Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Positive Outlook for the World..Thank you Google, Wikipedia and the Dalai Lama

My Positive Outlook for the World

How Google, Wikipedia and His Holiness the Dalai Lama give me Hope

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." His Holiness the Dalai Lama

There is a huge amount of anxiety today among people regarding the future of the world. I want to go back and look at ‘my world’ in 1968 when I started worrying about things outside my own personal existence. The US was at war in Southeast Asia, the draft and opposition to the War was tearing families apart at a rate not seen since the Civil War. Pollution was a major concern for our rivers, air and soil. I vividly remember seeing TV footage of parts of Lake Erie and the shores of Cleveland on fire because of pollutants in the water. Food shortages and political strife in Africa and India were going to have global panic in the near future. We were running out of fossil fuels and our dependence on foreign oil would cripple the US in a few years with gas shortages. In other words we were angry at each other, going broke, getting poisoned and starving to death all at once and pretty soon.

None of this happened. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 and people began having respect for the environment. In 1952 you could not find an article about air or water pollution in any paper. Twenty years later it was an industry, a political movement and mentioned in churches and synagogues. A global consensus appeared to help poor nations not by colonizing them, but by giving aid that would teach citizens to provide their own food. Politically, the War in Vietnam died with a blip and left a unified country that now makes almost all our Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren clothing. My 1967 GTO got 7 miles to the gallon of premium gas; my Honda now gets close to 30 mph and we are thinking of getting a hybrid very soon.

I’m sure you see the parallels between 1968 and 2010. A lot has changed and very little has changed. What didn’t happen in the 42 years since was any apocalyptic event sending the globe into ruins. Looking back at these events I began to feel pretty comfortable about feeling very good about the future. Yes our country seems to be split between political, religious, racial and sexual barriers. Yes we have had a horrible environmental catastrophe. Yes, we still consume huge amounts of fossil fuels unwisely. Yes, our banking system has thrown many people into stressful times. Is any of this fixable? Yes, all of it.

I believe all of these problems will be solved by the free flowing exchange of ideas between people, businesses and governments. The Internet immediately comes to mind. Not the internet of MSNBC’s “To Catch a Predator” or the stalking cyber bullying of texting, but the Internet that the original scientists envisioned years ago; one that enabled scientists and students, politicians and citizens, consumers and leaders of business to stand toe to toe and share ideas.

Two good examples of this are Google and Wikipedia. One of the best corporate secrets is the algorithm Google uses to take all the information we as hundreds of millions of users put INTO it to give us the list of sites to take our information OUT of it. Of course the managers of Google do this to better get a feel of who is surfing the web in order to give us the complimentary paid advertisements that we are likely to click on and do business with. What they have unintentionally done is create a world of exchange. Google takes the judgments made by millions of people as they create links to web pages and harnesses that collective knowledge of the entire web to produce amazingly intelligent answers to the questions we type into the Google search bar. What Google has done is create a door to our collective intelligence.

Another example is Wikipedia. In Wikipedia, thousands of contributors from across the world have collectively created the world’s largest encyclopedia, with articles of remarkably high quality. Wikipedia has been developed with almost no centralized control. Anyone who wants to can change almost anything, and decisions about what changes to keep are made by a loose consensus of those who care. What’s more, the people who do all this work don’t even get paid; they’re volunteers.

I’m not alone in this positive world view. His Holiness the Dalai Lama feels the world is becoming more positive. The indicators of his world view were the broader human concern for man-made or natural calamities worldwide (shown in the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami and the earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and Tibet), the existence of peace movements throughout the world (which was visible prior to the United States’ war in Iraq, for example); the emergence of an environmental movement (there was no such movement in the beginning of the previous century); and the increased interaction between science and religion (science is showing interest in not just external matters but also in the study of mind). In short, through a comparison between the 20th century and the 21st century so far, the Dalai Lama feels the world is becoming more positive.

I don’t know what the answers to the problems in politics, religion or the environment. But I do know where the answers will come from. It will come from the free flowing sharing of ideas and instantaneous dissemination of them cropping out of our collective intelligence.

Have a peaceful week

Nate Klarfeld

1 comment:

  1. Excellent observstions, Tikkun Olam.
    Grover Lawlis