I want to build on what I have voiced yesterday when speaking about the need for a next enlightenment. As I have indicated, I think that we need to help people educate themselves about how to deal with large scale uncertainties.
There are several issues I would like to highlight:
– I have consciously phrased above “help people educate themselves”. This refers to Humboldt’s idea that it should not be academics who educate scholars, but human beings who educate themselves. It also refers to Humboldt’s idea that education is not identical to training people in specific professional skills, but means to grow as individual and become a person who is able to use her reason without external assistance. Clearly, this refers to Kant’s concept of enlightenment.
– I think that one of the biggest challenges for policy- and decision-makers is dealing with large scale uncertainties. Just developing some fancy tools that build on today’s risk tools will not do the job as today’s risk tools are severely limited. Many of them build on the frequentist notion of probability. They do a reasonable job when a sufficient amount of data is available, and when one can expect that the system that generated this data will not undergo substantial changes.
– For many global systems, we expect them to undergo substantial changes in the future. These changes will “devalue” the data from the past and subsequently devalue risk tools that need past data for projecting future risks. Instead, we need concepts and tools that help us build expertise about global systems, their future dynamics, and the uncertainties involved.
– Quick fixes will not do the job. I expect that we will need a further “round” of the enlightenment, which I like to denote as enlightenment 2.0, and which I expect to last for another 250 years. If, in 2250, we will have accomplished a decent job in dealing with global systems, more challenges will await us. Enlightenment 2.0 is only the next step. But as the Chinese say: The longest journey begins with the first step. I suggest to make the second one.