Eco-social knowledge

Good day.
Civilization and progress. They are big questions. Is civilization measured
by future generations, – those who live after us? If their prerequisites for life
are great, – our actions and doings
have been civilized. How about progress?
Does it work so – that we get a little
more intelligent stuff – and larger screens and such – and that means
getting ahead? Or is progress determined by – how much we can focus our
pursuit for good life into things – that genuinely give us a more
meaningful and valuable life? If you think of it that way,
great possibilities open up. The sustainability challenge
lies in that – the ways we pursuit good life in
are material. If we take stock of our life: – what have been
the greatest moments so far? They are never material. As to immaterial questions, – those can be increased infinitely. They have no limits, whereas – material increasing
has the limits of one planet, – whether we want it or not. So, this is where we begin. First, I’ll shortly present
a contemporary description. How did we end up
in this moment – that we Finns find ourselves in? Then, we’ll consider an unpre-
judiced direction for the future – and look more closely
into the possibility – of daring to reach for “something
else” broad-mindedly – so that we could
find other worlds – that could give us more spark in
our lives than what we’re used to. Who’s opposed to having more
joy and satisfaction in their life? Or more trust between people? In fact, is that the solution? Let’s get into
the contemporary description. We’ll begin from
the world of post-war time. In the 1950s, we were still
living in extreme poverty. If there was a school, – kids couldn’t go
without shoes in the winter. Then we decided to break away
from extreme poverty. We pooled our efforts – so that in 1952, the last war
indemnity train left eastward. In the 1960s,
having lunch was a given, – we had roofs over our heads
and we could better ourselves. Educational services
were within reach. We could take care of our health. And we’ve continued
the same way. If you look at the official Finnish
statistics from March 2018, – you’ll notice that
consumers estimate – that the money situation of their
household is better than ever. We’re living in
extreme material abundance – in today’s Finland. How about
if we ask more broadly? What if progress is
having more spark in your life? As a matter of fact,
even with a GDP – that tripled from the 60s
compared with today, – our experience of life
hasn’t improved. The same fact applies – to nearly all western
industrialized societies. So after it’s easy
to meet your basic needs, – that spark and
meaningfulness in your life – don’t improve
with the same means. So the central problem doesn’t
seem to be extreme poverty – but some other kind
of existential challenge. Can we find solutions for that? That’s, maybe,
the way to determine – whether we’re
genuinely civilized – and have genuinely reached
the core of civilization. What could be Finland’s direction
for the next 100 years? In a technology seminar, – you’ll hear that it’s more lively
communication technology; – it’s everyone being
connected to the Net; – it’s accessing virtual reality
and new forms of economy; – and it’s maximizing the use of A.I. But… Good things, maybe,
but nevertheless merely tools. What should we accomplish
with these tools? That’s the question.
If we ask that, – we hear that it’s
economic growth. It’s improved
efficiency and competitiveness – or productivity. But aren’t these all
just means to an end? What is the more noble tomorrow
we should reach with these tools? That question – and its answers –
are conspicuous by their absence. Our discussion about
progress and civilization – is instrumental discussion. We can’t get into what we should
achieve with those tools. Then we wonder… Our society
works more efficiently than ever. Our competitiveness and
productivity are better than ever. Weren’t these factors supposed
to bring us more flexibility? Where did that disappear? What
areprogressandcivilization?I venture to say that the
burning question is this: we live in extreme abundance – but our lives lack direction. We feel meaninglessness
and purposelessness. The reason we feel meaningless-
ness and purposelessness – is due to the fact
we’re still acting – as if the challenge to solve
is extreme poverty. We live as if
we’re out of money – even though the poorest Finn is
in the richest tenth of the world – if we take into account
the library and health services – provided by our welfare state. Acting as if the problem
was extreme poverty – even though it is the fact our
lives lack good reasons to live – so that the central challenge
is issues with irrelevance… All this has led to a situation – in which, in 2017, every day – nine Finns with the average
age of 45 retired on a disability. Retiring among under 30-year-
olds has gone up by 30% – in the past decade. Which national economy
can take that? We need to solve the question
of what makes life worth living. Aristotle solved it by saying that – to find a reason to get up
in the morning, ask yourself: What does this world need
the most? What are the central problems
of the planet? We know that. In the Aristotelian spirit,
the next question is: Do I have anything to offer
to solve these things? If I do, I shouldn’t remain
at thinking level but act on it. When I take actions
that constantly seek solutions – to currently burning questions – and when my skills serve
solving these burning problems – I have a reason to get up
and a purpose for my existence. I can achieve a flow state
daily, or at least weekly, – by doing things that come
most naturally to me – and by using my best skills to
solve the challenges of today. This opens up
horizons of significance, – as Charles Taylor might say. As a matter of fact,
this happens already. We already have determined
the concept of good life – from other points of view. We’re stepping away from
standard of living – and reaching for
quality of life instead. We’re moving from materialism
to post-materialism – and from material maximizing – to maximizing
immaterial life goals. If we refine this,
make a dichotomic presentation – over what it’s about,
it could look like this. We’re moving from
industrial-era society – to sustainable society
of the future – that builds the pursuit for
good life on immaterial goals. Consumers become
active, energetic citizens. Everyone produces ingredients
for a good life for others. The purpose of life is no longer
maximizing material prosperity – as in old, industrial societies. The purpose of life
is pursuing valuable life, – building up trust
between people, – finding meaningfulness
in every moment. It’s a more complete way
to be human. The concept of waste
obviously becomes obsolete. Everything is circulated raw
material. Just remove the toxins. Is this Utopian talk
or a realistic possibility? This mode of representation
is clearly dichotomic and clumsy – but here we can solve the
sustainability challenge. In order to solve it, we need
to reach for “something else”. “Something else”
gives us the ways – to merge the old, industrial-era
pursuit for welfare – with the more modern, post-
material search for good life. Everyone’s perception of the
surrounding reality is unfinished. Incomplete, even delusional. In addition,
interpretations get between us. I’m here explaining something – that I perceive
as an ameba-like figure. You’re listening and
thinking of a square. The guy next to you
sees a triangle. It’s easy to find even round
interpretations of the same thing. Are these all true?
