A Vision of one Future: 

The following was submitted to the AAAS Science magazine "Visions of the Future: A day in the life of a scientist in the year 2050" Essay Competition, ending 1 July 1999.  In the wisdom of the judging editors and to the minor disappointment of the author, it did not win (literally hundreds of excellent essays were submitted), which, then, allows it to be posted here for your further amusement.  Enjoy!


The Transformation was profound and essentially complete. Looking backward, it happened so fast.
    "How could humanity have been so stupid!" she more exclaimed than interrogated. If the answer "A Good Start" to the question "What's 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?" appropriately characterized the final years of the 20th century, she smiled, the answer "A Great Finish!" to the question "What do you have when the world's economists join them?" certainly described the first couple of decades into the New Millennium. She loved her thesis topic! And she looked forward to a good long bike ride thinking about it, yet again.
    There were Sacred Icons strewn everywhere! It looked like Force Five Twisters had daily touched down on the various expanses and edifices of neoclassical Economic Theory. The Keynesian Revolution was a minor skirmish, by comparison. Liberals, Conservatives, Centrists, Backwardists, free-marketeer fundamentalists, border-defending baboons (she apologized to the baboons), Capitalists, Socialists, Communists, Libertarians, Marxists, Anarchists (even Chomsky took his time embracing the new ideas), all casualties of that peaceful, thoughtful, democratic and successful evolution in revolution (and, to be sure, revolution in evolution). As for those imposing Edifices of Economics, some are still standing tall and eloquent, though many others have long since crumbled and been reclaimed by Nature, to be used as rich compost.
    Through it all grew the democratic socioeconomy, from seemingly  noplace and yet from everywhere at once. The number of years it took from  the initial global discussion of the possibilities on the, at the time, recently introduced though now ancient, original "worldwideweb" to the first nation democratically adopting some form of socioeconomic democracy was less than a pilfered dozen. After that, an avalanche. Kuhn would have loved it, she thought, adding with admiration, "Now there was a man who understood revolution!" 
    Her thesis was just about complete. During the process, she had become familiar with the dramatis personae of the period leading up to and during the Transformation (basically in human consciousness, she fully understood) and they were now dear intellectual friends and mentors. Scholars date the "Big T," as it's sometimes called (disrespectfully, to her way of thinking) to somewhere just into the New Millennium, at least its intellectual introduction. Of course, exactly where and when into the New Millennium was the Big Question! 
    Her endorphins high, she had already gone two miles. Settling in comfortably, her ever-active mind beckoned her to have another laughing/crying session recalling the evidently necessary chaos and courage experienced by womankind following the New Millennium's Y2K Wake-Up Call to Rethink Practically Everything. "It sure gave 'em a shock," she grimaced. As she had documented in her thesis, it was then that the critical concept of  resiliency first became a significant societal concern and goal. But she was  in a good mood and wished to be with friends.
   Kuhn was one of her favorites. On the other hand, now that Tom's  Revolutionary Science (not unlike those of the other Toms, Jefferson and Paine, she well knew) had become more or less Standard, with Kuhn's old 20th century Standard Science now reassigned to the far more efficient and accurate computers for ramification determination, it wasn't being very bright to deny Kuhn's fundamental insights or ignore his by-now high and secure stature in the history of scientific ideas and understanding.
    "How indeed," slowly shaking her head, "could humanity have overlooked the obvious for so long? Millennia, it took!" Though her eyes  moistened, she didn't tear. She had to pay attention to the winding bike path along the beach, now that the sun was setting and there were only the proximity lamps lighting up as she approached, only to go back to sleep after she passed by. Like fireflies wending their way along the bike path, all performing their enchanting dancing light shows, she often thought. Returning to her musings, from Kuhn was a happy hop to Margaret Mead, who was her hero, possessing indeed her share of testosterone! Margaret's picture had hung above her desk since undergraduate days. That glorious picture, with Margaret and her straight walking stick both standing so tall: Margaret because deep into her very mature and ever-productive years she knew what was going on and the walking stick because it was so proud to be held by and standing next to Margaret. "Now there was a woman," not quite repeating herself, "who understood revolution!"
    It was Margaret (and numerous others, to be sure) who helped pave the way for the eventual realization of the by-now, well-established discipline in which she would soon be getting her Ph.D. and the by-now, well-established profession into which she would soon be plunging. With the Bouldings, Jim Miller, Ludwig von Bertalanffy and the rest of that bunch, Mead helped nudge an inertia-filled Scientific Enterprise in the direction of productive and fascinating integrated multidisciplinary exploration with general systems perspectives. So effective was that early nudging, the increased multidisciplinary mentality fueled increasing levels of revolutionary science, which in turn fed back to and encouraged work on ever more relevant societal systems designed explicitly for the significant betterment of all humanity.
    The multidisciplinary mentality became so prevalent, natural and productive, especially after significant branches of science more or less intimately embraced the artistic, spiritual and nurturing quests of womankind, the tiresome mouthful "multidisciplinary" was totally dropped from usage.Only when one occasionally encountered a now-rare "monodisciplinary"  scientific activity such as old-fashioned 20th century Economics did one go to the trouble of explicitly indicating the extremely limited field of inquiry and usefulness of the subject by insertion of the modifier "monodisciplinary" -- which has, over the years, developed something of a pejorative implication.
