“The most wonderful and the most terrible of futures that have ever been possible are now possible.”

— First speaker at Bretton Woods

Last week’s Bretton Woods conference was intriguing, possibly raising more questions than it answered. Lots still to process, but I wanted to share one initial exchange that struck me powerfully.

I won’t name names, as it was Chatham House rules, so let’s simply call him our first speaker – he spoke primarily about the existential risk facing humans. He pointed out that throughout history, every developed society has collapsed. What is different now is that we don’t have a multiplicity of diverse societies, we have one globally interconnected society. Our current rivalrous game dynamics, multiplied by exponential technology will lead almost inevitably to our self-termination.

So that was cheerful – not. But it was going to get worse.

The second speaker set out his worst case scenario, which was a world in which humans have not been stopped by any of the existential threats, but have gone on to create a world in which all ecosystem services (also known as “nature”) have been replaced by manmade systems, so that our world becomes nothing but a strip mine alongside a waste dump. (He added, ironically, that our global GDP would still be looking just great, thank you.)

One brighter note from the same session suggested that, due to the theoretical phenomenon of morphic resonance, every single thing we do makes a difference – even our thoughts. The concept is that our thoughts, words, and actions contribute in some sense to the collective memory. So even just by caring about a thriving future, we are supporting its creation.

There again, creating the structures and systems – economic, governmental, and social – that support that thriving future, would be good too.

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