A constructivist says yes. Everyone’s interpretation
of reality is true. Subjective interpretations
are true. When observed socially,
we can find – they all come a little closer
to each other. The interpretations
enrich each other. Thus, – if we want to expand
out from our own boxes – and to find more solid anchoring
places in the world we live in – we need to plunge into enriching
dialogue with each other. All interpretations are incomplete
but they become fuller – when we challenge our own
methods of interpretation. Maybe we also need to maximize
our use of imagination. The Enlightenment gifted us
with a rationality – that became a driving force
in the pursuit for good life. At worst, in a
rational pursuit for good life, – we stay in a familiar rut, maybe
just slightly improving things. Instead,
maybe we should deliberate – whether we should do
different, better things. Even that may not be enough. We should reconsider man’s posi-
tion in relation to other beings. Looking at the latest fish studies,
you’ll easily find facts – about fish recognizing
each other as individuals – or that fish transfer cultural
heritage to the next generation. If you look at new plant studies, – you’ll quickly bump into
information – about plants having
sensual characters. A stand of birches may transfer
information under the soil – to a birch in trouble,
trying to help it – through its challenge
of existence. We’re surrounded by intelligence. It may very well be that
the prerequisite of our existence – lies in how we view other beings. If we want food,
which we need to stay alive, – the continuation of pollination
has to be taken seriously. NASA has a robotic
pollinator program, – but if insects pollinate for free, – maybe that’d be
an economically smart choice. In other words,
should we challenge ourselves – to leave our boxes
in a radical way – so that we could step from
habitual paths to new grounds? So we’d dare to challenge
our interpretations – that are inevitably incomplete? There’s a non-violent way
to achieve that: art. With art, we could move
into “something else”. Seeing a play that speaks to you
challenges you, – while accepting your history
and taking it seriously, – in a non-violent way
to think differently. Then we can possibly find some-
thing new in our way of thinking. The same applies to any art form. Music takes you in a fraction
of a second into a world – that may be part of your history
but maybe in new ways. We should take
these possibilities seriously – but still hold on to the
systematic, fact-based thinking – given to us by the Enlightenment. Let’s add associative imagination-
using search for solutions – because we have
great challenges – in how we can guarantee a future
that provides life worth living. Can we crystallize
the whole thing – with that walking in someone
else’s shoes solves everything? If I can imagine the world
from your point of view, – I’m already seeking
new kinds of interpretations. I’ve dared to leave my box,
my interpretation of the world. I’ve dared to challenge
my own way of existing. At the same time,
I may have noticed that – I have responsibilities
toward you. If I can walk in your shoes,
there’s morality between us. As a matter of fact, if I see the
world from your point of view – and if I can identify with
how you experience the world, – I may find a new horizon of
significance for my existence. I can find purposefulness
for why I exist. As we recognize the excellent
things in each other, – we can be more
than what we could be alone. That’s always powerful
and indicative of progress. What will we have
if we lose joy of life? What remains,
if there’s no satisfaction? Or if there’s only cynicism
between people? That’s no way to build success
or society that soars, – giving the chance to live
your own kind of life – so that citizens merge their lives
with those of others – in an enriching way. Canadians examined the
monetary value of losing trust. They found that – if you lose your wallet and
can’t be sure you’ll get it back, – that alone meant losing
30% of your salary. Or then…
What if – I can trust that I’ll get help
if I get into trouble? Whatever my situation in life is,
there’ll always be support, – people close to me or
people in communities I’m in. Turn that into money, and it’s like
tripling a household’s income. Things we don’t measure
in any progress indicators – are, in fact, those we should build
successful societies on. So we need to challenge
progress indicators as well. Anything that’s
valuable and meaningful in life – can hardly be turned
into numbers. Thank you.

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