12.3 Aspects of Integration

Setting aside for the time being the question of under which rubric one ought best, on the one hand, to attempt a consilience of all knowing (as Wilson might put it) or reveal the concinnity of all that exists (as this book would have it), the purpose of the next few sections is to demonstrate specific needs for integration as a means to piece together post-industrial fragments.

Integrating Being and Beliefs

The world view of the citizen of the next civilization will initially inherit much of the rationality, pragmatism, empiricism and humanism from their machine age counterparts in a very straightforward manner. Because of the de-emphasis on the need for personal factual knowledge of specialized techniques and the new emphasis on ideas, fact finding, and evaluation, people may generally be more aware of what they believe, of their world view, of who they are, of why they know what they do, and of how their knowledge is related. This implies a greater emphasis on the influence of such beliefs (who a person is) on knowledge, experience, and relationships. It may be clearer that the kinds of things that are said to be "known" (and what is meant when this is said) depend heavily on one's total world view. It may be more evident that the nature of one's experience or experimentation is a consequence of such beliefs as well. There is already a greatly increased interest in ethics--one result of applying a set of beliefs to relationships. Moreover, such an integration will not be confined to an intellectual elite, because the working demands of the information age require far more people to be well-trained and educated. It is not difficult to predict, even to discern already, a greatly increased interest in philosophy and religion as a result of this new emphasis on the heart of what it means to be human.

Integrating Experience

Everyone gathers data and experiments with the surrounding world on a continuous basis. These data come from the senses of touch, taste, and so on, in a direct manner, and from relating with other people or using the communications media in a less direct way. These data are constantly being integrated with past experiences and emotional responses to create new reactions, relationships, and ideas. For example, one might read about a new type of cancer, and file away the fact of it. Later, a television documentary could provoke recollection of the earlier fact and heighten interest. If a relative is diagnosed with the ailment, the knowledge becomes more personal and emotional. Both what are called "hard facts" of everyday living and the more hidden emotional aspects of life are a part of such experience. The emotional and the audio-visual-tactile are both a part of the raw data or base truths that each person experiences and remembers, and though contrary to Wilson there is no evidence yet that the emotions can simply be subsumed under the empirical, the two aspects do bear on each other and need to be taken into consideration together. Here, both are taken as aspects of experience.

Data gathering (including reading and listening) also take on new forms and meanings in the fourth civilization because new information media, such as the Metalibrary, enable new ways of obtaining and using knowledge, and informing the determination of answers to the "What else is?" questions. There may be somewhat less relative emphasis on the empirical (data from experience) and this will have to be more fully integrated into the whole person as it becomes realized that the rational/empirical description of humankind is insufficient to achieve a general integration of the person. One of the interesting challenges for artificial intelligence research would be to develop machines that can experience sight, touch, sound, emotions, and so on. This may be almost as difficult as providing such artifacts with the ability to comprehend or even to know in an abstract sense. It may turn out to be the chief obstacle in developing any sense of "being" for such machines.

People will have a broader range of experiences in the fourth civilization. Those who have employment will necessarily have more training and re-training, more education, and more factual knowledge available to them. There will be better communications, transportation and information access. As in the past, higher technology will mean that there will be more sharable wealth, although this does not mean that everyone, even in the prosperous countries, will share such benefits equally. History would suggest that there will continue to be both rich and poor individuals but that the general standard of living will rise, even for the poor. It would also suggest that there will continue to be rich and poor nations, and that people may continue to starve to death even in a more prosperous world.

In the same manner, information technology gives more access to the experiences of very different people. Thus, there would be more sharable experiences in the information age, and this could suggest that greater acceptance of others might be enabled. As with the sharing of wealth, this enabling does not mean that there will be more tolerance of other peoples, only that there will be additional forces empowering it. If the arguments presented in this book do turn out to be correct predictors, there will be more international cooperation as a result of greater knowledge--not only knowledge of other peoples, but of the total interdependence each person and nation has with every other. One also, as always, must be careful to define what is meant by "tolerance." Here it is used in the sense of a benign acceptance of differences, not in the aggressive sense that demands all that beliefs be given equal credence or value and marginalizes those who believe they know one or more absolutes.

It is important to note that, although greater sharing of experiences promotes greater toleration, this sharing does not in itself solve the problems of hunger, racism, waste, pollution, and war. Actual solutions will not come easily or soon, but the premise here is that it is likely to make more people aware of the mutual nature of such problems and increase the desire to solve them.

