Recognize Perils – The Perils of Ignoring Ignorance

In H. G. Wells view knowledge is “unused and misapplied” so that policy makers are ill-equipped “to be aware of or fully appreciate” the knowledge available to solve their (our – Ed]. problems. He quotes John Maynard Keynes warning that they are “so ignorant that there is knowledge and of what knowledge is, that they do not understand that it matters.” All these problems are despite policy makers being “overworked”  and “overloaded with information”.

Wells blames “intellectual impatience” for “disastrously making discordance’s worse” due to what he calls a “particular spasmodic conception of the change needful.” Other commentators are cited blaming the content of education and the unorganised flood of information as being particularly limiting factors.

Fast Growing Awareness

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

The human tendency to ignore or resist the need to change until events impose it may yet prove fatal to our species. We should remember that every civilisation in history has been destroyed, even without the potential for destruction we possess through our technology. The prospect that new civilisations may evolve from the remnants of our own, or that new lifeforms may evolve in a new, post-human ecosystem is barely a consolation.

 

We live in a world in which the Ice-caps caps are literally cracking up as a result of global warming. Ocean currents, which are the life blood of the global ecosystem, are already being disrupted. The consequences will be as inescapable, as they are incalculable. Nevertheless, people still insist on flying the polar routes in ever increasing numbers of ozone destroying planes. Every day they use cars which pollute the air they breath, and add massive quantities of carbon dioxide to the mix of green house gases. People watch their local communities and economies wither and die, while simultaneously importing and exporting luxury goods and foodstuffs from the other side of the world, wasting massive amounts oil, one of the world’s most precious resources.

 

People believe in ideologies propagated by self-interested elites and narrowly focused professionals because the knowledge is not available for them to think about the issues themselves. Probably by far the most dangerous of these ideologies is the free trade doctrine, now enshrined in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is threatening the world’s most valuable assets, its cultural and environmental diversity. Backed by the might of international capital, the power of this ideology appears more absolute than any power in human history. The treaties on which it is based have been decided more on the basis of dogma and global commercial interests than understanding of its effects on cultural and bio-diversity or climate change and without any consultation with the people it will affect most.

 

Recognize Urgency – Do or Die

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

In H. G. Wells’ view, the world is in a race between education and catastrophe and “catastrophe is winning.” He laments that the “urgency of adaptation has still to be grasped” now that humankind has become what he called “a new animal”, so much more “incredibly swift and strong — except in the head”. For Wells it was a case of either “the evolution of a new more powerful type of man” or “the extinction of our species.”

Social Construction – “Lively and continuous invention”

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

Against the “menace” of “a general ignorance,” the inability of scientists to communicate, and what he believed to be the “urgent failings of the teaching profession,” H. G. Wells holds up a vision which he considered “no utopian dream” but a forecast of a world community “to which I believe we are driving now,” enlightened by science and brought about by “lively and continuous invention.”

Wells regarded the formation of such a community as our “primary need in this age of imperative construction,” an age in which the theoretical and the practical would be “of equal importance.”

 

A culture of the book

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

Much as H. G. Wells argued for a “world encyclopedia” which would be created by means of social construction and knowledge invention, James Lovelock envisages a society organised around a book, much as European society used to be organised around the Bible; but the book would have “to acknowledge science”.
It is germane that the more advanced thinking in the field of information “science” conceives of knowledge management as primarily as a social, rather than a solitary mental activity, while corporate group knowledge working is increasingly construed as being a part of community and team building using techniques of constructive cooperation. Moral transformation is beginning to happen as people begin to value things, such as knowledge systems and ecological systems in more consciously qualitative ways. This revaluation, in which harmonious sustainability as highest value and mere survival as very much second best, will reorient the value of money towards being a means, rather than as an end, as it is in financial profit driven economies.

“Clear and simple words against ignorance”

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

James Lovelock echoes H. G. Wells in his plea for “a guidebook written in clear and simple words.” According to Lovelock, this book would counteract the influence of “books and television programmes that present, either the single minded view of the specialist or persuasion from a talented lobbyist”. He laments that the 1990s are “adversarial not thoughtful times,” hearing only the partial arguments of special interest groups.
They agree on the urgent do-or-die nature of the problem, as well as on the perils of ignorance. To quote Lovelock on this point: “We are so ignorant of those individual acts of genius [which] established civilisation that we now give equal place on our bookshelves to astrology, creationism and homeopathy. Imagine trying to cope with a cholera epidemic using knowledge gathered from a tattered book on alternative medicine.”
However, despite Lovelock’s misgivings, there is growing evidence that collaboration, as opposed to competition, is becoming increasingly part of 1990s rhetoric, and sometimes part of the practice in the spheres of management and

Goal oriented self-organisation, not ideology

The problem with believing that evolutionary processes will be sufficient to bring about the emergence of a World Brain is that they know no purpose or deadline. People, on the other hand, do require purposes and deadlines if they are to accomplish anything, especially the near miracles which are actually necessary. Without entering too far into philosophical speculation about the level of organization in which our consciousness exists, self-organization requires acts of will and intention which imply political action. Wells expressed frank loathing for political ideologies of any description as the means of implementing a collective human will and intention. He did his personal utmost to amass and organize a collection of knowledge as a prototype, but he refused, perhaps wisely, to set up an implementation process in the face of the overwhelming need to defeat first the Nazi ideology, then the Communist one. The time was obviously wrong and the technology did not yet exist. A small group of dedicated people, informally led by Professor Abe Goodman, have worked since the late 1930s to keep H G Wells’ World Brain ideas alive in inhospitable times of techno-triumphalism and economic greed.
Now the technology does exist. So does the knowledge of how to use it to organize Wells’ World Encyclopedia. But where is the will? It is here. Now. These pages have been designed and written to be a first iteration of an attempt to create a self-conscious World Brain thinking process. When it is established, its first task must be to gather and disseminate — possibly by trading information on a really open market — the knowledge necessary for local people to organize their own economies and communities, the knowledge necessary for them to grow enough food without poisoning themselves and the environment, the knowledge necessary to manufacture high tech equipment, the knowledge needed by people to govern  and take responsibility for themselves. All this knowledge exists. Most of it is in the public domain already. First, though, it must be collected and organized. Then, it must be synthesized and communicated.