We currently live in what is often called the post-ideological era. The great explaining, directing and comforting narratives that have guided us have lost strength and those who remain faithful to them are called fundamentalists or extremists. Our postmodern humility has allowed other voices to be heard, but it has also brought to our lives and culture a fragmentation which respects differences by setting a distance rather than attempting a shared direction.
As the 21st Century advances the interconnectedness of nations, cultures and individuals continues to grow at a shocking rate. We have reached such a degree of interdependence that local actions and events very easily turn into a butterfly effect that can have consequences around the globe, for better and for worse. It is said that any two people on Earth are separated by a maximum of six other people. This means that an illness, a financial problem or a personal aggression can start short and long term domino effects which go round the world and come back. The same is true for a moment of laughter, a scientific discovery, or a kind gesture. The emerging technologies of information, communication and transportation will make this effect more and more intense. This is why we need a shared commitment and understanding.
Since this worldview has a strong pragmatic motivation, we must ask ourselves, what is good? What is the minimum idea of good that we can all share regardless of our diversity? The following definition is proposed: “The good is the continuity, enjoyment and growth of an individual or a group and the maximization of these”.
What is meant by continuity is the intrinsic worth we attribute to human individuals which allows us to affirm their existence, preservation and survival as valuable. All human individuals and the relationships and communities they form have unalienable worth regardless of their actions, possessions or qualities.
Enjoyment and growth refer to the importance of development and the satisfaction of human needs. In harmony with the conception of continuation, the growth of a group by incorporation or reproduction is also seen as good.
There are two ways components to understanding the good. The first is the recognition of anything that conforms to the definition above as something or someone that is “good”. The second is the understanding that goods exist within a context. Although we lack perfect understanding, it is important that we compare different goods and choose the ones that are greater.
As a human collective, we need to adopt a perspective made of three components: the relationship with our environment, the relationship with other life forms and the internal human factors.
- The Environment
The environment is the place we are embedded in. Currently, Earth. Today, our planet is the source of 99% of our material resources. Resources are essential for everything from nourishing our bodies, to powering our vehicles and building our homes and offices. If we cannot satisfy our material needs it becomes very difficult, even impossible to take care of other needs. We must make sure that in taking advantage of resources we don’t deplete that which we depend on. However, we must not forget that the environment has always been a source of dangers too, whether it from predators, natural disasters or environmental changes.
We must also have a wider perspective than Earth, for Earth itself is embedded in a galaxy. From our local ecology, to Earth as a planet, to our galaxy, to the Universe at large, these are different scales of our environmental setting and we must take proactive and reactive measures in all of these dimensions to take advantage of the opportunities and avoid the hazards. The extinction and progress of species or civilizations has always been influenced by their relationship to their environment. Nothing has changed now, but the scale.
2. Other Life Forms
The component of “other life forms” covers the whole range of simple and complex forms of life on Earth, as well as life unknown to us. Since we do not have a complete understanding of the phenomena of life or consciousness and even the materialist view of the universe is in doubt, we must be open to sentience which may escape our comprehension.
It is our duty to show respect, empathy and cooperation to non-human life. In cases which our interests may conflict, it is important that we do not cause any unnecessary harm to other creatures. It is also important that we proactively and reactively develop defensive tools that may be used against any form of life which may pose a threat, simple or complex.
- Internal Factors
There are 6 areas in which humanity must take care of itself. In each of these a combination of proactive and reactive measures is ideal.
- Physical health: we must strive for freedom from problems and illness in addition to a practice guided by a positive and developmental conception of health and the body.
- Mental health: we must acquire tools for the optimization of our cognition and help guide our emotional development and welfare.
- Social well-being: we must guarantee the safety, rights and freedoms of our individuals, respect the diversity of our fellow people and foster a sense of unity and cooperation in the relationships and communities of humanity.
- Economic well-being: we must attempt to achieve the best macro and microeconomic conditions, a system of collective support and the chance for individuals to grow through opportunities.
- Cultural flourishing: we must appreciate and encourage the diversity of arts and sciences, knowledge and expression, creativity and information.
- Spiritual state: we must recognize the importance of faiths and philosophies as sources of values, existential direction and overall well-being.
With the tools of technology, the orientation of our efforts towards the three components and a little bit of luck, we will create a much better world for ourselves and for others.