If we accept Einstein’s observation that problems cannot be solved at the level at which they were created, we must also accept that new structures are needed and new institutions established that are large enough to solve the problems that humans have created through our shortsightedness and greed. There is a point in any society's development where a few control most of the power and wealth of that society and development becomes stunted; society starts its decline. That is where we are now; this is our Zeitgeist. It’s important to understand that it is in the process of decline that new ideas emerge; ideas that motivate the development and beliefs that will provide the basis for a new social order that will replace the one that’s no longer functioning well. Because increased failures of the dominant paradigms are causing huge stress within civilized society, we are beginning to experience increasing numbers of people who are motivated to restore equilibrium. Out of this process come the ideas and actions necessary for transformation. Not surprisingly, these new ideas are in conflict with a counter set of beliefs that wish to impose different ideologies. And just as it has at other times of crisis in the human experience, this struggle reflects the spirit of our time. The results will define us and our future.
The following sets of 6 major problems were created by individuals and institutions in the last quarter of the millennia:
1. Acceleration of Technology
Qualities such as love, desire, communication, problem-solving, are qualities that we share in degree with other species. There are two qualities, however, that distinguish humans: technology and the ability to create systems. Technology is the capacity to make tools, improve on those tools and to communicate that capacity to others. It strengthens itself in a feedback loop. Technological change is exponential; it starts off slowly then accelerates. It is technology and complex systems of communication, combined with a capacity for abstract and plasticity of thought, which explains how a rather weak and otherwise insignificant species could end up dominating and transforming the planet to the point where we are now. Often the use of technology has unforeseen effects, both positive and negative.
Though technology itself is neutral, its application is not. History shows that when one group of people develops a new technology or makes a new discovery, it is only a matter of time before it is in wide use. The Chinese, for example, was the first to discover the process of making silk. They were able to keep it secret for over a thousand years but eventually, silkworms were smuggled out of China to Japan and then around the world. Similarly, in the 14th century, the Portuguese developed grid maps of latitude and longitude that allowed them to sail around the world. In less than a hundred years these charts/maps were captured and became common knowledge. Then, during WWII the Germans developed the enigma machine to protect communications. Their code, however, was broken by a British team under the leadership of Alan Turing, a mathematical genius with a talent to take abstract mathematics and apply it to practical applications. Turing is responsible for conceiving the forerunner of the modern computer as well as playing a critical part in the Allied victory over the Axis in WWII.
Today the artillery is nuclear weapons. After two Atomic bombs were dropped on Japanese cities by the United States in 1945, it took the Soviet Union (through espionage and research) to develop their own. For the next 40 years, the world lived under the threat of a nuclear war between these two superpowers. During that time, six additional nations acquired nuclear capability: Great Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, and unofficially, Israel. Pandora's Box has been opened. In this century North Korea, perhaps the most totalitarian and paranoid state in the world today, has developed nuclear weapons. If history is our guide, it is only a matter of time before nuclear weapons will be made available to terrorist organizations and the insane that walk among us.
The acceleration of technology is in the process of developing new categories of things that will significantly impact both who and what we are, to the point that we will very likely morph into a new species. The last section of this book will deal with what these technologies will be and how they will significantly change society as great as (and possibly greater than) the agricultural and industrial revolutions. Keep your eye on these technologies, especially artificial intelligence, bio-genetics, and new sources of power and materials.
2. Environmental Destruction
Technology has allowed humans to exploit resources, a practice that has destabilized the global environmental systems upon which life depends. The Industrial Revolution has created a society dependent upon fossil fuels for power, the major cause of global warming. This, coupled with the ability to extract minerals from the earth, cut down forests, over-fish the oceans, and over-farm and over-graze the land, has negatively impacted the environment through critical habitat loss and the destruction of the planet’s capacity to support life as we know it.
