Humanity came a long way from the first settlers to relatively peaceful times in today’s world. We made remarkable progress. But progress or peace is not secured, probably it never will. It depends on us. It depends on what we will decide to do.
The main problem of humankind is that we are powered by stories, not facts. We don’t check facts often. It’s not in our DNA. We were programmed to analyze things fast, which is enough for our species’ survival, but it is not enough for our society. We created complicated rules where any natural imperfection can cause huge damages.
Just look several hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, the central theme was God, and people went into many battles for Him. In some places, people are still using this story because it was the only story they were told, and there is no reason for them to look for anything else. I think we cannot blame them because the 21st century has not much to offer so far anyway.
A few hundred years ago, people replaced religion with ideologies. We had several ideologies to choose from more than a century ago, only two ideologies (capitalism and communism) after World War II, and only one after the Cold War. Today, we don’t believe even in remaining capitalism.
It doesn’t matter if you call it religion or ideology; in either case, we need some believe because it’s necessary for organizing society. If we do not believe in democracy, capitalism, or God, the system will collapse and disappear. On the other hand, if we do not believe in gravity, it will stay with us no matter what.
But what should we believe in, then? Well, we have a lot of failed stories. We know quite a lot about what doesn’t work. Unfortunately, we don’t know what works. I would say there is no answer. At least that answer will always be different depending on many other factors. I would even say it doesn’t matter what ideology we will use once it helps us with our challenges. For me, political system is technical detail. I could imagine being happy under a dictatorship if the dictator is moral, addressing humanity problems, and gives me freedom.
So, what are the issues we need to solve?
A very hot topic is climate change. There are as many opinions as there are people on this planet, but one thing is clear: one country will not make the difference. We all live on this planet, and we all use the same interconnected ecosystem. There is no local fix only. Unfortunately, some fanatics take it as an ideology, as religion. The crucial fact is that the planet’s climate is changing all the time. There is no way to stop it. But if we want to ensure humanity to thrive for many more years, we need to reduce the changes.
Another issue is the economy. We face the same problem again and again—Tulip mania, the Mississippi Bubble, the Great Depression, or the Great Recession. The root problem is always the immoral behavior of a few individuals causing problems to others because of the interconnected market. The liberal approach, aka free trade, presumably doesn’t work. China uses national capitalism with less attachment to the worldwide market, which is an interesting hybrid, at least for not spreading economic crisis around the whole world. In either case, many factors affect the economy, and a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic can take everyone down. To survive it, we need enormous cooperation.
Once we are not thinking about hot and dry seasons for our crops, or we don’t have a lack of money to buy food, we all are using smart devices connected to shared internet. Computer programmers can create anything and share it with anyone on the internet. Anything can be, for example, Artificial Intelligence. The code for AI would be precious and would have an impact on all countries around the world. We are still very far, far away, but we cannot exclude the possibility.
Personally, I’m not afraid of AI; I think the higher risk is from tempering genes. It’s hard to write random code and create AI by accident, but we can modify DNA randomly and create something horrible by accident. It could exterminate humanity or be used as a weapon. Or not. We frankly do not know. It’s better to cooperate and share the progress in those fields.
Since World War II, there was no major war. We can see only minor changes in borders and civil wars. For example, Europeans witnessed conflict in Crimea or dealt with refugees running from a very complicated Syria situation for more than ten years. History is difficult, and some places need to figure out long-standing issues. There is no clear answer to what is right and what is wrong. Such conflicts are mainly local problems. But still, we face one violent global threat: terrorist or pirate attacks. No country is behind such attacks, so we cannot merely invade some country to defeat the enemy. We need to unite together against them.
There are many more issues, and most of them are impossible to be solved locally. The Netherlands cannot solve the rising sea level alone. Italy cannot close borders and deal with the COVID-19 aftermath alone without tourists boosting the economy. The United States cannot forbid Chinese industrial companies to make new technologies. Even the country with the biggest army cannot protect its citizens against terrorist attacks alone. We need to solve those issues together.
One thing is clear, at least to me: we face issues that need to be addressed globally, and there are differences between all of us, which will never go away. Very challenging!
Difference makes us fearful, and fear often leads people to hurt themselves. The same is true for institutions, nations, or humanity itself. We can notice the desire of presidents or premiers to achieve nationalism and dictatorship in many countries again. They want to run away from the complicated discussion table. We already saw that before. Nationalism created fascism, nazism, and communism. It all ended badly, and it didn’t solve any problem we faced. It will not solve anything even now. Our new issues to be resolved tomorrow are even more global and harder to solve than ever before.
Our civilization has flaws, but it’s what we got. We are all profiting from it. If we want to live happy lives, we should put some energy into improvements. There is no reset button. Collaboration is hard, but we should make an effort.