Professor Robert Sapolsky, author of “Behave” ( highly recommended but a very long read) is currently writing a book about why the world is in such a mess. Well, if he has been listening to the news It shouldn’t the good Professor very long.  To assist, here is my summary of world mess and what needs to happen to make the world a better place.

1) We are not as clever as we think we are

The world is increasingly complex, interconnected and interdependent. Billions of people take actions that unavoidably affect others and the environment and weather continually change. Does anyone understand what the outcomes will be? Scientists study the world and make predictions, but in making those predictions, they change behaviors, so that their predictions appear to be wrong, even though their original prediction was right at the time. 

 It seems the more we learn the less we understand, but  everyone has a duty to commit to a life of continual learning and self improvement. In my opinion few do. 

2) Natural selection hasn't given us the nature to solve problems at the Global/Species level.

Our evolutionary advantage, that has made us the most complex, dominant species on earth, was formed by the process of natural selection. If we survived and reproduced, our genes and social behaviors are transferred to the next generation. This all works at  the level of the individual, and because humans live in tribes or communities, also at the level of the group. It's survival of the fittest, or best adapted, and the best characteristics are determined by competition. So we end up with people, tribes and counties fighting it out to be selected the most. The trouble is, this is of no use when it comes to solving global or species level problems such as climate change, resource and food shortages, thermonuclear war.

In order to solve these problems, we need to rise above our biology and instincts, and increase our intelligence to work as one social global group that co operates, respects and tolerates rather than competes. Hopefully this will get us through this century without civilization collapse, but perhaps natural selection is just too powerful and we will be deselected from planet earth. On some days, when listening to the news, I can't help thinking this may not be such a bad thing, as the next civilization wouldn't  have readily available fossil fuels, so would have to start and continue with sustainable energy sources. However, in the process of natural deselection, we will take millions of other species down with us - is that acceptable?.   

3) Too many people causing too much environmental damage. 

At the start of the industrial revolution, burning coal didn’t matter and gave us cheap copious energy which made a small number of people rich. Back then the damage to the environment didn’t matter as only a few had the knowledge and access to fossil fuels. Now, everyone in the world wants to be rich and globalisation gives every one access to fossil fuels and powerful technology. The result is climate change and transformed landscapes, all of which is extremely damaging to the planet. 

Humanity, wants it all, now, and isn’t intelligent enough to see, or care about, the damage and long term irreversible consequences. We could stop using fossil fuels tomorrow if we wanted, but we (high emitters)  aren't willing to take the cut in wealth and degree of resource sharing need to prevent collapse of our civilization. 

4) Too many highly differing tribes being forced together by globalisation and global communications  

For the first time in history, within hours, people can cheaply and easily travel the globe. Likewise, it's a simple task to globally send, in a matter of seconds, messages, videos, recordings and money, translated or converted for local use. The world is a much smaller place than the one I grew up in. 

This means different cultures, ideologies and political systems are being forced together and can no longer ignore each other. When considering other peoples, human nature dictates that it is us who are correct, not them. Therefore conflict is on the increases as ideas and cultures battle it out for ultimate victory. Not that anyone can win. What is needed is respect, toleration and cooperation and acceptance of the joyful differences that make the world interesting.

5) Globalisation means increased spread of disease and alien species.

Many species are taking advantage of humans global trade and travel to spread their genes in a very rapid but unnatural way. Thus ecosystems are thrown out of delicate equilibrium, never to be the same again. 

6) The rate of change is too fast for humans, animals and the planet to cope

50 Million years ago CO2 levels were much higher than they were today, the poles were ice free., trees grew in Antarctica and the British Isles were tropical. Today temperatures are far lower, but because the rate of increase of CO2 levels is so fast, human civilization and ecosystems will be unable to cope and will experience dramatic collapse. By the weathering of rocks, the planet will eventually remove CO2 but this takes millions of years, not the decades needed of counter act man made CO2

Likewise the rate of increase in knowledge and technology is changing so fast, that people can no longer keep up, and because our political leaders are old and our education stops early in life, by the time a person reaches a position where they can make a difference, their brains no longer understand (or even see) the world they live in, So the wrong decisions, based on out dated knowledge and ideas are made. 

