O' Brave new world, That has such creatures in't
(Miranda in Shakespeare's The Tempest.)
Sometimes the best way to look ahead is to look behind. Where is humanity heading? Will it survive or will it die out? Our problems are not small ones.
Briefly, at a population growth of 1.9 percent a year, the population doubles every forty years. This means that at the end of this century it will be around 48 billion. By the year 2600, there will only be standing room.
In addition, when you realize that worldwide energy consumption is rising, things are getting red-hot. In 1900, we consumed around 1 billion tons of BCU, where 1 ton of a Bituminous Coal Unit is equal to 8.13 MW-hr. In 2000, a hundred years later it was past 12 billions BCU. Again, using 2600 as a benchmark, the physical earth will literally be glowing.
Of course, these are just two problems. Many others exist. The monetary system is designed to create insufficiency and indebtedness; nuclear technology is proliferating; bacteria are adapting to antibiotics and becoming deadly; food is creating a malnourished population; and disease and starvation in the third world countries continues unabated.
In order to overcome these problems, we need to evolve even further, eventually becoming an ocean-dwelling and star-navigating species. For this to happen, we need to become less superstitious, more intelligent, and increasingly more cooperative, not with the self-serving agendas of those who control governments and corporations, but with the idea that we are all in this mess together.
Can we do it? Can we evolve, pull together, and change the world? Because if we can't, it is over. This is not rhetoric. When we review our
current global situation, you will see that this is not an overstatement.
In order to understand our situation better, briefly looking back over the past 1000 years, let us see how we got where we are today.
In the 11th century, trading and learning expanded with Islam, Confucianism, and Hinduism as champions of subtle thoughts and cosmic philosophies.
China was the most technologically advanced civilization in the world. It had already invented the printing block, paper money, kites, gunpowder, the compass, a water clock and an earthquake detector.
Islam, less than 400 years old, flourished as an intellectual force, and as the travelers bartered in distant lands they shared knowledge. Islamic scholars carefully preserved the knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome by rewriting the manuscripts of those earlier cultures. Besides its reputation as a center of learning, Cordoba, in Southern Spain, was also renowned for it's architecture.
India, like China, was a vast civilization and steeped in knowledge of spiritual things and an elementary science. It was the only country China respected.
But not all cultures craved knowledge.
Japan was an insular culture; its elaborate court culture separated it from the peasantry.
Christianity was at war with itself: the impoverished and plain Western Catholic Church looked to Rome, while the wealthy and ornate Eastern Orthodox Church to Constantinople. In 1054, the Pope excommunicated the Eastern Church.
In the 12th century, ambitious building began.
In the southwest of North America, Pueblo Bonito, a monumental city, fashioned out of wood and clay arose from out of the desert.
In Northern Europe, Gothic cathedrals, glorified God with stain-glassed windows of exquisite colors and poignant Christian themes, and gold ornaments of intricate design lit up the altars.
In Ethiopia, King Lalebelia claimed to have received a vision of the churches in heaven and ordered his stone masons to fashion beautiful churches out of the depths of the unyielding rocks.
In Italy, cities declared themselves republics, banished Emperors, overlords, and popes, gave themselves charters, and established their own rights.
Not everyone followed the desire to build. Nomadic tribes flourished by hunting, gathering, and honoring the land. In Australia, for example, the aborigines, thought nature their cathedrals and their wanderings were their pilgrimages. They disdained artistic immortality and often even covered their intricate artwork with dust before they moved on. They spoke of the Dreamtime and considered human life a restless adventure.
In the 13th century, terror prevailed then transmuted into a new order.
Genghis Khan and his Mongol horde of one million strong swept across the wide sweeping grasslands of Asia, striking terror everywhere they went. Psychological warfare, where spies in enemy cities spread rumors of his ruthlessness, was reinforced by carnage. In Western Europe, the devastation was described by monks as a swarm of blood-thirsty locusts pillaging all human civilization.
The Mongols imposed peace on their captured territories and made safe the trade routes all over Asia. Prior to their invasion, roving bands of thugs had made it highly dangerous for merchants to travel. Now the corridor between Europe and the Orient was open and trade and an exchange of knowledge became possible.
Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis, conquered the whole of China, and his pleasure dome in Xanadu was described by Marco Polo as the greatest palace ever known. Kublai Khan made the Chinese feel like slaves in their own country and controlled them through propaganda and rumors of magic. After his warships sent to conquer Japan were destroyed by a typhoon, the myth of Mongol invincibility in Asia was shattered. In that same year, his favorite wife died (he had four wives), and to drown his sorrows, he spent the rest of his life in a drunken stupor. Self-serving Chinese governors then ran the kingdom.
The Mongol advance West was halted by the Mamelukes, a Muslim dynasty of former slaves who had toppled the previous sultan. They followed a Spartan-like discipline of raising their children to master all the arts of warfare. They not only stopped the Mongol invasion but completely defeated all its ambitions to conquer the West. The Mamelukes not only preserved Islam from the Mongol terror but made Cairo one of the greatest cities in the world, known for its learning and its architectural beauty.
In Northern Europe, Venice prospered as goods and ideas from the Orient to Europe passed through their hands. Science and technology now began to flourish in Europe and fostered learned men like the monk Roger Bacon, who not only invented the science of optics but also foretold of the coming of mechanical ships, helicopters, and aircrafts.
In the 14th century, the reign of death held the bulk of humanity in its grip.
Cairo, thought by those who beheld it to be the most magnificent city in the world, without equal in beauty and splendor, greater than London or Paris, crumbled under the reign of the Black Death. 20,000 people died a day. The city was to never regain its greatness.
Sweeping from Asia to North Africa and then on to Europe, the Black Death caused such devastation that it was believed to be the end of the world. All kinds of magical concoctions were tried everywhere. Europeans massacred Jews and heretics then turned on themselves. They flogged each other mercilessly as penance, but it did not stop the ruthless plague.
Beyond the reach of the Black Death was the kingdom of Mali in West Africa. It flourished, trading gold and salt. It was a kingdom where gold was found in abundance. Islamic learning spread. Great Mosques were built.
In Central Europe, Timur, a Turk born near Samarqand, rose from a sheep and horse rustler to become a new terror, one that rivaled that of Genghis Khan. Ironically, this savage man, to whom human slaughter was a way of life, was also extremely pious and gave the world some of its most spectacular Islamic architecture.
Using the monsoon winds, seaborne trade flourished, and in East Java, the kingdom of Majaphit, under its ruler Hayan Wuruk, became exceedingly wealthy.
As the century came to a close, Europe again faced a natural disaster, but this time it was not pestilence but bad weather. An ice age created terrible famine and as the lords worked the surviving serfs into exhaustion, they rose in rebellion. Peasant armies demanded greater equality between the people and their rulers.
In the 15th century, new worlds were discovered as sea navigation inflamed the imagination.
A curious lesson about the implications of appreciating and withdrawing from curiosity occurred between 1405 and 1433, when the Ming government, under the foresighted Yongle Emperor decided to establish a Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean basin. He assigned Zheng He 317 ships, with 28,000 armed troops. This expedition awed the people of the coastlines, who were amazed by the nine-masted ships. These were the biggest ships ever known in the world, with a technology about 500 years ahead of its time. But after 30 years, Ming bureaucrats, believing that China had nothing to learn from barbarian kings, "who should be treated like harmless seagulls," put an abrupt end to this voyage of exploration. Compounding this error of not expanding learning, they decided to also destroy what they had learned. The records of the greatest expedition in the history of China were burned and the magnificent ships rotted in the harbors. Even the technology on how to build these ships was forgotten. China would, in later centuries, be outstripped by younger, more robust nations, who would master the oceans and humiliate China in war and seize its vital ports.
In Northern Italy, the Medici prince, Lorenzo the Magnificent, bankrolled a new era of artistic creativity, whose like would never ever be seen again. It was called the Renaissance. Bankers and merchants nurtured painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture by lavishly paying artists. Multi-talented men, like Leonardo Da Vinci and
Michelangelo, amongst others, created classical works modeled on the golden years of ancient Greece and Rome.
In what is now Mexico City, arose Tenochtitlan, an Aztec capitol grander than any European city. Built on marshland in Lake Texcoco, it was an empire built on blood, those of the victims of their wars and those of their human sacrifices to appease their gods. The nobility dined on chocolate, mixing the cocoa beans with honey and nuts.
