The Future Is Our Foundation

By Miele, Frank | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

The Future Is Our Foundation


Miele, Frank, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


Foundation For the Future Symposium Draws Together Leading Thinkers to Honor E.O. Wilson and Focus on Our Survival

IN MID-AUGUST, 2000, the Foundation for the Future (FFF) brought together 70 outstanding scholars, scientists, and diplomats from around the world, and even a skeptic--this one--for its Humanity 3000 symposium. The participants came from varied backgrounds, holding differing worldviews. Their assignment--which they chose to accept--was to determine the present state and future trajectories for such key aspects of human survival as scientific and technological progress, humanity's place in the universe, ethics, globalization, and population, climate, and the environment Before attending the symposium, each participant had to file their own two-page statement identifying the critical factors, mapping current trajectories, and providing a list of discussion topics and future projections.

FFF Deputy Director of Programs Sesh Velamoor noted, "Our purpose is not to predict the future--which cannot be done. Rather, we are focused on what the critical factors are that will have a significant impact on the long-term future of our species." Brainstorming their way from a series of small groups to larger "fishbowl" sessions, the participants zeroed in on three issues they felt most important for human survival into the year 3000: (1) maintaining a sustainable planetary environment; (2) continued growth in science and technology (especially genetic technology and artificial intelligence); and (3) development of a global ethical system.

Before adjourning, the symposium held a vote on a resolution put before the floor (in the manner of formal debates) that "Humanity will be able to successfully manage the critical factors necessary for survival." The motion passed, but only barely. Almost as many participants abstained as voted in the affirmative, and many of those voting for the resolution did so with the understanding that "successfully manage" be understood as "somehow muddle our way through." FFF president and principal benefactor Walter Kistler summed up the consensus noting that "We will manage to survive, but not by top-down management or control. We will survive by trial and error, by evolving, which is how we got here in the first place."

The conference, held in Seattle, WA, was also the venue for the presentation of the first annual Kistler Prize, created to recognize original research into the social implications of genetics. The advisory panel--made up of Dr. Thomas Bouchard of the University of Minnesota, Dr. Leroy Hood, Director of the Institute for Systems Biology, Professor Emeritus Arthur Jensen of the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Elliott Meyerowitz of Caltech, and Dr. Sandra Scarr, Professor Emerita of the University of Virginia--selected E. O. Wilson.

Wilson, the founder of sociobiology, has been called Darwin II by best-selling author Tom Wolfe. He is the author of Sociobiology, On Human Nature, The Ants, Biophilia, The Diversity of Life, and most recently Consilience: The Unity Of All Knowledge. Wilson has received just about every possible award and recognition--the Swedish Academy Crafoord Prize, the Japanese International Prize for Biology, the Gold Medal of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the Audubon Medal, two Pulitzer Prizes (for The Ants and On Human Nature), and even made the cover of SKEPTIC (V. …

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