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!
LOOKING BACKWARD, YET AGAIN
The Transformation was profound and essentially complete. Looking
backward, it happened so fast.
© 1999 by Robley E. George
"How could humanity have been so stupid!" she more
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
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
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
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.