The Byzantine empire, now weak, fell to the assault of the Mehmed, a 21 year old prince, who conquered Constantinople. After the butchery of priests, women, and children who sought refuge in the church, he made the city the seat of the Ottoman empire, which was to spread its tentacles over vast regions. His palace had a harem of 2,000 women, a stable for 4,000 horses, 10 mosques, 14 baths, two hospitals, and kitchens that could feed up to 10,000 people.
This century, however, was that of the great explorers of the oceans. Vasco de Gama found the Indian Ocean and Christopher Columbus the Atlantic and the lands of America.
In the 16th century, the trend for conquest continued, including the ambitious conquests of religions for men's souls.
A Spanish missionary, Diego de Landa, stationed in Yucatan, converted thousands of Mayans to Christianity and tortured them mercilessly when he discovered that they secretly honored their sacred idols.
In Russia, Ivan the Terrible, extended Muscovite rule from the Baltic to Siberia, ruthlessly crushing all opposition.
In Japan, Hideyoshi, a peasant soldier who rose to a high rank, conquered all the warlords and then dreamed of conquering the world. He created a Japanese navy, and it sailed to Korea. The Koreans, however, squashed his dreams of world dominion by defeating his navy at sea with a secret weapon, ships with dragon heads carved on the prows that breathed out cannon fire. Japan closed its doors to the world and concerned itself with palace intrigues.
In northern India, Akhbar conquered the land and created the Moghul empire. India, in turn, conquered him, seducing him with its exotic culture and diverse religions. Although a Muslim, he created a philosophic blend of the prevailing religions, seeking the truth of the meaning of life through synthesis.
In Europe, a different type of fascination prevailed, one with the oddities of nature collected from all corners of the world by explorers. "Museums of the Universe" were created in rooms full of cabinets. These Cabinets of Curiosities contained weird objects. The most famous collector may have been Emperor Rudolf II of Prague. His collection included a lock of hair from Petrus Gonsalvus, the Hairy Man of Tenerife, and fossils and souvenirs of exotic animals.
In the 17th century, science emerged dramatically and forever changed the fate of humanity, transforming it from superstition to a reason informed by observation and experimentation.
The towering figure of this era was Isaac Newton, who sought to prove the existence of God through cataloging all the rules that governed an ordered universe, from the way an apple fell to the ground to the way a moon navigated the earth in a steady orbit.
Social experimentation also occurred as a colony in Jamestown, Virginia, was established. It would have perished except for the discovery of the marketability of tobacco, a weed used by the Indians. Running out of labor, because of how many settlers died from disease and starvation, slavery proved a means of servicing the new colonies.
Captured in North Africa, slaves were shipped and sold in the Americas, both North and South, and the agricultural products of their labor was shipped to Europe and sold. The money was then used for more expeditions to Africa.
The largest number of slaves were taken to Brazil to cultivate sugar plantations. Their lives were short and brutal, and those that survived the crossing usually died in the first ten years. Slaves who tried to run away were whipped, sliced with knives, and salt, vinegar, and urine was rubbed into their wounds.
While Europe and America prospered, Africa was never to recover.
In Europe, the Netherlands, referred to derisively as "the buttock of the world" by visitors because of its marshland, discovered a way to prosper.
The Dutch found a unique trading advantage by sailing around the whole of Africa and onto the spice islands, taking advantage of the seasonal winds. The South East Asian spice trade conducted by the Dutch East India Company transformed Amsterdam into a rich and artistic city. Women entered business, great painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer were commissioned with the emerging middle class, and merchants lived in grand homes. The Dutch became so wealthy that they slipped into the decadence of conspicuous consumption, trading houses, gold, silver, and other riches for tulips from the Orient.
European science expanded so rapidly that they outstripped Arabic and Chinese eminence in knowledge, and visiting Jesuits proved to the Chinese Emperor that their science could predict planting and harvesting seasons better than that of the Chinese scholars, thus saving China from the famines and national disasters that arose from miscalculations of when the seasons changed.
In the 18th century, revolution and colonialism changed the world forever.
In Europe, science continued to expand, reason overthrew privilege, and religion retreated. After the great earthquake of Lisbon, which leveled the city, two opposing views emerged. The religious view held that this was the wrath of God. The rational view held that man wove his own destiny and needed to control the whims of nature.