The term ‘existential threat’ refers to conditions that have the potential of ending human survival. The existential threat we are now facing is the destruction of the environmental systems upon which all life depends; a delicate balance that is rapidly getting out of balance. Our atmosphere is getting dangerously hot due to greenhouse gas levels produced primarily from burning fossil fuels. Most scientists believe that a 2°C increase in temperature will trigger a feedback loop that we will be unable to recover from. How many more degrees of temperature will cause a series of feedback loops that will significantly increase global temperatures this century? Torn and Harte, two scientists at the University of California at Berkeley (i), have been able to quantify the feedback implied by increases in carbon dioxide in nature and methane gas levels from previous warm stages in geological history. They state that the world is hotter today than it has been in the last 700,000 years and that this century will see an increase. This global warming is in the process of melting the ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as glaciers around the world. This phenomenon is causing the oceans to warm and rise, creating more intense weather patterns and climate irregularity. Torn and Harte's contention is that the current computer model for global warming is entirely too conservative.
Evidence shows that glaciers are contracting far faster than predicted and, according to recent research, sea levels could rise nearly twice as much as previously predicted by the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue at the current rate. To put a finer point on it, Antarctica contains 70% of the world’s freshwater, much of which is locked in the Ross ice sheet which, for millions of years has been contained by an underwater mountain range. This ice sheet had been frozen solid to the ocean floor until a few years ago. Recently a huge chunk the size of New Jersey broken free and is floating towards the major shipping lanes around Africa and South America. At the North Pole, the Arctic ice sheet, as of this writing, is no longer solid. It is now possible to sail ships around North America and northern Asia. The latest prediction of global rise in oceanic water level is between 6 and 16 feet in this century… with a possible peak at 20 meters (70').
Half of the world's populations live in cities located on the coasts. Whole societies from Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia in the Pacific to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are literally disappearing. Shorelines around the world will contract significantly and entire islands and societies will disappear; as will other low-lying areas like Florida and Bangladesh. A two meter rise will cut the island that I live on in Washington State into three portions.
Development and its effects are causing the extinction of land and water species that has not been equaled since the mass extinction of 66 million years ago when a meteor plowed into the Yucatán (now Mexico). According to Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2004), the planet is in the midst of a human-made, sixth mass extinction. National Geographic Magazine and many other publications have also come to the same conclusion. Scientists have repeatedly warned that the rate of extinction for species in the last century was up to 100 times higher than it would have been without human impact. Kolbert estimates flora and fauna loss by the end of this century to be between 20% and 50% “of all living species on earth.” Other estimates are as high as 75% of animal species will be wiped out in this century. The chief causes for this are changes brought about by global warming, pollution, resource exploitation, over-development, and human occupation of the natural biomes of wild animals both for living space and commercial use such as cutting down the rain forests of the Amazon, Congo, and Southeast Asia for cattle production.
These estimates can be changed, but not eliminated, if humans create a change of policy (ii). A recent study by University of California co-authored by Berkeley paleontologist, Anthony Barnosky calls the problem dire. The study found that coral reefs are in danger of annihilation as early as 2070, potentially eliminating one quarter of the ocean species. A study in late September of 2017 found that the number of wild animals has likely been reduced by half in the past 40 years. Later in this chapter I will outline what I think can be done to mitigate the effects of these global environmental problems.
Simply put, there are currently too many people for the carrying capacity of the planet. Increases in technology, in short-term food production, improvements in health (particularly vaccinations), and lack of family planning have all contributed to overpopulation. Most underdeveloped countries do not have the will or ability to provide for the basic welfare of their population, which, in turn forces people to have more children as a guarantee that there will be someone to look after them when they no longer able to take care of themselves. Where food and sanitation are problematic, women are forced to have more children as a hedge against the many that die before the age of five. While traveling in India in 1968, I was told of one sub-cast of children who are not given a name until they are five years old.
The world's population can be graphed on a ‘J curve,’ a curve that measures exponential growth. The subject being measured starts out slowly and begins to curve upward; at some point it shoots straight up, giving the appearance of a capital J. When humans started settling in river valleys some 14,000 -15,000 years ago, there were perhaps 4 to 5 million people in the world, about the population of a midsized city. For thousands of years it grew slowly until about 250 years ago with the start of the industrial revolution, when it fundamentally changed. The world population was around one billion at that time and has increased seven times since then.