7) Old people.should be allowed to die (I know I will be hated for this one, but from personal experience I think we have to be brutally honest with ourselves)
All animals have evolved to live, reproduce and die. We die because natural selection does not weed out defects after reproductive age and so cells become programmed to get cancer or stop working in old age. (Poor old octopuses fall to bits after the age of 2). 

Humans hang about a bit as grand parents to help raise their genetic descendants, but after that they become weaker and so naturally they die. However, today, modern health care can keep people alive far longer than is natural and in fact so long that frequently  the old people being cared for are no longer living happy lives, or bringing happiness to others or having any sort of life at all, What’s the point? Shouldn’t we be focusing on the newly born and young people who are the hope of the world rather than just running away from difficult decisions concerning those at the end of life? Death is as much a part of life as birth is.  Is it not correct to put down suffering animals or to allow people to die when they have had enough of life? 

8) Social media gives positive feed back to our prejudices, biases and ignorance.

What ever you think, their's someone out there who thinks like you. And social media will put you in touch with them, so that you will keep on clicking and they get rich with the advertising money generated. The problem is that if your ideas are based on a falsehood or negative to the common good, your internet community will just reinforce your thinking and social media will never promote contact with someone of opposing views. Result - more extreme views and more conviction that you are correct even if your views cause harm. 

Perhaps we should be more like Socrates - question everything.

9) A generation brought up on violent computer games, porn films and extreme TV can now go and buy real guns and strangle real women.

When I was a kid, the second world war was only 20 years before and whilst war stories, books and TV programmes were common, it was all presented as what happened to other people. Then came shoot em up computer games in which you could kill people to your hearts content. They were very popular. Extreme violence was made personal and harmless. Similarly films and TV programmes have become extremely violent and age classifications can easily be bypassed on the net. Violence has been normalised to such an extent that it is seen to be cool to carry a weapon and it is normal to strangle a girl whilst kissing.

On the radio today I hear that the possibility of civil war in America is worrying many experts. Is it  surprising, if violence has been normalised.

Likewise, who is calling for a cease fire in Ukraine? Its not a game and most people who are living on the front line just want the shelling to stop.

10) It’s easy to turn a democracy into a dictatorship, but very hard to turn a dictatorship into a democracy, 

I hope you can agree that democracy has a better record concerning human rights and is the least worst system of organising a society. Global migration patterns indicate that when people vote with their feet they tend to leave Authoritarian countries and head for democratic ones. However democratic countries are very hard to create without violence and sacrifice, and it is very easy for democratic rights to ebb away, for of course, very good, but in the long term wrong, reasons.. Then one day you wake up and someone like Putin is in charge and if you object, you are dead.

11) Out of date Philosophies and Religions

I've read a few books on philosophy and religion and most of it is in need of a serious update. Religion contains lots of wisdom, but the superstitions about God is embarrassing. Confucius - sexist and if he knew my parents would have changed his mind about ancestor worship. Budda - what would happen if every one sat around selfishly doing nothing. Rights of man - what about slaves, future others and animals? Voltaire concluded that the world was absurd, but suggested we should go and sit it out in our gardens. Communism - failed, Capitalism - failing. I could go on but I hope you get my point. 

I'm afraid I cannot give a solution to this one. Could someone/some group come up with a pick and mix philosophy for todays problems?

12) Uncooperative political systems dominated by a few rather than the many  

In the UK after each election, the lucky winner always says they are going to unite the country. And then the mud slinging really begins. Why don't political parties work together? Co operation could achieve so much more but our political systems are out of date and in desperate need of reform. Surely with all this new tec and modern communications people voting on the wide diverse issues of the day (on which it is impossible for just two parties to represent all combinations of opinions) could be expanded and used more frequently.

Even in democracies it is still only small minority of people who dominate the decision making process and most of them are only expert in looking competent rather than being competent. I wrote to my MP and asked, if all her constituents wanted her to vote against her own party what would she do? I still await the answer. Perhaps we should be more like ants. They have been getting along just fine in their societies for millions of years without leaders. When a job needs doing they just all muck in and get it done.

