In this course we will anticipate, speculate and extrapolate what lies ahead for human beings on Earth within your likely lifetime. But, more significantly, we’ll ask what ought to lie ahead: where should we be heading, to the extent that our hopes and dreams can set our course and drive us where we’d like to go?
Obviously, the future will be filled with many surprises, often the consequence of novel technologies not yet invented: a cheap, safe, abundant source of power, for instance, could solve many of our current problems and conflicts. Yet we humans face less tangible problems that are not material but psychological, sociological, political, moral, ethical and spiritual.
Simply put, we can imagine levels of health, sanity, and even wisdom we have yet to reach, either individually or collectively. Or, if we cannot imagine them, we need to develop such a visionary perspective so as to lead us where we need to go. “If you don’t have a dream,” goes the old song, “how you gonna have a dream come true?” More eloquently, Dr. King simply declared: “I have a dream,” and it was a dream of an evolved society, freed of bigotry and full of opportunity for all. Likewise, America’s visionary founders dreamed up a new kind of government than the monarchy that oppressed them, and they struggled to institute their new political invention: representative democracy.
Humanity’s future won’t just befall us; we will also invent it. Invention is one of the defining capabilities of our large-brained species. Far more than other animals, we may fashion our fates. We have the opportunity and even the obligation to do so—and do so wisely, lest we violate the wonderful promise of our existence in this universe.
Therefore, I challenge us all in this course to develop our imaginative, visionary capabilities first to discern problems and flaws in current human behaviors, individual and collective, and then to conceive and contrive remedies for those ills, improvements and inventions to promote the well-being of Earth’s panoply of creatures, with whom we human beings live interdependently.