Efiong Etuk

Founding Director, Global Creativity Network

This conversation is closed.

The threats to civilization are too daunting for humanity to continue to hold onto obsolete self-perceptions that no longer serve us well

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the dreadful situation the world is facing is not because the modern crises are impossible to solve; but because we have not yet developed, or found, appropriate conceptual framework for understanding and for tackling them. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, also, the modern crises are not “economic crisis,” “social crisis,” “political crisis,” or “environmental crisis,” per se. They are not separate crises, either. As such, they are not likely going to be resolved within the framework of the prevailing understandings.

A body of data no one thought and no one knew existed identifies the modern crises as, fundamentally, a “creativity crisis.” This is the inability of the vast majority of people to develop and to engage their natural abilities in significant and beneficial social and ecological actions and, resultantly, the global and spreading epidemic of meaninglessness of which most psychological, social, economic, political, and environmental crises are the symptoms or facets. Close examination of the data also challenge widely accepted beliefs that humans are inherently self-interested, competitive, adversarial, materialistic, and consumption-driven. Analysis of the data further suggests that many of the difficulties the world has been experiencing might be rooted in inadequate and misleading concepts we have created about ourselves and the institutional framework and operational relationships that have been erected on those concepts.

To the extent that this conclusion is valid, the best hope of resolving the modern crises is, first, to correct the misleading views we hold about ourselves and, second, to conform our economic, social, and political decisions and actions to our authentic nature as humans.

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    Oct 14 2013: Yes, Pat, technology is key. But as E. F.Schumacher, I believe, rightly observed, "technology with a human face."

    Lest we head into a catastrophe analogous to "There Will Come Soft Rains" http://www.bartleby.com/271/4.html.

    Best regards,

    Efiong Etuk
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      Oct 14 2013: Technology is the ONLY thing that has raised the standard of living of mankind no anthropomorphism necessary.
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        Oct 14 2013: Hi, Pat:

        If, as I believe, technology is the product of a society's fundamental belief system -- its "first principles," its underlying values, and its epistemology (or system of knowledge) -- then the "higher standard of living" that mankind has achieved is ultimately due to the society's underlying culture that give rise to technology.

        To the extent that this observation is valid, consideration attention needs to be given to shaping human culture in ways that not only accelerate technology, but also guide it to sustainable ends.

        Best regards,

        Efiong Etuk
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          Oct 15 2013: When you strip it down to the core the one intention of all life is to survive. Technology is an extension of this. When this is achieved through cooperative exchange it enhances all, called our current standard of living. Where this natural dynamic gets perverted is when an organization uses force to follow a different agenda at the expense of all
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      Oct 23 2013: I'm curious Efiong Etuk,

      Where does technology with a human face manifest? Can you point to some good examples?

      Thanks,
      Craig
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        Oct 24 2013: “Technology with a human face,” a socio-economic metaphor popularized by E. F. Schumacher, refers to the tools or machines of production “which instead of making human hands and brains redundant help them to become far more productive than they have ever been.” Schumacher further describes this type of technology, and I agree with him, as “the technology of production by the masses, making use of the best of modern knowledge and experience, … is compatible with the laws of ecology, gentle on its use of scarce resources, and designed to serve the human person instead of making him the servant of machines.”

        For the avoidance of doubt, “technology with a human face” does not imply (human) face-bearing machines or tools. Nor does it imply physical or biological resemblances between machines and humans.
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          Oct 24 2013: Yes, Efiong, I do understand the meaning as I too am a long time student of Schumacher, Gandhi and Fuller and others. What I was asking is where does it manifest? Where in real communities does 'appropriate technology' manifest?

          "Appropriate technology reminds us that before we choose our tools and techniques, we must first choose our dreams and our values, for some technologies serve them while others make them unobtainable" Tom Bender from Rain magazine.

          So my question remains, besides perhaps Mondragran (sp) in Spain, where does one find either human scale or appropriate technology other than in struggling developing nations. Why hasn't it developed here? Any insights or specific examples?

          Craig
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    Oct 14 2013: Greetings, Robert:

    Thanks again for your comments. This is just to clarify a few points regarding the idea I proposed for this conversation:

    First, nothing in my comments suggests “changing human nature” (which, I believe, is not yet possible for humans to achieve). What I am proposing is: a) rediscovery of our authentic nature; and b) conforming our policies, actions, and behaviors to that essence.

    Second, many of the (tribal, ethnic, cultural, economic, social, psychological, religious, political, ideological) “labels” we have put on ourselves are no longer useful, and need to be rethought. As a matter of fact, many of our difficulties might be due to those labels.

    Third, I also do not think we need to reprogram human nature, even if it were possible to do so. What we probably need to (and can) reprogram, I believe, is the way we think about ourselves, the labels that we have invented to express those thoughts, and the patterns and operational relationships that we have built on those labels.

