There are multiple ways of arriving there, and billions of value-laden decisions to take along the way. Here the premise is that we, as peoples, must take steps to examine, evaluate, discuss the intermediary objectives – the ones to be defined as we move forward. However definitive I may seem in my ideas, they are just that. Ideas. I believe in them at this moment. But they need to be discussed, amended, replaced. All I ask is that in the discussion, the implication of the amendments be thought out, and traced through the rest of the argument for inconsistencies and further amendment. We must never forget the holistic pattern, that one decision affects all others. What you and I do now, individually and intimately, affects the 2100 outcome. In making decisions, we must never forget that.
Another premise is that cultures, whether local, professional or global are dynamic. The changes which took place in the twentieth century – little more than one lifetime – were fundamental to all societies in the world(2). Some would argue, persuasively, that the rate of change increased exponentially, leading to inequities and anxieties about our ability to absorb the innovations. What is more, the changes have not been limited to technology or commercial practice or instruments designed to kill. In a very uneven way, they have included the most basic elements of human culture, from religious belief to marriage and sexual practice.
Up to the present, despite the existence of pressure groups, powerful politicians and CEOs, the changes have been blind. There is one relevant rule of human life. However much we plan, scheme, and rationalize policies, the results of any action, public or private, contain unforeseen elements. Sometimes these are trivial, sometimes they completely frustrate the given objective.
Thus we cannot be 100% certain about what we do. This is not a plea for more research – we must accept uncertainty and, its concomitant, the learning experience of failures along the way. We cannot wait for the completion of a major study; we must act in good faith, with the best knowledge and sensitivity we can muster.
The cliché has it that the movement of a butterfly’s wings in the Amazon will influence the state of mind of a hermit in the Himalayas. We cannot detect that tiny influence. What the cliché says is that what we do has ramifying effects on the thoughts, actions, emotions, planning, of others both near and far. We do not normally extrapolate the consequences of our individual acts to the analysis of the nature of the world order. Yet the pond ripples, and it would be good to judge the effects of our own actions, however humble, in terms of their rippling consequences.