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How should humanity steer the future?

Charles St. Pierre

April 18,2014

For humanity to steer the future, four things must be determined. Humanity first must
evaluate its current situation, and that of its world. It must determine where it wants
to go, what kind of a society it wants to create, and what resources it shall have
available to it. It must determine how to get there, or what desirable state it can attain.
And it must decide who will do the steering. If its situation is determined to be urgent,
then prompt and large scale action may be required for its survival. Starting with
institutions of learning, society may need to be mobilized. The nation's ruling oligarchy
and vested interests must be converted and involved, as they will otherwise oppose
change, even that necessary for society's survival. Various other steps are outlined.
Nations, and even just institutions, must be prepared to initiate action on their own,
and lead by example.
While we argue for urgency, there may instead be grounds for complacency. On the
other hand, since we as elites are isolated from the worst aspects of humanity's
situation, that situation may be worse than we appreciate.

Introduction How should humanity steer the future? This is a question in four parts: 1: What is the
state of humanity: Where is humanity at, in the world? And in what direction is it going now? 2: What
state does humanity, realistically, wish to achieve, in the world? Where does it wish to go? 3: By what

path does humanity choose to get there? What choices are available, in the world, and which of those
does it choose to take? And 4: Who should do the steering? Who should make these choices?
We address these questions in that order. We then offer some further considerations, and a conclusion.

1: What is the state of humanity? What kind of picture of ourselves, and our world, do we have
now? Is it a true picture? Do we really know?
Humanity looks to the future, still scarred by recent self-inflicted wounds, regarding a world which in
many ways is becoming increasingly hostile and barren. May he regard all his choices with equanimity,
or are his real choices becoming more constrained, and perhaps even desperate?
His first choice is to do nothing, to muddle on through as he has these tens of thousands of years. But
can this be even adequate, when for the first time in his existence, he faces the press of poverty across
the entire planet of his experience. Even in the wealthier nations, there is a concern, a disquiet, as
many no longer completely share it the plenty they once thought was their due.
His other choice is to take stock of his situation, and to plan, and to prepare for tomorrow, and to make
the best of what it has to offer. No longer is he merely in his world, but he carries his world in his hands.
He has already shown, though inadvertently, he can alter it to his whim. But can he marshal the will, the
emotion, and the intellect, to alter it to his needs and desires.
Institutions of learning must dedicate resources to make a totally impartial evaluation of our social and
economic status, on evidence which is readily available. Building on past work, we must quickly gain a
practical understanding of institutions and social structures, their past evolution, and the course of their
current evolution. For instance, we will argue below that for any nation to most effectively deal with the
future, ( and the future must be faced with the institutions we have,) it must eventually engage the
majority of its population. Yet the United States, as a recent study shows, 1 while nominally still a
democracy, has been, for at least the last 20 years, effectively an oligarchy, and is evolving in the
direction of ever greater inequality. And statistics show, 2 this oligarchy does not act in the public
interest, but in its own, often to the detriment of the larger society, and its future.
Do we require a further census of population and resources? Do we have time, or is the situation too
urgent, and we must deal with the approximations and theories we have available now?
Once the need is clarified, and initial velocity taken, further dimensions of data may be required and
gathered, as it will be, 'on the run,' altering and improving our course, to more closely satisfy humanity's

2: What state does humanity realistically wish to achieve in the world? The answer to this
question is subject to certain requirements. It is a future which, on this earth, must eventually, in terms