Integrating Knowledge

This may be the area that changes most in the new civilization. The number of people whose livelihoods depend on the depth of detail in their speciality knowledge will be far fewer. Although specialities will continue to exist, the people who master them will either be serial specialists who move on to new areas of interest after a few years, or parallel specialists who have a wide and shifting range of related interests. That is, there may well be even more speciality knowledge, but it will be more diffuse insofar as individuals are concerned, for they will need to be able to find it when needed, not know everything about a speciality all the time. Their knowledge will also have to extend to the ethical and legal effects of their work, and will be predicated on better organized and more efficient thinking, greater productivity and creativity in ideas, and a much wider base of ideas and techniques for work skills. This means that people will have broader and somewhat less focused educations and be more acquainted with a broader variety of disciplines. They will therefore be enabled to apply insights obtained in one to solve problems in others, and might, for instance, even look to Medieval and Renaissance scholars for insights in how to be this way.

If the prediction of longer life spans is correct, this trend may be sharply accentuated in the long run as knowledge workers, including academics, change from one area of interest to another over their lifetime. The longer a life becomes, the smaller will be the number of people who regard their current special interests, job, or social situation as permanent, and the greater the percentage who will have spent at least part of their professional lives engaged in what are now called academic or scholarly pursuits. It is now taken as commonplace that most people entering the work force in the fourth civilization will have to be prepared either to change careers altogether several times or else re-invent their jobs continuously throughout their working lives.

It should be evident from discussions in Chapter 1 that this scenario also depends on large-scale transfer of goods production to machines--the second industrial revolution--and perhaps to some extent also on the intelligence revolution. After all, the proportion of people depending on intellectual activity for a living can only increase if the necessities of life are provided, and the premise of automation is that indeed they will be--by machines requiring very few human attendants.

It seems reasonable to suppose that one consequence of this will be that the "culture" of the scientist and technologist identified by Snow and others may become much broader and more diffuse as it extends into other disciplines of thought--borrowing, and changing itself as it goes. The fragments of late industrial culture may be reunited in some strange new ways, but if a new civilization is to rise, there must necessarily be a new intellectual cohesiveness. This scenario, which Wilson shares, but for different reasons, is quite unlike that of Ellul's--instead of a total victory of soul-less depersonalized technique, it predicts a merging of what has been technique with the humanities, social sciences, and religion to produce new and much more comprehensive ways of knowing.

However, that new paradigms and new facilities (like the Metalibrary) only enable such a diffusion and generalization; they do not determine its actual path. The broad new view of knowledge presented both here and by Wilson is very idealistic, and may turn out to be impossible for reasons as yet unforeseen, such as wars, politics, economics, and new technological directions. Nonetheless, it seems likely that what is regarded as knowledge in the future will be more broadly integrated across what have been very narrow intellectual specialities. Not only that, but the emphasis on the intellectual and scholarly will itself be more diffuse over the general population, as people pursue learning on a less single-minded, specialized, and full-time basis. Neither does admitting far more people to what has often been an elite club of academics have to dilute the quality of thinking; it could simply be the case that more adults have the time, inclination, and access to such activities. Moreover, in an information-based society, ideas are economically valuable, so practicality alone ought to dictate that the number of people involved in assessing and manipulating them will increase.

An integrated view of knowledge and the intellect cannot be confined only to its own branches, but necessarily involves other aspects of the total person as well. Thus, one could also expect the fourth civilization would bring a greater emphasis on the mutual effect of knowledge on beliefs and relationships, and possibly a corresponding decrease in the relative stress placed on the specific aspect of the relationship of knowledge to the empirical--a special emphasis characteristic of the machine age, but one that need not be of the information one.

Integrating the Transformational and Relational

People change, and they cause other people to change because of what they believe, how they think, and what are their experiences. Free and open access to information suggests a possible breaking down of old relational barriers and a new emphasis on other people. This would be in sharp contrast to the "I-it" relations of the machine age and the specific raw "me-ism" of its latter decades. Such a shift seems to be necessary because while Me-ism is part of basic human nature, only if it is muted sufficiently to avoid excessive fragmentation and achieve a high level of cooperation is the continued existence of civilization possible. If this does happen, there will be a greatly increased emphasis on the application of ethical principles in relationships--a shift that does seem to have begun already.

