Hazel Henderson and Virtual Workshop on Transformative Change

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A Periodic Newsletter on
Breakthroughs in Strategic Foresight 

             Jan 7, 2021               

 Prof. William Halal

The Latest from Hazel Henderson

We are pleased to present this latest article by my good friend and longtime colleague. Hazel and I have been working together since we led a small economic team to visit the Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall. We both share a keen interest in ethical economic markets, corporate responsibility and now redesigning capitalism. Over a long career, Hazel has become one of the most prolific and influential futurists around the world.

In this thought-provoking piece, Hazel outlines the changes coming as the forces of transformation sweep through all sectors of society. If you like to understand where the world is heading and how to get there, listen to Hazel.
William Halal, The TechCast Project
George  Washington University

EVOLVING MARKETS IN METAPHYSICAL RECONSTRUCTION

By Hazel Henderson

 

 

NEWSROOM: Ethical Markets

© 2020 Hazel Henderson

The earliest markets for metaphysical reconstruction evolved continually from changing belief systems, religions, creation stories, cultural fashions, and later from science fiction, futures forecasting scenarios.  These changing styles of being and behaving are ubiquitously and profitably expressed in the arts: paintings, poetry, fiction books, music, dance and theatrical performances.  These markets flourish in all Information-based societies and now dominate all other forms of globalization.  In our Information Age value is shifting from material production and trading things you can drop on your foot to digital assets: intellectual property, patents, brands, recipes and reputational “goodwill”, which accountants are still learning to measure.  Most mature industrial societies have made the shift and up to 80% of their GDP accounts are for these intangibles.  For examples: the value of Coca Cola’s caramel-colored sugar water recipe is carried on their books as a primary asset of up to $70 billion, while Donald Trump’s real estate company morphed years ago into a “branding” operation for hotels, beef, vodka and other products, with others building and owning the actual real estate and producing the products.
Stock markets based on bouncing fiat currencies are ever more at risk of “flash crashes” and crises, as more investors are trading digital assets electronically on private liquidity networks and using cryptocurrencies with no tethers to the real world, as I reported in “Money, is Not Wealth: Fiats v. Cryptos“.   Accountants now measure six different forms of capital: finance, built factories and facilities, intellectual capital, social capital, human capital and natural capital, and measure the performance of corporations as the extent to which they enhance or degrade all these six forms, (my visual “Shifting forms of valuation”).  GDP is a simple cash flow statement of goods and services transacted in money, measures all public debts, but not the investments they create: public goods (education, municipal services, R& D), infrastructure and other assets, simply because GDP does not have an asset account, as in formal double-entry book-keeping. Education is classified as “consumption”, even though it is the most important investment all societies make in the health and competence of their future citizens.  All these shifting forms of metaphysical re-construction are often referred to as “paradigm shifts’, as in Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, (1962).  They are creating thriving new markets for consulting firms, marketers and internet platforms re-intermediating our complex societies in new ways.  For full disclosure, Ethical Markets Media Certified B. Corporation, which I founded in 2004, is such a digital asset-based enterprise, creating intellectual products based on futures research and scenario-building of possible pathways of technological and cultural evolution.
These often highly lucrative markets for such metaphysical reconstruction are the necessary foundation for new infrastructure and plumbing for the new technologies and economic activities.  All human societies are transitioning from the fossilized Industrial Era of the past 300 years to the cleaner, greener, knowledge-richer and more equitable Solar Age I continue to track and document since my “The Politics of the Solar Age”, (1981,1988), now in 800 libraries in 20 languages.  Instead of digging in the Earth to produce our goods, we are learning from plants’ photosynthesis how to use the sun’s free photons which have always powered our planet and provide all our food, shelter and very survival.
These tectonic social transitions feedback to expand human cognitive skills and widen our mental and emotional horizons, as described by Harvard-based systems synthesizer, Prof. Joseph Henrich in his monumental “The WEIRDEST People in the World”, (2020).  Henrich ransacks human history, religions, cultural styles and economies and focuses on this kind of human cultural evolution which outpaces the slower evolutionary process described by Darwin as evolution by natural selection under changing environmental conditions.  Henrich rightly criticizes psychology and economics for their scholars’ cookie-cutter models of human behavior and preferences.  These practitioners are blind participants in this same cohort of “Western Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic“ (WEIRD) people acculturated during the Westernized Enlightenment-driven Industrial Revolution.  This herculean book is still engrossing me as Henrich focuses on the role of reading and literacy and how these skills actually change our physical brains, expanding our behavioral repertoire and thickening our corpus callosa!

