Who should decide the future

Much of today’s world is designed around the width of two horses’ arses. Why so? Well, all of our roads and railways and everything that travels on them follows more or less the same dimensions as the original means of transport in Ancient Rome – a chariot, for which some of the first roads were built. Even the Space Shuttle was designed with train tracks in mind…

It is this consistent, backward-looking approach to innovation and a distinct lack of effective leadership that has brought us to where we now stand – at a crossroads for humanity.

Over 3.7 billion people currently live in large urban areas around the planet. That number is expected to double by 2050. Despite this we continue to look at what exists today to define tomorrow, rather than looking beyond. Transport, medicine, education and business is still planned and run today as it was in the 17th and 18th century.

With the drastic changes that are now happening to the economic and political systems of the world we need to act fast. If we do not step back and take a more rounded approach to the development of humanity, we are doomed.

It’s not just a question of technology, despite what Silicon Valley and all the tech nerds in the world proclaim. Sure, we have made great progress with autonomous and electric cars – but what use is that if they are still running on outdated infrastructure and using energy generated from fossil fuels? Elon Musk take note.

We need to start using blank sheets of paper again, basing things on human needs, rather than on existing solutions. Energy, mobility, communication education and economic models are ripe for reinvention, using both human ingenuity and all of the data that exists.

There is a certain Darwinian approach to life that we seem to have lost touch with. Banks, airlines and large corporations are dubbed ‘too big to fail’, when in reality the capitalist system is, and should be, based on survival of the fittest – not the most well-connected. 

Did you know that over 75 per cent of the original Fortune 500 companies named in 1957 no longer exist? There is a reason for this. They will be replaced by something better.

“Looking into the future, you can’t predict which groups will survive, its well known that many advanced groups eventually fade away.”

 Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, 1859

Today, the average CEO is a 55-year-old white male more interested in securing quarterly profits than taking society forward. 

The same goes for cities. If things are to change, then cities will need to demand the products and services they need to deliver the quality of life the citizens desire, rather than taking off-the-shelf outdated solutions that trap us in a world of yesteryear’s thinking. Monorail anyone?

Change is coming. We can all see that. But few in positions of authority or economic leadership feel empowered to challenge the status quo. We have more or less built a wall around innovation and creativity. The current generation of C-Suite leaders and politicians are under-utilising the potential of change in almost every arena. They need to break out of the ‘We’ve always done it this way’ mindset and get things done.

Governments have forgotten a very important idea. The 16th century English philosopher, John Locke, said that government exists to serve its citizens, not for its citizens to serve its government; and that the government is obliged to secure life, liberty, and property. Thomas Jefferson did what every talented politician does and changed “property” with “the pursuit of happiness.

Isn’t it time we looked beyond the horses’ arses of history and toward a society based on human needs rather than inequality?

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