of rights to consume and destroy resources, be zero-sum. Eventually, one person's gain will be at the
expense of others. Even the necessary and timely conversion to renewable resources will not change
It does imply, eventually, that an ever increasing population will be, on the average, ever poorer, and
that, if humanity wishes to maintain an income above subsistence for its majority, population limits of
some sort will be required. Further, the right to unrestricted consumption and destruction of resources,
cannot be granted to any class of individual.
This does not imply, however, that it is zero-sum in terms seeking and attaining individual meaning and
a sense of purpose for the individual, which objective must eventually be the primary goal of institutions
of learning. These institutions are thus also required to continue to seek the ultimate nature of man and
his reality. However, an individual also achieves meaning in his accomplishments in his world, and each
person must have, at his command, sufficient opportunity, both in terms of physical resources and the
human capital, to do this. In terms of human capital, the developing science of the mind is paramount.
This does imply that traditional interpretations of rights must be modified. As has been said,
unrestrained consumption must be prevented. The idea of ownership, rather than being exclusive, must
be changed to the notion of stewardship: That one does not possess property to dispose of at will, but
only in trust for all humanity, and its descendents in perpetuity.
Stewardship implies the thought that the social discount rate of a resource is zero. This is contrary to the
current tendency of humanity, who imagines that the future is less valuable than the present. For
mankind to survive he must imagine that the forest, the ocean, the earth, is just as valuable to him in
100, in 1000, in 100000 years as it is today. And he must make it so that it will be so. The poor person,
who must be prepared to sacrifice tomorrow to be fed today, cannot do this. The wealthy profligate,
concerned with status and appearance and convenience, does not do this.
Humanity must settle on that distribution of wealth, and that distribution of income, which requires the
least resources to maintain. This will maximize the resources available to sustain and enrich individuals.
On the one hand, this seems to assume a maximum Commonwealth. On the other, it implies a
minimum, and simple, sort of government, one sufficient to protect the Commonwealth, yet one whose
interference in the personal lives of its citizens is minimal. Together these imply a strongly progressive
tax system, (which interferes least with the most, and most with the fewest,) and, at least at the outset,
considerable downward redistribution.

3:What path does humanity choose to get there?

Yogi Berra once said: "The future ain't what it used to be." And he said that years ago.
The future changes. Every delay likely makes dealing with the problems the future will present more
difficult, as society pursues its courses of individual and collective short-sightedness, almost certainly in

(mostly) wrong directions. Each action in a wrong direction leaves it further from a socially desirable
goal, and with fewer resources left for correction.
Institutions of intellect must respond with complete rationality to current situations. These will be
among the first to gain an understanding of what needs to be done, and they must have the courage,
and the leadership, to act on that understanding. Once these institutions set their course, they must
deal with their larger society.
The ruling Oligarchy must be converted, either before or after the majority of society. The Oligarchy will
respond to what it perceives as its own interests. The Oligarchy must be shown that those interests are
not the narrow ones it pursues, and that its current single minded accumulation of wealth is, in the long
run, destructive of the society that supports that wealth, and so in the end, of that accumulated wealth
itself. The Oligarchy must be taught to embrace the needs of the entire society, and that this will require
the return to the rest of society much of its recently accumulated wealth and power. This act will secure
their position. But all members of society must become stakeholders, and stewards, so that all have
vested interest in a sustainable future. The Oligarchy must be made either to relax its grip, and to learn
to act impartially in the public interest, as stewards themselves rather than oligarchs, if the country is to
effectively respond to the challenges of tomorrow.
The world of finance must be re-coupled to the real world. This requires the deconstruction of too big to
fail banks, and the elimination of much debt.
Misinformation, disseminated by vested interests, must be identified and countered, and the motives of
those vested interests exposed and then aligned with those of society. To this end, vested interests,
whose actions pose a threat, and who may view themselves as excluded by a vision of a sustainable
future, must be shown a path to contributing substantially to that future. Indeed, through incentive and
if necessary, disincentive, they should be provided with that path. Oil and coal industries can be
incentivized to invest in developing renewable resources. The military can be converted to helping build
the necessary infrastructure.
Public transit, for example, could be encouraged, and urban sprawl discouraged, by gradually ending the
effective subsidies on oil and gasoline. More energy efficient housing can be incentivized, as with the
installation and use of renewable energy sources. Traditional utilities can be incentivized to participate.
Negative externalities, the costs imposed on society at large by producers, must be minimized and,
where ever possible, eliminated. This will enable society to place a true valuation on its resources, in
order for them to be used most properly. Reliance on and depletion of non-renewable resources of all
kinds must be minimized, and if possible eliminated. Policies to encourage recycling of all kinds must be
Challenges must be identified and, once society is brought into alignment, addressed. To this end,
increased resources should be diverted to the sciences and technologies. Indeed, as implied above,
more resources should be devoted to all education, including many now considered marginal.