I was stunned, since many neuroscientist I know have commented on how this bridge of tissue linking the left and right hemisphere of our brains: the corpus callosum, affects our cognitive abilities.  Some had told me that my own corpus callosum was probably much expanded, as a lifelong author and bookworm! Henrich traces this rapid widening of literacy as stemming from Martin Luther in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517, who opposed the Catholic bishops’ monopolizing access to their Holy Bible and selling of “indulgences” to speed their elites into heaven.  Luther demanded that all people be allowed to read the Bible for themselves and that they be taught to read.  Thus, Protestant literacy spread with the speed of historic means of human interaction, mostly by proximity to the town of Wittenberg, and people began to acquire expensive hand-written Bibles and learn to read them.
A new market was created for cheaper Bibles, filled by an enterprising printer, Johannese Gutenberg, who created the first movable type printing press, and began producing cheap Bibles.  Thus, Henrich describes how literacy went viral and public schools spread across Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Britain, seeding the Enlightenment scholarship of Adam Smith, David Hume and others in Scotland.  He described the WEIRD cohort of the global population as beneficiaries of this literacy and educational transformation.  They wrongly assume such human behavioral traits as the universal model of human nature.  Instead they miss the tremendous variation in most of the other cultures and societies on this planet, which led to all the mistakes of GDP-led globalization, mal-development, poverty, nativist backlashes and populism we see today.
One assumption of Henrich and of Kurt Anderson in his “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire“ (2017) is that they both take adult literacy rates in the USA in 2015 as given at 100%, whereas more recent surveys by the US Census and the National Institute for Literacy estimate that 32 million adult Americans are still unable to read. Much of this is due to earlier racist policies preventing black Americans from learning to read, as well as suppression of voting rights, inferior schools and assimilating foreign-language immigrants.  All this contributes to the chronic unemployment, low self-esteem, and lower quality of available work…all exacerbated by the Covid-19 unfair impacts and evidenced in today’s opioid and other addictions, rural and nativist anger at being left out.  These feed tendencies to absorb misinformation and form conspiratorial-thinking sub-groups that distrust science and believe most mainstream information is “fake news”.  As I pointed out in “Steering Social Media Toward Sanity”, it is now urgent to curb these monopolistic platforms spreading misinformation, aiding conspiracy groups, propaganda from Russia and other foreign sources poisoning our democracies.
Today’s global digitization requires metaphysical re-imagining and reconstruction if we are to “build back better“.  Internet-based disruption from Silicon Valley is still rolling through brick-and-mortar sectors: manufacturing, transportation, construction, finance, insurance, real estate, travel, hospitality, print media, education, medicine, law, public health and services.  Meanwhile these digital platform companies are booming and re-intermediating services in new online ways, such as robo-investment advice.  All this is still leaving millions unemployed, looking for casual jobs in the expanding gig economy, described by Juliet Schor in “After the Gig: How the Sharing Economy Got Hijacked and How to Win it Back”, (2020). They compete with each other as Uber drivers and bidding for odd jobs and household tasks serving those fortunate since Covid-19, to be able to work from home.  Help can come after January 20th, 2021, from the Biden Administration’s $2 trillion-plus plan to accelerate the transition to green infrastructure, renewable resources and the required thousands of new, well-paying jobs.

So, let’s look at this economy-wide transition to the Solar Age, circular economies based on renewables and upcycling all resources back into production, minimizing waste and mining for virgin resources. The opportunities for these expanding markets in metaphysical reconstruction, re-thinking and reshaping whole sectors by innovative designers, futurists and paradigm-shifting consultancies include:
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All these above sectors will require this underlying re-thinking, and paradigm shifting so as to avoid mal-investments and further mistaken approaches.  This burgeoning market for metaphysical re-construction will be worth several trillions of dollars over the next four years.  Shift into sustainable, climate-friendly models based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Watch McKinsey, KPMG and the World Economic Forum compete with all the start-up consultancies now disrupting their markets! Markets have always evolved as human knowledge, technologies and currencies continually evolve, along with our own cognitive capabilities.

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