In a time of instant communication across the world, and other technological progress, isn’t it time we moved beyond making resolutions which affect the next year to awakening awareness of the knowledge we now have and applying it to a much longer time period. We can’t be proud of the world we currently live in, nor can we want to pass on the current mess to those who come after us, hopefully down the centuries ahead if our planet survives in a habitable form.

Out world is currently in a mess. Look at the many wars currently waging across our world, most, if not all, with no signs of resolution. Look at the unequal distribution of wealth, not always based on distribution of currently needed resources. Even within countries many, if not all, show this unequal distribution. Few seem to accept that those born in positive situations are always the most talented and gifted. Any country which has poverty and lack of opportunities for any of its citizens, which again covers most, if not all, are missing out on those citizen’s talent and ability, which no country can afford to do. Why does this happen? Because those who get to the top tend to be addicts of money or power or both. They tend to think of enhancing their own lives instead of the world we are wrecking.

Where do we start to clean up this mess? Firstly this means educating everyone, and providing for their needs, regardless of their status, power or current knowledge. We need to recognise that everyone has something to offer to help save our future. Then we need to find some way of allowing all talents and knowledge to be utilised. This can only be achieved through a democracy. The trouble is that few, if any, countries have really achieved this. The USA, one of the most influential, has just elected a President the majority of its citizens did not vote for. This suggests that we still haven’t invented a true democracy.

I believe that this is the invention we haven’t yet discovered and is the one we desperately need. Even when we discover it we will need to disempower those who want personal wealth, power and influence from their current monopoly of nation, and hence world, leadership. There have been a few, sometimes unofficial, leaders in the past who have achieved it, people we remember often for decades after their death, but these are rare and often outside official roles. Names such as Gandhi and Mandela come to mind. It is leaders such as these, who are largely urging equality and opportunity for all, we should be enabling to be leaders.

Our New Technology Century resolution should be to fight for democracy and equality and a world in which we all unite to preserve our planet for those coming after us. This would be a far greater legacy to leave than merely the Technology Revolution which often contributes to our current possible destruction of our environment and annihilation as a species. Weapons which cause massive destruction, harm and suffering are not a good legacy for us to leave for those who follow us.

Not Happy New Year but Happy (rest of the) New Technology Century should be our wish and ambition.

 

As we speed towards 2017, which will mean that we are well ensconced in the 21st century, we still face a great deal of uncertainty and still have no concept of ourselves as guardians of this planet. Technology has helped in that people across the world, either close by or on the opposite side, can usually contact each other within seconds, but we still behave as individuals, with little concept of our joint role as preservers of humanity itself. In fact most people still think in terms of their own patch of land, be it the building they live in, the town/city and the country  their lives are clustered around, with minimum global concept beyond those limits.

The problems the world (this planet we have named earth) seems to have has little or no place in our, or our leaders, lives. Our thoughts seem to be focussed around our own little patch, a relic of mankind’s history, with no attempt to look beyond this. I once taught in a private girls school, which was favoured by at least one prime minister for the education of his daughter. One of the staff reckoned the school motto should be ‘Me’ because that seemed to be the students’ focus! That could easily apply to so many people in today’s world, including leaders.

We are all familiar with the industrial revolution and how it changed the lives of so many people. I suspect that this century will be recognised for the knowledge revolution which is likely to change the lives of far more people across the globe, both for better or worse. The latter effect will be entirely our responsibility as holders of this knowledge and responsible for how we use it.

There seems to be an acceptance of democracy as the most acceptable way of ruling, with greater personal freedom not only in choice of lifestyle but in expression of ideas and knowledge. It is not yet an idea anyone has perfected, with most countries having an unacceptable level of poverty and homelessness. Public demonstrations against the ruling party is a healthy part of this, unless they go on for too long (an indication that the people are not being listened to) or if violence is involved suggesting another agenda.

We enter the new year with one major player in world affairs having a leader who constantly  changes his mind and another who faces huge poverty levels (they don’t publish the figures) with an additional 6 million of his people facing job losses in major industries. Meanwhile his government is building weapons structures which threaten major trade routes. Hardly a positive picture.

Meanwhile, on a lesser scale, countries such as Australia have their own struggle with the knowledge boom. The Prime Minister has publicly denounced the advice of the chief scientist on climate change, an essential part of the world’s survival. Neither the Prime Minister, or his senior cabinet, seem to have any expertise in this area. In fields where they do have knowledge it was obtained in the last century and is largely out of date, but unrecognised as such. This is why it is so important to employ qualified advisors and take their advice.

