We in the West are still living in liberal democracies, and particularly in the United States, in a system that was devised in the 1780s, a time when humans didn’t understand electricity, let alone electronics…But now, 250 years later, that design is so plagued with problems and difficulties – it’s just begging to be superseded. – Peter Leyden, Futurist, HUM4 Provocateur
The Industrial Age is coming to an end – life on Earth is evolving. We are beginning the next stage of human evolution. Despite the uncertainty and dysfunction that defines the early part of the 21st century, the trends say we are on a path that is taking us to a transcendent brand of human existence. Let’s call it Humanity 4.0 or HUM4. (If the Stone Age was HUM1, the Agriculture Age HUM2, and the Industrial Age HUM3, the next transformative era of humanity is HUM4.)
What does HUM4 look like?
This commentary offers one writer’s opinion. An opinion informed by an amazing coterie of cultural luminaries, including Hazel Henderson, Riane Eisler, E.O. Wilson, Paul Ehrlich, Carl Sagan, Michael Charles Tobias, Julian Cribb, Paul Hawken, Peter Leyden, and a host of others. Their fingerprints are all over this treatise.
Leyden’s transformative vision stands out because it encourages and inspires projections of the world coming together into a life-affirming and sustainable, global human culture.
The biggest part of getting to the kind of future nearly all humans might like to see is to get them to commit their hearts and minds to the same worthy, planetary-scale aspiration. Maybe the most important step in that process is to show people what HUM4 could look like and to convince them that the only smart way to get there is together, behind a common purpose.
What follows is a summary of some of the key factors that reflect the emerging human culture. The lens used assumes the world is moving rapidly in a life-affirming, sustainable direction.
I don’t know exactly the shape digital democracy is going to take, but I do believe we will see some kind of evolution this century. It could be as early as the next several decades, or it might come later in the century. I’m convinced we’re going to supersede representative democracy with a different kind of democracy that will be much truer to its ideals, and much more effective. – Peter Leyden
Governance – Right now, the world is mostly divided into representative governments, some more representative of the human interest than others. Because so many of the problems we face are planetary in scale the solutions must also be applied on that scale. There is an age-old, tried-and-true aphorism: ‘United we stand, divided we fall’.
If we outlast the current ominous inertia, some kind of global brand of governance will emerge. Because standing together, united behind a common purpose, is the only smart way to move forward.
Humanity is connected as never before. We are evolving into a global collective conscience. We now have the ability for all humans to participate in ‘Whole Earth’ cultural decisions that must be addressed on a planetary scale.
For organizational purposes, every human will have a unique identification that is theirs permanently. The digital world will facilitate voting on a global scale. Much of the structure of government at the local, national, and planetary scales will be determined by referenda where everybody will have a vote. Big issues will be settled based on planetary-wide consensus.
Political power will shift from big business and the rich and powerful to something much closer to true democracy with the most important issues that impact the public decided by the referendum process.
National identity will fade in favor of a government designed to foster community at the local up to the planetary level. The same commonly accepted cultural standards and laws will apply to every human and natural community across planet Earth.
A world government with powers adequate to guarantee security is not a remote ideal for the distant future, it is an urgent necessity if our civilization is to survive.’- Albert Einstein, Physicist
Equal Rights and Responsibilities – The global referendum process will lead to the acceptance by all humans of a commonly shared HUM4 brand of planetary constitutional democracy. All humans, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or nationality, will be Earth citizens first and foremost. As a citizen, each person would be equal under the law and share the same rights and responsibilities; the same rules will apply to all. That’s a world designed to achieve consensus, the kind of common purpose that assures humanity survives and makes it to HUM4.
The stark cultural stratifications that once reflected life in the human industrial era will largely give way to something much more egalitarian. It’s not that the opportunity to excel and prosper would go away. What it does mean is that poverty would largely disappear as would the egregious accumulation of excessive wealth. The global referendum process would assure elected politicians are accountable and subject to strict ethical standards.
Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship, and strengthen governance. – Ban Ki-Moon, Former Secretary General of the United Nations
Economics and Wealth Distribution – More than half of our Earth’s people already live in cities. As the human population continues to expand, the trend toward urban living will continue to grow. By 2050, urban dwellers could be as much as 68% of humanity . The HUM4 world’s work will be achieved by a vast range of innovative technologies and cultural practices, and the world’s economic wealth will be shared much more equitably than now. Exactly how that will happen and what it will look like remains to be seen. However, because the future will be shaped by a common purpose and consensus, human life will evolve to function in harmony with nature and to assure that no one will be left behind.
