Sunday, June 6, 2010

An Evolution In Psycho-Social Growth? A Letter From My Father

Australopithecus Sediba, this recent hominid discovery in South Africa has the world's scientists excited. But, asks my father, has our emotional evolution kept apace with our physical evolution?

For my regular readers, I extend an apology for missing out on the last month. I have been very busy with World Cup of Soccer work, renovations, paperwork and all the daily-life stuff that becomes such a time suck. Fortunately my time is my own again.

This last week I have been talking a lot with my father, John W. Barbee, a giant (literally and figuratively) of the sustainable development movement around the world. He has worked tirelessly in Tadjikistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Malawi and many other places assisting local people to lift themselves out of desperate situations. His take is one of vast experience and empathy with the people he works with. He is my real-life hero and a man of action.

Letter from My Father,
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
June 2, 2010

Dear Jeff

Right now (beginning the second decade of the 21st centruy) we are in the midst of an evolutionary revolution, being clobbered with disasters (nearly all man-made, or man-induced) and opportunities. And the magnitude of the latter seems definitely related to the magnitude and frequency of the former.

Many of the issues relating to our ability to respond to the opportunities is that for the last 10 years or more we have been using "the hammer" in response to problems, and this has led us to preceive the shape of the nail in every problem.

We seem, at the same time, to be gaining knowledge of our development as a species AND lacking understanding and insight of what that means, as well as its usefulness in informing our adaptation. What a paradox.

I got ahold of a fairly new book that is good food for thought....and adaptive action. "The Nature of Technology." It's written by a guy with a "understanding complex systems" perspective. He describes the process and progress of "technologies" and the interaction & complementarity of science & technology. What captured my thinking most from this book is that the "human systems" of thought, activity and their psycho-social effects seem to be the most elusive in developing and replicating adaptive & effective technology and science.

I believe the answer is that we still have not acquired the insight of ourselves as a species integrated into our global existence. We have achieved incredible development in technologies & science of electronics, micro & macro aspects of physics & chemistry, bio/genetics, etc. but only a little of the technology and science of psycho-=social development, even though much of the necessary ingredients are available. The result is that we confuse "approach" with "solution" and disregard process by over-focusing on short-term product.

The "building blocks" are there, but we have neither recognized them as such, acknowleged their essential nature in the psycho-social & civil society nor recognized them as technology/science (and therefore integrated with all the others).

Just as gravity (and its lack) are forces fundamental to the universe and our existence, so is trust (and its lack) a necessary and very basic feature to us and our existence in the universe. And trust is based on our ability to understand, communicate and engage amoung ourselves & other life forms and the universe at large. Building this -- a "civil" society of our species and those that have evolved with us -- within the universe is the primary imperative of the 21st century, and for our success as a species.


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