In October, 2017, the UN estimation is that the current population of the world is 7.6 billion people. The projected population increase through the end of this century is projected to be over 11 billion. This exponential growth rate (iii) is, of course, unsustainable. Many of the Earth's resources have been, and will be, depleted during this time. Most of this population growth will be in the poor, underdeveloped countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Simultaneously, the population of the developed countries of Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand are likely to remain stable at 1.5 billion. The exception is the United States which is expected to grow by over 40% by mid-century. The bulk of this population growth comes from immigrants, who have larger families. According to the publication, Population Connection:
“About 80 million people are added to the earth's population every year. Reducing the rate of population growth eases the many pressures people place on natural resources, wildlife habitats, and the atmosphere. Approximately 222 million women around the world would like to delay or end childbearing but have no access to contraception. Family-planning improves maternal and infant health and allows women to be more active in society. The 50 poorest countries on earth are also those with the highest fertility rates. Rapid population growth hinders progress on all millennium development goals. Voluntary family-planning improves everyone's quality of life.”
Reducing the birth rate is the best way for a society to escape poverty. Programs that change attitudes towards contraception and family size have recently been very successful in some societies, such as much of Latin America, Thailand, and Iran, but have been resisted by other societies, especially Muslim cultures and some African cultures as well. The propensity of fundamentalist religious groups, particularly prevalent in the Abrahamic religions, to resist women's rights to control their own bodies (or to even be considered more than chattel) is a major reason for rapid population growth, poverty, and resentment on the part of many men towards the liberal worldview being challenged throughout the world today. The asymmetric and guerrilla warfare fought by ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, and other fundamentalist, jihadist groups in Asia, Africa and spreading worldwide, is a manifestation of this resistance.
All J curves that involve living entities (deer, humans, cancer cells, etc.) crash at some point. If left unchecked, they collapse on themselves. In the case of living entities, the curve collapses because of environmental pollution, consumption of the food supply, contraction of disease, and destruction of the logistical systems needed for survival. A tragic consequence of overpopulation is the likelihood of a significant loss of life due to the pending or partial collapse of the environmental systems that have sustained the growth rate. The melting of global glaciers and the ice sheets of the north and south poles will increase sea levels, inundating the worldwide coastal plains and displacing whole populations. More intense global temperatures for both land and sea will increase the intensity of storms as well as desertification, forcing humans to migrate to still habitable areas.
Conflict will arise as sustaining resources are reduced and the availability of food is depleted. Pandemics will likely arise from the deteriorating environment and because transportation systems are what they are, a pandemic that originates in some nameless place can a spread around the world in a day.
Although it is very hard to accept all this as a prognosis, I suspect even under the most optimistic scenarios, there will be a substantial reduction in human population regardless of the direction we take. That said, I still maintain that it is better to have a controlled crash then an uncontrolled one.
4. Aggressive Nationalism
Nationalism has been an anachronism for over 100 years and yet it is currently on the rise throughout the world. Societies based on competing nation-states exploit natural resources, kill and enslave people and often resolve conflicts by exploitation and war. By the end of the 20th century, humans have fought two World Wars and the Cold War, all in the name of nationalism. Additional wars with modern weaponry could well result in millions of people dying and the potential for global apocalypse.
The formation of nation-states and the evolution of democratic institutions parallel the development of the industrial revolution. Beginning with the advent of steam power in the 19th century, productivity increased substantially. The size and complexity of the systems coupled with the need for larger amounts of natural resources led to stronger central government that, coupled with imperialism, led to obtaining additional resources from around the world. This was particularly easy because the people who were conquered by the industrialists were per-industrial and no match for the power of change on that scale. This led to a foreign policy that exterminated large numbers of people in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, particularly in China, who resisted this conquest. These industrialized nations rationalized their behavior by claiming religious, racial, and/or cultural superiority, justifying that their behavior was for the benefit of the conquered. They defended their activities through the use of euphemisms such as ‘white-man's burden’ and ‘manifest destiny.’ The attitude shared by many of the imperialist citizens was ‘My country right or wrong, but my country.’
Within the industrialized nations, democratic institutions increased. By 1920, immigrants and their offspring comprised over half of all manufacturing workers and if we include the grandchildren of those immigrants, it is safe to say that immigrants comprised two thirds of the workforce. Virtually all of these workers lived in a few large cities and worked in manufacturing. It became necessary for the industrialists to have a literate workforce that could read work-orders and educate workers in order to communicate with them. Answering this need, the United States was the first country to implement compulsory, free, public education. By the end of the 19th century, increased literacy, coupled with the mass production of cheap newspapers, magazines and books led to more liberal/democratic institutions.
