated by mountain chains the Himalaya, the Hindu Kush
and the Karakorum as well as by the Mongolian steppes.
Eurasia and Africa,
prior to the opening of the Suez Canal, were called the World-Island
by sailors. This concept is supported by the fact that Eurasia
was populated by the same migration wave sometime between 20 000
and 30 000 years ago.
It is believed that
the original population settled around the Eastern Mediterranean
and then followed a centric movement towards the Atlantic and
the North Sea following trade corridors. Simultaneously, part
of the population moved eastwards and developed very different
cultures, identifying themselves clearly as Asians or Europeans.
These are, nevertheless, deep differences between the various
countries composing Africa or Europe.
There were very clear
differences between these two population groups in the speed of
development and the use of technology and explanations have diverged
from genetic differences going back to early prehistoric times
to the lack of availability of materials to develop tools such
The first major human
settlements took place along the Ganges, the Nile, the Po, the
Tigris and the Yangtze. At the start of the Christian era, the
two most populous countries were India and China with a population
of around 60 million each.
littoral became the center of civilized life with various civilizations
succeeding each other. From 500 BC to 1500 AD i.e. for
two thousand years four civilizations occupied this territory:
the Chinese, the Greek, the Indian and the Middle Eastern. Central
Asian barbarian nomads and Jewish traders called Radhanites ensured
that the contact between these various civilizations was maintained.
This form of trade disappeared as the Chinese Tang Dynasty collapsed
ant the routes became unsafe.
Culture and technology
migrated through their actions irrespective of their religions.
The population of Europe and of the Near East mingled more easily
in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean.
Asian geography did
not allow such close exchanges as rivers remain inside ethnic
and cultural borders, mountain ranges and deserts are difficult
At the beginning
of the Christian era the population of Eurasia was divided into
four fairly equivalent groups of approximately 50 million inhabitants
each. These were Europe and the southern Mediterranean, the Middle
East, India and China.
The period until
the end of the 9th century saw large movements of population:
the territorial expansion of the Slavic tribes, the invasion of
Celtic territory by Germanic tribes, and the Arab invasion of
the Iberian Peninsula.
During the Middle
Ages, agriculture had moved northward and westward in countries
such as France and Low Countries. Northern Europe and Russia were
only thinly populated until the seventeenth century. However,
their fast economic growth allowed them to overtake the Mediterranean
countries. A possible explanation resides in the lack of coal
in that part of the world.
Economic growth translated
into population growth, reaching the level it would have prior
to the Industrial Revolution, with France being the most populated
country. Generally, in the countries of Western Europe, people
married earlier and had more children. Deforestation occurred
to gain arable land.
The 10th century
saw a number of important innovations in farming in particular
protein-rich foodstuffs such as beans, thus giving more energy
to the population and the strength to build cathedrals.
Until the thirteenth
century, an economic system interlinked eight cities and their
peripheries. These were Flanders, the Champagne area, Genoa and
Venice in Europe; Cairo and Baghdad in the Near East; and several
cities in India and China.
The 13th century,
however, saw Europes population having problems feeding
themselves. At the time, Chinas population was of the order
of 100 million inhabitants. The situation worsened in the 14th
century, with a series of bad harvests leading to a general famine
and a lowering of the immune system that prepared the population
for the catastrophe that followed.
This was the Black
Death which, with the Second World War, can claim to be one of
the worst catastrophes of humanity. In Europe, it is estimated
that one third of the population died, but in some areas, the
figure reached 60%.
Just as the Second
World War affected a large number of countries, so did the disease,
spreading over a period of a few decades over the entire Eurasian
continent and killing 60% of the population of the Near East,
and up to 50% of Chinas. The military and tradesmen were
probably responsible for the slow spread of the disease. The resulting
scarcity of labor raised the survivors income and a large
number of peasants were able to obtain their freedom from forced
labor. This was not the case in Asia where for several more centuries,
the peasants would be cheap labor in fact so cheap that
modernization would not happen. However, demand for one of Chinas
main exports silk collapsed leading to a major economic
depression in spite of an economic development unmatched by Europe
at the time. The Confucian bureaucracy was highly educated and
constituted an elite in the country. China benefited from an agricultural
revolution. The countrys capital, Changan, todays
Xian, was a city of two million inhabitants.
In China printing
was common in the 11th century and large libraries existed. Cities
were larger in China than in Europe. Paper money was common. Iron
was produced in large quantities. Gunpowder and the compass had
already been invented. The junks were as big as galleons and military
vessels were numerous and very large.
The absence of bounded
labor in England led the British nobility to farm the land they
owned themselves, invest to modernize production and reduce the
number of agricultural workers, freeing them to first move into
larger villages and later work in the first factories that were
a product of the Industrial Revolution. Slaves were brought in
from Africa and Asia.
These changes were
The three centuries
that followed saw the worlds population increase by 20%,
10% and 27% in each of the subsequent centuries with 1750 being
the year in which the population figure increased considerably.
Europe saw the sharpest
growth. In the 15th century alone the population grew by 53%.
By the middle of the 18th century, Europes share of total
population would increase but would not equal Asias share
which went from 60% in 1600 to 67% in 1800. Chinas population
alone was twice that of Europe, rising from 60 million at the
end of the 14th century to 175 million at the beginning of the
17th century. Indias population, during that same period
grew from 50 million to 200 million.
Life expectancy in
Europe increased, and by the beginning of the 18th century one
percent of the population was over 70 years of age.
It is believed that
this phenomenon is due to the earlier marriages in Asia in general
and China in particular, and the more frequent sexual relations
between Asians as compared to Europeans where the clergy was celibate.
