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30 November 2020 | Draft

Reframing the Imaginable Key to the Future?

Clues to the nature of a Global Reset

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Cosmologists continue to speculate about the "shape of the universe", The hope of physicists is to discover a Theory of Everything enabling the potential of the future to be explored and exploited more fruitfully. Is it to be assumed that the social sciences have already discovered the "shape of society" -- and concluded that it is unquestionably "global", if not "M-shaped"?

The World Economic Forum is proposing a Global Reset (or a Great Reset) as a form of panacea for the crises of global civilization (Klaus Schwab, The Global Reset, 2020; World Economic Forum, The Great Reset, 2020). The complementary World Social Forum has not engendered any consensus on  a panacea -- other than curtailing those motivated by the World Economic Forum.

Given the characteristically divided and divisive views on the possibility, how is the key to the future to be imagined -- or reimagined? If indeed it is to be understood metaphorically as a "key", how is the "lock" then to be understood? More challenging is the possibility that multiple keys may be necessary -- as dramatically exemplified by the multi-key provisions required to launch a missile, where the keys must be turned simultaneously by those distinctively authorised. Multi-key security systems are increasingly common in other domains.

How many distinct keys may be required to unlock the future? Is a minimum of eight required, as seemingly implied by the Noble Eightfold Path, for example? Does promotion of the economic significance of stakeholder distract dangerously from the sense in which, in their requisite variety, "stakeholders" must necessarily be understood as distinct "keyholders" (Stakeholder Capitalism: A Manifesto for a Cohesive and Sustainable World, World Economic Forum, 2020)? If the security of the future is indeed as fundamental as that of a nuclear missile system, the appropriately authorised keyholders would need to act simultaneously in order to unlock the future.

Understood as somehow having been "lost", any such set of keys offers a further insight. The well-known tale of the person searching for keys at night under a street light makes the point -- when the person admits that they were "lost" in an area not illuminated by that light. Is the quest for any key to the future similarly constrained? More problematic is the possibility that, when "found", the purpose of any key would not be recognized.

People and relationships:

Things and aesthetics:


Biology and environment:



Conventionally unimaginable surprise:

... it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously -- I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason -- Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration


Related considerations:

Checklists such as the above can be deprecated as "laundry lists" that fail to engage with the configuration of such possibilities. This might be recognized as a "key" to the future in its own right, as can be variously explored, notably in the light of critical reviews of exercises for the Club of Rome:


James P. Carse. Finite and Infinite Games. Simon and Schuster, 2013

Karen A. Cerulo. Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst. University of Chicago Press, 2006

Jared M. Diamond. Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. Penguin, 2005

Barbara Ehrenreich:

Thomas Homer-Dixon:

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Philosophy In The Flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. Basic Books, 1999

Patricia A. McAnany and Norman Yoffee (Eds.). Questioning Collapse: human resilience, ecological vulnerability, and the aftermath of empire. Cambridge University Press, 2009

Donald N. Michael. Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn. Miles River Press, 1997

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. Bloomsbury Press, 2010

Paul Ormerod. Why Most Things Fail: evolution, extinction and economics. Wiley, 2005 [extracts].

Joshua Cooper Ramo. The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It. Little, Brown and Company, 2009

John Ralston Saul. The Unconscious Civilization. Free Press, 1995

Jorgen Randers. 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. Chelsea Green, 2012

The Royal Society. People and the Planet. The Royal Society Science Policy Centre, 2012 [text]

Joseph A. Tainter. Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, 1990

Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

Ernst von Weizsaecker and Anders Wijkman. Come On! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet. Springer, 2018

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