    Finally, an overwhelming body of of reported evidence (from families, classrooms, institutions, organizations, and medicine) suggests that the best “results” are achieved when and where people are able to be themselves – able to realize and able to contribute their natural abilities to the “tasks” or goals at hand. Besides, as I had indicated earlier in this conversation, it is easier, cheaper, more productive, and more profitable to provide the conditions in which people are able to reach their fullest potential, than to try to solve a plethora of problems – psychological, social, economic, and political – most of which are the symptoms of deprived, meaningless, and impoverishing existence.

    And that takes me the central idea of this conversation: The threats to civilization are too daunting for humanity to continue to cling onto obsolete self-perceptions that no longer serve us well.
    • Oct 14 2013: I agree with your last three points, but the concept of "authentic nature" is new to me. So I went to the WIKI:

      "Authenticity is a technical term used in psychology as well as existentialist philosophy and aesthetics. In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authenticity_(philosophy))

      My difficulty with this concept is that we notionally spend our childhood developing who we are and our adolescence discovering who we are. This maturation is done within a group. Since we have little basis for knowing what is authentic at the time we are learning, authenticity seems to be something that must be discovered through an awareness of new information and a self-realization that something previously believed as truth, is not true for us. This realization requires existence of new information, a personal openness to considering something new, an environment that permits these thoughts, sufficient intellect to make a personal judgement about whether the new belief should replace the old, and then enough strength in character and purity of thought to live the new and forget the old. That is a long list of required actions.

      I have heard discussions about 'being true to yourself' that follow a similar line. Still, there is a necessary evolution of your 'self' to get to the point where introspective weeding of things non-authentic can occur.

      In order to reduce the introspective weeding required, an awareness of non-authentic influences needs to be achieved early, perhaps as part of becoming an adult.

      Attempts to remove non-authentic influences before you understand 'self' may retard personal growth and isolate someone from society.

      Is that good?
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        Oct 14 2013: Greetings, Robert:

        Your comments are some of the most exhilarating pieces I have read in a good long while. Short, sweet, and so apt.

        "Introspective weeding": That one is going to stay with me for a good long while. Yes, we have a lot of that to do. Thank you sharing. I so happy you chose to take part in this conversation.

        Reminds me of something I read many, many years ago, in my late teens. It goes like this (exact words and author forgotten, therefore paraphrased):

        There lie buried in sub-conscious selves
        Vast store-houses of rich golden treasure
        A god himself dwells within.
        If we could touch this hidden divinity
        And bring it forth to expression
        We could rise to a more abundant and triumphant living

        Please pardon the poor recollection. All the same, I hope the message is not totally lost.

        Again, Robert, I thank you for sharing your wisdom.

        Best regards,

        Efiong Etuk
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        Oct 14 2013: I too appreciate your aiming to go a level deeper than is common.
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    Oct 13 2013: I would love to see the data you reference in this post. Humans are very self-interested, competitive, adversarial, materialistic, and have become consumption driven due to the current environment.

    These attributes are the result of some pretty basic human needs. You make it seem like our only problem is a false perception about who we are. You can take a look around the world and see that just isn't true.

    The state we are in today is the result of many different social and economic issues. There is no simple explanation for the problems we face today. It would seriously take hours of writing to cover the complexities of our current crisis.
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      Oct 13 2013: It seems, we've come to the same conclusions, but you were faster.
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        Oct 14 2013: Greetings, Mike:

        It's nice to hear from you. I apologize, if I appear to have preempted you. Actually not! A friend of mine calls it "cosmic convergence." This is the coming together of seemingly separate or separated ideas and events to produce a particular beneficial effect, outcome, or result. From Carl Jung's perspective ("collective unconscious"), I am merely trying to voice what most people deeply know, deeply feel, and probably want to say. To be frank, Mike, I'm grateful to you and the thousands of intellectual giants on whose shoulders I should like to stand.

        Best Regards,

        Efiong Etuk
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    Oct 11 2013: Hi, Fritzie:

    The data are a compendium of scattered insights on human nature, culled from the writings of deep thinkers, past and contemporary, and brought together for the new light they shed on what it means to be human. Full description is available at the sites I provided.

    Thanks again.

    Efiong etuk
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    Oct 11 2013: Thanks, Joshua, for your insights. I believe, as I think you do, that the logical and necessary starting point for global recovery is our individual and collective self-rediscovery. I would go further to suggest that unless and until we are able to recover our authentic (quintessentially creative) nature, and align our policies and actions with essence, no significant improvements are likely in the human and the global condition.

    Regarding personal paradigm shift, this will make you laugh: As a young boy, I was a "good" high jumper, one of the best in the district. "Somewhere" in my sports development, I was made to believe that no one can jump higher than his or her height. And I believed, and never tried the "impossible." Eventually, I went to college. There, to my amazement, boys like me were jumping higher than their heights. Miracles, I thought. Gradually but hesitantly, I risked the "impossible"; and i made it. At 5':11" I was able to jump 6':3." That personal "breakthrough" changed my entire outlook on customs, conventions, and traditions; and it has stayed with me since. As the aphorism goes: "It may seem impossible to swim against the current; but you can do so if you do not know the source of the river."