Lisbon was rebuilt, but as a testimony to the ideas of the enlightenment. The new streets were geometrically straight and the architecture praised the ideas of balance and symmetry.
The encyclopedia was created to describe the world in a reasonable way, and the catholic church threatened to excommunicate anyone who did not give a copy to their local priest to burn.
Reason itself became a religion in an effort to overthrow the fears and superstitions raised by centuries of religious belief and control. During the French Revolution, the argument that reason outweighed privilege in a just society resulted in a hysteria of Guillotine executions. Just as reason overthrew religiosity, it too was overthrown by an unstoppable rage by the downtrodden masses, manipulated by blood-crazed politicians.
The idea of freedom from rank and privilege, from class structures, caught on in North America, but here reason did not turn to savagery, instead it resulted in freedom, as the settlers overthrew the yoke of the English crown. A new promise was born in the world, the idea that men could enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Yet, not the entire world, was becoming free, India lost it and was enslaved by colonialism. India, rich in natural resources and a manufacturing giant, exporting cotton, tea, and silk attracted the attention of Britain. Imperialism began by taking advantage of the political dissent of rival Indian kingdoms. Only Tipu Sultan of Mysore successfully fought the British off, but they eventually gained the upper hand and demanded the ransom of his two sons. After he had paid the exorbitant ransom amount, they attacked his fortress, killed him in battle, and ransacked the country, looting it and controlling its natural resources.
Just as Africa was never to recover after the slave trade had bled off its population, so too, India, too, was to never prosper again. Her riches were drained westward.
China prospered, colonizing territories to the north and west and rebuilt its agricultural basis with the new labor force of the conquered people. They also became a manufacturing giant, making a fortune by selling tea and porcelain pots and dishes, called China, to the West. British envoys asked the Emperor if the payment could be made in goods instead of money. Although, the Emperor did not desire any Western goods, he allowed foreign trading houses to be set up in China. In the next century, this rash generosity would lead to the fall of China.
In the 19th century, the era of the machine began.
The steam engine transformed the world. Ships no longer had to be powered by sails, and emigration to the New World, North America, rose to the level of millions. The Indians of the plains were overwhelmed, not only by the population invasion, but also by the railways built by Chinese and Irish workers, and the power of the Winchester rifle.
The buffalo population was reduced from 60 million to less than a 1,000 and their way of life was reduced forever. Buffalo Bill created his famous wild west shows, and Indians were transported back to Europe where they enacted the battles of their defeat for the entertainment of Europeans.
Thomas Cook, a British itinerant preacher, created the first multinational company, a tourist business, transporting people through railways and steamships, and tourists explored the newly opened up world, vacationing in exotic locations.
Charles Darwin reluctantly published his book The Origin of Species after he found that another naturalist had discovered the same thing that he did. He had kept the information to himself on how species evolved for 20 years. Now his book shook the religious order.
Europeans had believed that God had made the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th; Darwin showed that not only were they ancient creatures but also related to apes. He was mercilessly lampooned in the popular press, with cartoons depicting his head and posture as ape-like.
But the imperialists hijacked his ideas, invented the idea of Social Darwinism, and colonized Africa, dividing it amongst themselves. The Africans, like the American Indians in North America, were ruthlessly gunned down and subjugated.
China, still the most powerful country in the world, was in for a rude shock. Britain had an unfavorable balance of trade with China, importing silk, porcelain, and tea. China prospered in a magnificent way. Then the British found that the Chinese people liked the opium that they brought over from India. British traders penetrated the water ways of China and sold their opium. Alarmed by an increasingly drug-induced population, where people could be seen lying in the open streets and market places in a stupor, the emperor appointed a high official to stop this trade. After an appeal to Queen Victoria was ignored, the opium from British vessels were seized and destroyed. In retaliation, the British navy invaded China. Britain with its superior technology and weapons won and China was made to pay for the war the British started and five of their chief ports were seized.
Industrialization spread from Europe to the USA to Japan and had powerful social consequences. A new working class emerged, people who slaved over the tireless machines; the damp and filth of their working conditions led to disease. A new struggle began for decent working conditions.
The camera was invented and captured the images of a world that had been completely transformed by the machine.
