The great acceleration that marks our move into a new planetary era suggests a model of greater connectivity and global communication (horizontal), with closer intimacy with earth customs and ethical, moral perspectives (vertical). This acceleration will make many older systems obsolete, as many people have been sensing for some time now, as events in the second-half of the 20th century have indicated. Also, within developed nations there has, over the past few decades, been a significant shift of values in that more and more people are seeking a quality of life that is away from materialism and towards meaning and happiness; towards simplifying their lifestyles (even before the recent economic crashes). So far quality of life for too many people has been provided by raiding the world’s finite energy sources and co-opting other nation’s resources. However, being forced to downsize can be a good thing, turning people’s emphasis away from external status and material possessions and to focus on what is local and meaningful – relations, local resources, working with one’s self and the needs of others. Any form of inconvenience, or even hardship, needs to be taken as a beneficial interiorizing process; a way to developing self-reflexive consciousness. Sometimes in order to gain we must first experience what it is to lose something. Troubled times can lead to an extension or manifestation of empathic consciousness, as we realize the interconnectedness of our worsening situation – just like the war ‘bunker’ mentality during World War 2, a coming together of the people in times of need.
It is also important to remember that not all of the ‘old models’ of technology will work for us in the future. Our technologies not only need to be more fluid, as in distributed and open source systems, but also more egalitarian and democratic. Technology that aims to dominate will become less efficient and more of an obstacle for us to move forward. People will increasingly demand more transparency and justice in our national and international systems. There will be many more social protests and strikes on the horizon if these systems do not begin to better serve egalitarian and ethical human interests. Further, as the social transition goes through many years of change the world may first have to pass through a period of fragmentation due to energy depletion in the future and/or technological infrastructure problems. A new form of integral consciousness is less likely to embrace a global techno-industrial complex future, despite what some thinkers argue. However, even though there may be initial periods of fragmentation this will not diminish a collectively evolving emphatic mind that will inform a greater awareness for working together; community-building; shared values and ethics; and working towards re-modelling how the world operates. It will not be ‘business as usual’ as most future forecasters seem to predict; many forecasters simply offer a linear view that is just a more ‘planetary’ version of today’s world. This view does not take into account ‘system jumps’; the tipping points, or rather phase transitions, that characterize the energy fluctuations of growth. The future may well be a more mindful, spiritually aware and ecologically-integral period, yet it may also be a more chaotic, fragmented and disturbed global picture as the people of the world – and the world’s structures – learn to reassemble themselves into a radical new form of existence in line with the resources available to us.
This period of psychophysical transformation of life on Earth is likely to include heightened impulses for radical social change and cultural renovation; alongside new discoveries in science, energy, and our knowledge of the cosmos. There will manifest an increased drive for human betterment that will be marked through intensified activism for social, political, and ecological change; and for changes in the balance of global power. Also, large demographic shifts and the active presence of many cross-cultural movements will release much concentrated energy for psychophysical change. Planet Earth is entering a sustained period for historical change, requiring humanity not only to draw on all its physical and psychic resources, of creativity and vision, but to shift into capacities that could ultimately serve to be extremely liberating for the self.
It is certainly no small claim to say that the 3rd millennium will stimulate and nurture a new form of human consciousness. To paraphrase the famous saying of B.S. Haldane, the future of humanity may not be only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. And as Terence McKenna once said, we need to take out our conclusions from being central to our culture and replace them by a sense of the mysterious. The future may open up a greater sense of the mysterious than we have anticipated. Some of this mystery may likely surround the greater capacities inherent within the human. To help us arrive where we are already heading we will have to question, and perhaps discard, many of our belief systems. Rather, we should put the role of direct experience in place of enforced belief systems as these belief systems are self-limiting functions. It is immaterial to have beliefs when the universe is stranger than we can suppose and is thus continually over-riding our beliefs, making them limiting factors if we cling to them. Experience must be made primary; therefore the language of the self must be primary. We need a new language, and in order to have a new language we need a new sense of reality. Rather than consuming ideological visions we need to be the creators of them – to send them out. Let our visions and creativity breed and mutate like viruses in proactive and beneficial ways. Terence McKenna used to urge his listeners to ‘Live as far into the future as you can live’; reminding them also that energy is now rushing into our reality like into ‘the realm of the densely packed’.
The opportunity is here for change and betterment like never before in our recent history. This means that the responsibility is also here; and these two factors may never be present again at exactly the right moment when they are so badly needed. What the human species may now be witnessing during this great acceleration is the rise of intuition, empathy, greater connectivity to the world and to people, and a sense of ‘knowing’ about what each given situation demands. Further, being nurtured within each person is a growing sense of the greater cosmic whole: the realization that humanity exists and evolves within a universe of great wisdom and meaning. This can serve to impart within humanity a more profound, and acknowledged, spiritual impulse.
After all, we are already on the way to where we are heading. One can see clearly that Bob Dylan was right when he sang ‘There’s something happening…but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?’