    Best regards,

    Efiong Etuk
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    Oct 11 2013: When you refer to a "body of data no one knew existed" and "analysis of the data further suggests," it is useful to the reader to provide a link to the data on which your conclusion is based. That will allow people to decide whether they believe you have reached your conclusions in a valid and sound way.
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    Nov 11 2013: Greetings to:

    Conor Desmond.
    Craig Patterson.
    Dave Gajadher.
    Fritzie.
    Henry Woeltjen.
    Joseph Scudder.
    Krisztián Pintér.
    Mahmoud Abdelnoun.
    Mary M.
    Mike Colera.
    Mitch Smith.
    Pat Gilbert.
    R. H.
    W. Ying.
    Robert Galway.

    Thank you so very much, Lady and Gentlemen, for your insightful contributions to the conversation that is about-to-close. It’s been deeply rewarding to me, personally. Reading over your amazing comments makes me wish all human issues were tackled this way – be they political, social, economic, ecological, or metaphysical. It all reminds me of (I believe) Winston Churchill’s famous “To jaw jaw is better than to war war.” I hope at least some of you have enjoyed the conversation as much as I have. It never fails, as the old adage goes: “Two heads are better than one.”

    And now, as my parting thought, I’d like to share these lines by the celebrated Greek Philosopher:

    By mutual confidence
    And mutual aid
    Great things are done
    And great discoveries made
    --Homer

    Merry Christmas and Happy 2014 in advance.

    Efiong Etuk
  • Nov 7 2013: Where can a person find information on and about the Global Creativity Network? Why do you exists and for what purpose?
    The concept sound great, i will like to know more.
    D
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      Nov 8 2013: Greetings, Dave:

      The newly redesigned and still developing Global Creativity Network website, http://wwwglobal-creativity-network.net, provides preliminary information about the network.

      The purpose of the network (why we exist) is to "nurture a global creativity-consciousness."

      Our goal is to inspire a global civilization in which all the earth's estimated seven billion inhabitants are able to recognize, to develop, and to contribute their unique abilities in important and beneficial actions and, thus, to experience their lives as having meaning and significance.

      Incidentally, everyone is invited to spark or explore the necessary rethinking in the places where they live and work.)

      Regards,

      Efiong Etuk.
  • Nov 2 2013: In past civilizations there was a vast array of self perceptions which would be totally alien to ourselves.

    eg Generations dedicated their lives to building pyramids.

    There are plenty of examples of past ideologies with those who lived through them, with our hindsight, having been wildly irrational. I expect there always will be a shift, a flux to the way we see ourselves as we react to the changes and the challenges which we face as a species. Now we address consumerism and the knock on issues of environment and distribution. We change, we fix, and move on to the next challenge.

    Going sci fi here, in 1000yrs time we are hurtling through the universe somehow guiding a conquested sun and utopian planet through galaxies in search of a communicating star. We have issues of keeping the regenerating population healthy in order to reach the goal which may be a few generations of time away!

    Just a bit of fun there but you see we will be re-identifying ourselves in the future as we have done in the past.

    At the moment the idea of having to change our ideology in the face of unfair distribution and environmental concerns is a valid debate. Its my view that responsibility must be encouraged by developing an online ethical reputation system, similar to TED electronic reputation scheme. Ethical reputations can be built by consuming environmentally efficiently while producers can build their scored ethical reputations by delivering on the objectives of the consumers. see my full essay on www.goviralbaby.com
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      Nov 2 2013: Greetings, Conor:

      I apologize for the delay in responding to your comments. My email notification did not show your post until this afternoon.

      Thank you so very much for sharing not only your wit and wisdom but, equally important, your humor. Your comments remind me of the old adage: “Many a true word is spoken in jest.”

      Sadly, I am not a big enough fan of sci-fi to comment meaningfully on that part of your post. So, please, pardon my ignorance, and permit me to skip to the next part.

      The “ethical reputation system” that your wisdom has proposed strikes a vital chord; and you can count on my discipleship. The more I travel the world, the more urgent it seems to me. I also believe the crises and tumult we are currently experiencing are the “birth-pangs” of the delivery or realization of that system. How else could we explain the spontaneous emergence of so many social and ecological movements around the world – all, in one way or another, advocating or converging on basically the same ethical principles and goals as you have so well articulated!

      Tit for tat: I return fun for fun regarding the “ethical reputation system” you have proposed. A world famous philosopher and psychologist once suggested that humans could achieve the really important goals of life (human happiness and fulfillment) constructively through self-denial. He suggested, for example, getting into contest to see who could do without more creature comforts, who could endure more hardship than the next man/woman, who could make the most personal sacrifice for the greater good.

      Sounds utopian? Not exactly. Yesterday it may have been optional; today, it is becoming increasingly importnat; tomorrow, it could be an imperative!

      Best regards,

      Efiong Etuk
  • Oct 30 2013: nice
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      Oct 30 2013: Greetings, Mahmoud:

      On behalf of all the people who have contributed their precious insights to this conversation, I want to thank you for your compliments. It takes a mature and magnanimous "heart" to do what you've just done -- encourage!

