Metamorphic Threat: Natural vs Social Change

Metamorphosis implies a radical change of state.

As such it incorporates a developing entity towards increased complexity. By all means, in nature it materializes a ‘next’ step in a ‘micro – evolutionary’ ladder with a twist: It implies the complete abandonment of the old in favor of the new.

Therefore, a key question in any foresight analysis that involves social (and not natural) phenomena has to be whether a social organism may, can or will behave in an ‘evolutionary manner’ when a large-scale transition (“metamorphosis”) takes place.

This approach also entails a philosophical question: While nature makes the choice – shortcut to what is ‘better’ (i.e. fitter), it remains unknown whether massive knowledge – driven societal developments take into account (measure or forecast) any of the real shortcomings of these advancements.

In the last half century, we witnessed the escalation of the ways that Information Technologies (IT) practically reshaped our societies, economies, culture and everyday life.

This IT multi-metamorphic factor has three significant traits: One is its rapidity. Second is its Universality. And third is its Rigidity. This term refers to its lack of flexibility, or the inability of restoration of the old ‘status quo’.

This new kind of ‘Permanence’ seems to have its own rules: Its lack of a backward resilience goes hand in hand with the paradox of an inherent volatility: Being easily replaced by an upcoming trend, development, tech or fad.

This Permanence – Volatility polarity carries a number of ‘traumas’: In the economic arena, it offers a minimal window for research to pay for itself (i.e. as it is replaced, before capitalized). In education it enforces new rules, new timing intervals (i.e in elementary, middle and vocational education) and an increased pressure on faculty and students in Universities. In the workforce it imposes an eternal “develop and adapt or die” culture while in the international stage it widens the gap of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, be it mentality, infrastructure or simply funds.

This is not all: While all along human (and social) development has been both linear and predictable to a great extent, this has ceased to be the case: Tri-dimensional prediction models are required to attempt the most modest appraisals (and consequent planning) of any given breakthrough or change.

An additional factor of complexity is evident: IT, enhanced by the most recent developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) has human societies in a totally unpredictable state. This is due to the fact that IT and AI have not been developments in their own merit, but rather a sort of Accelerator for all human knowledge ingenuity and activity.

Foresight now becomes a discipline in its own respect, one requiring interdisciplinary skills, trained algorithms, AI access and skilled support staff. Unless central Governance has the means (and brains) to produce foresight-driven-policy both the local effect and the collective (European in the case of Hellas) may be catastrophic.

Last but certainly not least is the Ethical Question regarding the Universality of (any of) the benefits involved: Will the fruits of the new planetary brain be used in a morally responsible way that will ensure a balanced uplifted human being, dispersed anywhere on earth, or shall we stick to elite niches that still adopt Malthusian principles, leading to conflicts and waist.