Last week, as I treaded through the Prado museum on ailing feet — with the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum still ahead of me — I marveled at the deluge of treasures from different points in the evolution of modern history. These periods yielded innovations in art and technology drastically eclipsing the pace of generations immediately preceding. I began speculating about the exact set of conditions that fueled these “golden eras”, and how these conditions could be met globally to facilitate most conducive climate to another “enlightenment” period of great human advancement. Another leap forward would be significant to presumably produce technological and intellectual treasures enhancing the lives of future generations.
The set of conditions that seems like the most logical starting point (backed by historical cases), would undoubtedly include widespread access to and dissemination of information, knowledge, and education. On the historical timeline, we live in an age in which one could argue that there is already an abundance of free knowledge and information. It is also true that the world has made great strides in the global fight against poverty. BUT, what if, we consider the opportunity cost of poverty (both absolute poverty in the cases of undeveloped countries and relative poverty in the cases of wealthy countries)?
Improving educations and economic opportunities at all levels on the human development ladder would indisputably lead to new bounties of transferable knowledge and improvements, thereof. Educational and economic opportunities will make the global information markets more conducive to discovering and maximizing talents. Would the opportunity cost of fighting poverty include accelerated innovation in clean energy, efficient healthcare systems; or even more simply by stifling violence, environmental damage, and excessive population growth? Healthcare, for instance, even in the most advanced societies can benefit from merging the focus on extending lifespan with the concept of improving healthspan (optimal holistic health and wellness throughout one’s lifespan). Likely, future innovations would extend to areas unseen and benefit generations, as well as the global environment they’ll be living in.
Aside from the inherent altruism, fighting poverty makes artistic and scientific participation more inclusive by attacking asymmetries in information and knowledge. In our modern world of extreme capital wealth, such necessary investments in human development are possible to achieve! We have the tools to realize unprecedented innovative participation. Human and economic development can be both a means and an end!
You must let suffering speak, if you want to hear the truth.
― Cornel West
(Image © Benjamin Anderson 2014)