We need to change our approach to governance, and sharing our planet, if we are to survive.

 

The Australian Parliament has just risen for the long summer holiday (not an expression they use!). It tends to lead us to a point where we look backwards and forwards, not only in Australia but in terms of the situation worldwide.

I think that all those who live in a so-called democracy would feel that it is the best form of governance over a large number of people, either individual groups of people from one parcel of land calling itself a nation, or groups of nations together calling themselves another name such as the European Union, with a looser alliance. The latter may or may not be a long-term stable relationship as we are seeing through Brexit. The other alternative is a binding together under a harsher regime such as a dictatorship.

Those of us who live under a loosely termed democracy feel we have the better deal but I suspect that we are being conned to a greater or lesser extent. My impression is that quite a lot of people in Britain feel that Brexit was a wrong decision, even though the population appeared to vote for it. By this I mean people voted according to the information they were given, largely as reported in the press. So did the press have an unrecognised power?

The recent American election also had its faults given that the candidate most voters wanted is not the one they have. This has created a quite disturbing situation given that this new powerful man in the world often makes conflicting statements so no-one really knows what he thinks, or, more importantly, what he will do.

The Australian parliament is nowhere near as important as this but what we see is the damage that can be done in a country which claims to be democratic and is only marginally in conflict with some of its neighbours. Two areas of governance in the last week have particularly troubled me. Any boss who requires their workers to work until midnight day after day would be regarded as a law-breaker since there is a huge danger in making unfair and unreliable laws in that state of tiredness. Not only that, unacceptable deals were done on the basis of ‘I’ll vote for your legislation if you vote for mine’ for legislation they wouldn’t otherwise have voted for. This is not democracy in which elected members are supposed to represent their constituencies and vote according to the latter’s wishes. An even more blatant violation of this is when members are given ‘a conscience vote’ on issues. Their conscience, or beliefs, have nothing to do with what they were elected for. Meanwhile whilst this horse trading is going on, large groups in the population have their needs unmet. Those who don’t fit into the accepted male/female categories, the poor and the needy, in other words the majority of the population, have their needs unmet and live as second class citizens. We call this democracy. I don’t think it is full democracy.

I suspect what we really need in the months ahead is for the citizens of the world to get together and define what real democracy is and insist that our elected leaders follow this new role for themselves. I don’t think it will even happen in my lifetime unfortunately.

We all seem to be agreed that there have been huge advances made in world knowledge in the past 30+ years yet we tend not to take this, and its implications, any further. My oft expressed feeling is that much of the increase has bypassed many of our leaders on the world stage and they don’t recognise its how dangerous this is. For example, it is nearly 50 years since Trump went anywhere near a text-book, assuming he hasn’t done so since he did his undergraduate degree. Much of the knowledge revolution will have bypassed him and others in similar positions of influence and power.

An even bigger disadvantage of this ‘head in the sand’ attitude to learning is that much of the new knowledge will also bypass our young people in school unless we realise what is happening. We can’t continue with this ‘what was good enough for us is good enough for them’ attitude. We live in a world of new and progressive knowledge and it is dangerous to try to pretend it isn’t happening.

A few years ago we had a review of our education system in Australia and seemed to take the view that real change was largely too expensive so lets forget about it. Some of the changes will be implemented, such as new equipment, but much won’t be, particularly ideas which enable teachers to have a new attitude and provide an environment in which their creativity can be enabled. Far too much stress, and money, is currently directed at national testing which at best is severely limited. The current model includes labelling the neighbourhoods in which schools are located in terms of economic status! Thank goodness nobody labelled me at school. My life would have taken a very different path and would have been unlikely to include 5 degrees, with 3 higher degrees and a Ph.D!

School principals should be the knowledge leaders in their schools, which implies updating their qualifications, leaving the everyday running of the school to non-teachers. This would enable them to concentrate on bringing out the creativity in their teaching staff and providing an environment in which this could flourish. True and productive leadership.

A few weeks ago I attended an assembly at a local primary school. It was beautifully coordinated, with children involved as much as possible but on the teachers’ terms. The children sang well, standing tall and with their arms neatly tucked in beside them, a good reflection of 20th century discipline! A modern 21st century school would have had the children fully participating, letting their bodies express the music too. Ownership was well and truly in the hands of the staff.

