The acknowledgment that education was the solution to many problems and that the knowledge economy was spreading rapidly, stimulated governments and corporations worldwide to increase their investments in education, training, and applications of cognitive science. The race to educate the world began after the World Summit on Cognitive Development in 2010. Most institutions that had even a peripheral association with education began debating the most equitable and cost/effective ways to make everyone knowledgeable, virtuous, and intelligent. Internet access became a right of citizenship. Educational software was imbedded into nearly everything that could hold a computer chip. The World Cyber Games permeating daily life blending entertainment and education.
The transition from a mostly illiterate global population to a mostly educated world was achieved by the mid-2040s. The interconnection of many separate programs into a global system of education created a cyberspace in which all could get the best education at their own pace, learning style, and in their own language. Ethical and effective decision-making was a new focus of education. The availability of data of all sorts, married with an integrated global scholarly and scientific knowledge base, increased the speed of problem solving in all fields, by providing a logically structured framework into which existing and newly acquired knowledge could be placed and assimilated in a non-redundant way for examination, discussion, and extension by scientists and scholars worldwide and for a full range educational applications. Academic and business interests collaborated to create a sophisticated body of principles and techniques for knowledge visualization and the use of artificial intelligence to make it possible to rapidly navigate the knowledge of the world. This allowed for content and context to be connected, reducing confusion and culture shock in cyber space.
The Global Cyber Games was integrated with the knowledge systems so that one could move easily between play and education. An unanticipated consequence of the games was the large number of people it helped to identify and acknowledge global ethics, and the growth of responsible behavior and compassion.
In addition to the vast improvements in educational technology, the content of conventional public education also changed during the early 21st century. Education successfully linked human ecology to decision-making in an increasingly global society, including the moral basis for decisions, the nature and management of risk, and dealing with uncertainty. It emphasized compassionate behavior and socially acceptable values such as tolerance and diversity. Instruction in “how to learn” and the scientific method was given greater prominence in both educational systems and professional training programs. Multi- and transdisciplinary techniques and non-linear thinking approaches became common in most curricula. It is generally accepted that the creative process included failure, chaos, uncertainty, and holding of contradictory positions. The speed of feedback from inquiry to intelligent response is so fast today that curiosity has become a normal mental state for adults.
Advances in cybernetics and human cognitive development increased the use of machine intelligence to augment human intelligence, while emphasizing social and emotional development for improved decision making. In short, it became fashionable to be intelligent and virtuous.
It was not enough to learn and understand the history and current status of an item; in the world of 2050 an educated person also knew a range of possible futures for that item. Many reasons have been given for the addition of future-oriented curricula in education. Some argued that we were simply forced into it by the increasing complexity of issues, growing numbers of people involved in decisions, accelerating rate of change, and lead-times involved with environmental solutions. Others pointed to new opportunities in globalization and other unprecedented conditions, such as the international millennium celebrations and events that stimulated increased corporate, political, academic and personal thinking about future possibilities. Futurists had used the year 2000 as an opportunity to introduce futures methods and perspectives through global television and Internet events. Future-oriented university courses in and around cyber space became popular. As a result, nearly all institutions began providing routine updates on near- and long-term future dynamics. Long-term perspectives and improved futures methodology were increasingly applied to address the full range of global issues and opportunities. This contributed to the improved conditions enjoyed in the mid-21st Century and expected for future generations as well.
In addition to the popularization of executive training seminars in long-term perspectives, the many National Futures Academies popularized and improved the quality of instruction of futures studies through networks of universities. They helped integrate futures, creative, non-linear thinking into educational curricula that addressed decision-making. The moral basis for decisions, the nature of risk, and dealing with uncertainty were also integrated into these courses. Futures research methods were converted into teaching methods to help future-orient instruction.