The transition was not an easy one. There were revolutions throughout Europe in mid-century; a civil war and worker conflicts throughout US cities in the Gilded Age after the Civil War and through to the end of the century. Exploitation of workers by industrialists and the governments they controlled brought revolutions throughout the continent in 1848.
By the dawn of the 20th century, there existed in all of the imperialist countries of Europe and the United States a sense of racial and national superiority over the colonies they controlled. The subsequent resentment on the part of many of their subjects led to independence movements and ultimate independence following WWII. This was further enabled by the fact that after World War II the imperialist powers of Western Europe were exhausted and no longer able to maintain their respective colonial empires. Some gave them up easier than others. The democracies of Great Britain and the United States, for example, were less repressive than France or Belgium. Those differences became increasingly apparent as the colonies gained independence. Great Britain created the Commonwealth consisting of bonds with their former colonies wherein each nation was independent but shared some democratic values, a common monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II), and both ceremonial and athletic bonds that held them together. Compare how the British left India at Bombay (now Mumbai) with no violence with the French, who fought a series of wars in the former colonies of French Indochina and Algeria; or the chaos in the Congo after Belgium was driven out.
Competing ideologies have challenged societies throughout history. As societies mature, there is a propensity for power to gravitate into the hands of the few. Those in power use propaganda, control of the political process and other methods of servitude to maintain their control. This is accomplished by promoting hate and fear of the ‘other’ by blaming them for the situation they find themselves in and projecting hostility toward them. What is happening around the world politically today is the ideological competition between those who wish to live in a social and political democracy and those who wish to have a monopoly of wealth and power. There is much resentment on that part of the global population that sees itself as exploited, and for good reason. It is my conviction that the overwhelming majority of people in the world want to be free, want to have their basic needs met and do not wish to control others.
5. Predatory Economic System
Capitalism, in my estimation, is the best economic system, but it must be regulated. Some of the positive aspects of capitalism are that it has the capacity to quickly adapt to new technology, to provide financial incentive, and find the most effective way to distribute goods and services. Unregulated corporate capitalism, however, exploits the environment and labor. Corporate capitalism is a system that is based on greed and shortsightedness resulting in the control of the political system so that plutocracy replaces democracy.
In an article written by Albert Einstein and submitted to the Monthly Review magazine in May 1949, Einstein speaks to this very thing and his words are completely relevant today:
“Private capital tends to become concentrated in a few hands, because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments in an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact significantly protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capital is inevitably controlled, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objectively conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in the position to find employment; an ‘army of unemployed' almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his (or her) job. Since unemployment and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumer goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with the competition among capitalists, is responsible for and instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to the crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated, competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship aggressive success as a preparation for his (or her) future career.”
The control of corporate media is far greater today than it was when Einstein wrote this article; before the corrosive influence of television and its use as an effective corporate propaganda tool. Corporate capitalism inevitably leads to a dictatorship by the few dominated by greed and the need for power. Corporate dictatorships will look different than national dictatorships. In national dictatorships those in charge are upfront with the power they wield; it is generally geographic and is horizontal and sometimes vertical, defined as a nation or tribe. In a corporate dictatorship, the control is vertical which means control over one aspect of the economy.
The latest evidence shows that extreme inequality is alive and out of control. Wealth has become concentrated by fewer and fewer individuals so that today less than one percent of the world's population controls over half of the world's wealth, while over 50% of the world's population has only 1% of the world's wealth. Predatory corporations are global. The very small numbers of individuals who control these megalithic corporations are far less than 1% of the global population. It is estimated that 400 individuals possess over half of the wealth of the world and the sources of their wealth are not confined to their country of origin. Furthermore, most of these individuals use various tax structures around the world to their advantage, paying little or no taxes. In the United States there are many corporations that pay no taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) states that 70% of US companies paid zero corporate taxes in the United States. The average is approximately 12%, far less than the 35% that's on the books.