To me full participation means that the children are really immersed in their learning, whether it be music, robotics, English or mathematics or any other subject, and it isn’t compartmentalised into what happens inside the often prisonlike school structures and the external learning which defines the world we live in. The two worlds would be complementary.

Schools seem to have changed little in the last 50 years, with only marginal improvements in class size and replacement of blackboards etc. The change we need is to recognise that our teachers are artists and should be given freedom to use their imaginations and be recognised as the backbone and strength of the system. This would help to marry what is taught and learned in schools to be applicable to the world outside. I suspect our failure rate, and drop out rate amongst the students, would decline and teachers would have more pride in their work and be less likely to drop out themselves. Real, up-to-date modern education.

It is fairly easy to measure progress in technological terms, although how we appropriately or otherwise apply it is less so, but trying to do the same the same with moral progress is a very different story.

If we look back on our history, from mankind starting out from one specific area and spreading to inhabit almost the whole world, we have made enormous progress. Things we regard as fairly trivial today, such as early man learning how to swim and subsequently including fish in the diet, and the influence of this on the development of our brains, were huge steps forward at the time. Can we say the same about our moral development?

What sort of people are we electing as our leaders to take our own particular patch of the world forward? The westernised world has moved on from leaders who led by the example of brute force but what have we replaced it with? Whoever wins the U.S. election will be someone who has reached their present position through being rich, not by their ability except through being able to take money off other people (i.e.getting rich). Neither of them seem to feel that the unnecessary and debilitating wealth imbalance is anything that should concern them.

In other countries there seems to be a reliance on the ability of one side or another to acquire more weapons, and more powerful weapons, than the other side. Acquiring manpower for those weapons is achieved through fear or loyalty. Last night I watched a documentary on the war in Afghanistan by a western reporter embedded with the government army. What a dreadfully derelict country that is, and it would be difficult to make it prosperous for all its citizens even without a war.

Our moral progress is woefully behind our technological progress in most, if not all, the world. How can we move over to work together and make sure every human being has the opportunity to lead a happy life, with at least all our basic needs satisfied and with hope of rising above that level. The current situation in which our behaviour is threatening the very existence of life support on earth is bringing some of us together, although there are some inadequately educated people who are opposing even this idea, making it more difficult to address universally.

If only we could form a united world in which people put down their weapons and gave away their wealth to work towards mankind’s survival. After all, our primitive ancestors managed to achieve this.

 

 

The only mention made of death in our society is usually through the old saying that taxes and death are the only two certainties in life. The rest of the time it seems to be a taboo subject. The only certainty about it is that it will happen, yet for most of us the how, where and when are not only complete uncertainties but not discussed.

I’m trying to work out how long I will last, given my current age, life expectancy for my age group and restrictions such as chronic illness. This sounds really potent yet seems to be the medical name for diabetes and other common diseases which affect life expectancy. I felt really doomed when I first heard the expression, but life has gone back to normal since then!

For older people it probably makes life a bit easier if we can work out a rough, probably inaccurate time limit. It gives us a bit of a time-line for things we would like to achieve before then, such as tidying up and sorting through possessions (called rather cutely ‘downsizing’!). It doesn’t seem to work for me, having recently passed on a whole lot of books I knew I would never read to charity, then restocking with other books I thought I might read!

The other uncertainties we face are the how  and where. Most people say they would like to die at home but few do. I suspect that this could be caused by medicos trying to use their new devises and medications on us when we would prefer to just quietly leave this world.

The big problem is the current discussion we are currently having in Australia about being allowed to do have a hand in our death and allow us to advance it when medication is not currently available to so painlessly. Euthanasia has almost been a taboo topic and is often described as murder. There are quite a few countries intelligent enough to allow it under very strict conditions and it seems to work well, with the conditions imposed preventing abuse. The opponents to this practise seem to base their objections on reasoning which is not based on intelligence and knowledge. These are often the same people who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion. The problem is that although their ranks are being reduced because more people are applying reason and logic to arguments, based on modern knowledge, these groups still have a traditional influence which they inflict on all of us.

If people oppose those of us who want to be able to die to escape excruciating pain, why should this minority be allowed to dictate what we choose to do? If I still looked at the world through religious eyes I suspect I would think that if God hadn’t yet released to us the knowledge to reduce all pain to a bearable level, then why shouldn’t we use the God-given knowledge we already have to choose to end our suffering? How heartless are these people if they are prepared to force their own families to have to watch them suffer needlessly, often for weeks and months? Not my idea of a Christian, loving world in which we really care about those we love, as well as our neighbours, in its full definition.