      Best regards,

      Efiong Etuk
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    Oct 24 2013: My apologies, Mary M: For some curious reason, your contribution does not appear in the conversation thread on my computer. I only see a small part of it in my email box.

    Is there a way you could post your contribution again, so I can respond. Again, my sincere apologies.Maybe, it's time to start looking for a new computer!

    Efiong.
    • Oct 24 2013: I apologize Mr. Etuk, I posted a contribution asking you a question before I read the contributions made by others. I then decided to delete my comment because I found the answer below (Well, not the answer, but clarification of some sort).

      I'm sorry for the inconvenience. Your conversation is a pleasant one.
      I have learned quite a bit.
      Thank you for the link to "There Will Come Soft Rains".

      Do you think you will see a solution to the issue at hand during your life time?
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        Oct 24 2013: Thanks, Mary M, for clarifying the “mystery” post. It was really puzzling. I’m glad I didn’t toss my computer into the trash can.

        Now to your question: Will I see the solution to the issue in my lifetime? The honest answer is “I don’t know.” Nor is it really important that I do. Even so, I am encouraged that a beginning has been made since the 1970s -- thanks to the efforts of visionary thinkers like The Club of Rome, The Club of Budapest, Humanistic Psychologists, Deep Ecologists, The World Commission on Environment and Development, Simpler Living, and the scores of Holistic Health, Self-Help, Self-Development and Human Rights movements. I am even more encouraged by what appears to be an irreversible trend toward sustainability and human fulfillment – even if this is wishful thinking.
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    Oct 24 2013: Thanks, Craig: I think we are very much on the same page, when it comes to the interface of (cultural) values and technology. In my opinion, if there is just one measure of the "omnipotence" of dreams (your term), customs, and values, it is the rate of adoption of technology.

    A case in point is the growing popularity of small-scale ("appropriate") production technology in many Third World Countries and, of course, widespread "rejection" (failure) of large-scale production machines. Contrary to assertions by some management experts, the casualty of large-scale production technology in many Third Countries is not so much due to lack of managerial capacity or infrastructure. It is,primarily, because these methods of production tend to violate (or are perceived to violate) what is really important to their "target" beneficiaries -- their family ties, their (often) mythical attachment to the land, their sense of place and community, their customs and ethnic affiliations, their sense of sacredness or reverence for certain features of the natural environment, etc.

    To answer your question specifically, with graduate under- and un-employment figures as high as 70 percent (estimated) in some Third World Countries, few people (policy makers, as well as the general population) are seriously talking about large-scale technology as the solution. So, in effect, economic and cultural necessity are vindicating Gandhi's theory of "production by the masses" and Schumachers "Technology with a human face." Specific examples are far too many to mention here; but it (human scale technology) is happening in very many Third World Countries. And, from all indications, it seems here to stay.

    My advice to anyone who is considering marketing technology in Third World Countries: Consider family or village-level business, preferably local fabrication -- and you will soon be smiling your way to the bank.
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    Oct 23 2013: The data are published and available in most e-bookstores by the title "Creativity: Revealing the Truth about Human Nature."
  • Oct 23 2013: Could you identify this database that suggests the problem is a creativity crisis?
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      Oct 24 2013: Efiong has explained elsewhere in the thread that this is not a database in the usual sense of the word but rather his personal gleanings of ideas from reading the works of various thinkers over time.

      From below: "The data are a compendium of scattered insights on human nature, culled from the writings of deep thinkers, past and contemporary, and brought together for the new light they shed on what it means to be human."

      I don't think you will get more detail about how he tries to support his claim unless you are willing to buy his e-book, but I think his response that I quote above to the same question may give you the flavor of what he taps in the way of support for his claim.
  • Oct 23 2013: The threats to civilization - is the result of a transition started over the last three decades to the current state of an extractive consumer based society. Those of us born during the baby boom years have created a generation of children whose wants and needs are fulfilled without accountability. We live vicariously through our kids, we do not hold them accountable, we over protect and provide to all their (market driven) needs and wants. This extractive culture we created, is burdened our health, social and justice systems. Government cannot meet the needs of the rapidly changing population segment growth (specifically Seniors and the lost generation under 30). We are the creators of our demise and we must take accountability for our environment. Stop blaming the government, large corporations and other industries for our environmental and health issues, we need to look at our actions and extractive behaviors, move to become an additive society. Transitioning from our extractive culture to one that is more additive is the beginning path to sustainable social development.
    #davegajadar
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      Oct 24 2013: Thanks, Dave, for your comments. I apologize that, for some reason, I had not seen your post till now.

      Your observations are so insightful and worthy of deep contemplation. Yes, indeed, some of us, particularly in the "Third World" got carried away by our new-found capacity to exploit the nature for consumption and short-lived "satisfaction." We probably never thought the day of ecological reckoning and accountability (your term) would ever come -- let alone so soon. Happily, as The World Commission on Environment and Development has observed, it's not too late to repair the damage. My humble opinion is that the "repair" will need to begin with serious rethinking of who we really are as humans, and why we are here on earth.
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    Oct 15 2013: Great thoughts, Pat. And, thank you so very much.

