Why do humanity creates so many global challenges and societal problems?
I suppose that nobody has escaped the fact that our civilization is permeated by global challenges and societal problems, to the degree that we approach the abyss. Why do humans create all these problems, despite more knowledge than ever and a growing general intelligence. Christopher Ingraham from The Washington Post refers to an article in the journal Nature where researchers have found that humans almost always add complexity when trying to solve a problem. "We tend to solve problems by adding things together rather than taking things away, even when doing so goes against our best interests."
Can it be that humans are used to build things, whether it may be housing, infrastructure, technology, regulations, bureaucracy, control mechanisms, etcetera. These boost our egos, increase the GDP, create a feeling of development and a collective achievement, and a sense that we have solved a problem. Does it not sound reasonable? In contrast, simplifying things would create unemployment, conflicts and a sense of backwardness. Since humans are creative and intelligent it seems natural that human problem solving would increase complexity continuously, even to the extent when we cannot handle it.
In an article in Los Angeles Times the Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert argues that humans are adapted to respond to immediate problems, because the brain evolved to handle short term threats in order to survive. Gradual warning signs are not something humans are trained for.
Thus, since global challenges and most societal problems come gradually they do not attract our full attention, contrary to all short-term input from social media, family and work that occupies most of our time.
To summarize, humans are wired to add complexity, boost their egos, build physical and mental structures, be accepted, act short-term and get adrenaline kicks.
But are we really permanently wired to think and act in this way? No! Two fields in brain research are neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, which refers to the brain's ability to adapt as the result of our interactions with our environment and the ability to grow new neurons. When we learn something new, we create new connections between our neurons and new neurons may arise. The old saying "what we nourish will grow" seems to be true.
But, what should we nourish to achieve the 17 sustainable development goals and true happiness? If it is not more knowledge and intelligence, it must be something else. How about wisdom development? Wisdom is how we use knowledge in decision making. It concerns the inner mental infrastructure and consists of different abilities like
- seeing and understanding wholeness of fragments
- have deep knowledge/insights of cause and effect regarding values/feelings/human needs
- possess a stable internal leadership
- be able to critically examine "facts"
- be creative and problem-solving
- have sufficient theoretical knowledge
- have deep empathy with people/animals/nature
- have practical experience in different areas
- be able to resolve conflicts in a simple and gentle way
When you think about it, it is a little strange that humanity has invested so much in knowledge development but so little in wisdom development, even though the latter is the most important factor in decision making.
So, what is missing? Well, we do not have to be very wise to start wisdom development, but we must be wise enough to realize how important it is. One insight that could really change the game!