Control freaks

Posted on 28/05/2011

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“We’ve made a world we can’t control” read the headline. For 3 full pages a journalist was lamenting our inability to control 21st Century society, economics and the planet. It was starting to sound like a disaster movie.

But when have we ever been able to control the world? We certainly can’t control nature, and for millennia we’ve been battered by hurricanes, volcanoes and anything else the Earth throws at us. The few hundred years experience we’ve had of small scale economies and states has also been erratic and unstable. Why expect that we’d ever be able to control it today and on a global scale?

We’ve got to let go of this controlling instinct. If we’d already mastered building civilisations that will last, then there’d be very little if interest left to do. Fortunately, we’re an imperfect bunch and we’ll be struggling away as long we exist. For me this need to improve and adapt gives us a purpose. Progress needs to be triggered, and thanks to our chaotic lives, there are plenty of triggers to go round.

The information blanket

The information blanket

We can’t control the world, but if we’re lucky we might just be able to steer it. We can invent new devices, new ways of doing things and we can influence people, slightly. It’s like steering an oil tanker. These super-ships are so vast and so powerful they take several miles to stop completely. The only way to navigate is with little nudges and by looking far into the distance to see what’s coming. Let’s try not to crash it.

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