The basic needs for humanity, as well as all other species, culminate in the meeting of physical and emotional needs, security and freedom from harm. For a society to be successful, it has to have an economic system that provides for all members of that society. In order to be vibrant, a society must create a system in which wealth distribution is equitable. In 2017, Oxfam, an international Confederation of charitable organizations focused on the alleviation of global poverty, published the Oxfam Report. It reported that an ‘economy for the 99 percent,’ shows that the gap between rich and poor is far greater than had been feared. It detailed how big business and the super-rich are fueling the inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics.
This inequity is clearly not sustainable.
A Brief History of Three Revolutions – Agricultural, Industrial, Global
The Agricultural Revolution was the first major phenomena to radically change how human society was organized. Some fifteen millennia later, the Industrial Revolution was the second such great event that altered the way human society functioned. Both of these revolutions caused massive social reorganization, particularly in two general areas, i.e., the distribution of power and where people lived. Each revolution brought significant population increase, acceleration of new technology and new sources of power, all of which significantly and negatively impacted the environment. The third great social revolution, the Global Revolution, is currently underway. This post-industrial, post-agricultural revolution is what I call the Post-Human Revolution. The Post-Human Revolution will be the subject of the final section in this book.
It’s helpful to think about it this way: The three main changes to the organization of society have been corporate capitalism, nationalism, and the spreading of democracy. The latter lurches ahead in fits and starts and continually clashes with nondemocratic ideologies. We are experiencing that dynamics of conflicting ideologies today.
The prime purpose of terrorism is to strike fear in the psyche of the society under attack. Terrorism is war on the cheap and easy. The victors of World War II, the US and Western Europe, promoted a liberal global society. This meant converting the defeated totalitarian nations of Germany and Japan to democracies and facilitating colonies and former colonies towards responsible governance independence while evolving into democratic societies with capitalistic economic systems. To ensure cooperation and to eliminate potential wars, a global governance system, the United Nations, was created. More powerful than the League of Nations, the U.N. would in theory be able to regulate conflicts and disagreements between the individual states. This organization would have power to enforce its decisions.
Some individuals use terrorism to obtain and consolidate domestic power and as a form of asymmetrical warfare. The whole purpose of asymmetrical warfare, including terrorism, is to disrupt social systems randomly, striking fear, hate, and chaos; and through this chaos, take power. There are various types of terrorism; state-sponsored, ideological and religious-based, criminal activities, and random violent acts committed by individuals because of insanity and or self-hate.
Non-state sponsored terrorism is primarily religious. The primary function of non-state terrorist organizations is to overthrow existing national governments and establish societies based on their particular religion beliefs in the societies of the terrorist's origin. There are also Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu fundamentalist terrorist organizations, though their impact is significantly less than Islamic terrorist groups. These groups are smaller and usually limited to a specific society. Currently the predominant religious terrorist groups are fundamentalist Muslims. The majority of Muslims are not terrorists any more than the majority of Christians are not terrorists. Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS do not reflect the views of the majority of Muslims any more than the Ku Klux Klan, who consider themselves to be a Christian organization, represents the majority of Christians in their beliefs and actions.
Each group has specific aims depending upon their particular circumstance and leadership. The superficial motivation is religious by glorifying their culture or ethnic group and have per trade their causes in religious and cultural terms. However, they do seem to share major goals include sharia law which includes strict dress codes and regulating behavior of women relegating them to a second class or even chattel condition.
The main ideological and financial organization that radicalizes youth around the world is the Wahhabi branch of reactionary Islam. Wahhabism is the dominant date in Saudi Arabia. They believe that all those who don't worship their form of Islam are heathens and therefore enemies. This rigidity has caused it to distort and misinterpret Islam, which includes using violence to achieve their goals. Jihad, a holy war, against nonbelievers is not only justified, but encouraged as is sharia (religious) law. In the 1970’s Saudi charities began funding madrassas and mosques around the world. Madrassas are Islamic religious schools which teach austere and rigid form of Islam and are rooted in Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabis sect influenced bin Laden, the Taliban, ISIS, and most of the Islamic terrorist groups.