    At the level you are coming from, there is little question that "technology" permeates practically every aspect of life. On this, we can agree.

    I should, however, like to observe that there is more to life than mere survival. It appears to me that there is a "purpose" (or there are "purposes") to every life -- human and non-human -- even if currently available tools of inquiry are not able to determine. As Albert Einstein once observed, "God would not play dice with the universe."

    Best regards,

    Efiong Etuk
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      Oct 15 2013: It would be helpful if you used the reply button.

      Regarding survival, all decisions one way or another are related to survival.
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        Oct 15 2013: Thanks, Pat. I agree with you to an extent -- to the extent that survival entails much more than mere biological existence.
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    Oct 14 2013: Greetings, Juliet:

    I apologize, an email notification informs me that you have made a contribution to the conversation; but it is not shown in the thread. As such, I can neither see nor respond to what you wrote. Could you, please, post it again. I'd love to hear from you. Thanks and regards.

    Meanwhile, I am reporting the glitch to TED officials to see if they can fix it.

    All the very best,

    Efiong Etuk
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    Oct 14 2013: The only chance mankind has is to further technology, anything that detracts from that diminishes man's chances and anything that enhances technology improves his chances.
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      Oct 14 2013: Efiong, if I understand the thrust of the argument here, suggests that we lose opportunities when a majority of people are not able "to develop and to engage their natural abilities in significant and beneficial social and ecological actions." Martin Selgman in his TED talk shares research that satisfaction with life is connected to having something meaningful to do. Lots of TED speakers say the same. These are common, reasonable observations.

      Efiong makes another case that is also often made in TED Conversations that people can change their situations by what they believe about themselves. Someone who goes through life believing he is a loser even when he isn't will be miserable regardless of the truth of his contribution.

      Your principle that furthering technology is important seems entirely compatible to me with the idea that people should be looking for opportunities to do meaningful things in their lives that align with who they are and their relative advantages.

      I think we can all learn to be imaginative or entrepreneurial in finding good things to do. Do you agree? Sometimes our opportunities are in different areas than we may have planned, so we need to be flexible.
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        Oct 14 2013: Thanks, Ritzie.

        So elegantly summarized. Yes, indeed, in order to be truly beneficial, technology (as practically every other human "enterprise") needs to serve human and Planetary ends of fulfillment and sustainability.Thanks again for your synthesis.

        Best regards,

        Efiong Etuk
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    Oct 14 2013: i meet this argument so often, i need to look deeper into it. the pattern is: declare some very weird an unnatural thought as the majority view, and then present the majority view as either a minority view or downright novel. in this case, we have

    "widely accepted beliefs that humans are inherently self-interested, competitive, adversarial, materialistic, and consumption-driven"

    i can't recall a single person that would hold that belief. the common sentiment is that humans are group animals, only feel good in social setting, and although they engage in competition, they also cooperate. materialism is actually rare, and all sort of mysticism including religions, new age, transcendentalism down to astrology, creationism, ID or the most brain dead anti-scientific sentiments are very common. anti-consumerism won't make anyone seem stupid at any dinner table.

    so what is it if not a straw man, and hating it is a tool of social cohesion? just as one would expect from the not so rational group animals humans are.

    it is instinct. controlling instincts is key to our survival. we can not expect biological evolution to catch up with our unbelievably fast cultural evolution. our instincts are crafted for a very different setting. they hinder us. we have to control our instincts, so we can develop as humans. the actual solution is to embrace all those things listed, contrary to human nature.

    we NEED to be self-interested (to some degree) and accept others being self-interested. we need to embrace competition, and do away with the stigma attached to it. we need to accept materialism to the degree proven by observation, even if it feels weird. and we need to say yes to the ever increasing consumption, simply because we can. it is not any more a sign of greed, in the time of fast growth.

    adversarial would be an exception. that, we don't need.
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      Oct 14 2013: Thanks Krisztian for your thoughtful comments.

      I guess it is perfectly alright to hold any views we like about ourselves. That is our prerogative as thinking, valuing, and choice-making beings.

      Ultimately however, and in a finite Planet, the question is: To what extent are the beliefs we hold about ourselves ("self-interest," for example) enabling us to realize our potential as individuals, as societies, and as a species? A related question is: Are the beliefs we currently hold about ourselves enabling us to build a civilization that will endure well into the infinite future?

      If the answers to those and related questions are positive, then all's good and well. If the answers are negative, then, I believe, it's time to do some rethinking.

      In conclusion, we cannot assume that any belief or metaphysical system, however hallowed, is sacrosanct. From time to time, they all need rethinking, reevaluation, and refinement

      Best regards,

      Efiong Etuk
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        Oct 14 2013: I understand you both to be saying that it is worthwhile to reconsider even our most hallowed beliefs and assumptions. This is not, I think, the position on which you differ.
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          Oct 14 2013: Thanks a million, Fritzie, for your observation.

