As our planetary crisis deepens, radical new visions of the future are bubbling up like never before. All the norms, rules, traditions and taboos that we've taken for granted for centuries are suddenly up for grabs. As Einstein famously pointed out, we cannot solve a problem by using the same type of thinking that created the problem in the first place.
So what are some of the scenarios that could change the direction of our civilization?
Could a new messiah, a modern day Buddha, Muhammad or Jesus, suddenly appear on YouTube with a message that goes viral and sparks a spiritual movement that takes humanity by storm? Could he—or maybe this time a she—demolish all the sacred cows and false gods we currently worship—growth, consumerism, individuality, freedom, progress—and give us a new understanding of the true purpose of our existence here on this Earth?
Could an astronomer sitting in an observatory high in the Andes suddenly stumble upon intelligent life on another planet? What an existential jolt that would be! And then, could the humbling realization that we are not alone, that a spirit really does pervade the whole universe . . . that in the vastness of the cosmos other civilizations on other planets have sprung up, peaked and waned just like ours is doing right now—could this be the answer that finally solves the great civilizational quest for meaning we've been on since our beginnings?
Or, on a more mundane plane, could ten thousand university campuses explode like they did back in 1968 and creatively destroy our current global system? Could the Greek anarchists, Spanish indignados, the Occupy forces, the yabastaers, Gezi greenies and Rio revelers rise simultaneously on a clear Autumn day and pull off a coordinated occupation of the whole world?
Or imagine this: a bunch of fired up back end programers develop an open source, real world KILLCAP game that gets a billion activists jamming the system every day until the cost of doing business as usual becomes too hard to bear. Yeah, these are beautiful pipe dreams . . . nicely served over a midnight bottle of tequila.
But maybe our best hope of derailing the planetary trainwreck is something much more ordinary, anticlimactic even . . . like a slow, imperceptible cultural heave, one that gives way to a renaissance of conviviality. We grow tired of the consumerist orgy, the rat race, the moral one-upmanship . . . the wars, the secrets, the punitive strikes, the holocausts and genocides, the stultifying bureaucracy of techno-capitalism. We move, as Ed Vulliamy wrote in a recent Guardian Weekly article, from “some combination of cocaine, Red Bull and Viagra towards aromatic coffee, a cool aperitif and an afternoon snooze.” We jump from pyramid to rhizome thinking, from a hard helvetica, top-down corpo-driven culture towards a soft, organic DIY one. We learn to play jazz and start living lives of never-ending spontaneous creativity and uninhibited play . . . We wake up one morning feeling happy!
The capitalist algorithm we're currently caught in has turned our planet into a death star. The internet, virtual reality, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, green markets, wind turbines . . . none of these innovations will save us. Our only chance of transitioning into a sane sustainable future is to stumble onto something that we feel in our bones, something not yet here, but the spirit of which—its essence, its taste, its tone, its resonance—we can feel all around us in the touch of a lover, a chat with a bright-eyed stranger, a quiet moment in the wild.