We are fast approaching the point of peak ignorance. A point when the inevitability of our actions on the planet will be so obvious and that there consequences are so unarguable the only explanation for none action/continuing on the same path will be knowing ignorance. Peak ignorance is made of three distinct strands.
Hedonism is the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them (wikipedia). A hedonistic person lives entirely for the joy of the moment.
If we look around us we can see clear evidence of lives lived for the moment. Public attention is increasingly focused on very near futures: businesses live in terror of the bottom line and the quarterly results, while politicians quake at tomorrow's opinion polls and formulate policy in terms of them. Our personal lives are filled with increasingly hedonistic events where we leave far more than just footprints.
We're living like there is no tomorrow. We've heard tales of farmers planting olive trees or vineyards for their grandchildren to harvest, or of foresters cultivating groves of oaks to replace a chapel roof hundreds of years in the future, but by and large, we don't do that anymore*.
We have less active engagement with our future than our ancestors did*.
Human understanding increases with time, this is a given. What is unique about this particular time is that 'we now know what we don't know'. That is rather than what we don't know being an unimagined, unspoken and hence unexistant concept (such as the fact that the earth is round when it was thought to be flat) we now know the existance of missing facts and concepts, just not the detail of them (for example what dark matter actually is).
We now have the charts that very clearly illustrate to us what is happening around us. Charts like the story of world population growth. Understanding is no longer the domain of academics and scholars, it is now the domain of us all.
We have all the tools we need at our disposal, and if not we are quite capable of inventing them. We don't need these tools though as the changes we need to see are largely, if not entirely, behavioural. With every meeting of global leaders that passes with little commitment or true leadership we're collectively resigning ourselves to our own fate. The actions that we do take such as Carbon Capture initatives have proven to be ineffective and largely based in a desire to cleanse our conscience. An irony given the importance we put on effectiveness in all other ventures of human activity.
We increasingly put our faith in technology as the single most effective tool we know whilst not accepting that technology has no sense of moral judgment. Moore's law has now been set in motion, and there's very little we can do the cease that motion and everything, both good and bad, it brings us in turn.
Like any hill that is being climbed the decent is always out of view until you reach the apex of the climb. The hope would be that in reaching peak ignorance we will for the first time see the road that lies in front of us and be moved to action. A tipping point will be achieved. A combination of personal disgust and frustration at lack of human leadership will drive us to a collective breaking point. And in that breaking point are likely to lie the seeds of solution.
Prologue i: Shakespeare's Othello
Let's begin with trust. To a sceptical 15-year-old schoolboy, Othello seems a gullible fool. Yet his duping does make sense once it is understood that he is a 'military orphan' whose moral code is derived entirely from his military upbringing within a culture which is based on trust; for trust is the basis of all soldiering. Othello has every reason to trust Lago implicitly. Betrayal is the most heinous of military sins so it is the last to be suspected.
Jonthan Shaw on Othello from a military perspective. April 2013
Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.
Thomas Gray. Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. 1742.