Visiting the Future — March 27, 2472

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Winsights No. 76 (May/June 2004)

One advantage, even for well-advanced practitioners, in attending the professionally-led events of Project Renaissance is the opportunity for deeper experiences. I encountered such an inspiration on the last day of the Spring 2004 Workshop, while one of our newer trainers, Ursula Flink from Austria, was leading an exploration of the future.

En scenario investigations of the future, like those scripted for Beachhead and Toolbuilder (in the CPS Techniques section of this website), can reveal much that no other method can show you.

The following en scenario-generated experience clicked into place for me. You might have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. I also hope you will enjoy commenting on it and will thereby help develop several of the ideas and issues therein. Thank you. — Win Wenger

Proceedings of the Human Actualization Council
Vol. 472-XXXIX, March 27, 2472

Basic concern of this session:

“We” — human and allied civilizations — are in the final stages of eliminating involuntary human poverty and deprivation, both material and beyond the material. We have reached a boundary which may prevent us from completing that goal. We find ourselves constrained in our pursuit of this goal by the right of parents to direct the development of their own children.

Our modern right to equal opportunity — for every human individual to actualize and succeed — has collided with the long-standing rights of parents. The question before us: Should voluntary self-impoverishment by parents be allowed to carry over to their children?

Kids - photography by Elan Sun Star
Unfettered joy of childhood development — the magical photography of Elan Sun Star

Previous issues and precedents:

From the very beginnings, we have wrestled with the dichotomy of egalitarianism. Given the variety of human beings, we have encountered the impossibility of having both the equality of opportunity and (the socialist) equality of results at the same time.

After great struggles, we historically learned to accept that, in order to succeed, one must have the opportunity to fail. Thus, we have had to accept the great irony that, despite our Charter desire and effort to fully realize our high human potentials, some of us must be allowed to fail.

This irony, of course, was resolved. Instead of many generations’ having to live in squalor following the failures of their parents and their great- great-great-grandparents — the permanent “welfare class” of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries being but one example, “crack babies” from the same time period being another and resembling the problem before us today — we finally learned to make “failure” into a temporary condition. To recycle failed individuals back into fresh opportunities for success, sometimes several times before success ignited for them, required that we develop and use fast, powerful methods.

Two aspects of this resolution proved important to our efforts at heightening the actualization of human potentials:

  • Even before our Charter, it was known that often the most spectacularly successful individuals first went through a succession of devastating personal failures. The common consensus was that those failures provided them with lessons to learn from and with a great personal-conceptual energy which helped their drive toward their subsequent success.
  • The methods we were led to adopt, at the very beginnings of our Charter and endeavor, for recycling our failures toward success, were also very powerful for human development generally. They played a considerable role in The Great Surge, in the explosive development of all of us, individually and as a species, and of our allied species as well in the Consortium, over the past two centuries.

Constraints relating to the current problem:

Voluntary poverty has always been a respected right — traditional over thousands of years in monastic religious and other large groupings of humanity. Others opted for voluntary “poverty” and simplicity for ethical reasons or even simply for personal taste — such as the Thoreau movement of the 2420s. We feel constrained in this regard:  we must respect the rights of those who choose to live in poverty, material and/or cultural, despite our Charter’s requiring our utmost efforts toward the utmost development and empowerment of every human individual and sophont.

If, however, we respect that right (of adults) to voluntary poverty, what of their children? By far the greatest and easiest differences in human development are made prenatally and in early childhood. Should parents’ voluntary poverty be forced upon their children, thereby sacrificing major portions of their positive potential for development and future lifetime participation in the full human experience? Or, conversely, should we force, upon those parents, provisions to ensure that their children can grow to fill their full human potential?

Initial issues:

It is part of our legal and cultural tradition to ensure the safety of our children. Protection from abuse, from murder, and from extremes of deprivation of one sort or another has been, for the past half-millennium, a serious concern of the State and of the various functions which have replaced most of the State. For more than fifty years now we’ve been able to ensure that no human being lives for long in poverty who does not wish to. A case indeed can be argued in favor of appropriate intervention in the child-raising practices of parents who by choice live in poverty conditions, to ensure at least minimum conditions for what we perceive to be the fuller development of the child.

The opposing case also enjoys some strongly arguable bases. No more than in previous ages and conditions, we cannot pretend to so extensive, much less exhaustive, knowledge of the nature of things, the nature of the universe itself, that we have final answers on what are the best or ultimate qualities for human development. Much less do we know what are the best methods and conditions for developing them.

Throughout history, every culture has had its own theory and assumptions about how things work, how the universe came to be, and what the world is. Even though we have by now accumulated continuous centuries of systematic scientific inquiry and a considerable aggregation of current findings to guide us in such matters, the universe continues to surprise us at every turn, no less now than in the days of Galileo.

Do we know for certain, for all time, that the conditions most of us consider to be the best for human development and actualization are, in fact, the best? Can we be sure that what we deem the best conditions for child development, by taking children out of poverty, won’t be precluding some aspects of development which humanity — and some of those individuals — may later need?

A second argument also supports the position that children should remain with their parents, even when the conditions which their parents choose seem to be destructive of children’s optimal development. Variety in genes, goals, opportunities, perspectives and culture has always been demonstrated to be a main strength of humanity. Conditions change; by preserving variety, humanity is able to draw upon its diverse resources.

That is how humanity survived major changes, adapted advantageously to the changed conditions, and got to our present point in history. Survival of our species in the uncertain, ever-changing conditions of our universe, then, appears to require that we allow some to go and grow in very different paths despite our current perception that some of those differences are injurious to the children involved and to their possibilities for full human development.O

Our Mission Today:

These, then, are the boundaries with which we here wrestle today:

  • We don’t allow the murder of children; we don’t allow their abuse or molestation; we don’t allow their extreme deprivation.
  • We also have to continue respecting the rights of parents, outside these traditional extreme cases, to set their children’s feet upon the paths the parents choose for them.
  • We also respect the right of those who choose to live in poverty, despite our having long since removed the conditions of involuntary poverty.
  • We also perceive some forms of voluntary poverty to damage and delimit what to us are the wider opportunities of developing children, respecting also our society’s desire to maximize contributions to our civilization by its members.

This Panel will entertain expert testimony, as well as recommendations from members of our general Public and the wide range of experience, perspective and understanding represented therein, before we conclude our deliberations and make our formal recommendations to the Human Incentive Board. It is our expectation that the considerations and precedents we together establish here will have implications for us far beyond the original scope, affecting many human issues.

Locus MacIntosh Brown
General Secretary
Human Actualization Council