Wisdom for the Future

“For whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

What we sow in our organizations and technologies today, we will one day reap. Life is unpredictable, and we don’t know exactly what we are now creating for our future. But there are clues to what lies ahead, clues that can be found in the foundations we are now busily building with our organizations and our technologies.

One thing that we do know about our future organizations and technologies is that they will require energy and resources, just as they do today. What those energies and resources will be is unknown, but what seems relatively clear is that they will feed our economy’s shift from the physical to the ethereal. As a society, we are now investing massive amounts of energy and resources into processing data, information and knowledge, and our organizations and tools are evolving quite rapidly in response.

In a world where the dominant species is now capable of harnesses planet-changing quantities of energy, and a growing proportion of that energy serves the growing etherealization of its economy, radical change is certain. This ongoing acceleration of information processing power raises many questions. But there is one that I believe is particularly pressing.

It is the question of wisdom.

Wisdom is not just one more step in a chain of data, information, and knowledge. Wisdom is different.

We know this to be true, even if we cannot agree on how or why it is true. We know wisdom when we experience it. We feel different when we are in the presence of someone who is truly wise. We feel assured by the sense that their intelligence is trained on some higher purpose, that the human heart is integrally intertwined in all they do.

Gandhi was wise. He was intelligent too, of course, but when we think of the man, it’s not usually the intelligence that comes to mind, but the wisdom. Why is that? The answer to that question is crucial to our ability to distinguish between wisdom and mere intelligence or knowledge.

That ability is critically important. One of the most amazing aspects of our species is our ability to produce people with deep levels of wisdom. They emerge from the crowd as though on cue when our less desirable qualities threaten to take us over. Quietly and compassionately, they guide us back from the ledge.

Within our new pantheon of data, information and knowledge, is there room for wisdom? Will we make room for the truly wise within the organizations that are shaping our cutting-edge technologies, those organizations with disproportionately large impacts on our future? Will wisdom be encoded into these organizations and the technologies they produce?

I have no answers to these questions – and the truth is, none of us do. For we truly do not know what the future will bring.

The one thing that is safe to say, however, is that the choices we make today deeply shape what we will live tomorrow. If we don’t divert some of our massive investments of energy and resources to bake a little wisdom into our technologies and organizations, we may not like what we reap.



Image: Gandhi (Wikimedia), Martin Luther King Jr. (Wikipedia), Buddha (Chris Campbell)