Today we face many highly complex challenges both nationally and internationally. From security of our information networks, to planning for and managing natural disasters, to emergence of new infectious diseases, to social and political conflict throughout the world, these challenges are messy, and highly interconnected.
The Center, one of our core goals, our mission statement, is to get people thinking more creatively and ambitiously about the future. What I mean when I talk about that is that we need to come up with better stories about the future. If you want to build a better world you have to imagine that world first.
Today, in America right now, we only can think of growth in quantitative terms. And in a resource-constrained environment, how frickin’ stupid is that? You’re actually imposing your own death sentence by not being able to get over the grip of this quantitative dynamic.
We are a communal animal that’s developed to believe that it’s the center of the universe. And we behave as such. You know, we want to conquer, because our brain is wired to want to eat and fuck another day, you know what I mean. That’s what we’re wired to do. That’s where our evil comes from. It’s our animal roots that cause us to need things, and desire things.
Some of my artist friends think what I’m doing isn’t art, and I’ve given up on art. It’ll take care of itself. You know. I mean it’s always been there, it will always be there, and we always know that new art never looks like art at first, ever. So why should this be any different? We just have to trust the process. And I would say that must be true for every other discipline.
I enjoy clean air and clean water as much as the most rabid environmental person. I just think we can have the products of society, as well as having these things. Progress is a good thing. I’m just simply a realist. And I’m just trying to enjoy life, enjoy family, enjoy friends, and contribute to society as best I can. And I think providing energy, I think providing the metals that society consumes, that people have in their their iPads, in their iPods, in their iPhones… I think that’s an honorable thing to do. What else would you do? You know, why fight that?
I see a set of constraints facing us in the future, and they’re all going to be very expensive. First is funding retirements for the Baby Boom generation. Second is continuing increases in the costs of healthcare. The third is replacing decaying infrastructure. The fourth is adapting to climate change and repairing environmental damage. The fifth is developing new sources of energy. The sixth is what I see as in all likelihood continuing high military costs. The seventh is the costs of innovation.
I like to think that we are an intelligent species. I mean, actually the people that often get this most quickly are the people who are poorest, because they know the system doesn’t work. But so many of our supposedly brightest people pick this up and don’t question it. And then we have the all the whole field of economics, which is an ideology built on assumptions that if you examine them are absurd. Because you know, economists simply look at the economy as a pricing system. They’re not system thinkers. Part of the cause our crisis is that we’re not educated to think in terms of systems.
If the point of making a 10,000-year clock is to get people to think longer term how do you design that experience so that it really does that? And one of the things that we we realized is that people really need to be able to interact with it. That they need to be able to make the moment they visit it their own. So while the clock does keep time all by itself with the temperature difference from day to night, it doesn’t actually update any of the dials, none of the chimes chime, unless someone’s there to wind it.