Toward the close of the century, the first movie was made. It showed a train pulling up to a station and people milling around it. A fitting image to represent the dawning of a new age, the age of the machine forged from the fire and steam of the industrial revolution.
In the 20th century, the world reinvented itself in a way that had no precedent in earlier centuries. It even made the remarkable previous century pale in comparison.
The journey of the exploration of inner space began in the twentieth century. Sigmund Freud explored the unconscious, linked neurosis to the sex drive, and sought to heal the past by examining it in the present. Initially shocked by his ideas, those who read and understood him then spread a new burst of awareness.
In the famous painting, The Scream, Edvard Munch, a Norwegian artist who followed the tradition of French Impressionism, epitomized the anxiety and terror of the human psyche, the grief that arose from recognizing the personal and collective pain in the unconscious mind.
Pablo Picasso's Cubism and Salvador Dali's Surrealism created more waves of awareness about the anguish of the individual soul tormented by the traumas of life, and this imagery of suppressed emotional pain spread even faster through the medium of surrealistic films.
But while a small proportion of artists were making public the existential angst of humanity, other great minds were marveling at the mystery of the universe. Albert Einstein declared that energy and matter could be exchanged, x-rays showed the insides of a living human being, and microscopes and telescopes started to reveal the world of the very small and the very large. In addition, amongst numerous other wonders, science developed contraceptives, giving couples the chance to experience intimacy without the need to raise a new family.
Human genius was on the rise everywhere. Startling discoveries were being made in the sciences that were radically transforming the very essence of human understanding and the way society functioned. But the most startling of them all, was the power of the atom. By isolating the atom and smashing it, an enormous power of unimaginable magnitude was to cast a shadow on the world for the rest of the century.
Before the nuclear shadow fell on humankind, total war had already been invented by the industrial age during the first world war.
The first world war escalated human territoriality and aggression to an industrial scale. The mechanical energy that had been used to transform humanity from an agrarian and localized population to an industrialized and globally expanding population was now used for wholesale slaughter. Man became the victim of his own machines. Armaments could be manufactured on a large and rapid scale. The lethal invention of the gun now became the even deadlier machine gun; in the few seconds it took to kill one man, now a dozen could be killed.
But this was only the beginning of mass-scale suffering because never in the history of humankind had evil men had the means to exploit and destroy so many people so efficiently.
Joseph Stalin initiated the collective farms of communism. Under his interpretation of the ideology of communism, 22 million people died in the labor camps of his slave empire.
The Japanese invaded China in 1937 and slaughtered 60 million Chinese.
Adolph Hitler promised the German people the restoration of their honor and self-respect after the humiliation of Germany's earlier defeat and the penalty imposed upon them by their victorious enemies. Nazi Germany slaughtered another 50 million. 27 million of these were Soviet citizens. Six million were European Jews. They were systematically captured, stripped of all human dignity and murdered with ruthless efficiency.
Yet the havoc that was unleashed by the machinery of the industrial age was only the beginning of the flagrant abuse of raw power.
After the first atomic bomb was tested in Los Alamos, the chief scientist Robert Oppenheimer quoted a passage in the Bhagavad-Gita, "Now I have become death and the destroyer of worlds." The scientists were shocked at what they had discovered. America introduced an unfathomable nightmare: the potential to destroy every living creature on earth.
The second world war had leveled down many previously flourishing cities through continuous bombing over months like Rotterdam, Dresden, and Tokyo, but when the atomic bomb was dropped by America on Japan, two whole cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leveled in seconds.
Despite the overwhelming violence of these horrors, human cruelty continued unabated on a scale that had never ever before been witnessed in History.
Mao-tse Tung promising the Chinese people "a great leap forward," publicly humiliated landowners, initiated widescale persecution and torture on anyone who disagreed with him and gave the land to the peasants. These peasants overworked the soil, creating a famine of immense proportions and 30 million Chinese starved to death.
In Cambodia, Pol Pot, waged a war on his own people and one out of three Cambodians was murdered.
In Cambodia, Viet Nam, Rwanda, and Kosovo the bloodbath was relentless.
War had become remote, precise, and deadly. Human beings had become the cruelest and most savage creatures ever to have walked upon the earth. Even the Dinosaurs that once roamed the earth in the distant past did not have the same vicious intensity. They killed to survive, but human beings killed because of wounded pride. Intelligence enlisted to satisfy dark human drives created unspeakable suffering.
