TED Conversations

John Renesch

futurist, author, keynote speaker, FutureShapers, LLC

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Human beings are still in their adolescence. What will it take to have us grow up?

One way we can transcend our challenges as a species is to consciously evolve by choosing adulthood over our present adolescent state. It is time to grow up as a species and assume responsibility for how we relate to each other and our planet.

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    Mar 10 2011: Great question. I think for humans to grow they need to grow together, that involves sharing ideas and accepting criticism.

    When one idea is thought about, practiced and traditionalized it becomes an ideology it is then that ideology is more accepted because it can be embedded into culture, belief systems and alter peoples ability to be open minded. Nationalism and religion do more destruction than people can ever do, a person dies, an idea can be practiced for ever if it isn't changed.

    I think for humans to grow up immediately would be to have a common goal. An event or happening that requires everyone to set aside everything and grab the nearest person and get working to help.

    The day we do not need to fight is the day we will not be savage animals, there is no reason to kill with technology. transhumanism is a great ideology to introduce into anyone train of thought. The reason futurist care so much about togetherness of the planet is easy, because if we are not together there will be no future. We need to drop petty ideologies that are destructive and clash every idea together until we have the best of every thought combined. That is how government should work, it is how people should work, and it would only better ourselves and the everyone around us to do so.

    Psychologist will agree you need an equal balance of self and external connections. It is humorous because for humans the more we care about ourselves ultimately becomes caring what others think and cannot be isolated for too long. We need people for everything, just because they do not speak your language, know your customs, enjoy the same food, does not mean that a stranger could not know you are tired, hungry, sad, happy, or curious. Human beings need to stop thinking of the specifics and look at the whole picture.

    LastlyI think the biggest step in growing up will have to be the end to any religion that claims absolution, that claims to know the answers to life's biggest mysteries.
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    Jul 16 2011: For whatever reason I was just notified that there have been comments on my posted question some time back. First of all, thanks to everyone for your comments.

    In my observations I see our culture filled with adolescent indulges, behaviors and attitudes that prevent us from evolving into responsible adulthood as a species. Each of us can probably recognize some personal indulgences that "entertain" our adolescent, serve to distract us from more meaningful things we might be focused on that could move our society closer toward a healthier way of relating to one another and our environment. I assert that obsessions and addictions of all types are adolescent indulgences that prevent our adult from engaging the world responsibly, as are fundamentalism of all kinds, exaggerations, gossip, short-term thinking, egocentric points of view and any other sparkly and shining distractions that take us away from responsible engagement of our social challenges. These indulgences keep us separate from one another at a time when we need to be collaborating. They keep us polarized in our separate identities and ideologies, including nationalism which Einstein called an "infantile disease."
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    Jul 16 2011: Agreed. While I believe we may operate in seperate capacities I agree. The call that I am seeing in the Christian world is a call to accountability, responsibiilty and maturity. The ironic twist is that the drive for this style of thought is not coming from those who are of previous generations but from the youth and college aged generations.
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    Jun 15 2011: I have been thinking about why it is we do not just decide to grow up for a long time. I grew up during the cold war with “adults” from both sides threatening to decimate the human species in order to hold the other at bay. Every time a jet flew over, I would feel the chill of ominous possibilities.One of the amazing things I have noticed lately is that when I point out that we are putting a million future generations at risk, many of the people who agree that this is so, nevertheless shrug their shoulders and say so what or that I shouldn’t trouble myself to worry about it.

    If they are young people, don’t they understand that it is their future already at stake? If they are members of older generations, then why do they not commit themselves to protecting their children’s or grandchildren’s future. I routinely hear adults say that they love nothing more than their children, but if that is so, why is not the threats that we face move them to join the call to action? And if they feel that way about their children, how do they think their children will feel about their own children? No matter how far in the future the crisis will come, we are connected to the generation that will face the end of civilization by this chain of love for children.

    So if any of you support doing something, why not stand up and be counted. Are you willing to commit to the future of our species, why not say so and get others to stand up and be counted, too. Lets put an end to the excuses and let each other know that we are ready to stand together to find ways to make our lives more sustainable.

    I think that one of the greatest barriers to working out our future is a sense that not enough of our contemporaries are willing to cooperate. That is why I think we need to declare our willingness.
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    Apr 18 2011: Maybe we are not yet mature enough (as in a fine wine needing time to grow) to step up to the greatness that humanity is. If it is true that we are only using 10% of our brains then at one point do we nip to the other side of the universe to get that pint of milk. I am not being facetious, I am using it as an example of how far we have come and possibly how far we may yet travel. I wonder if we have not yet discovered our abilities enough that we can make that next quantum leap of understanding the laws which govern the universe?
  • Apr 18 2011: In order to transcend our challenges as a species I feel rather than growing up and getting into our minds and dogma and history we should rather return to the innocence of a babe and a pure heart. Look into the eyes of a very young child and you will see love acceptance compassion and joy. This is what we are all born with we already have the tools to create a wonderful world. It is only when separation and fear kick in When we are taught all the reasons why we should hate and fight for our rights When we separate from our neighbours and see them as enemies that we create a world without compassion. This is changing, people all around the world are beginning to realise that we are connected, and that there are solutions this site and many wonderful people one by one are bringing in the changes. I lived in South Africa and I watched the changes take place, I watched the children accept each other as they mixed in schools. I have hope that In the Middle East the children will also show the way for change and they will lead us into a peaceful place where all the children of Abraham will once again realise that we are neighbours and brothers.
  • K JAI

