The Common Wealth – Is there room for emergent values?

In my Christmas 'ought to reads' pile was Reclaiming Our Common Wealth's values list.

Perhaps influenced by Tim Flannery's new book 'The Weather Makers', and 'The Singularity Is Near,' by Ray Kurzweil, it occurred to me that these values are an arrangement (a fine arrangement) of traditional values.

Might there be room for emergent values? Is there scope to define and appreciate that which we have only recently invested? Is there room to assess the worth of new values, particularly those held by our youth, the maturity and manifestation into policy of which will certainly underpin our future common wealth, along with revisions of traditional values? Perhaps such fresh values might also further distinguish NM values from traditional conservative values?

In Australian society there are many ideas and desires that have only lately attracted deep emotional and broad-societal investment. These should be considered, especially those with growing relevance to our social development and to our individual self-esteem.

One such example: did we, do we, will we or should we formally value the role of technology?

The preamble mentions that Australia's innovation has been a model for other countries. This is where clear reference to newness though seems to end.

Thanks to Leahy

An Australian born in 1988 has an emotional investment in 'technological development' unimaginable to the 18 year old who watched the moon landing live. The differences between the values engendered by the moon landing were similarly unimaginable to those young Australians that experienced the advent of electric lighting.

There is a trend here. It's exponential in the sense of sociological relevance and increasingly influential in terms of cultural growth. For our values to be most useful in an increasingly changing world, they need engage with non-traditional change, they need to assist us to handle change.

Yet the words science, technology, future, creation, biodiversity, information, adaptation, uncertainty, do not appear, let alone find themselves, or their emergent consequences, acknowledged in the text.

Whereas John Howard's idealised 1950's perspective may not have much use for the emotional and ethical valuation of, for instance, technology, Australia will have difficulty advancing and competing without some considered regard for the emergent values that will help steward such change in the 21st Century.

Here are a few things to consider:

– There were 3 Billion people on earth in 1960 and by 2000 there was 6 Billion.

– 70% of the world's people alive today will be alive in 2050.

– With 18.4 million mobile phone subscribers, the Australian market is considered saturated (there are 11.46 million land line subscribers) yet last year there was a 33% increase in SMS (Short Message Service) activity, mostly via pre-paid contracts, the majority of whom are under the age of 25.

– Last year the computer game industry grew to the size of the movie industry (~ US$ 8.5 Billion) and is projected to overtake it this year. Technologically enabled interaction and dialogue is proving more attractive than passive viewing.

The tides of time will eventually drag all anchors for public policy, no matter how meaningful. But if our values also speak to change, we can ensure that, according to our aspirations, we always drop a virtuous anchor on a respectable substrate.

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