Yet somehow, remarkably, humanity, despite its new penchant for efficient slaughter, as a whole, still continued to progress.
Around 1950, America's statue of liberty became a symbol of hope for immigrants from around the world. With their zestful energy they infused renewed life into the country. Some of these immigrants were the greatest scientists in the world, including Albert Einstein; others transformed the New World through backbreaking labor. The result of this influx of brilliance and massive effort transformed the United States into a formidable economic and military power. To the rest of the world, exhausted and depleted by the aftermath of war, everything appeared bigger and better in America. It boasted taller buildings, bigger cars, a vast network of roads and railways, and a love for innovation and technology. America became the new hope, its vision of a promising new humanity dominating the rest of the world.
However a migrational shift existed across the whole world. Those who could not travel abroad moved in large numbers from the country to the city. Calcutta became overwhelmed with a population of 10 million people; Tokyo swelled as millions of country people became urban dwellers; and in the 18,000 square miles of Mexico city, an urban sprawl spread.
All over the world, in rich and poor countries, cities became highly attractive: a place for greater wealth, broader freedom, and more excitement. Running out of room, cities began to grow upwards, becoming vertical, climate-controlled, and neon-lit. Their growth was due to a flight from the poverty experienced in the countryside and the lure of the promise of living in a consumer paradise. Shanty towns became common place around the fringes of many cities in the developing world, and the gap between the rich and the poor widened, with women becoming the poorest of the world's citizens.
Europe having exhausted its resources and population in colonization and total war now experienced an influx of the people whom they had subjugated. In the spread of imperialism, ties had been made with the conquered people. For example, Asians from India, Pakistan, East Africa, and Trinidad made England their new home. In Wembley, North London, the local Hindu people imported a magnificent temple, stone by precious stone, from their native country.
In the United States, too, migration continued, not only from overseas and from the country to the city, but also from its borders. Los Angeles has the largest Mexican population outside Mexico city. Preserving their cultural traditions, the growing Hispanic population is slowly changing the European mix of America into a Latino one.
After its victory in the Second World War, the United States became the strongest economy on the earth. Besides the influx of new ideas and labor from immigrants, the emphasis on science and technology created a revolution in telecommunications. Radio, television, Hollywood movies, satellites, and advertising from America influenced the rest of the world. American celebrities became popular everywhere, from the songs of Elvis Presley to the fights of Muhammad Ali. A celebrity in America usually became an international celebrity. Towards the last decade of the century, America initiated the network of computers that we now know as the world wide web.
Communications created the first sense of a global community. Everyone was able to see everyone else and share common human interests and values. 200 million people watched the wedding of Princess Diana and a little over two billion watched her funeral. During the final World Cup Soccer match in 1998, 2 billion people watched it on television. With the advent of the mobile telephone, anybody on any street in the world could talk to anyone else anywhere on the planet.
Besides the thrill of watching each other, the human race also had a chance to watch itself. Perhaps the greatest benefit of the lunar expeditions was not pictures of a dead moon but the pictures of a living planet. Humanity began to see itself for the first time as a single species, rather than a collection of warring factions. From space, the planet looked like a big, blue marble floating in inky darkness. People noticed more ocean than land, the absence of any political borders, and the possibility of multinational friendships and the sharing of common experiences. Besides seeing itself, humanity also vicariously experienced the thrill of watching their home planet as a whole. Listening in to the astronauts live broadcast, they shared in their sense of awe.
While the balance of power shifted from Europe to North America, it then slowly began to shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific Rim. American supremacy was being challenged by the countries of the East.
One thousand years ago, Japan was isolated; in the 20th Century it started becoming an economic super-power.
Similarly, other "tiger economies" also erupted around the Pacific, with Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore creating cities that rivaled the cosmopolitan grandeur of North America. In Singapore, for example, the island has become a metropolis whose breathtaking skyline is only rivaled by that of Shanghai.
One thousand years ago, the silk roads to China led to the most refined civilization on earth. China had already invented printing, paper currency, the compass, the water clock and gunpowder. In the 21st Century, it is poised to become the new global super-power, because of huge foreign investments, particularly from Chinese living overseas, as well as the money generated by its population of one billion people.