In the working out of ethical relationships, both parties are transformed, just as in the working out of technologies knowledge is transformed. It is partly for this reason it was suggested in an earlier chapter that the new stress on environmental issues is not simply flash in the pan, but will be a permanent part of the social and intellectual landscape. More broadly, this new integration and emphasis on the transformational and relational is intimately connected with all aspects of the biospace revolution. The advent, to any significant degree, of artificially intelligent artifacts would also force re-examination of the relational. Not only would the question of who or what is a human need careful examination, but so also might, in the extreme case, the question of how to get along with other intelligences.

In addition, for many people the effective size of the world will shrink further, as communication technology improves. Some of the more totalitarian nations may be forced to operate with greater openness, for their dictators will be unable to hide their activities from the critical scrutiny of other nations. The industrial and then the information revolutions will come to more countries, and a far greater number of people will be enabled to have frequent contact with those from distant locations. These forces promoting unity will not necessarily homogenize culture or create a single "global village"; but they will at least force everyone to stress relationships with people they would once have ignored--just to function in their jobs. Again, it is not necessarily large social groupings and organizations such as the state, multinational corporations, and old-time institutional churches that will benefit the most. Rather, it is smaller social units such as local governments, entrepreneurial organizations, local clubs and churches, and families that might have the most to gain.

The integration of relationships does not just refer to other people and how one's actions affect them. It refers inward as well--the relational and transformational aspects of the individual person cannot be considered in isolation apart from world view, knowledge, and experience. But greater personal integration and wholeness do enable more substantial and deeper interpersonal relationships, even though they do not lead inevitably to these.

As the late 1990s events in Eastern Europe have shown, old hatreds, racial and religious divisions and old xenophobic nationalisms die hard, and there will always be those who perceive an advantage in the fanning of such flames anew. Even though such behaviour is manifestly not in the long-term self-interest of either individuals or nations, it may still take place. Indeed, one could argue that it is precisely new and close contacts with different cultures--especially very similar close neighbours--that lead to divisions and wars. That this is especially so among old enemies that have only been kept apart by fear of a greater one is now obvious throughout Eastern Europe. The most difficult thing to do with a relationship is to get it past the stage where little knowledge and much misunderstanding are dangerous things and onto the one where there is enough understanding to attempt conflict resolutions with a reasonable chance of success.

The New Renaissance Person

The admittedly idealistic portrait painted here is that of a fourth civilization people who think and act in greater harmony with themselves and with others. It is for this reason that religion may rise in importance--such a radical integration as suggested here forces people to re-examine and re-apply the meaning questions: "Who is God?" "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "What can I know?" "What does my experience mean?" and "How then shall I live and relate to other people?" Such a re-examination also supposes that the answers are rationally and coherently integrated by a whole people into a whole culture.

However, the kind of integrated equilibrium suggested for this idealistic new Renaissance person is far from static. After all, the principal feature of the fourth civilization will be rapid, continual, and substantial change in economics, politics, technique, and ideas. Therefore, any new equilibrium of being, thinking, experiencing, and relating will necessarily be a dynamic one as well. This provides yet another reason to predict a rise of religion and of moral absolutism along with it--people will need "being anchors" to give them a definite sense of who they are and how they can go about integrating the other three in a rapidly changing environment. After all, there comes a point where being "in process of change" must be replaced with a sense of having arrived at someone definite, even if this does turn out only to be a temporary stop. Furthermore moral relativism was one of the fragment-promoters of the late industrial age; it does not fit an integrative paradigm very well.

Such anchors are most useful if they are non-contextual; that is if they take their meaning and substance from outside knowledge, experience, and relationships. In other words, they are at least in part religious, for they need to rest on that which is external to all of life in order to provide a meaning for life.

Such a radical re-integration of what had in the machine age become discrete compartments and fragments of life, intellect, and religion would force a re-invention of education, government, economics, corporations, family life, and society in general. The first four of these have been considered in some detail in earlier chapters, but there are some issues in family life and personal relationships that have not previously been mentioned, and it is with some of these that the next section is concerned.

The Fourth Civilization Table of Contents
Copyright © 1988-2002 by Rick Sutcliffe
Published by Arjay Books division of Arjay Enterprises