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    Mar 19 2011: I question the question
    To 'grow up''?
    I believe babies suckle naturally from their mothers
    I do not see them crawling over to suckle a cow
    As it is obviously 'wrong and not natural at all
    Why are we as humans conned into living and consuming things obvious example 'milk
    Cows naturally produce milk for their calves yet why do we have god only knows the number of cows kept unnaturally pregnant so that the masses of people that went from babies to believing they should and need to consume cow milk
    Children I have noticed are almost always fascinated and love all animals, I observe their parents patting baby lambs watching their children hold baby chickens not one dares tell them 'let's go home and eat a piece of that because the children would be horrified
    I think we grow into this adolescent state as it's referred to because we, most of us, the human race do not think for ourselves.
    We lose our basic instinct of what is right and what is wrong
    Children can look over at the mist/smoke that comes billowing out of a coal power plant and I believe their natural reaction is yuk
    If you tell a little person do you want dirty air or clean air they would naturally say 'clean"
    I think we need to get back to very basic commonsense
    I also believe when we start valuing and appreciating all life, the air, the water and our planet 'only then will we be responsible.
  • Mar 16 2011: A shift in how we relate to each other and our planet might happen through reframing our understanding of the nature of our species.

    At the moment this is centred on the individual, and notion that members of species are 'essentially' the same. A different model is to put our being a social species at forefront - we cannot survive independent of community, and diversity and difference working cooperatively is essential for success (as show for example by Meredith Belbin). To take this further, could consider our social species to be akin to insect colonies; only now with globalisation, these are perhaps merging. Seen in those terms, we might reassess and better understand and manage our behaviours. 'Our challenges as a species' may arise because our concept of nature of our species is a paradigm that has become a counterproductive anti-pattern.

    The question of the nature of our species is one which might be debated further - but point here is to suggest an answer to question: such a change might occur with a paradigm shift in how we think of ourselves as a species.
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    Mar 15 2011: i have to ask before thinking about your question
    - what you mean "in adolescence"?
    - what makes us grow-ups?
  • P C

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    Mar 15 2011: It will never happen. Three reasons:

    1) Human beings don't perceive reality as it is. Each person projects outward his own perceptions of what he thinks is real while filtering out everything else. We each live in our own filtered bubble of perceptions. We don't see one another colors, we see the colors we project onto others. You might recall how babies perceive everything and as they continue to age, they start filtering things out and making choices about what's "important."

    2) Human beings don't perceive the world rationally. We perceive it emotionally and justify things later logically, and sometimes even distort logic to fit our emotional frames or sometimes don't even bother to use logic at all. Emotions are our primary cognitive mechanism for overcoming our reality filter. Bear in mind that nearly 90% of what is communicated is nonverbal. The OP at one point became emotionally bought into commerce and felt that it was beneficial, then evolved a whole chain of logic to support those emotions.

    3) Knowledge and information is imperfectly received, imperfectly stored, and imperfectly transmitted. We receive information through a mental filter where we select only what we are interested in, then we fail remember most of what gets through, we're terrible at transmitting our experiences to others, and are terrible at learning from the experiences of others.

    Of course never say never. Maybe we'll develop technologies that allow our brains to overcome these disadvantages.
  • Mar 11 2011: I guess we have to wait for the rise of robots:) We seem to be veeery slow in evolving morals.
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    Mar 10 2011: .
    Ehm, what's wrong with eternal youth?

    Your starting point assumes that we are conscious human beings who can consciously grow up by consciously changing our behavior.

    I think the contrary is true: like a real adolescent, you become adult because all kinds of processes happen outside of your control and will.

    Humanity will be "whipped" into adulthood, if at all it makes it to that stage.

    Perhaps we'll simply die young, like all wreckless heroes in history.

    In any case, I don't think mankind is capable of reflecting deeply enough on itself. I think we belong to the dumber class of animals: those who don't really have a clue about what they're doing.
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      Mar 10 2011: That's a cop out. And you just answered your own question, to assume us as a dumber class of species than to question what is wrong with eternal youth? Self-centeredness is arguably one of the most dangerous human conditions. Not caring for others but yourself is barbaric and I for one take religion as the example of why humans do not grow up as a universal species.
    • Mar 12 2011: As Nicholas has said, the greatest downfall of the human race (and thus the greatest inherent characteristic that we must overcome) is this localized narcissism. While it may be true that in the state of nature altruism exists within a small clan of humans, in the grand scheme of the modern world, we have grown dangerously indifferent about the rest of the human race. Corruption of people in high power that put themselves over the millions of people that they have influence over leads to an overall deterioration of the quality of life within a population.

      As a species, our adolescence can only be overcome when the global community realizes that we must, as a race, band together to ensure that every human being lives comfortably and within reach of ample education to spur innovation and self-improvement, even when it is easier to simply embrace selfishness and forget about the suffering millions right on our porch steps.