          I personally do not see TED conversations as a vehicle to air differences, or to dig deeper into entrenched positions; but, rather, as opportunity to brainstorm solutions to pressing global problems. In the end, hopefully, everyone leaves the conversation better informed -- at least appreciating the multiplicity of perspectives on any given global issue

          Best regards,

          Efiong Etuk
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        Oct 14 2013: I agree that the most interesting potential of the site is for people to consider issues and ideas from a different perspective than their usual. Sometimes this occurs when people help unveil assumptions people did not realize they were making.
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          Oct 14 2013: Absolutely, Fritzie. As in the old aphorism:

          Each to each a mirror is,
          Reflecting the side of self one could not have seen.

          That, I believe, is the purpose of any informed conversation or dialogue, including TED's.

          Best regards,

          Efiong Etuk
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      Oct 14 2013: I think people often identify the position they do not hold as the majority view, not because they have collected evidence rigorously of what the majority believes but simply as a rhetorical device.
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        Oct 14 2013: or maybe surrounded by an imaginary enemy is sweet. it holds the flock together, but poses no actual danger.
        • Oct 24 2013: But the flock is not together........

          Can you give an example of an imaginary enemy?
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    Oct 14 2013: Greetings, Henry:

    Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate them.

    It seems Ted Ideas Worth Spreading does not allow people to provide URL to their works. There was an earlier request which, unknowingly, I obliged; and those comments was promptly deleted. I hope I am not breaching TED’s TOR by indicating that the data are currently available for most ebook reading platforms, in a publication entitled “Creativity: Revealing the Truth about Human Nature.

    I totally agree with you that “humans are very self-interested, competitive, adversarial, materialistic, and have become consumption driven due to the current environment.” This seems connotes that people are not naturally self-interested; but have become so “due to the current environment.” That is exactly why I am suggesting that we rethink that environment to accord withhuman nature.

    I also agree that the human problem is many-faceted; but most of them seem to be rooted in false perceptions about who we are. This is a universal and age-old problem – probably as old as culture and civilization.

    Sure, there is no simple explanation for the problems we are facing today; but some solution strategies seem more critical, more pivotal and, potentially, more useful or more fruitful than others. And in the interest of economy and effectiveness, those are the one’s to which humanity might wish to pay particular attention.

    Best regards,

    Efiong Etuk
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    Oct 13 2013: Hi Mr. Etuk,

    I see these conclusion as valid. I am not sure that these "views" are misleading... these are the authentic nature of humans. We are basically a highly developed animal capable the most egregious animalistic actions. The polite social, economic, political orders established are the artificial states that must be taught and accepted. A good number of mankind does not accept these social orders and rather revert to the instinctive states of survival.
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      Oct 14 2013: Thanks, again Mike:

      There is no question: A society without order (social, economic, political, tribal, cultural) would be sheer chaos. As you so rightly observe, these things must be taught and accepted by all, from cradle to grave. The point, however, is that these orders need to liberate and enhance, rather than limit, what is best in man -- their creativity and personal or collective sense of worth.

      As you travel the world and examine the human condition, you can't help but lament the colossal waste of human potential (I refer, in particular to the so-called "forgotten four-fifths) all because of "orders" that are not recognizing, developing, or productively engaging the affected people's potential, and that, therefore, are not serving them well.

      The two issues of this conversation -- "rethinking" and alignment" -- are ways to make "orders" (policies, decisions, actions and behaviors) promote, nourish, and enhance human potential.

      Best regards,

      Efiong Etuk
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    Oct 13 2013: Thank you, Ying. I think it would be useful for humanity to re-examine what "happiness" is; and the experiences that make us truly and deeply "happy." That way, we would learn to cling to the things that really matter, now and for the long haul.

    Best regards,

    Efiong Etuk
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    Oct 13 2013: Greetings, Robert:

    I apologize that I could respond to your thoughtful and enlightening comments earlier. I’ve been on the road most of today.

    The data (just published) upon which my conclusions are based is a compendium of sobering and illuminating insights on what it means to be human (beyond mere biological existence) – what gives our lives meaning (beyond physical survival). My analysis of the data demonstrates: a) the inherence of creativity in human nature and ,therefore, its universal distribution; b) the centrality of creativity in human life – its primacy among the forces that shape our lives and drive our behavior; and c) the necessity of actualizing one’s (creative) potential for meaningful existence and responsible social and ecological behavior.

    I do not believe that humans are hard-wired for competition. The contrary -- cooperation and collaboration – is probably the case. The predominantly adversarial relationships we observe and which seem to characterize modern way of life, I believe, are an aberration – the result of an unfortunate and, hopefully, temporary win-lose thinking (soon to give way to a collaborating and partnership society).

    Sorry, there is nothing in my earlier comments to suggest “negative characteristics in humans.” If anything, I believe that human nature is essentially good, though often perverted by customs, conventions, and the circumstances of life.

