New Paradigm: The Necessity and the Opportunity

4. Deep Drivers
Are there deep drivers pointing to the possibility of a radical paradigm change today? An examination of emerging social forces by the World Academy leads to the conclusion that a nexus of driving forces of unprecedented scope and intensity are in various stages of development and emergence and that together they have the potential to effect radical social transition of unparalleled rapidity and magnitude. A detailed study of these deep forces is likely to provide a more realistic assessment of both the prospects and nature of potential paradigm change than continued preoccupation with the established barriers and forces that resist change. Here we will only delineate a few of the drivers that appear most salient:

4.1. Growing Connectivity
Increasing interaction between human beings has been one of the primary driving forces for the evolution of humanity. Language has formed the bedrock of global civilization and culture by making communication possible between individuals and groups, locally, region­ally and now globally. Money has been the principal driving force for exchange of goods and services that has raised global per capita living standards twelve-fold over the past two centuries. Today the IT and communications revolution is connecting billions of people within a single global Metaweb, which will change social values, ideas, standards and behavior patterns in ways still difficult to imagine.5

The speed of technological innovation and dissemination are dramatically compress­ing the distance and increasing the velocity of social interaction. In the process they are multiplying social productivity and integrating the higher and lower levels of society to an unprecedented degree. It took India more than 50 years to install the first 37 million phones in the country. Since 2001, that number has grown to nearly a billion, placing cellular communication within the reach of almost every citizen. This development has resulted in low-cost global connectivity, greater access to information, a more level playing field, greater intensity of interaction and exchange, higher levels of social awareness and activism. It is aiding protest movements and political revolutions around the world. It is also providing a platform with the potential to dramatically accelerate the spread of all levels of education globally, abridging decades of tedious and costly educational institution-building into a few years.

The power of this deep driver can be further enhanced by conscious initiatives to offset the digital divide between different countries and levels of society, which continues to widen inequalities between levels of society even as it encourages upward movement of the lower levels of society.

4.2. Freedom & Democracy
As Alexander Likhotal points out, over the next decade, an increasingly integrated global economy functioning as a holistic entity will spur a deep reframing of ideas regarding global governance.6 At the same time, demands for freedom and human rights will continue to increase. The concept of universal human rights can be traced back to earlier centuries and has been prominently advocated for decades, but never before has it acquired such effective power to alter social reality. The spread of democracy and education, global access to information, and the rise of global civil society are extending greater freedom and equality to women, children, ethnic and religious minorities around the world.

The recognition of basic human rights is the first step in releasing human energies from bondage and submission to arbitrary authority, inaction, resignation and inertia. The swell­ing of social and political protests during the Arab Spring followed by more recent events in Thailand and Ukraine are compelling indications of the future, rather than mere isolated outbursts. The same is occurring within societies as women, ethnic and other minorities press forward their clamor for a fairer share in the fruits of modernity. Once these energies have been stirred to awakening, they will grow into movements increasingly organized, powerful and effective, as the movement that ended colonialism subsequently spread around the world to liberate so many people from authoritarianism.

The compelling power of freedom is tempered by the domination of money power and plutocracy in the governance of both democratic and authoritarian regimes, the wide prevalence of political corruption, and the domination of the nation state in international affairs based on an archaic conception of national sovereignty. The recent uprising against corruption in India and the prosecution of political leaders in China, Italy and other countries are isolated signs of an inevitable movement that has yet to gain sufficient momentum.

4.3. Rising Economic Expectations
Rising political aspirations is in turn a compelling driving force for economic advance­ment. In the early 1950s former WAAS President Harlan Cleveland coined the phrase “revolution of rising expectations” to characterize the powerful surge of human energies that spurred rapid development of the Western World during the post-war period. Today the aspiration and expectation of a better life stir the minds and hearts of billions in China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies and the magnetic power of that dream is still spreading. The rise of Middle Class is an irresistible force for change. From 1980 to 2009, the global middle class grew by around 700 million people, to 1.8 billion, from roughly 1.1 billion. Over the next 20 years, it is projected to grow by an additional 3 billion.