13) Greedy, selfish, lazy, uneducated voters and ignorant politicians

Democracy seems to be the best political system we have invented so far, but it's far from perfect. People usually vote in their own self interest rather than the common good. Here in the UK, the party that usually wins is the one that can offer the biggest tax cuts, greatest spending on free health care, the most on educating (and now feeding) our children and who will provide the most free care for our elderly so they aren't a burden on our own lives. If a politician said voters are just being greedy and we should take responsibility for our own lives, would they get elected? No chance. So the state gets bigger and the national debt gets bigger, until one day the currency collapses and the voters all have a riot because our politicians  are so useless. But they just gave us voters what we wanted.

Many demand free health care, and are quick to run off the the doctors and hospitals with minor problems that our amazing bodies will probably solve given rest and time. Fewer are willing to control our unhealthy diets, give our bodies a health boosting work out or take time out to de stress our minds. Result - a health care system in a permanent state of near collapse.

The majority in the UK voted for Brexit. Did they know what they were really voting for or what its implications would be? Most people I have spoken to voted for brexit as a protest vote or voted emotionally for a dream of an independent country in an interdependent world, which is absurd. Now we have a shortage of workers as lazy unfit Bits won't or cant do the jobs the hard working immigrants used to do. At least in ancient Greece, voters had to sit through the debates in order to vote, where as today you get a vote and can be totally ignorant of how the real world works. Once upon a time in Hull, a real monkey was elected and today all the clever people have high paid proper jobs or are running internet scams. So you could say we are still voting for which ever Monkey hands out the most peanuts!

Isn't it time to acknowledge we all have obligations to contribute to society, as well as  rights.

 14) Our definitions of Wealth, health and happiness are out of date

We all want to pursue wealth, health and happiness, but this a very  selfish why a living. Wouldn't the world be a much better place if we all helped each other, including future generations and animals, to pursue wealth, health and and happiness? Or as Winston Churchill said, would this just "share the misery. Well maybe we need to take a new look at what wealth, health (especially mental health) and happiness really are. Are any of us truly  happy in the current world?  

Likewise counties use Gross Domestic Product as a measure of success regardless of their peoples happiness. Is life only about GDP?  Isn't the number of food banks or suicides more important? 

15) To few people do what is best for the common good, as we usually do what is of least discomfort  for ourselves


Most people know that burning  fossil fuels is wrecking the planet. But how many of us have cut off the gas supply, got rid of the internal combustion powered car, vowed never to fly again and fully switched to renewables? This is the correct thing to do, but I haven’t. Whilst I have reduced my CO2 foot print, I’m not prepared to reduce my standard of living. There is always and excuse at hand to justify inaction, like my partner will throw me out of the house!

When Russian men are called up to fight in Ukraine, hopefully most of them see this war as wrong. However it is easier to join the army and hope for the best, rather than stand up to Putins regime and go to prison for certain. So the war continues and more die …… for what?

It takes courage and sacrifice to get the world out of the mess it’s in. And too few of us are prepared to stand up and do what is right, even when it is very clear that the group is wrong. It would be easier if we all stood together, rather than individuals, and protested, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to be happening.

16) We should all recognise that there is no such thing as an evil person, but there are too many evil acts.

Human behaviour is governed by biology and context and we are all capable of bad and evil acts. Would you murder someone? Well I would murder Putin if he was standing next to me. Read Sapolsky's "behave" and Rabecca Myers "Inside the Criminal Mind" and overcome your bad behaviours.

17) The world is absurd because people do absurd things and we all stand by and allow it to continue

I say enough is enough, the mess, absurdity, chaos, what ever you want to call, it must end. We are all stuck on this planet together, with no one coming to help and we have to learn to live together and make it work. We have no choice, no alternative.  There is no planet B. Firstly we must recognise that we all, by our nature, are tribal social animals but this nature cannot help us at a species level. We must rise above it and swiftly recognise that the differences between us are joyous but irrelevant, when it comes to solving our many problems. 

Only by living and working together with tolerance, respect and new found wisdom, will humans survive on planet Earth without our civilization collapsing. What happens next starts with you and I.







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