Society in a Time
The Lessons of History Show Us Where
We Need to Go.
Speaker: Jim Van Laak
It is difficult to listen to the news and not despair for our
future. For all of humanity’s successes, why is it so
difficult to get along? Why is it that peace and cooperation seem
unreachable goals. How can we expect to survive a world where
terrorism puts innocents of all nationalities on the front line of
human conflict, made all the more sinister by the power of technology.
Jim Van Laak has attacked this problem with the same focus and energy
he brought to his career in space exploration. His lively talk
illustrates how humans have risen to dominance on Earth for one simple
reason: our intelligence has given us the ability to adapt more quickly
and at lower cost than unintelligent species. When volcanoes
erupt or droughts come, humans adapt, changing behaviors and using
technology to survive and thrive. But that priceless skill is
often ignored, replaced with instinctual, thoughtless reactions rather
than deliberate and measured acts. War is the obvious example of
humans working against their own survival.
Van Laak’s piercing insights illuminate the ways in which such
behaviors put our future at risk. Through economic opportunism,
nationalistic pride, religious extremism, and naivety, human decisions
provide the motive and the means to wreak havoc on our society.
But it need not be so. Van Laak turns these dark potentials into
bright opportunities for our future. He shows us how we can focus
our intellect and take advantage of our special gift to overcome our
animal nature. Through his eyes and words we can see how the
power of our technology, strength of a global economy and the ties of
growing interdependence bind our futures together to face the
challenges of the future. He helps us develop a new understanding
of the challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities that await human
society in the 21st century and beyond.