June, 13, 2017
Humanity as a whole is the same way. Everything we do effects the whole world, for better or worse. So I invite all of us to ask:
“Am I part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?”
Humanity currently faces numerous global challenges, including climate change, resource depletion, financial crisis, deficient education, widespread poverty, and food insecurity. But, despite the devastating consequences implied by a failure to address these issues, we have not risen to the occasion.
Clearly, a new approach is needed. But developing effective mechanisms for addressing large-scale shared challenges must begin with a fundamental shift in the way human motivation and cognition are understood.
The concept of homo economicus, which asserts that humans are rational actors who make decisions based on narrow self-interest, has dominated political and economic thinking since the 1970’s. But, while the pursuit of self-interest may be advantageous in certain contexts, it is not the only, or even the principal, driver of human behavior – and it is not conducive to overcoming today’s most pressing global issues.
It is time to replace the framework of homo economicus with a model that reflects humans’ capacity for altruism and pro-social behavior. By illuminating opportunities for human cooperation, such a framework would provide a useful foundation for political and economic systems that succeed where existing arrangements have failed.
Humans are capable of far more than selfishness and materialism. Indeed, we are capable of building sustainable, equitable, and caring political systems, economies, and societies. Rather than continuing to indulge the most destructive drivers of human behavior, global leaders should work to develop systems that encourage individuals to meet their full socio-emotional and cognitive potentials – and, thus, to create a world in which we all want to live.
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