Citizen Action Monitor

We live in a world of islands of expertise separated by oceans of misinformation and confusion

Collective coordination of our upcoming challenges will not be possible without first having collective sense-making”: Nate Hagens —

No 2734 Posted by fw, June 5, 2021 —

“I think we’ve now mostly navigated COVID, but what else is coming our way this decade? We need to first have a roadmap. We need to first have a collective understanding if we’re to speak a common language about the future. … We live in a culture which rewards reductionist expertise – lawyers, engineers, tech developers, financial experts – all fit in the system. But these people rarely fly up high enough to see how the pieces fit together. … the conversations about our future center around islands of expertise separated by oceans of misinformation and resulting confusion. … Most people think that when you get a bunch of experts in a room, their expertise is somehow merged and everyone understands everything. The reality is that information ultimately has to be synthesized in a single mind. It’s the only place it can possibly be synthesized. Specialists need to learn a lot from other specialists to arrive at a generalist aha! moment that puts the big picture together. This is a problem for a culture full of reductionist expertise but seeking wisdom.”Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is a brilliant systems synthesist and well-known speaker on the big-picture issues facing human society. Before becoming a professor of an Honors seminar at the University of Minnesota, Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. He has appeared on PBS, BBC, ABC and NPR, and has lectured around the world. He holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont.

Below is my repost of an embedded video of Nate’s dazzling May 21st Earth Day talk, a synopsis of key ideas from his past work, packaged in 33 myths. The beauty of his 2hr, 52min long, information-rich presentation, is that it is more of an indexed reference tool for recurrent consultation, than a lecture meant to be absorbed in one sitting. Moreover, the myths can be watched in any order, but, as Hagens mentions, the order decided on, as shown in the list at the bottom of this post, makes the most sense.

Here’s how Hagens describes his latest tour de force: “So what follows is a no-holds-barred listing of 33 cultural myths underpinning our society in the first half of the 21st century leading us astray. This is the story of our era. It is the story of our species: Earth and Humanity.”

His synthesis is based on 15 years plus of collaboration with a network of scientists and systems thinkers. He highlights 33 of the core myths and stories prevalent in modern culture and contrasts them with our underlying biophysical (biological and physical) realities.

In this repost I focus my transcript solely on Nate’s two-minute introduction, followed by two-minutes on Myth 33, titled, “The Experts Have All the Answers” — NOTE: Hagens presents his 33 myths in reverse numerical order. (More of Hagens’ video presentations and articles are available on this blog here and here.)

At the bottom of this post is a complete list of Hagens’ 33 myths, plus his opening Introduction and his concluding “We Are Doomed” closing Interventions (Wild Ideas).

The complete video is embedded at the opening of the repost. To watch it on You Tube click on the following linked title.

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Earth and Humanity: Myth and Reality, by Nate Hagens, You Tube, May 21, 2021 (2hr, 52min)

TRANSCRIPT

0:00 – Hello. For the 13th year in a row I’ve paused my normal activities to do a reflection, a presentation for Earth Day as kind of an update to the state of humanity and our interaction with the natural world. Typically these are popular for a very small demographic because they go against the grain of what most of society believes in and understands. So this year I’m going right to the heart of it. I’m going to unpack our core cultural myths and contrast them with our biophysical realities.

I think we’ve now mostly navigated COVID, but what else is coming our way this decade? We need to first have a roadmap. We need to first have a collective understanding if we’re to speak a common language about the future.

So what follows is a no-holds-barred listing of 33 cultural myths underpinning our society in the first half of the 21st century leading us astray. This is the story of our era. It is the story of our species: Earth and Humanity.

1:15 – A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk to some graduate students, and I told their professor that I had held back on some of the conclusions because there’s a trade-off between being accurate and helpful, and this stuff is intense. It’s our reality.

The professor said: “Nate you’re a scientist. You’re a system synthesist. Your role is to lay it out as you see it. Let others decide what to do with the information. That’s not your call.”

I’ve been reflecting on that as one of the reasons I wanted to do this talk. This is [a] full-on overview of the main cultural myths underpinning our civilization. I’m going to break them up into a group of Brain Behavior myths, Energy Economy myths, Environmental myths, and some Overall/Systems myths underpinning our society. And I’m going to conclude with some categories of Interventions on where society needs to go, and on each category I’ll have One Wild Idea.