Most Muslims in the world do not believe nor follow this fundamentalist reactionary brand of Islam. The goal of militant Islam is to convince the world that their ideology prevails so that the rest of the world allows them to establish their brand of religious theocracy in those countries that are predominantly Muslim. The strategy of Al Qaeda was to goad the West by attacking it. This in turn would cause the West to negatively react against Muslims in the hopes that all Muslims would be blamed and the West would turn against them. So far this tactic is working and is used as an effective recruiting tool for their cause.
Most religious-based terrorism has its roots among the rural and uneducated poor of predominantly Muslim countries stretching in a geographical band from the Atlantic Ocean of North Africa to the Pacific Ocean (minus India1) to Indonesia and the southern Philippines. Many predominantly Muslim societies today tend to be tribal and patriarchal. These societies tend to be organized in ways that prevent social development and political cohesion. In the last several generations there has been a population movement from rural to urban living. The belief pattern of conservative Muslims is the belief that women are subservient to men to the point where they were considered chattel. Their restrictions are substantial, including lack of freedom of movement, dress, economics, and education, as well as political and social. The most glaring weakness is the denying of half of their population the opportunity to contribute to society.
No discussion of terrorism would be complete without mention of non-ideological nihilistic terrorism, where individuals kill as many people as possible just for the act itself. Most of the terrorist acts in the United States are racially motivated or acts of mass murder by a single individual. The 2017 attack on concert goers in Las Vegas, Nevada is a recent example.
The World on Edge
“What on earth is happening in the West? asked the Global Times (China). Not so long ago, the US and Europe were stable, prosperous place, happy to lecture others about the superiority of their democratic systems. Today, they have much less to boast about: their angry electorates have voted in populists who care little about “traditional values and political order; terrorist attack have become almost routine in their cities; and now separatist in Catalonia and elsewhere threatened to break apart their nation-states. “This series of events may not be a temporary phenomenon but instead reflect a deeper problem.” The old order has been shaken by the rapid evolution of technologies- including social media and the increased automation of work -and Western democracy has utterly failed to adapt to the New World. Political parties have moved to the ideological extremes, which have eroded their ability to compromise and passed legislation. And other than trying to build unity, Western release instead simply blame one another for society's disintegration. “The slogan of 'change' has frequently appeared in Western election campaigns, but the so-called changes are all formality.” Until his leaders rediscover their “political authority and moral compass,” the decline of the West will continue. The West is disintegrating into chaos.” From an editorial in the Global Times, China. Quoted from The Week, 11/17/17.
The crowing in the above editorial from the Global Times does a good job of succinctly pegging the superficial reality of the chaos that is emerging in the West. It is, however, missing some key elements on how democracy changes in cycles and is open so everybody can see what happens. Every society has its own dynamics of the conflict between modernity and rigidity. It’s time for me to write about some societies that I think will have the greatest impact on the changes that will be happening. I’ll begin with the United States.
The 20th century was the American century. After WWI and WWII, the United States emerged as the economic and military giant among the nations of the world. The US had the predominant global standing to promote and project its liberal/democratic ideology globally. There was a global vacuum created after WWII with the defeat of Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia. The Soviet Union filled that vacuum in Europe and partially in Asia, which resulted in increased power for the Soviet Union. From the mid-century on, there existed two superpowers; the US and the Soviet Union. The competition for global power between the US and the USSR drove most international events in the last half of the 20th century. Although there was always the threat of a nuclear exchange, both sides went to great lengths to avoid direct conflict. This was called the Cold War period.
There were three groups of societies after WWII: the First World; consisting of the nations of North America, Western Europe, and other scattered democracies around the world; the Second World, comprised of the communist nations led by the Soviet Union and China; and the Third World, consisting of the colonies and formal colonies of the imperialist nations who were poor, undeveloped, and were either neutral or fighting for independence. The competition between the United States and the Soviet Union for influence and control over this Third World was what defined the Cold War. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the US was the sole remaining superpower and was free to pursue its liberal ideological agenda.
The lifecycle of societies is like that of an individual; unless there is unfortunate, unforeseen events, the society grows, matures and then declines. It's usually not possible to know when the zenith is reached until after it's gone. Throughout any given life, there are opportunities sometimes recognized and taken, other times not. Societies are the same. Throughout history there are opportunities taken and opportunities lost. Often at the height of their power, individuals and the societies they reflect, get lost in their own hubris and substitute long-range altruistic goals for short-term goals of self-interest that benefit the few. This is what I believe is happening in the United States today.