Dying would be less of a worrying uncertainty if people didn’t have to face the possibility of unrelieved excruciating pain accompanying it. Lets at least make this a certainty.

I seem to have become involved in a jigsaw recently which I would rather not have participated in.

It started when I read an article about the importance of management in the success of a company. If management don’t appreciate their staff, and make them aware of how much they are valued, it has disastrous consequences. This shows in a high rate of ‘sickies’ among staff and high staff turnover rates. With the former it means carrying extra staff where their presence is necessary, such as in hospitals and nursing homes. For all businesses having to regularly replace staff who resign is expensive, thus raising operating costs.

The second part of the jigsaw was learning that our local public hospital has the highest sickie rate of any of the comparable facilities in the area. The person in charge blamed the nurses, apparently unaware that research shows that the blame in such situations lies with management. Worse still I have since been told that their figures have deteriorated further this year.

The third and final puzzle piece was when the safety officer of a major hospital in the U.S. was quoted as saying that the greatest threat to the safety of the patients was the relationship between the staff. Put these pieces together and I hope that neither I, my family or my friends have to be admitted to this local hospital.

The situation was brought home to me recently when a family member went into hospital, fortunately to another one, a private one. What struck me was the wonderful relationship between the staff, from the nurse in charge of the ward to the trainee nurse doing a university placement there. Both said how much they enjoyed their work. The older one said she had worked there for 17 years. What impressed me even more was that this was 21st century care as it wasn’t just the medical care that was done as a team but they also included patients and visitors who were given the impression that they were also part of the team. This is commendable as of course they all have a role to play in patient recovery.

This recognition of team work, rather than the hierarchical model which characterised the last century, is valuable knowledge to enable all organisations to reach the highest standards in all aspects of their work, leading to higher productivity. It is absolutely necessary in all businesses, but particularly where people’s lives and well-being are at risk.

 

 

These are the two major influences in my life at present and as time goes on they both get more urgent!

I have always been interested in education, not only personally but because I spent almost all of my life teaching, mainly in high schools but also University. I also continuously updated my own knowledge base, ending up with 5 degrees, the latest, a Ph.D. at age 76. I had one short stint away from teaching learning to be a computer programmer but found I missed human company as in those days programmers worked on their own! What a different world!

Computers have made a huge change in human life, something we can expect to continue to happen. We should have seen the knowledge explosion coming. From our early history we know that as groups grew their knowledge and new ideas grew with them. Today we can contact people across the world instantaneously so obviously our knowledge is growing at the same rate.

This is why life long learning becomes increasingly important, and it shows! The main people who seem to be unaware of its importance are those to whom it should be obvious, and be vitally necessary, our leaders. What is happening in Syria currently is an absolute disgrace. It is happening because leaders around the world were educated in the last century and have missed out on the knowledge which has happened since, at a time when the world is going through a knowledge explosion. How else can we explain why today’s leaders see a problem and take the old-fashioned way out of it, which usually means inhumane, costly and ineffective solutions, usually killing. Eventually, after much regrettable behaviour and death and suffering, not of course to the leaders, they decide to talk about the problem. How unintelligent this path is.

At citizen level we worry about the crime rate yet the only solution we use is to protect society from criminals by locking them up for a while. When they are released the majority go out and repeat the cycle. This isn’t a 21st century solution, it is a 20th century band-aid. We know so much more now.

So many people wonder how the USA has got itself into the current situation where leadership choice in the most influential country in the world seems to rest on which group can come up with the most dirt about the other. How uneducated! There are far bigger problems than this in the world such as liberty, poverty, disease, lack of access to food and fresh water and education which we should be tackling.

So where does ageing fit into all this? Same problems. I’ve just come across another world-wide group in this field who I am sure likes to think of themselves as world leaders, the IAGG. Yet they also don’t give discounts to pensioners to attend their next international conference and presumably don’t really want us there. Conferences on ageing without the ageing? Another example of a group educated in the 20th century who haven’t moved on. Ageing is currently a major problem, created by the so-called experts who haven’t yet realised that to be efficient and successful in their work they need to involve the real experts, ageing people themselves.

So many problems in the world would no longer exist, or be solved, if leaders updated their knowledge and education so that they thought and spoke from a 21st century knowledge platform.

