If you knew how humanity should steer the future, what difference would it make? The major challenge that humanity faces today is not that we lack ideas for what to do, as I am sure this essay contest will document. No, the major challenge, the mother of all problems, is to convert these ideas into courses of action. We fail to act in the face of global problems because we do not have an intuitive grasp on the consequences of collective human behavior, are prone to cognitive biases, and easily overwhelmed by data. We are also lazy and if intuition fails us, inertia takes over. Howmany people will read these brilliant essays? For the individual, evaluating possible courses of action to address interrelated problems in highly connected social, economic and ecological networks is presently too costly. The necessary information may exist, even be accessible, but it is too expensive in terms of time and energy. To steer the future, information about our dynamical and multi-layered networks has to become cheap and almost effortless to use. Only then, when we can make informed decisions by feeling rather than thinking, will we be able to act and respond to the challenges we face.
Springer, 2016. 5-14 p.