The greatest dilemma of the future is not our powerlessness, but our power, and not our stupidity, but our immense intelligence.
We have used industrial and nuclear power to create the terror that made the terror of Genghis Khan, Timor, and other megalomaniacs of previous centuries look like amateurs.
We have also built up cities, explored space and our own minds and hearts, migrated closer to each other, and shared technology and communication.
In our most glorious century, we have known both the agony of wide scale destruction and the joy of rebirth.
We have seen what we all look like and shared our fondest cultural snapshots with each other.
It seems that in the last century of the last millennium everything changed for humanity.
Sigmund Freud exposed our dark human instincts. Evil men dominated whole nations and slaughtered millions. Conquering people began to coexist with those that they had once subjugated. Economic power shifted from one part of the globe to another. And the rate of knowledge expanded at a bewildering pace. Never before had humankind experienced so much, learned so much, and been exposed to so much raw power that it had learned to harness from nature.
In this new century we find ourselves experiencing an expansion of the cultural and global patterns we created earlier, and our greatest strength, our raw power and unsurpassed intelligence, can also turn out be our demise as a planet.
Through the past 1,000 years, humanity has suffered immensely through widespread pestilence, freakish changes in weather, wholesale slaughter instigated by ambitious men, and political and economic oppression. Much of our history has been founded on death and destruction, rape, humiliation, and torture. Human beings repeatedly proved themselves more cruel and savage than any other animal on the planet. This trend still continues in war regions around the globe.
Humanity has survived despite the disasters of the past. But now things must change because another epidemic, another change in weather, or another war is enough to end it all because the world is much more populated and much more closely knit.
Now in the 21st century, we see that in order to evolve we have to give up religious intolerance, territorial aggression, and the lust for power and dominion. The barbaric element in human nature has to die out. The combination of megalomaniacs as well as the sheep-like obedience of the masses created unspeakable misery. Ironically, many of these megalomaniacs are worshipped as heroes in their countries to this day, from Genghis Khan of the Mongols all the way to Hideyoshi of Japan. Perceived as "strong men" their atrocities and cruelties forgotten, they are celebrated in songs, dramas, and ceremonial rituals. Many of them were extremely pious men, like Timor or Mehmed the Conqueror, who built mosques with the same fervor with which they slaughtered and tortured their enemies.
If humanity has made it through all the centuries, it has not been because of its heroes, who followed a pattern of brutal conquest followed by eras of law-giving to preserve their gains, but despite them. It is the saints and the thinkers who allowed knowledge to be preserved and transmitted until it has expanded to be what it is today.
We must cultivate the virtues of curiosity, intelligence, and consideration. None of this is new. It has been preached by avatars, prophets, philosophers and scholars for centuries.
As the communication tools of technology become more sophisticated across the globe so does the grasp and power of big government and corporations, leading to the possibility of a new serfdom.
Eventually our problems will be too big for any one government to handle and a world government will evolve, but will it be a totalitarian government, where all citizens are electronically tagged and controlled with ruthless efficiency, an Orwellian nightmare, or will it be more like Athens, where genius and creativity birthed whole new visions of what was possible.
In a nutshell, a whole new design is in the making and each of us can play a small role in making a difference to the welfare of the whole of humanity.
A brave new world awaits us and each of us most do our part to birth it. Generations yet unborn depend on it. Unless humanity evolves to become more intelligent and peace-loving, we will not survive past this century. The next 100 years will be ones of pivotal change. Will it be change for good or ill? As the forces of change accelerate, we will experience a psychedelic pandemonium, which if left unchecked will create hellish conditions for all, unless we take the time now to perceive the subtle order that arises from wisdom and kindness.
If human history were a game of chess, the last 1,000 years could be considered the middle game, and the present time we are moving into is the end game. If human decency prevails, we have a chance to win. Looking at our past, we see our savagery and stupidity far outweighed the glimmer of intelligence and humanitarianism. Perhaps, it can change.
A brave new world awaits those who will rise to be intelligent enough to work its transformation. This intelligence will not be only of the mind, but of the heart as well, an intelligence of compassion.
Saleem Rana is a psychotherapist in Denver, Colorado. If you're up to the challenge and want to create the kind of freedom and lifestyle you truly deserve - starting now - then get his free book from