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An excerpt from
"Creating Our Future in an Age of Transformation "

Bela H. Banathy (1994)

The Future Is Not What It Used To Be

Around the middle of the 20th century, a new stage emerged in societal evolution. It is often called by such terms as the "post-industrial society " (Bell, 1976), the "post-business society " (Drucker, 1989), the "post-modern society " (Harmon, 1990). These "post " designations clearly indicate transformation into soething very different from what was before, but we are not sure yet what that something is. There seems to be a general agreement, however, that this new stage of societal evolution has brought on new thinking, new perspectives, new scientific orientation, and a new, planetary world view. In his 1990 speech to the U.S. Congress, President Havel voiced his vision of a world in which history has accelerated. He said, "It will be the human mind that will notice this acceleration, give it a name, and transform "words into deeds. "

The acceleration of history and the obvious discontinuity between the industrial/machine age and the post-industrial/knowledge age have brought about massive transformations that have occurred much faster than corresponding changes in many of our social systems. These unprecedented transformations have created a perilous evolutionary impbalance, and an ever-widening evolutionary gap.

In earlier times, when social evolution was rather slow and gradual, adequate time was available for our various systems to keep up with changes and maintain a balanced state with their societal environments. The mechanisms for attaining such a balanced state wer adjustment and adaption. These mechanisms are guided by "negative feedback, " which calls for reducing or eliminating deviations from the preset norms and outcomes. Negative feedback calls for adjustments within the system, for the return to systems behavior by which to meet stated norms and expectations (Jantsch, 1980; Banathy, 1992.) Today, however, we are faced with a change in the nature of change. We are faced with constantly emerging new realities and massive transformations that call for changing and transforming the whole system. The mechanism that guides this change is "positive feedback, " which calls for amplifying deviation from existing norms. It calls for creating new norms and excpectations that are in sync with changed realities; it calls for the redesign of our systems and the design of new systems.

Faced with new realities, our sytems have to transform—as the society has transformed. They have to learn to co-change (co-evolve) with their constantly changing environments. Thus, it is imperative that we understand what these transformations and new realities are. We have to grasp their implications for systems, and apply our understanding of these implications to the transformation of our systems. We need to learn how to recreate our systems, how to redesign them so that they will have a "goodness of fit " with the emerged new realities. No small task by any means!


"In systems such as contemporary society, evolution is always a promise and devolution is always a threat. No system comes with a guarantee of ongoing evolution.

The challenge is real.

To ignore it is to play dice with all we have. To accept it is not to play God—it is to become an instrument of whatever divine purpose infuses the universe. "

--Ervin Laszlo


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