Towards Positive Change In The World? Jumping To A New Level Of Meaning-Making Made Possible through Extended Lifetimes. Examples from Engineering and Business.

This post is a response to the challenges I faced after posting:

Weaving the Ideas of Mary Catherine Bateson, Hartmut Rosa, Robert Kegan, and Cities as Forces for Good, into a Grand Challenge for Retirees to Save the Future

A day or so after having posted this thread on my blog, My friend Laurent posted on his blog, referring also to Robert Kegan. I responded to this post, but after having done so, I kept on reflecting, not happy with what I wrote.

And then another friend, Bruce Beck, author of the breakthrough Sustainability Concept Paper I presented in a previous blog here, asked me what I thought about an article he was requested to comment on.

All this is stretching my mind, my availability and my skills to formulate quickly a thoughtful written response. But I take at heart to offer something to those who challenge me. The field of their questions is indeed one I that I consider to be of the highest importance to bring about the beginnings of a New World Order. This field is that of Life Long Learning towards this higher level of consciousness: knowing how we think, knowing how we know. The level Einstein was so insisting upon for solving the intractable problems of our era:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.

Robert Kegan‘s 1994 breathtaking book, “In over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life”: gives me the opportunity to get around my laziness and lack of skill by offering you an extract in which I discover important elements of the answers to my questioning (This extract is from the last two paragraphs of the book’s Chapter 10 (The Mental Demands of Modern Life) :

A hundred years ago the average American lived to an age we today call “midlife”, the middle forties. Today (in 1994 ed.) the average American lives more than twenty years longer (today in 2011:  78,3 years according to Wikipedia ed.), an entire generation longer for each individual life. What might the individual generate given an additional generation to live? My candidate: a qualitatively new order of consciousness. I suggest that we are gradually seeing more adults working on a qualitatively different order of consciousness than did adults one hundred years ago because we live twenty or more years longer than we used to.

In our longitudinal study it is rare to see people moving beyond the fourth order (Meaning the self-authoring mind, whereas the author insist the demand of the modern world is for a fifth order of consciousness, which he calls the self-transforming mind – for a first introduction to these concepts see Jennifer Garvey Berger’s article “A short primer to the work of Robert Kegan” ed.), but when they do, it is never before their forties, the very age when life ended for most people at the turn of the last century.

Highly evolved people do not mate and create highly evolved children. The evolution of Human consciousness requires long preparation. We may gradually become ever more ready to engage the new curriculum of the fifth order because we have found ways to increase the number of years we live. And why are we increasing the number of years we live? Are we living longer as a species precisely so that we might evolve to the fifth order? Who knows?

So where does this bring us?

I believe freedom and time to be the luxuries of what Mary Catherine Bateson calls Adulthood II (“a new stage of life-cycle created by “unprecedented levels of health, energy, time, and resources – of which we have barely begun to be fully conscious” – see her book “Live Longer, Think Longer). Might this mean the this cycle can bring the freedom, independence, and learning possibilities – rendered easy by the free access to quasi unlimited information and “social media” –  away from “alienation and acceleration” that Hartmut Rosa’s denounces as being our modern predicament in Adulthood 1? If the people in Adulthood II who feel called to contribute would undertake the long and difficult deconstruction and reconstruction road for moving one level of consciousness UP, might we then see a general increase in human consciousness, able to bring about a new and more humanly dignified World?

I see it happening:

Cities as Forces for Good is looking at sustainability from paradigm changing perspectives, see the Sustainability Concept Paper? Conceiving how to transform cities and their environmental, economic and Human/societal reach to make them fully “socially legitimate”, “economically feasible” and “environmentally benign”. Whilst the technical possibilities are already available today, it is the evolving all the stakeholder’s consciousness and cooperation that stays behind. The concept Paper shows so well that following the motto “Always Learning, Never Getting it Right”, will assure the project’s feasibility, as well as applying breakthrough social science to ensure the social legitimacy and economic viability objectives..

A company I am “external partner” of is on its way to “paradigm change” on many accounts, not the least one being its purpose and leadership . It allow its highest executives to escape the “alienation and acceleration” of daily business life to exclusively concentrate on exploring how to integrate/reinvent the company’s activities and “ecosystem” in the broader world  so as to become a sustainable Force for Good in the World, raising its societal responsibility “consciousness” along the same lines of CFG’s “social legitimacy”, “environmental benignity” and “economic feasibility”.

A last thing: My preceding Post was about John Kay’s column in the Financial Times entitled: The Wise Man Knows One Thing – The Limits Of His Knowledge. I understand all the systemic reasons that may prevent man to abandon his “Certainties”. I call them also “Orthodoxies”, and often a lot of vested interests lie hidden behind them and so they can become “closed hegemonies”.  It always comes as a surprise to me that refusing to engage “Unknown Territory” happens so often also in academic circles, the very paradigm of which should be precisely to explore curiously all new ideas, and to abandon theories that are contradicted by empirical evidence.  In social sciences it is blatant with the economic discipline (Again John Kay made a great paper about this), who has imposed its orthodoxy (or closed hegemony?) on Social Sciences too long now.

In the projects examples mentioned earlier new paradigms have allowed to find new solutions.

One takes as foundations a new social science theory: “The Theory of Socio-Cultural Viability” is a theory subsuming all existing social science theories, hence it is a theory of theories, that places “Human consciousness” where it never was allowed to enter, but so deserves to appear central.

The other is Robert Kegan’s work on people’s lifelong learning journey towards higher levels of consciousness, to match the demands of Modern Life.

I see many parallels between the two. I believe both may allow Humanity to escape the predicament of Machiavelli’s warnings to his Prince (I am repeating this again and again, convinced of the importance of this point to be driven home without respite):

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.

Nicolo Machiavelli (The Prince)

I know that what precedes is not new for Bruce Beck. It is very new though for the authors of the paper he was requested to comment on.

This ended up as a very long post after all, for obliquely providing Bruce with my input!

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About charlesvanderhaegen

I am a grandfather of an immensely inspiring family, thanks to the most incredible wife. To satisfy my family's needs, I was for 30 years business entrepreneur, roller coasting between success and failure. 14 years ago I was forced to stop and reflect. I dug into theory and discovered the World out there, that my involvement in Business had kept hidden to me. I feared that I will not escape remaining amidst my trans-disciplinary quest forever, bouncing back and forth from action to theory, always puzzled by Europe's apparent incapacity to free itself from its Institutional/Technological Lock-ins. My horizon opened up when Gunter Pauly, my intimate friend of 35 years, asked me to join him and take charge ZERI's development in Europe.
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One Response to Towards Positive Change In The World? Jumping To A New Level Of Meaning-Making Made Possible through Extended Lifetimes. Examples from Engineering and Business.

  1. The original Title of this post started with the words: “Towards A New World Order”
    My friends Charles “Hipbone” attended me that this title was very laden with meaning that I did not at all intended to give my title and the post. This explains the title change.
    It is a severe warning for me. English is my third language. Moreover I studied and worked mainly in Europe. So I certainly miss a lot of “nuances” when using English and when read in America.
    It should also be a Warning to Native English Speakers: Please read the English posts of non native English Speakers with some empathy for the “meaning errors” that it might contain.

    Thank You Charles, Sorry for those who felt offended.

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