Humanity Is Its Own Best Hope
At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, the leader of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz askedsome of the world's leading Nobel Laureates during dinner what are the biggest challenges humanity isfacing. Each of the Laureates called out challenges that weve been familiar with for the past fewdecades the ever worsening problem of pollution, the increasing numbers of the unemployed, theever widening gap and inequality between classes, and of course the constant increase of overpopulation. Challenges weve faced during the last quarter of the 20
century are still haunting us,and theyre getting worse.Apart from the common theme of the ever worsening situation that humanity is in, is the fact that thesechallenges have all been created by us humans, and it seems were still not able to solve to them.The question we have to ask ourselves is, why? The answer that Scwhartz and the Laureates came upwith was that weve all been so focused on the here and now that we havent been able to make aconscious effort of relating our actions right now to what will happen in the future.Muhammad Yumus, an economist from Bangladesh so eloquently put it when he was quoted as saying,Leaders don't have time for the future because they're too busy with the present."It seems weve all been so caught up in short-term effects weve never been able to prepare for longterm success. According to Saul Perlmutter, a Nobel Prize winner and astrophysicist, We're limited bybeing human. We want results fast, and we discount the future." This in addition to Schwartz noting thatwe humans have been ruled mainly by the primitive part of our brain the amygdale that strives forinstant gratification and only respond to immediate threats.Another example that glaringly illustrated how leaders and people are limited to dealing with short-termachievements and never thinking of long-term effects is found in our corporations. CEOs were askedwhether they thought healthier and happier employees equalled higher productivity, all of courseunanimously answered yes. When asked if their companies invested in making their employeeshealthier and happier, all unanimously answered they did invest but very little.Again we see that humanity is still going for the more, faster, now myopic approach demanded by theamygdala. This, even after three Harvard researchers found that each dollar invested in wellnessprograms yielded $3.27 dollars in savings.So how do we counter the primitive part of our brain and proceed to the next step in evolution? Weshould use our pre-frontal cortex more to counter the amygdala. Our pre-frontal cortex will help us indeducing the future consequences of our current actions and focus more on sacrificing near-term gainsto obtain bigger future earnings.But how will we do it? How do we become less myopic in our vision? Well, Richard Davidson and TaniaSinger found that human brains can achieve extreme plasticity. This really means we can trainourselves to look for future success instead of primitively giving in to the urge of instant gratification.Instead of being interested in Immediate Satisfaction we should concentrate more on DelayedGratificationHumanity has hope, it isnt trapped in Pandoras Box but trapped within each human being.