 

Last night I went to a talk about how the digitised world is changing our lives, not just as individuals but more importantly how it is changing the world around us.

As individuals we are mildly concerned about personal security of ourselves and particularly our children. There are many benefits from having a mobile phone which I personally appreciate knowing that if I am ever in strife I can get help, no matter where I am. This is probably the reasoning parents go through when giving their children a phone, not realising how it can be abused, including by school bullies, causing an enormous amount of distress. Many of those doing the bullying are probably just adopting the culture of other kids without realising how harmful it can be, particularly when they live in a world where bullying is not properly defined and therefore recognisable.

The speaker at the talk mentioned that the school her brother’s children go to (in the USA) use fingerprints for identification. They no longer need to take the role and automatically know which children are at school. If they do multiple checks during the day they also know where each child is. At the most recent school bombing in that country parents were called to the school, unable to be told if their children were involved until they got to the school. There are usually pluses and minuses in new systems.

What last night’s talk was mainly about was digital change in the workplace and the necessity for people from all different areas of expertise to be involved. The value of teams was mentioned, and particularly teams composed of people from different age groups. I hope that this aspect of our new lives will be taken up by others. We not only need experts representing different areas of progress in the digitalised world but also we need to be able to put them in perspective in a time frame.

We cannot avoid this new world we are moving into, which offers us so many benefits, but we need to recognise it as a mixed blessing which we need to make sure we have control of, not an easy task particularly as it attracts talented people who see its potential to harm others without being caught.

One of the main problems with it is that often senior people who are sanctioning its use in their business are not as fully aware that it has drawbacks as well as its benefits. The recent hacking of the Australian Census, which is not universally accepted as a hacking event, shows the difficulties. The fact that it couldn’t be denied as a hacking event even by the top experts in the country shows the degree of difficulty the world faces with the new technology.

No matter how complex the topic is we need to keep ourselves grounded. It amused me that in arranging a discussion on what is probably the major problem facing the world today the organisers hadn’t thought to arrange for the old technology of microphones to be used making it hard for some of us to follow the discussion!

The other day I watched the American debate between the two major candidates for President. Both of them are very wealthy, with one boasting of his wealth to prove how successful he is in life, the currently accepted measure. The picture would be very different if people in so-called developed countries worshipped different goals, one in which everyone was equal, with some having more appropriate talents than others, a group of succeeders who felt obliged to help those less well-endowed. This of course would be a very different world in which war, misery and suffering were greatly reduced  and we could take a common pride in our world, our planet and our achievements. We would go a long way towards this if we stopped applying the word ‘wealthy’ to people who are actually money addicts whose craving for the substance is never satisfied. The problem is that the object of their desire can’t be grown, it has to be taken from other people. Yet these are the people we look up to as potential leaders.

Another word which is frequently abused is the word ‘education’. I think most people would define it as an opportunity to gain knowledge. Unfortunately our definition stops there, particularly when we try to define how such a desirable situation is to be achieved. If we do try, we continue we use words like schools and books, with today adding more sophisticated equipment, such as computers.

These thoughts arose when I took my granddaughters to a school holiday program run by the National Museum of Australia. The theme for every program is based on whatever exhibition the museum currently has running, in this case medieval life. The children were firstly given some knowledge about the topic and then they were asked to make something appropriate, in this case their own crown and shield, which they take home, and they also help to build a castle which successive groups of children will add to. The magic in this program is the talent and imagination the teachers (and helpers) have put into it. It is a non-competitive environment and the children automatically strive to produce their best efforts simply because they are interested and want to. The fact that the teaching staff are also really enjoying what they are doing is the magic ingredient which makes this work.

Our problem is that when we think about education we rarely think in terms of creating a non-competitive environment in which all concerned, from classroom teachers, to school principals, to education departments of universities, to ministries of education can encourage students to be imaginative, to think differently, and to come up with new ideas. Yet these are the talents people living and working in the 21st century need. The problem is that those involved in education are either innovative young teachers who frequently end up toeing the line, or older people whose goal is the next promotion. We then test the success of the current system by using past methods which are no longer relevant in the 21st century, national testing which really measures little yet takes up a lot of time and money.

If we really want a world in which most people can be successful and achieve then we need to rethink our values and the words we use to define them. We need to work out what the world and its populations need and work towards it. We all need to move into the 21st century with more appropriate definitions and goals. Otherwise the planet will become  unlivable and our descendants will die out.