Sustainability is an economic state where the demands placed upon the environment by people and commerce can be met without reducing the capacity of the environment to provide for future generations. It can also be expressed in the simple terms of an economic golden rule for the restorative economy: leave the world better than you found it, take no more than you need, try not to harm life or the environment, make amends if you do. – Paul Hawken, Author, The Ecology of Commerce
Food Production – Across the Earth, we are struggling to feed 8 billion humans. Delivering adequate nutrition for those already here plus several billion more over the next half-century can only happen with a cultural shift to a plant-based diet.
Right now, 50% of all our Earth’s habitable land is used to grow food. Nearly 80 percent of that land taken up by agriculture is dedicated to livestock production, with the rest going to crop farming . This has to change; in fact, where food security is involved we have two planetary-scale threats that must be reconciled.
It starts with the struggle to keep a still-growing human population fed. We must produce substantially more food. At the same time, we also must restore a big chunk of our Earth’s habitable space to something close to nature’s design.
E.O. Wilson, the late scientist and planetary citizen, calculated that a paltry 15% of our Earth’s lands and seas are still more or less in a natural state. Wilson’s science suggests if that doesn’t improve, half of our planet’s remaining biodiversity could be lost by the end of his century.
Our survival depends on restoring nature. E.O. Wilson responded to that challenge by launching the ‘Half-Earth Project.’ The struggle to protect and restore our Earth’s natural systems is ongoing. The good news is there is a way to achieve a return of ‘Half’ for nature and still feed all of humanity adequately and sustainably.
As part of living on a plant-based diet, billions of people are going to require cost-efficient, reliable sources of fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, that is already starting to happen, we’re seeing urban indoor farming expanding dramatically. Imagine, every community and every neighborhood has at least one cooperative vertical farm. It could come in the form of a green supermarket that takes up the bottom floor of a six-story building. The top five floors of the building are one of the community’s vertical farms. Every community would have enough vertical farms to meet at least their minimum food needs.
Vertical farms are about fifty times more efficient than field-based farms. They use substantially less energy. They use about 90% less water, and they are organic: no pest control chemicals are needed . Vertical farming is indoor farming and is not subject to seasonal weather or climate extremes.
When much of the world’s food is produced in vertical farms, a lot of the land can be retired from agriculture and returned to nature.
There are also remarkable biotechnology advances being applied to produce tasty meat substitutes that are cheaper and more healthy than the real thing. When HUM4 reaches full maturity, animals will no longer be killed, and cut into pieces to be sold in a food market.
A personal note from this writer: I quite like the idea of living in a world in which no animal has to suffer or die so humans can eat.
In the USA, a switch from a meat-based to a plant-based diet would cut the food sector’s greenhouse output by up to 61 percent. While convincing eight or ten billion people to eat more sustainably may appear a tall order, in fact rising awareness of the damage caused by lifestyle diseases and industrialized diets, as well as the effects of today’s food system on the climate, water, and wildlife of the planet, is already spreading at breathtaking speed among consumers. – Julian Cribb, Author, Food or War
The Human Relationship with Nature – HUM4 means humanity will have collectively embraced its commitment to live as proper stewards of the Earth. The era of mindless plunder will be over.
The goal for humanity is to bring nature back; to set aside places where natural ecosystems can be restored to full resilience. We can and will embrace E.O. Wilson’s standard and choose to nurture and protect at least Half the Earth for Nature.
HUM4 humans are assertive in their commitment to restoring and maintaining healthy ecosystems. Many people will be employed in jobs that support their communities by serving the needs of nature.
The Earth is our home. Unless we preserve the rest of life, as a sacred duty, we will be endangering ourselves by destroying the home in which we evolved, and on which we completely depend. – E.O. Wilson, Co-Founder, The Half-Earth Project
HUM4 Is What We Are Becoming
The human cultural inertia is being driven by our global-scale dysfunction. At the same time, we are finding ourselves connected collectively on a planetary scale. For the first time, all of humanity can be informed about the mega-challenges that impact all of us together. We already have the motivation and the means to address global-scale concerns, like climate change, with a common purpose.
We are linked together in so many ways. We are already applying our human ingenuity. Together, we are assertively taking on all of our home planet’s civilization-scale challenges.
Our future will be decided by our family of humans, standing together, embracing our shared commitment to each other and to the natural world we all depend on.
A common purpose – that’s the ticket. That’s what will get us to HUM4, the next version…the transcendent version of ourselves.
People in 50 years, 100 years, or 1000 years from now will view our era as an extraordinary moment in human history. We should feel privileged to be part of the human transformation emerging now. We all need to recognize the stakes at play and the challenges we are up against. But let’s also recognize that we have everything we need to solve our challenges and make this transformation. – Peter Leyden
Geoffrey Holland is a veteran media writer/producer and a committed advocate for nature and gender rights. You can find his ongoing dialogue series on Stanford MAHB. He is also the principal author of The Hydrogen Age.