    I should add that I am not proposing institutional reform in the conventional sense. What I am suggesting is fundamental rethinking of human nature and the (re)alignment of institutional patterns and operational relationships with our authentic nature. This, I believe, is critical, if an organization is to truly succeed and endure .

    I also wish to observe that rediscovering our authentic nature and aligning our policies, decisions, and actions with that essence are an all-win proposition for institutions, individuals, organizations, and society.

    Best regards.

    Efiong Et
    • Oct 13 2013: Greetings,

      My comment about negative characteristics was in reference to the following statement form your original discussion.

      "Close examination of the data also challenge widely accepted beliefs that humans are inherently self-interested, competitive, adversarial, materialistic, and consumption-driven."

      Relative to "hard wired for competition", I think we will have to agree to disagree. I see cooperation and collaboration as learned behaviors.

      I am not sure changing human nature is possible. I think the root of human nature is instinct.

      Changing human behavior and re-alignment of patterns is possible, but takes substantial effort. Focusing on the subset of this behavior that occurs in the workplace, I think I would have to break it down to behaviors needed to accomplish the work, and then behaviors that influence how fast, how well, or how much work is accomplished. A corporate culture of some kind might have some influence on these last three, but I think job general and specific learning and training is needed to create behaviors necessary to accomplish work tasks.

      I suspect that few people have the will or desire to deprogram behaviors to the level where discovery of authentic nature is possible. The metric for realization that you have reached 'authentic nature' also eludes me.

      However, I do see benefit in attempts to align decisions and actions with a set of core beliefs. Something like what the Scouts put forward with the Laws and Oath for members, what some of the military organizations demand of their soldiers, and the philosophy side of some of the martial arts. In the business world, such training sounds like it would be similar to what Covey put forward in his 7 habits program, interpersonal skills training such as Dale Carnegie, or similar positive thinking self-help programs. Some take it to the spiritual level by following the teachings of various religious leaders. Such attempts at improved self awareness seem like good positive action.
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    Oct 13 2013: .

    Yes!
    It is the "wrong self-perception" of "happiness"
    because it is about 90% invalid or harmful.
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    Oct 12 2013: Thank you, Mitch, for your support and, even more, for your vision and commitment to building the kind of future everyone wants to see.

    I admire your self-evident dedication to a more inclusive and democratic world society. Thanks for the link to Richard Wolf’s video clip. Quite a remarkable gentleman! I admire his vision and, in particular, the democratization-of-the-workplace initiative that he has helped to start. Efforts like his’ reinforce my hope for humanity.

    I’m sorry, I missed your topic on the normalization of relations between sedentary and nomadic communities. Yes, it is a big and thorny issue – a classic case of contrasting and seemingly irreconcilable worldviews. My view is that the age-old animosities between nomads and their transient communities are perfectly resolvable; but it will require a new way of (win-win) thinking where each side sees the other ‘s activities as beneficial and, indeed, vital to its economic and other interests.

    With respect to the tribal structure of non-western societies and the problems which that structure has been creating, I believe we should take advantage of the crumbling geographical, territorial, intellectual, cultural, and social barriers to convince ourselves and others that separateness is an unfortunate illusion; and that the ultimate destiny of man is unity (however hard we may try to preserve “ethnic” thinking, or to delay, frustrate, or postpone the inevitable). As far as I can see, humanity is on the march to “unity in diversity”; and not even the worst calamity is likely to stop that march.

    From your comments, Mitch, I am convinced you would be an excellent director of a global initiative (school) to re-educate tribal and political leaders – helping them to rethink diversity.

    Best regards,

    Efiong Etuk
  • Oct 12 2013: I like your underlying message of challenging people to bring out their creativity in positive ways to help improve society. This is part of my attraction to TED.

    However, I find myself questioning some of what is being put forward. I think I am going to make the intuitive leap of assuming the body of data you refer to is some form of the collective knowledge of all mankind to date, including the experiences, observations and knowledge of the current human race.

    The first point I want to make is that man's primary mission is to survive. What it takes for survival has changed over time. If you replace the word "crisis" with the word "survival" in your first paragraph, and then consider the perspective of first, a man alone; then, a man as a member of a family; then, a man as a member of a local group; then man as a member of a country; then man as a world citizen; and finally, man as and animal on planet earth; the evolution of the need for some of the social constructs to enable survival at all levels becomes apparent. Man is in a competition from day 1, with nature and other men, for survival in a place with limited resources. What different individuals, cultures, and governments believe to be necessary for survival is at the root of many of the crises you identify.

    A second point is that the negative characteristics in humans you identify might come as a result of a rapid change in the balance of the types of challenges to survival we now face relative to our ancestors 100 or 1000 years ago.

    Final point is that institutional framework has a high social inertia and not a well defined improvement directional vector. Focusing all energies to try and solve this issue "top down" may lead to much frustration, waste and eventual apathy. However, building momentum by releasing individual creativity and positive energy in small ways, at every opportunity (starfish effect), we may eventually have enough collective mass and positive momentum to evolve the framework.
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    Oct 12 2013: Greetings, R.H.:

    Thank you so very much for your illuminating insights on society and its workings. Quite instructive!