The millennium provided the focus to foster collaboration among the various inter-religious dialogues on human values and morals that continued over several decades and through all forms of media. This accelerated the inter-religious studies that found common moral values and attitudes acceptable to all cultures. Religious leaders publicly acknowledged the existence and value of a variety of approaches to spiritual enlightenment and becoming a virtuous person. These public acknowledgments and dialogues helped to reduce the hatred created by the many ethnic conflicts of the late 20th century. The personal intervention of some religious leaders who condemned those who called for violence in the name of religion, reduced the use of religion as a justification for ethnic conflict.
Although cultural and religious conflicts will still need more time to fully disappear, these new initiatives have help to keep them in sufficient check to prevent the kinds of wars so prevalent in the last century.
Philosophers and artists created terminology and imagery that communicated the strength of diversity is its underlying unity and our ethical responsibilities to future generations. Global ethics have become generally understood and scientifically documented for social stability. This did not mean that all people adhered to global ethics, but that it became a force for social stability. Advertising and social marketing taught tolerance and respect for diversity and equal rights. All managers today have received training courses in ethical behavior in a multiethnic context. As a result thinking globally includes responsibility about global impacts.
Psychonauts exploring the mind and cybernauts exploring cyberspace helped create new forms of notation and symbols that enabled the general public to understand the sophisticated world of 2050. These new forms made the global education systems more intelligible to a broad range of people. These notations and symbols helped transcultural collaboration in creating the cultures of peace we enjoy today. Many of the new kinds of perceptions of reality and ways of knowing that helped this transition could only have emerged through human interaction using these new forms of notation.
Diversity and shared ethical values were encouraged by the countless celebrations of humanity-as-a-whole at the millennium. People and institutions learned the painful lessons generated by the many ethnic conflicts that followed the fall of the USSR. Polycultural views were created from shared beliefs and interests that enhanced peaceful coexistence. Polyculturalism also helped smooth the transition of nation-centric states to regional and global institutions. Global economic success diminished the importance of excessive materialistic desires and people looked for more meaning in their lives. Experience — more than information — became the key economic value. By 2050 enough people understood that ethnic diversity is a comparative advantage in a global economy and society, and has made our world far more peaceful today than in the past. Diverse views from many cultures provided the insights to manage an increasingly complex world and shared ethical values promoted cooperation and stability.
Changes in global frames of reference and philosophies due in part to understanding of the interaction of population and economic growth with environmental degradation gave rise to the more enlightened age of today. The merger of the environmental movements and human rights groups in collaboration with many leading multinational corporations made possible the global educational campaign that made clean air, water, and land to be accepted as a human right. As a result, many changes in environmental policies and behaviors have been made. It became unthinkable to establish an environmentally dangerous project.
In the late 20th century, it was scientifically documented that the behavior and values of most astronauts changed as a result of the “breakaway phenomena”, the psychological reaction to leaving earth. Seeing the earth from space caused psychological and even neurological changes that created new neural connections associated with the concept of humanity; and, hence the value forming process. Human consciousness became more compassionate with the daily flood of images of earth from orbital communities, the lunar base, and the Mars pioneers. Many of children born in space have developed careers related to conflict prevention and re-enforcing the value of ethnic diversity. Their increasing interaction with the earth-based groups has provided a calming influence on potential social conflicts.
Others believed that the increasingly aging population in the global labor force helped to provide wisdom for increasing ethical considerations in business and daily life. Still others point to the NGO global dialogs and studies on ethics that scrutinized and encouraged improvement of ethical standards in business as the reason for the more humane use of free markets.
Whatever the reasons, the 20th century self-centered greed and welfare attitudes were replaced by a more moral entrepreneurial spirit, environmental consciousness, and compassion. Growing numbers of experienced, energetic and active older men and women are respected and occupy important positions shared with younger groups. The traditional “linear life paradigm” where people pass from education, work, leisure and retirement is replaced by “cyclical life paradigms”. A safety network exists to protect the elderly in need. Thanks to a variety of public and private options, social security is robust.