Expectations have risen even among the have-nots who feel disenfranchised and left behind by the progress of more fortunate sections of the population. Rising levels of unemployment, especially among youth, have fueled frustration and discontent as reflected in the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street Movement, Islamic fundamentalism, Naxalite extremism in India, and rising levels of violence among the poor in many other countries. Social tension and unrest have been further aggravated by growing inequalities.

Rising levels of frustration and unrest represent another compelling force for change. Ten years ago, India introduced its national rural employment guarantee program – the largest in world history – precisely because it was concerned by the impact of rural unemployment and rising levels of inequality on civil strife and fundamentalism. A number of European states were compelled to reject or curtail austerity measures during the recent financial crisis because of increasing public unwillingness to accept recessionary policies that undermined social safety nets. The incessant clamor of the world’s population for greater opportunity will compel states to adopt more far-reaching policies in the coming decade.

4.4. Environmental Threats
Growing environment threats are another force for change. Current world GDP is around US$ 60 trillion. Even at modest per capita growth rates in the emerging economies, it could well reach $200 trillion before 2050, exerting enormous pressure on the earth’s natural resource base and climate. Ecological threats alone have thus far not been sufficient to compel rapid, dramatic change, but it would be an error to underestimate the magnitude of the changes that have taken place as a result of growing public concern. Environmentalism has permeated the thinking and action of every nation. The concerted global approach to depletion of the ozone layer has been followed by an increasingly rapid shift to renewable energy, tightening of pollution standards and major efforts at conservation. The Fukushima tragedy was quickly followed by the decision of Germany and Switzerland to phase out nuclear energy. In the next 10 years, conflict between the aggregate powers of human civilization and the carrying capacity of the Earth’s ecological systems will compel us to develop new patterns of production, trade and consumer standards.7

4.5. Freedom of Education
Education is a powerful leveler which awakens the aspiration for freedom and equality, equips youth with the knowledge and skills to rise beyond the achievements of previous generations, dissolves barriers to mobility, and opens doors of opportunity. We are now on the cusp of a new knowledge revolution – a revolution in higher education – that will liberate and empower hundreds of millions of youth in the coming decades. The total capacity of the world’s universities will have to double within the next decade in order to accommodate an additional 95 million youth seeking higher education. That would require founding three or four new universities the size of Harvard every week for the next ten years. Global capacity would have to quadruple in order to accommodate the aspirations of all youth the world over. The tradition-bound, university-based system of higher education is patently incapable of meeting this surging demand through existing delivery systems.

The emerging technology of the internet has now created the potential for delivering affordable, world-class higher education to all humanity. For long the status, inertia and resistance of the established educational system made it difficult even for visionaries to predict when and how this would happen. Two years ago the genii came out of the box with the explosive emergence of the MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – starting with Udacity, Coursera, EdX, and Khan Academy. From a mere 100 on-line courses in 2012 there are now more than 1200 and the number is growing at the rate of 2 per day. It is estimated that by 2020 about 50% of all college level courses will be offered on-line in the US and 10% worldwide. Initially English language based, now a third of all courses are available in other languages. Initially confined to North America, now nearly 80 percent of on-line students live on other continents.

And this is still just the beginning. The quantitative extension of access to free quality higher education made possible by the MOOCs is itself only the beginning of something far more important. The coming revolution will not only make education accessible to all, but it will also upgrade quality and unleash creativity and innovation in the field of education as never before. It will tear down the barriers that separate the ivory tower from the real world. It will eventually make available to students everywhere the world’s best courses and in­structors in their own language of choice.

5 Alexander Likhotal, “Environmental Acceptability as the driver of New Paradigm,” Cadmus 2, no.2 (2014): 24-34.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.

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