    Your sobering thoughts regarding the "$trillions spent on repair efforts" is so apt. I hope international development agencies and professionals eventually come to that realization. In the same vein, I'd like to share with you an observation I've made somewhere (my latest book):

    “Ultimately … it is economically more productive, financially more profitable, socially more progressive, politically more farsighted and more prudent, and ecologically more sustainable to provide the conditions in which people are able to actualize their potential, than to try to solve a plethora of problems – psychological, social, economic, and political – most of which are the symptoms of deprived, meaningless, and impoverishing existence.”

    Thanks again, R.H., for your kind thoughts. Thanks also for your deep insights and wisdom and, even more, for your willingness to share those insights and wisdom.

    Best regards,

    Efiong etuk
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    R H

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    Oct 12 2013: One of the best approaches I've ever read. Your 'data driven' approach provides credibility, and your macro perspective gives vision to the fundamental issues that produce the social results you decry. Since this is listed under 'Ideas', I would like to offer one further clarification that from my opinion, its all about how we regard one another. When we look at all of the $trillions spent and man-hours wasted on 'humanitarian and environmental' relief (ie, welfare, social services, unions, environmental activism, food/medical/housing/energy initiatives, etc.), what we really see are 'repair efforts' to correct our inability to regard our fellow human citizens as valuable and significant. Our out-dated systems and incentives have served their purpose and have brought us to this point, but as you so eloquently described, are woefully inadequate for the challenges that face us. Bravo to your efforts and for the skills you have developed towards your vision. All the very best.
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      Oct 12 2013: When you say "data driven approach," what do you mean?
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        R H

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        Oct 12 2013: He mentions analyzing data 3 times.
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          Oct 12 2013: I know, but the data to which he refers he describes this way elsewhere in the thread: "The data are a compendium of scattered insights on human nature, culled from the writings of deep thinkers, past and contemporary, and brought together for the new light they shed on what it means to be human."

          I don't know whether this is what you assumed as the "data" from the narrative above. Normally when I have heard the expression "data-driven," the reference is to a different sort of data.
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    Oct 12 2013: Totally agree.

    I lend my effort to yours.
    My halting and clumsy efforts stem from the observation that every institution I was taught to believe in has betrayed me and those I love.
    Here is Richard Wolff saying the same thing as a political economist:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwzQz0z-Hi4

    My entry point is from systems dynamics and the nature of network-adaptive dynamics.

    Personally .. it surprises me that most people have no idea what money is - or how, for instance, banks write money into existence in lieu of "promises" - how value is realised in consumption and that which has been consumed is a gift to ecology .. or a curse to it. The balance of entropy. And how the most powerful nation, the USA, is clearly in the grips of promising what was not in its ability to deliver - and how the deficit of that arrogance is extracted from the very earth under the feet of us all. And how violence is the logical resort of those who issue false promise - the effort to render the future into property - a tradable commodity..

    I salute your clear thinking and will help wherever I can.

    I will note that a previos topic I created was an attempt to elicit some wisdom from TED community about the question of "how will sedentary and nomadic communities resolve their interactions?"
    The response was poor - you, of all people will understand what I was trying to achieve there.
    Most in the west do not understand how the rest of the world is tribal - but, in the west, we have the over-view and capacity to grant solutions to these age-old conflicts. e.g. the tension between the farmer and the herdsman. And who uses the river, and when, and where, and how - without destroying each-other's lives - and our children.
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    Oct 11 2013: Hello Efiong,
    The half-life of habit is indeed a long one; the half-life is systemic habit much longer.
    Your introduction seems to suggest that if we could all realise our human potential through tapping into our true creative power, then we would start resolving the world's problems (rather than perpetuating them through the old paradigm way-of-thinking). If this is a correct summary of your introduction, I agree. A fair diagnosis.

    Prognosis: If it starts with individuals correcting misleading views (beliefs?) they have about themselves, can you tell me one self-limiting view about yourself you have corrected, and what were the means by which you achieved it?
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    Oct 11 2013: Thank you, Frank, for your deep sociological/anthropological insights. I totally agree with you that adjustments will need to be made. And, considering the enormity, as well as the urgency, of the crises the world is facing, the adjustments (this time) are likely to be fundamental and all-embracing.

    Best regards,

    Efiong Etuk
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      Oct 11 2013: I was hoping you would be willing to describe the source of data you referred to as a 'body of data no one knew existed." What is it, who collected it, and so forth...

      Usually people support their arguments here by at least describing the data or evidence from which they draw their conclusions. Would you be willing to do that without people's needing to buy your book?
  • Oct 11 2013: I agree, this is akin to the effect that tradition has when the world changes. In other words when the tradition no longer works or applies to the situation and nonetheless people continue on in their usual habitual fashion. Normally this means a period of adjustment is needed until society adjusts to the new changes.