Here we go.

MYTH # 33 – The Experts Have All the Answers

2:20 – We live in a culture which rewards reductionist expertise – lawyers, engineers, tech developers, financial experts – all fit in the system. But these people rarely fly up high enough to see how the pieces fit together.

Islands of Expertise Separated by Oceans of Non-Science

The result is we live in a world where the conversations about our future center around islands of expertise separated by oceans of misinformation and resulting confusion.

“Consilience” is a term that means “the jumping together” of knowledge. A consilient view from the stratosphere can make better sense of how the pieces fit together. And they do fit together. Most people think that when you get a bunch of experts in a room, their expertise is somehow merged and everyone understands everything.

The reality is that information ultimately has to be synthesized in a single mind. It’s the only place it can possibly be synthesized. Specialists need to learn a lot from other specialists to arrive at a generalist aha! moment that puts the big picture together. This is a problem for a culture full of reductionist expertise but seeking wisdom.

In a similar way we have advocates and activists striving for policies that address their specific issues without a coherent overview of how their issue interconnects with other perhaps equally important future needs.

We’ve arrived at a species level moment where everything is connected but we lack both the vocabulary for the future and a corresponding systemic map. Collective coordination of our upcoming challenges will not be possible without first having collective sense-making. We’re going to need both cleverness and wisdom.

***** 4:16 END of TRANSCRIPT *****

LIST OF THE 33 MYTHS (plus opening and closing remarks)

Nate notes that the myths are listed in chronological order with the accompanying time marker to facilitate their fast and easy location on the video. “They can be watched in any order, but the order below makes the most sense (so we decided).To go directly to the beginning of any numbered myth or to the opening Introduction and closing Interventions and Wild Ideas, just click on the linked time stamp.

Time stamps: 0:04 — Introduction 2:20 — Myth #33: The Experts Have ALL the Answers 4:16 — Myth #32: Humans Are Separate From Nature 6:45 — Myth #31: Humans Are Mostly Selfish 12:17 — Myth #30: More Is Better 18:12 — Myth #29: “Someday I’ll Have enough” 21:18 — Myth #28: We Care About the Future 23:38 — Myth #27: Everyone Has Their Own Truth 26:37 — Myth #26: Truth Matters 29:31 — Myth #25: Energy Is Merely a Commodity 34:28 — Myth #24: The American Dream is Based on Hard Work and Cleverness 36:05 — Myth #23: Oil: The USA Will Be the Next Saudi Arabia 41:46 — Myth #22: We Can Always Get More Resources if We Have More Money 44:42 — Myth #21: Renewables Can Power THIS Civilization 50:55 — Myth #20: In the future we wont need oil due to Peak Demand!! 55:01 — Myth #19: We Can Achieve Net Zero!! (by 2050 or any date) 59:54 — Myth #18: As Earth runs out of resources, We’ll Colonize Outer Space!! 1:02:26 — Myth #17: Growth Is Forever 1:05:04 — Myth #16: GDP Is the Right Goal for Society 1:10:56 — Myth #15: Overpopulation Is the Main Driver 1:15:21 — Myth #14: Technology Will Solve It 1:21:16 — Myth #13: The Environment Is Part of the Economy 1:24:04 — Myth #12: The Natural World Is Ours 1:27:03 — Myth #11: Climate Change Is the Core Problem 1:32:44 — Myth #10: Billionaires and Politicians Are in Charge 1:38:56 — Myth #9: Financial Markets Give Us the Right Signals for the Future 1:43:22 — Myth #8: Stimulus Is Permanent 1:48:37 — Myth #7: We Need to Crash the System to Get a Fresh Start 1:52:43 — Myth #6: The Use of Nuclear Weapons Is Unthinkable 1:57:03 — Myth #5: Fossil Fuel Companies Are at Fault 2:03:01 — Myth #4: Capitalism Is to Blame 2:07:54 — Myth #3: Humans Are Bad 2:11:37 — Myth #2: We Face a Shortage of Energy 2:14:17 — Myth #1: We Are Doomed 2:19:56 — Interventions (and Wild Ideas)

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