The over-exploitation of biological resources must be reversed. Biological investigations in genetics,

particularly plant genetics, should be encouraged, with the goal of increasing the variety and fecundity
of the biosphere. Steps must also be taken to arrest and reverse, the decline of species.
The subsidy of unsustainable monoculture should be ended, and more traditional agriculture
encouraged. The harvest must be made sustainable, the soil conserved, and arable land, lost to
development or neglect, where possible, reclaimed.
The issue of increased global heat retention must be addressed, and the acidification of the oceans.
These, and many other steps, must be taken on a national basis, irrespective of the actions of any other
nation or nations. If necessary, those nations which seek advantage by imposing externalities on the
world must be excluded by restrictions of trade and immigration control. This includes the externality of
unconstrained population growth.
The precepts of established religions, set forth during a time when man was not elbow to elbow with his
neighbor, must be countered with the harsh light of tomorrow's reality. And this must be done
impartially with all faiths. Indeed, while some teachings of religion must be countered, those which
embrace the worth of the world, the individual, and his place in it, as for instance those emphasizing
man as steward, as the caretaker of God's creation, should be reinforced.
What should also be reinforced is the idea that it is man's responsibility to plan his future course. He can
no longer justify, he can no longer afford, to act like a selfish and spoiled child, whatever justification
'God' may have given him to act like one. He must grow into manhood, and quickly.

4: Who should do the steering? At least a plurality, and eventually a majority, of society will be
required for the most effective response. But the help, or even the consent of a large minority, will not
be available in the beginning. Society is currently not organized to respond to a future much different
from the present, and indeed seems to be heading to a future more like the past. 3 This despite the fact
that the circumstances of the world will be vastly different.
At the beginning, only a few may initially be involved. Institutions of learning, and perhaps only some of
these, must first be committed to dealing rationally with humanity's future, before the rest of society
may be engaged.
It may indeed be that a majority of society may never become engaged. It may be that this path is
already closed. Those who imagine, out of necessity or greed, that their own short term interests are
more important to them than man's long term survival, may be in a majority. This may be the destitute,
or those who fear destitution. Or the oligarchs may be so fearful of change, that they sacrifice the
survival of society, and their children, on the altar of that fear. There is also the mythology that mankind
is incapable of taking charge, or that it is inappropriate that he should take charge, of his future. It is the
mythology that his future should be left to chance, or the combined chaos of individual endeavor, that
must be overcome.

If the oligarchs cannot be converted, or if the mythology cannot be overcome, the institutions of
learning, and their associated communities, must be prepared to take such steps as they can on their
own, with the hope of leading by example. They must then act locally, if they hope to have global effect.
Yet finally, it is upon these institutions to develop the argument and rhetoric to convert the rest of
society. Solutions of a global nature must be found, explained, and implemented. This will require
leaders, with the necessary breadth, depth, and qualities. It will require leaders of intellect, to analyze
and solve the problems, of emotion, to rally the people to action and explain its necessity, of will, to
overcome obstacles, and of deed, to accomplish what must be done, and of spirit, sufficient to the needs
of all humanity. In many of these roles of leadership, the oligarchs, who have shown their abilities, are
needed to serve.
But unfortunately, the ordinary institutions of a society do not select for what is required in the highest
levels of global leadership. They cannot select for them, because these types of leaders do not meet
the needs of these ordinary institutions. They thus tend to deselect for them. Individuals, even captains
of industry on the largest scale, even dictators, are selected to lead in the reduced space of their
enterprises, or their nations, and need not, and even cannot, regard the higher complexities and
constraints of the global stage in their formative decisions. When they are forced to confront them, they
are by temperament and experience ill equipped, and may be expected to error. We see this in the
world today. Indeed, much current misery is the result of leaders selected by local institutions, and
enabled, or forced, to act globally.
In the end, while leaders are necessary, they are not sufficient. In the end, the people, and not any
oligarchy, must give their advice and consent to any leaders, since in the end, it is they who must do
what must be done.
Rather, it is we, the people, who must do what must be done. United we stand. Divided we fall.

