Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How to solve world's problems? How to get people to care? Global community spirit needs to be cultivated

In future decades, Rifkin thinks power generation will become decentralised, with citizens sharing the electricity generated by their own small-scale power plants much the way that internet users share information and files online.

Success does not just depend on surmounting the technical barriers to building such a system, though, says Rifkin. "What's missing is changing human consciousness."

He thinks there needs to be a global community spirit if buying and selling power across international borders is to succeed, and science could justify that spirit. He cited the 2007 neuroscience work that provided the first direct evidence for mirror neurons in humans, which are believed to underpin empathy.

"The science shows we're predisposed to empathy," says Rifkin.

SHOOT: Important project. One of the major flaws in people today is that they don't care about themselves or others, much less the environment. Respect, empathy and caring needs to be discipled back into communities.

Steering humanity away from its seemingly inexorable course towards climate catastrophe rests on learning how to exploit our capacity for empathy as much as any political or technical breakthroughs. That's what delegates heard at the Research Connection conference in Prague, Czech Republic, last week.

Jeremy Rifkin, founder and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends think tank, says changes in perception across all societies will be needed if we are to make our technology cleaner. As a result our future lies as much with discoveries in neurology and genetics as it does with chemistry and engineering, he argues.

He summarised centuries of history like this: In the past, religious teachings provided society with the
prevailing ideas that held it together. In the 18th century the Enlightenment arrived and reason replaced faith as the social glue - resulting in the industrial revolution.
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