Age of Fusion

August 20, 2013
By Sundeep Waslekar

I don’t know if this is a coincidence. The first century of every millennium seems to foster a great effort for fusion.

In the first century after Christ, Europe, India and China, at a time when they were not connected by any means, consolidated the idea of state and promoted the idea of civil law. This was the culmination of an extraordinary process of fusion of minds without any direct interaction. Five or six centuries earlier, the three regions had seen the birth of modern knowledge almost the same time. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in Greece, Confucius in China and Chankaya, Charak and Vishnu Sharma in India were contemporaries. They all flourished at the same time in different place. So powerful were their thought processes that they provided intellectual cornerstone of the kingdoms that were formed for the next five hundred years. Finally, around the first century the state and its law became acceptable as the basis of modern organisation of society in Rome, which had now replaced Greece as the European centre, China and India.

A thousand years later, the Umayyad royal family in Baghdad made a systematic effort to bring about fusion of knowledge from all parts of the world. The royal court recruited Muslim, Christian and Jewish experts to translate ancient Greek and Indian wisdom, while traders explained Chinese methods. The result was an explosion of science and philosophy, bringing about the unity of ideas from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Now, a thousand years later, fusion is taking place at all levels. It is in science where Large Hadron Collider, International Thermo Nuclear Experimental Reactor and SARS virus research involve expertise and funds from all continents.  It is in music where a Korean group produces a number based on Western style and then it goes viral in the West and East alike. It is in philosophy and culture where a Harvard professor becomes more popular than a rock star in China and the Confucius Institutes and Alliance Francaise spread all over Africa and Latin America.

But the fusion of the 21st century is not merely confined to collaboration of cultures and civilizations. It is also the fusion of disciplines of knowledge. Genomics is integrated with super computers. Biology influences nanotechnology. Information technology is blended with water distribution systems. And plants are grown as medicine.

Furthermore, the fusion of our times blends different kinds of beings. Human organs are cultivated in animal bodies. Genes of different types are mixed. A new genome produced in a laboratory exports its characteristics to an importing body. In years from now, we may not have full humans. There will be fusion of human beings with other beings and indeed of life with machines.

The big questions in the age of fusion will be if the speed of light will be surpassed or bypassed or if the Blood Brain Barrier will be broken or if the constants of nature will be found to be not so constant or if the structure of dark matter will be revealed. These are the questions the scientists are seized with. However, philosophers will be concerned about a bigger question. Will it be possible to balance power with principles in society just as energy and gravity are creatively balance in nature? If a mathematical formula is discovered to answer this question with precision of the laws of physics, the fusion of laws of nature and laws of humanity will take place.

If this happens, it will be possible to balance the needs of economic growth with those of environmental protection, to bring together the worlds of the rich and the poor and to create one human and natural civilization. This will be the ultimate fusion on the earth. The human mind will not rest there. It will then intensify its efforts to discover civilisations elsewhere in the universe and may even divert its energy to explore the purpose of universe.

Until such ultimate fusion happens, we will live in uncertain times.

In these uncertain times, some will search certainty in growth, some in governance, some in God and some in geopolitical games. But no single parameter will provide adequate insight. To understand an uncertain future, we will need to interpret the fusion of these four drivers of change.

Our complex world presents us a dual challenge. While we must learn to understand, anticipate and influence uncertain times, we must simultaneously explore deeply the dynamic of knowledge to find clues about how far fusion will go. Will it stop at the fusion of beings, technologies and disciplines or will it go as far as establishing symmetry between the world of space, time and matter with the world within human mind? Will constants of nature find their counterparts in constants of human behaviour? Will it at last be able to balance power and principles?

Our ability to meet this challenge will determine if humanity will enjoy revolutionary opportunities or if it will disintegrate with the onslaught catastrophic risks. To develop such ability in our age of fusion, at whatever pico-level we can, is the mission of Strategic Foresight Group, nothing less, nothing more. 

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