Imagine this scene from the Stone Age: people are living in caves and are completely dependent on Nature for their survival; they are vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. They don’t have instruments and/or skills to shape things to their advantage. Time marches forward, and they gradually learn new ways of living. But things start to turn ugly when they get left behind by the very machines/tools they had developed for their convenience.
This dystopian turn of events is exactly what has happened to humanity in the name of progress in recent years. This much-touted progress is no longer sustainable unless there is a paradigmatic shift in the way we look at the entire ‘ecosystem’ of existence.
It was the watershed moment of ‘scientific revolution’ in the early 16th century when the ‘man-matter relationship’ changed the essence of humanity. We are now living in a time where human extinction has become a real possibility as threats like climate change, nuclear wars, and technological disruption are looming large on the horizon. None of us would have thought of the cataclysmic change in weather patterns around the globe that we see today. The planet is getting hotter and becoming unliveable, and melting glaciers are causing rising sea levels.
Nuclear weapons, which are powerful enough to destroy the world several times over in a matter of hours, are the most sought-after devices by countries with hegemonic desires, in the name of deterrence and defence. Instead of focusing on de-nuclearisation and non-proliferation, countries like Russia, the US, and China are investing in developing even more lethal weapons. Call them ‘deterrent’ weapons or by any other name, these weapons have taken away our peace of mind since they were first used in 1945, killing millions of civilians.
Similarly, technological disruption, with AI (artificial intelligence) and bio-engineering in the forefront, is on the way to radically transforming life into something indescribable – from ethical and legal perspectives. The rise of AI will allow companies to exercise power over people’s ‘personal choices’. As a result, people will somehow lose their agency in making buying and investment decisions – or in even building relations or severing ties with others.
These existential threats that we confront today are far more complex and imminent than those that were faced by our ancestors. Previously, catastrophes like droughts, floods and earthquakes and harsh weather conditions posed serious challenges for people. But those people were relatively wiser when it came to deciding on how to deal with the problems at hand. Community living made it possible to cooperate for food, physical security, and even reproduction. Social norms were developed to live together in harmony.
As the world population increased, new governance systems emerged which were highly influenced by the prevalent tribal structure and religious traditions. The Industrial Revolution, however, marked the beginning of a nation-state defined by a legal framework.
The nation-state has, however, outlived its useful life and needs to be abolished. National borders restrict the free movement of people and products and thus unnecessarily divide humanity. Spending billions in the name of national security is also a relic of our instinctual fear of ‘the other’.
Economic development, which now eats the planet like termite, is also the outcome of national competition for more with an emphasis on ‘now’. The doomsday scenario, mentioned above, can be averted if leaders start thinking globally and beyond the limitations of the present.
Now we have global challenges that can be dealt with only through a global structure – a kind of a global government – founded on the principle of one ‘humanity’, rather than a state defined by a particular race/community living in a designated territory.
A global government, unlike the UN, can be designed on democratic principles of a government of humanity, for humanity, and by humanity. This government, if created, would banish the curse of national sovereignty and bring in an era of peace, harmony, and progress for all.
The writer teaches at SZABIST,Islamabad.
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