    But it was Keith Roberts' pioneering articulation of the idea of Economic Engineering that eventually led to the exponential growth of the academic and professional activity. She could quote him anywhere. Keith Roberts (1983) Automation, Unemployment and the Distribution of Income: "One should therefore recognize the new discipline of economic engineering, the task of this new discipline being to design and analyze, in detail, alternative model economies to meet appropriate specifications, and to put them forward as options for public discussion and political decision." Another one, she nodded, who understood revolution.
    Besides his early and considerable contribution to the ultimately successful societal discussion regarding citizen's income, Roberts also had the idea of a tax on international "foreign currency" trading, certainly independent of and perhaps slightly prior to James Tobin suggesting it. The Tobin Tax (she preferred Roberts/Tobin) had, of course, long ago become an effective Law of the Globe -- again in thoughtful reaction to those economic system tsunamis during the turn of the century, when the tidal waves of instantaneous financial transactions were sloshing about the planet's flooded swamps and arid deserts in search of private profit.
    Before that was Ruth Benedict, the anthropologist and so much more, including being Mead's mentor. Benedict's informed arguments on the necessity of what she unabashedly called "social engineering" were compelling and ultimately successful. In fact, it was Benedict's concept of high synergy societal system design that finally filled the intellectual gap in Adam Smith's leap of faith when assuming his invisible hand would guide the activities of self-interested (even if ill-informed) individuals so as to produce the best of all possible worlds for everybody, which Smith did indeed desire. As Benedict put it: "I shall speak of cultures with low synergy, where the social structure provides for acts that are mutually opposing and counteractive, and of cultures with high synergy, where it provides for acts that are mutually reinforcing. There is no problem about which we need more enlightenment than about concrete ways in which synergy is set up in societies." Yet another revolutionary, she thought; they were everywhere.
    As she well knew and had shown in her thesis, politicosocioeconomic engineering, in one form or another, had been around for literally millennia. The process had simply been made public, with inclusive and informed democracy deciding important societal questions, under the long-accepted philosophy that matters intimately impacting all participants of a democratic society should enjoy democratic approval.
    Her thesis was on the origin and early development of socioeconomic  democracy, now a well-established political economy. The principles of a  democratic socioeconomic system were so simple, natural and easily grasped,  they had spread like wildfire, igniting thought everywhere. Back at the turn of the Millennium, you'll recall, practically everybody was clamoring for more meaningful democracy and at least as many folks were wishing they had a better economic system and less problems. Everyone was objecting to the rapidly increasing disparity in distribution of wealth and opportunity. A century before, Bellamy had called it "the monopolization of wealth."
    There doesn't seem to have been a single, original "seminal" book on the subject. Or at least she couldn't find it and reluctantly so acknowledged in her thesis. If there were such a book, she was convinced it must have been self-published with extremely limited distribution, maybe way back in the 20th century. Rather, a spontaneous combustion somehow took place that ignited intellectual interest globally. It was like a supersaturated solution that suddenly solidifies with the addition of next to nothing, was the way lots of folks understood it at the time.
    While the Big T (she used it too; it was convenient) took place wholly within the New Millennium, its roots, like everything else, could be traced back to antiquity. There were hints everywhere. In Laws, Plato suggested limits on poverty and affluence, Aristotle wrote that no man should have more than five times the wealth of the poorest person and Thales suggested that "If there is neither excessive wealth nor immoderate poverty in a nation, then justice may be said to prevail." Every major religion on the Earth, far more peaceful now than back at '00, has its form of the Golden Rule, from which a democratic socioeconomy can be derived. The Abrahamic monotheistic family portrait triptych of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, at their foundations, certainly all share similar sentiments on wealth and poverty. Writers, too numerous to mention, were always suggesting better ways; but Bellamy played a special part, she thought, because in his classics Looking Backward and Equality, he looked forward to 2000, the same time as the beginning of the New Millennium and the Big T.
    Another general factor in the peaceful and relatively rapid adoption of some form of the democratic socioeconomy was psychological. From Fromm and Maslow et al, who insisted on exploring the healthy half of human nature, the potential was verified. Later, lucid dreaming became generally understood and employed with positive-imaging posthypnotic suggestions to create healthy visions of the future. The then "new" energy psychotherapies, employing ancient understanding of human energy meridians to help clear unwanted performance blockages, facilitated the elimination of unnecessary painful trauma caused by contemplating what humanity had done.
    As for democracy, Arrow, Black, Sen and the whole Social/Public/Collective Choice endeavor had that base covered by the mid-20th century. Her favorite reference here was Francis Galton's (1907) "One Vote, One Value" in Nature. Median Value = Democratic Value; again, so simple! That was the start of quantitative democracy.
    Socioeconomic democracy was the essence of common sense. That's why people picked it up so fast. After reading and thinking about it for a while, a person would soon get the feeling they had always known about it. With wealth disparity getting out of all reasonable bounds, what is more natural than for society to establish those bounds, she asked. And what is more democratic than to set the bounds democratically, she added. The ramifications of those simple democratic arrangements were reflected in the present peaceful, pleasant and productive planet, on a less-traveled path of which, she was now riding.
    As she approached the outer end of her usual bike ride, she relaxed her mental grip on her thesis. Dismounting, she stretched, drank the delicious, pure water from the clean fountain, remounted and headed back home, with lots more to think about.

1999 by Robley E. George
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