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Filmed on Friday December 12, 02003

Peter Schwartz

The Art Of The Really Long View

Peter Schwartz is co-founder and chair of Global Business Network, author of The Art of the Long View and Inevitable Surprises.

Peter Schwartz, considered by many to be the world's leading futurist, will be trying out new ideas in public in a talk titled, "The Art of the Really Long View." He'll be talking about ways to engage the next several hundred years.

The art of the really long view

For such a weighty subject there was a lot of guffawing going on in the Seminar Thursday night.

The topic was "The Art of the Really Long View." Peter Schwartz chatted through his slides for tonight's lecture, then the discussion waded in. Present were Danny Hillis, Leighton Read, Angie Thieriot, Ryan Phelan, David Rumsey, Eric Greenberg, Kevin Kelly, Anders Hove, Schwartz, and me.

The event was very well audio and video taped, so we can link you to a fuller version later. For now, here's a few of my notes.

Much of discussion circled around Schwartz's assertion that the most durable and influential of human artifacts are IDEAS. And a distinction worth drawing is between POWERFUL ideas and GOOD ideas. Not all powerful ideas turn out to be good, in the long run. For example, Schwartz proposed that monotheism has been an extremely powerful idea, dominating all kinds of human activity for millennia, but its overall goodness is increasingly questionable.

Or take the powerful idea of Communism and the powerful idea of Capitalism. Looking at them when both were being touted as world solutions around, say, 1890, how would you distinguish which one was likelier to play out as good? Most of us, then, would probably have given the nod to Communism, particularly in light of robber-baron excesses in the US, etc.

Danny Hillis proposed that bad powerful ideas are essentially collective hallucinations which mask reality, whereas good powerful ideas have built into them all kinds of reality checks. So Capitalism---expressed as markets---has prevailed so far because it is an emergent, distributed, out-of-control feedback system.

Some notable quotes (among many):

"The future is the ONLY thing we can do anything about." --Hillis
"Denial is a special case of optimism." --Leighton Read.

Revisiting Long Now's frequent chant that multiplying options is the great good to do for future generations, we examined the idea of "toxic choice"---for instance the stupefying multiplicity of choices in a supermarket or department store that make you long for a good boutique. "But lots of boutiques," said Ryan Phelan. "I've got it! " said Read, "We'll have two big toxic choice emporiums, connected by a bunch of boutiques! I think we've just invented the mall."

Contemplating work to be done, Schwartz said: "We know it would be a good idea to have the rule of law extended to include ecological systems, but we haven't figured out how to make that a powerful idea yet."

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SALT Summaries Book

$2.99 Also available as a paperback book

Condensed ideas about long-term thinking summarized by Stewart Brand
(with Kevin Kelly, Alexander Rose and Paul Saffo) and a foreword by Brian Eno.

Seminar Sponsors

Will Hearst • David and Abby Rumsey • Kim Polese • Shel Kaphan • Garrett Gruener • Christensen Fund • Stream Guys Media Streaming • The Scorpio Rising Fund • Peter Baumann • Brian Eno • Greg Stikeleather • Chevron • Nion McEvoy and The Long Now Membership

We would also like to recognize George Cowan (1920 - 2012) for being the first to sponsor this series.