We need to start thinking about the world in a new way, because in some fundamental and essential respects our world has changed its character. We need to shift from seeing the world as composed largely of simple machines to seeing it as composed mainly of complex systems.
A critical conversation about climate change is going on right now through the UNFCCC process; a key stage in this process will be the Copenhagen meeting at the end of this year. This conversation, to the extent that it is prescriptive, generally emphasizes technology and economics. It stresses strategies for dealing with the climate problem that involve technical aspects of, for instance, societies’ energy mix and energy efficiency. I don’t want to disparage these approaches or suggest that they shouldn’t be pursued. But, the fact remains that despite all our efforts we seem to be falling further and further behind.
Conflict in a Nonlinear World: Complex Adaptation at the Intersection of Energy, Climate, and Security
“More and more often, solutions to complex human conflict require complex solutions—solutions involving diverse organizations such as police forces, first responders, other government departments, non-government organizations (NGO/charities) and militaries. As a result, the politics of these operations can be Byzantine, the logistics overwhelming, and the moral and ethical considerations dizzying in their implications.”
Remarks on the occasion of the naming of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
Pierre Trudeau knew something about the devastation caused by war. As a young man in 1948, he traveled from London to see the convulsions of Eastern Europe in the wake of World War II. He saw the fighting that wracked the Middle East following the birth of Israel. He saw the madness of India’s partition and the chaos in Shanghai as the nationalist armies retreated before Mao’s onslaught. As he later wrote in his memoirs, “the route that I had chosen was strewn with obstacles created by armed conflicts of that time. It was incredible— everywhere I went seemed to be at war.”
People don’t like to even think about their values, let alone change them. So confronting and changing our values, I’m convinced, will be our greatest challenge of all.
The Robert J. Pelosky, Jr. Distinguished Speaker Series, The Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
What am I trying to say in The Ingenuity Gap? What are the book’s key points? Most generally, the book argues that in many aspects of our lives we’re producing immense problems for ourselves far faster than we’re solving them. We’re embedded in a set of enormously complex, tightly interlinked systems — economic, political, technological, and ecological. We don’t really understand how these systems work, so we can’t manage them effectively.
This morning I’m going to talk about “The Ingenuity Gap in a Fragmented World.” I’ll ask whether humanity can meet the ever more complex and fast-paced challenges it’s creating for itself.