Nearly all formerly less advantaged groups (the poor, the elderly, women, ethnic and racial minorities) participate in the cyber cash economy; universal literacy and Internet access allows people to learn and work at home. Poor women were especially helped by these changes which contributed to decreases in infant mortality rates, generated government support for childcare, contraceptives, and family planning, as well as the powerful role models for women provided by various media. Inter-religious dialogs about the changing role of women, birth control, and religion were also credited with these changes. Equal pay for equal work is now a universal norm. Disabled persons are able to live functional lives and participate indiscriminately in society.
The interest in assessment of the past and visioning of the future became so popular at the time of the millennium that inquiry into new and sometimes counter intuitive ideas became much more acceptable. As a result, much more was learned about how to increase natural abilities by self-control of inherent human healing power, cognitive enhancing strategies, and conscious involvement with computer generated artificial “life”.
By the end of the 20th century, many norms underpinning peace were widely accepted, such as territorial integrity, non-use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, the immunity of civilian aircraft and ships, international obligation to help refugees, the inadmissibility of colonial rule, the unacceptableness of officially sanctioned and racial discrimination, the undeniable equality of woman, and human rights. But not until the world education system became more efficient, did these norms become almost universally perceived as normal today.
The transitions from authoritarian regimes to democracies was smoothed by advanced training programs and seminars for senior political officials to discuss with their international peers successful transition strategies in the areas of the rule of law, respect for human rights, free media, tolerance of political opposition, free elections, and an independent civil society.
Because of the speed and ubiquity of communications systems, decision-makers and the general public became increasingly aware of the consequences of their decisions — almost as they occurred. Feedback on the results of actions is so rapid, which in turn allows for new, self-correcting decisions. This has reduced the time from early warnings to timely and effective responses and contributed to the solution of many of the seemly intractable problems of the 20th century.
Just as body building became fashionable among many in the late 20th century, so too mind building has became fashionable in early 21st century. Parents learned that giving their babies diversity of environment with consistency of love enhanced cognitive development. Nutritional supplements known as “brain food” became common. Rumors persist that we have crossed the threshold of using gene therapy to increase intelligence.
Cognitive science and behavioral sciences increasingly intermingled helping policy makers to understand how to improve mental as well as social well being. One of the most successful software applications of cognitive science was “Think Smart”, a self-customizable virtual reality program with tele-presence options that directly stimulated neural development. Eye tracking, voice commands, and neural output in a virtual reality eye piece allowed one to visualize their capacities as virtual icons and use their mental strengths to improve their weaker areas. The more adventurous used this software interactivity when connected to tele-presence global education systems and the Great Cyber Games. Tele-robots give the tele-presence sense by letting users people, hear and often feel what a remote robot is seeing, hearing and feeling at the time. Such tele-presence makes people actually feel that they are swimming in the deep ocean, on the surface of Jupiter, or in an ant colony, when they are sitting a home. Unfortunately some people prefer these simulations to real life. But despite the problems it has generated, simulation is a new educational tool of great power.
Synergies from research in cognitive science and sociology gave NGOs better methods to promote peace, engage in conflict resolution, and build consensus. New knowledge of brain reasoning and decision processes was applied to enhance the brain’s ability for complex reasoning. The philosophy of science and cognitive science helped society reach a better understanding of objective vs. subjective truth.
With global consciousness (awareness that everyone is aware of the world as-a-whole) institutional forms continuously reinvented themselves. Few hierarchical or network institutions existed in a continuous sense as in the 20th century. Instead they became fields for collaborative actions of varying time duration. Every four years the Olympic movement re-enforced this consciousness through its games in both cyber and three-dimensional space. In 2040, when the Mars Pioneers won the first Olympic competition in solar sailing between earth and lunar orbit, humanity seemed to pass some threshold of consciousness. We became aware that we were no longer an earth-only species but will become a space faring one.
Our human capacity is just now beginning to be understood. The current debate about a possible signal from extraterrestrial intelligence is revolutionizing our values, philosophy, and views of the human potential as we enter the second half of the 21st century.