The Path Ahead: Politics, Globalism, and You

Ken Wilber Audio, Cognitive, Conversations, Perspectives, Politics, What is a more hopeful future for civilization?, World Affairs, Worldviews 3 Comments

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Ken will be a featured presenter at this year’s What Now conference in Broomfield, CO from December 29th – January 1st. Click here for more details.

Ken Wilber offers an extensive presentation to help us better understand the evolutionary pressures that led to the rise of Trump and the backlash against progressivism, and offers his own ideas around the future of the global economy. This presentation was recorded during a private event at his loft in Denver, Colorado.

Over the next few weeks we will be releasing more installments of Ken’s presentation, as well as the full Q&A session he held with participants. Stay tuned!

A Note from Ken

These are truly extraordinary times. That is why I wrote and Integral Life distributed Trump and the Post Truth World — which Shambhala has decided to publish in book form. But thanks to all of you, the paper and the concepts it contains have gotten lots of traction inside and outside the Integral community. It seems that we have a tremendous opportunity to promote an Integral view in the cultural conversation moving forward. That is why I am now taking this next step in addressing the cultural unfoldings that are now surrounding us.

We are facing an unprecedented period of human history. There are so many factors that are at play that we really haven’t ever seen come together in this way. In part it has to do with the extraordinary leaps in technology, and in particular the unintended consequences those are causing. We never ever thought it would come from technology, but now we are starting to see the downsides. When a book is written called Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, you get the idea that things are not going the way they’re supposed to.

Clearly we also have the election. We have the completely stunning victory of Trump, where if you look at it rationally over any number of demographics, ideas, reasons, and drives, there is no real reason this man should have gotten elected. However, there were factors that were at play that people tended to underrate, and those ended up being important. I have a factor myself that I think is extremely important, and that has to do with what happened at the very leading edge of evolution itself as it began to crash and get jammed up, and sent out messages that complicated the situation, to put it mildly. Trump ended up riding on some of those currents—not intentionally, Trump was just being Trump, mostly ego and ethnocentric and a little bit of worldcentric, and generally just somebody that was trying to dictate his own way and not really play nice with anyone.

What it always comes down to at some point is: what can I do? Given the situation that now exists, how can I contribute in even the smallest way, as well as some very big ways? And to the extent that I can contribute in making the future unfold in a more helpful, caring, compassionate way, that helps me get through this very difficult situation.

-Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.

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    Thank you, Ken! Relating to the tension between the values freedom and equality (Part 2): What can happen if they are at war instead of being integrated, the pre WW II years in Germany are an example. The freedom of speech of the 1920 (Weimarer Republik) were used by people like Hitler and Goebbels and Julius Streicher (the editor of Der Stuermer, the most horrible antisemitic publication ever) for preparing the ground for Nazi-fascism. When they took over, free speech was no longer allowed …

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    What a rich offering. Each time I listen to Ken there are distinctions galore. I was particularly taken with some of the taboos that arise from ‘broken green’ postmodernism. In Pt 2 Ken mentions, for example, the denial of cultural evolution and explains how it is enforced through universities.

    It’s tremendously helpful to have these taboo topics illuminated and objectified in order to better navigate a sane path in the world. In Pt 3 Ken says ‘The post truth atmosphere has led to greens being able to selectively ignore real truths as it socially constructs its own version…’ This green tendency is one of the contributing factors to what Terry Patten has called the ‘consensus trance’. Certain narratives and viewpoints, enforced and legitimised by universities and mainstream media, become widely accepted as the truth simply because they’re widely accepted.

    The aspect of the consensus trance that worries me the most is the presumption that growth and progress will continue far into the future, that technology will solve our problems and that humans are just too smart to get tripped up now. For the first time in human history we are running into concrete physical constraints on a global scale. Implications abound. None of the levels seem to be very good at acknowledging this.

    In a speech in 1964 the English physicist and astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle stated that industrial civilization is ‘a one shot affair’. He was saying we’ve got one chance only to get onto a truly sustainable basis. He believed that, if we fail, there won’t be sufficient natural resources remaining for another push by humans or any other intelligent species that may evolve on the planet after us. He liked to put things in perspective and one of his favourite charts was “Oil Consumption 1500 – 2500 AD”. For most of the duration the oil consumption line is near zero and there’s a steep spike in the middle – exponential up and exponential down. At the time of his speech Hoyle was not particularly optimistic that humans would get over this hurdle.

    More than 50 years later the jury is still out, but the pattern is much clearer. Almost every area of human endeavour can be seen to be unsustainable on even a short term basis. Energy is everything. Societal complexity requires energy flow – the greater the complexity the greater the energy input needed to maintain order. The popular view is that we’ll be able to hop over to renewables when we need to; as a qualified engineer I don’t buy it.

    Long time Boulderite the late Dr Albert Bartlett had a complementary perspective. Bartlett was emeritus professor of physics at the University of Colorado. His catch phrase was ‘the greatest failing of the human race is the inability to understand the exponential function’. His signature presentation ‘Arithmetic, Population and Energy’ is still on youtube. A key point of his is that any level of exponential growth is unsustainable.

    Growth is woven into the fabric and structure of civilization. The global economy is an exponential debt based money system and it absolutely HAS to keep growing to maintain stability… But even a reasonably smart 10 year old knows you can’t have endless growth on a finite planet… So trouble looms… And to be crystal clear we don’t run into trouble when we run out of resources, collapse is triggered when growth can no longer be maintained.

    These conclusions do not mesh well with Kens ideas (in Pt 4) on further globalization. Ken says ‘Globalization is a product of the unrelenting evolutionary drive whose major push is transcend and include’ and he talks about the ‘drive towards larger and deeper holons’. Ken sees a technological utopian society possible for humans. It’s a fantastic vision – my heart is there but my head is not.

    There is certainly a drive in that direction at present. But it seems likely to me that a large brake is about to be applied, a brake significantly more disruptive than the disfunctional effect of a broken green leading edge of the evolutionary impulse.

    In Pt 1 Ken states ‘ If you’re going to bet I wouldn’t bet against eros’. I wouldn’t either…over the long haul. But I would bet against Western Industrial ‘Business as Usual’ continuing for even another 20 years.

    While there are emergent potentials right up to Supermind they can only be realised when conditions support the unfolding. There will always be gains and knocks, that’s just how things work. Over the past 2 centuries there has been phenomenal development on the back of the energy surpluses generated by fossil fuels. That free ride is almost over. By definition humans will adapt to living sustainably or will die out. Eros will re-route as necessary.

    I’m trying to be realistic here, not negative. This is not the end of the world. It did not take modern technology for spirit to wake up to itself in India or Tibet or Japan. Humans can live good, full, meaningful lives without a global culture. And who knows what the future will actually bring anyway.

    So no, Ken, I wouldn’t bet against eros either.

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