Europeans were also immigrating to the American continent, thus
further putting pressure on the population figures.
The lower population
growth in Europe allowed the continent to have a slightly better
economic growth as reserves could be created.
By the early 19th
century, 55% of the worlds population lived in China and
India and by 1950, a population explosion will take place. By
the mid 19th century, Europes population had doubled as
women had an average of 4.5 children.
Today, with a below
replacement fertility in Europe, in some countries reaching historical
lows, the continent accounts for just 7% of the worlds population
with Asia accounting for 60%. The most important component for
population growth in Europe is international immigration, very
often of Muslim origin. The net immigration flow is of 1.5 million
people per annum and this is a reversal of the situation that
lasted for centuries with Europeans immigrating to other continents.
The flow of immigrants into Europe, totaling around 45 million
and representing up to 15% of the population in certain countries,
is creating major problems due to large cultural differences and
a feeling by the nationals that they are losing the control of
Life expectancy has
doubled over a period of a century, thanks to better diet, hygiene
and living conditions generally.
The old continents
population is expected to peak around 2040 to 2045 and decline
from then onwards, in spite of immigration, while the worlds
population is expanding.
The larger ratio
of older persons in the population implies both a reduction in
the workforce and a higher old-age dependency ratio with social
could spell an economic catastrophe for Europe: inflation, reduced
investments, lower economic output and a decreased living standard.
This, in turn, means a decline in education and health care, less
impact in foreign affairs decisions and governance, and a reduction
in the influence Europe has on supranational institutions such
as the IMF and the World Bank.
A manpower shortage
would have dire consequences for the military. A shortage of funds
will make it difficult to fund the purchase of technologically
If these population
shortfalls are amplified and create power vacuums, they could
be exploited by other countries. If immigration is used to alleviate
the population shortage, and if the migrants come from too diverse
a culture in large number, the countries could be destabilized.
Even if fertility
worldwide reaches its lowest point, it is the least developed
countries that will account for the largest population. Europes
presence as a major actor in international relations will dwindle
This, however, is
not a purely European concern, as this same situation will affect
China, Japan and South Korea. Total fertility rate in these three
countries in 2012 has been, respectively, of 1.55, 1.39 and 1.55
- in other words, below replacement rate. Between 2011 and 2012
alone, the number of elementary-grade students collapsed from
200 million to 145 million.
Japan could lose
up to a third of its population by 2050. Cancer-related deaths
are expected to balloon in China due to the marked environmental
degradation and the poor quality of the healthcare system, further
decreasing the countrys population. Nevertheless, it is
expected that there will be 300 million retired persons by 2025.
Finally, these three
countries attract very few immigrants.
of the aging of China may well spell the return of industrial
production to the United States as cost of manufacturing in Asia
will increase substantially.
The end result will
be that the United States will retain their position as the worlds
hegemon if it so wishes and if it makes the required investments
to maintain that position. A victory by default until it too witnesses
a major demographic shift.
the 59 countries in which 44% of the population lives, the Total
Fertility Rate (TFR) i.e. the number of children a woman
will have during her lifetime has dropped, in the last
50 years, to below the replacement level. For the European Union,
this figure is of 1.5, with two countries, Italy and Spain at
excluding Russia and Turkey, accounts now for 11% of the worlds
population as against 25% only a century ago. Should the Italian
TFR become the norm, the population would shrink by 75% by the
year 2100. A positive immigration flow of one million persons
a year would ensure that by 2050 the EUs population would
be of 690 million thu shaving shrunk by only 40 million
in 50 years.
have been identified. Women marry at an older age thus reducing
the period during which they are fertile. Divorce rates have doubled
over the last 40 years and mono-parental families represent 21%
of all families in the EU. A variety of contraception methods
are available including safe abortions. The high unemployment
figures are also taking their toll.
If an active young
population is an indicator of a dynamic society, Europe stands
little hope of being amongst the worlds biggest innovators.
Portrait: Clement Bezold
is founder and chairman of the
for Alternative Futures.
Dr. Bezold established IAF in 1977 and in 1982 he started IAFs
for-profit subsidiary, Alternative Futures Associates, to assist
corporations in their strategic planning using futures methods.
He has been a major developer of foresight techniques, applying
futures research and strategic planning methods in both the public
and private sectors. As a consultant, Dr. Bezold has worked with
many Fortune 500 companies along with major organizations, including
the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health,
the Rockefeller Foundation, AARP and the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Bezold has published
numerous books and reports on the future of government, the courts
and healthcare. He is a consulting editor of the Journal of Futures
Studies and is on the editorial or advisory boards of Technology
Forecasting and Social Change, foresight, and World Future Review.
Dr. Bezold received his Ph.D. in political science from the University
of Florida. He has been assistant director of the Center for Governmental
Responsibility at the University of Florida Law School and a Visiting
Scholar at the Brookings Institution.
Clement Bezold - What's Missing in Government: The Future,
Fairness and Shared Vision
Clement Bezold - Converging Technologies
Season Events 2013/2014
future of Economy and Consciousness
November 7, 2013, 18:30 - 21:15
Location: Waag Society, Nieuwmarkt 4, 1012 CR Amsterdam
[Center of the Nieuwmarkt]
A collaboration between Waag
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Club of Amsterdam
January 30, 2014
January 30, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15
February 27, 2014
February 27, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15
March 27, 2014
March 27, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15
April 24, 2014
April 24, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15
May 29, 2014
the future of Green Architecture
May 29, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15
Location: Geelvinck Museum, Keizersgracht 633, 1017 DS Amsterdam
Supported by Geelvinck Museum
June 26, 2013
June 26, 2014, 18:30 - 21:15
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