Friday, December 16, 2005

Kurt Vonnegut: Your Guess Is as Good as Mine

Persuasive guessing has been at the core of leadership for so long -- —for all of human experience so far -- —that it is wholly unsurprising that most of the leaders of this planet, in spite of all the information that is suddenly ours, want the guessing to go on, because now it is their turn to guess and be listened to.
It seems to me that Kurt Vonnegut has had the great good fortune of living his life a couple of minutes before midnight. Too bad there weren't more of him around when it might have done some good.

We must acknowledge, though, that persuasive guessers -- —even Ivan the Terrible, now a hero in Russia -- —have given us courage to endure extraordinary ordeals that we had no way of understanding. Crop failures, wars, plagues, eruptions of volcanoes, babies being born dead -- —the guessers gave us the illusion that bad luck and good luck were understandable and could somehow be dealt with intelligently and effectively.

Without that illusion, we would all have surrendered long ago. ...

I did surrender long ago, when it became crystal clear to me that humanity is incapable of behaving sustainably and that, as a result, we would face the consequences of exponentiation against limits.

It is easy to envision scenarios in which I am lucky enough to die realizing my outlook was wrong all along, that faith in seemingly outlandish technologies was justified, that Ehrlich and the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth were all wet.

Optimistic scenarios, though, seem bloody unlikely to materialize in the time required.

Humanity needs a miracle. Unfortunately, I'm not a man of faith. I'm just one who seems to have found a measure of serenity in resignation, like some of the characters in On The Beach.

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