There exists the specter of a dangerous breakdown in the fabric of global national relationships. Currently, in world societies there are a series of specific issues where there is a conflict, or potential conflict, that can no longer be solved with the existing structures in place to enforce cooperation. Previously I have commented on general topics like technology, environmental deterioration, overpopulation, corporate capitalism, and nationalism. Now I will cover specific nations where severe dangers exist and cannot be resolved by current global structures. I list these countries here in what I perceive to be the greatest danger for world stability. These are: 1) United States, 2)Western Europe, 3) Russia, 4) China, 5) Japan, 6) the Korean Peninsula, 7) the Indian Peninsula, 8) the Middle East, (Israel/Palestinian conflict) 9) Iran, 10) Saudi Arabia, and 11)Turkey. There are also potential areas of conflict in Africa and in South America.
There are also disruptors, or trans-national groups such as terrorist organizations, drug cartels, crime syndicates, and political, economic, and environmental refugees. I list the disruptors by the degree of disruption that they are currently creating in the world systems and I measure them by the amount of people affected and the number of institutions disrupted. The two most prominent disruptors today are 1) religious terrorism, particularly reactionary Muslim groups, and 2) state-sponsored terrorism by Vladimir Putin, leader of Russia.
Today the world order is balanced on a razors edge unlike anything experienced since the end of the Cold War. We are not at the point similar to the Cuban missile crisis yet, but a similar situation could escalate very quickly at any time. We need to take a collective deep breath and realize there is the possibility of mis-reading any situation such as the tension in the Korean Peninsula, the Ukraine, the Pakistani/Indian frontier, or the Middle East. Situations are tense enough that a miscalculation could trigger events they could quickly escalate out of control and unintentionally lead to a serious set of actions and counter reactions leading to the possibility of a nuclear exchange. This is complicated when the most powerful nation in the world, the United States, is led by a president who appears to be a sociopath, of limited intelligence and who has the ability of starting a nuclear war. All his actions today so far are that of a person who reacts and does not think through his strategy or his role as president of the US.
The consequences of an event or series of events for which there is no established policy could quickly escalate out of control. This is particularly critical in the Middle East where tensions between Israelis and Arabs have been high for half a century. It is also a possible scenario in Europe. Russia having invaded Ukraine in 2014, annexed the Crimea, and established a puppet state in the eastern portion of the country.
World War I was started by a series of incompetent rulers in Europe and stumbled into a war that was the most destructive by far than any war in history up to that time. We are not beyond that kind of thing happening again. Indeed, history is full of fumbles and bumbles that have led to massive change in the fabric of humanity. In his book, Homo Deus (2017), author Yuval Noah Harari states that, “Historians study the past not in order to repeat it but to be liberated from it.” By offering historical perspective throughout this book, I am attempting to deliver a context for the dilemmas in which we find ourselves, an overview, if you will. Throughout this book, my effort is to discuss the challenges we face. And by offering my opinions, I am inviting a changed future.
(i) - Co-authors of a paper entitled Missing feedbacks, asymmetrical uncertainties and the underestimation of future warming, which appears in the May 2006 issue of the Journal Global Geophysical Research Letters GRL
(ii) - Alan Neuhauser, 06.19.2015, US News and World Report
(iii) - The main reasons for this exponential growth of population is due to hygiene and medical advances, particularly in controlling epidemics, more effective ability to treat critical health ailments through vaccination, and other policies, increases in agricultural productivity, This is coupled with an increase in the average life expectancy, better prenatal and health care, education and development programs have improved the chances of survival for both the mother and child. Since the 20th century women's rights have increased in general. This has allowed them to have greater choices in life, including family-planning. Family planning also allows women to be more active in society and increasingly to control their own bodies and have access to contraceptive devices. Starting in 1962 saw the growth rate peak at 2.1% and has fallen to almost half since then and should continue to fall and is projected to stabilize by the end of the century. This has led to decreases in the percentage of population increase around the world. Though the percentage has decreased, population still is increasing. Some of the Developing countries like in Africa have yet experienced the Industrial Revolution.