Considerations. The parts are not completely separable. In particular, humanity's goal and the path
taken depend upon each other. The path also depends upon the state of humanity when it first sets out.
Many, indeed perhaps most paths available to humanity will not likely lead to any end desirable by those
who regard the wellbeing of humanity as their highest consideration. Worse, as resources decline and
populations increase, as inequality bears more harshly on an increasing majority, paths once available
may become closed. We may expect then, that those future states of humanity most desired will
become cut off from possible realization, and only lesser and lesser desired states become attainable,
until the choices come down to the least of evils.
Already it seems humanity must concede much of its coastline to the sea, and many of the resources of
the ocean it once so took for granted. Tropical forests are being decimated, and temperate soils
becoming exhausted. In many of the world's agricultural regions, water resources are being depleted. It
is already an open question of whether the current 7 billion population of the earth can be indefinitely
sustained, never mind the 10 billion people expected by the year 2050. Some argue that much of this is
just inadequacies in the distribution of food, and not its absolute quantity. If so, it may still be dealt

We know that a system left to itself, even one with dynamic input, evolves to the state of its highest
disorder. We cannot assume that humanity, pursuing an unguided and inchoate course, will, trapped
between the scissoring blades of global heat retention, and the chill of increasingly constrained
resources, fare any better.
Man has, until recently, just gotten by. It is only recently, since the rise of industry, and on the backs of
coal and oil, that a majority of humanity has been lifted above subsistence. And now it has become that
only by pursuing sustainable alternatives, may he maintain this state. It is indeed past time that mankind
chose a rational course for himself, one of material, intellectual, emotional and spiritual fulfillment.

Conclusion: The first analysis of the state of humanity in the world must result in an evaluation of the
urgency of humanity's situation. Society, its situation, and its ability to respond to its situation must be
estimated. To act without this understanding is folly. If society is so organized that it cannot respond to
its situation, if society is, in a sense, insane, this must be determined. If the situation is estimated to
indeed be urgent, further resources must summarily be dedicated to determining the constraints on
actions and the expected results of those actions. Then, as soon as possible, and necessarily beginning
with institutions of learning, increasing segments of the whole society must be reorganized and engaged.
Eventually, society may be required to marshal, as if to war, a major proportion of its resources. (In fact,
it probably cannot afford the substantial resources it already wastes on war, and many of its other
activities, as it is. That is, it may already be failing at sustaining its present state. ) And doing so, it must
find a way that is at once impartial, yet engages the passion of its people. Indeed, it will have to be
impartial in order to do so. This is because proper action may in principle require sacrifice on the part of
But there are those in society who cannot sacrifice. Effectively living at subsistence, they have nothing to
give. They must first be elevated, capitalized both materially and with skills, (and this should be done,
anyway,) so that they have an interest in the success of the enterprise, in the success of the nation, in
the success of humanity.
What qualifies as success, as goal, and humanity's path to reach it must also be determined, and be
approved by the people.
Leaders must be selected.
Is the situation urgent? The situation is probably worse than it seems to us, who sit in comfort and
evaluate. Being relatively wealthy, we who sit and evaluate are insulated from the worst aspects of
humanity's situation, and would therefore perceive the need for action to be less urgent than it truly is. 4
This would be especially true with a media whose rewards are governed by the servicing of the demands
of a small minority. This makes the timely evaluation of humanity's true situation itself urgent.
Equations for the basic evolution of human societies have been offered, and await refinement. 5 If we
have overshot the maximum sustainable population, or if it seems inevitable that we shall, the situation
may indeed be desperate, and our options limited in both time and space. The current directions of
social and economic evolution may also place constraints.

It may be that impartial evaluation will show that our situation is worse than generally thought. Or it
may be determined that we can continue in comfort, without undue concern. Only by dispassionate
evaluation of the relevant evidence can the situation be judged. Only with courage can it be addressed.
And only with determination can a brighter future for humanity be secured.
The world is will. Whatever mankind's true desire for the world is, will be made manifest, by his own
actions. Deus ex machina, to save or destroy the world, will not come to man, except out of his own
mind and heart.

1: Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, Martin Gilens
and Benjamin I. Page, April 9, 2014
2: See eg: http://anamecon.blogspot.com/2014/02/graphs-on-inome-inequality.html ;
3: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/may/08/thomas-piketty-new-gilded-age/
4,5: A Minimal Model for Human and Nature Interaction, Safa Motesharrei, Jorge Rivas,
Eugenia Kalnay Nov 13, 2012. The Human And Nature DYnamics (HANDY) model: