Saving the World

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Saving the World is a method about producing such information that will prevent the World from collapsing because of major global threats, such as the following:

  • Climate change
  • Population growth
  • Water scarcity
  • Biodiversity loss
  • Poverty and related social instability
  • Pandemics
  • Economical crisis


The hypotheses are based on

  • intuition,
  • a lot of reading about the problems of the World and successful and (unfortunately mostly) unsuccessful attempts to alleviate the problems,
  • experiences on the human nature,
  • thinking about how things fit together.

Fallacies about different ways to save the World

I have participated several discussions where the participants present heated opinions about how the World will actually be saved. The main hypotheses about what will happen are the following.

  1. New technology will solve the problems.
  2. International agreements and legislation will change the behaviour of countries and people.
  3. People will reduce their consumption.
  4. Market forces will change the economy when the change is truly necessary.
  5. The World will not be saved.

The fallacy in these discussions is that although the different hypotheses sound very different, they are too ambiguous to be seriously tested against each other. Let's take an example by assuming that there will be an agreement about global carbon emission trade system in Copenhagen in December 2009. After that, many countries seriously start promoting energy efficient technologies and developing new energy sources such as solar energy plants in Sahara. People install heat pumps in their homes and due to increased fuel prices reduce home temperature. This is all likely to happen. So who will be right?

It is unlikely that the Copenhagen agreement alone will make this happen, as many of the processes were ongoing and accelerating already before the meeting. The new technology will indeed be applied. But people will also change their behaviour, partly because of cultural changes but also due to market forces. All these driving forces are interconnected and dependent on each other. All of them will be playing an important role before, say, 2020. Of course they will, because they have all been important forces in the era of globalisation since the Second World War. So it seems that everyone will right for sure except the last pessimist. But is it really so that only he can be wrong while everyone else is correct anyway?

Just think of the victims of hurricane Katrina, or those suffering of draught in Sahel, or the American car factory workers who lost their jobs because people came into their senses and stopped buying low-mileage cars. The world was not saved for them, and they have already lost their lives, homes, or jobs because of effects of climate change. Whatever happens, climate change will be disastrous to many people. But for many others who do not lose their lives, homes, or jobs, the world continues to be a pretty nice place. Saving the World is not a yes/no thing. What we do affects how much there will be suffering and where it will be located. But whatever happens, the world will be saved for some, and will not for some others. So, also the pessimist is right for sure.

My conclusion is that it is useless to argue about the method that will save the World. It actually boils down to a fight between the climate change and you, whatever your profession or role is. If you are an engineer, it's your primary challenge to develop profitable clean technologies, and not claim that international negotiators should develop such agreements that solutions will emerge. They won't emerge unless engineers like you do their technology part of the job. If you are a market salesman, you should think hard to develop services that will be bought when the society changes towards sustainability. And if you are a consumer, it is your task to choose your lifestyle and consumables sustainably.

But in addition to the primary task that each one has based on their primary role as engineer, diplomat, or economist, everyone also has a secondary task, which is extremely important as well. The consumer should tell the engineer why she is not interested a particular technology despite its small carbon footprint. The economist should tell a politician why certain parts of an agreement are in risk of producing wrong market incentives. And the engineer should tell the economist what is technically feasible within the next few years so that these developments can be promoted with a clever, sustainable taxation system.

In other words, all different groups should tell each other about things they know best, so that all others can adjust their primary tasks in the best possible way. This method is especially about developing, improving and speeding up the information flow between different groups. This choice is made because the stickiness in this learning process is a very typical problem even in the information society. And it is causing such delay that we cannot afford with climate change and the other major problems of the World.


Information about solutions is a powerful tool. However, not any information is enough.

  • The information must be about true solutions to the real problems.
  • The information must be available to and understood by the decision-makers.
  • The information must be available to and understood by those who control those who make decisions (in a democracy, the citizens).
  • The decision-makers must know that the citizens known what they should do and expect them to do it.

How is this information produced?

  1. There must be a place for this information in such a way that it is available to both decision-makers and citizens.
    → A website is created for making policy assessments. See Opasnet.
    1. The website must enable open participation and discussion about policies and anything relevant to the policies.
      → There must be a method for structured discussion. See Pragma-dialectics.
    2. The website must be organised in a way that its structure can be maintained even with a lot of data and participation.
      → The website must have a systematic and uniform information structure. See universal object and PSSP ontology.
    3. The contents must develop in such a way that true statements are more likely to persist than false ones.
      → The website must apply the scientific method, i.e. everything is subject to scientific criticism.
      1. The information structure must support and enhance the scientific method.
        → Each object should have a research question (scope), a description how to answer it (definition), and an estimate of the answer (result).
    4. Information must be easily reusable wherever it is relevant.
      → Each page should have clearly defined scope and boundaries.
      → If the boundaries of pages are overlapping, they should be cross linked, and preferably the overlapping information only described in one, and directly borrowed in the other one.
  2. Researchers should provide scientific information for decision-makers.
    1. The website should offer a good forum for researchers to do research.
    2. The website should offer an easy forum for collecting and synthesising scientific information.
  3. Stakeholders and citizens should offer value judgements and statements about which issues are important and which not.
  4. Policy-makers should describe the juridical and political limitations of the policy situation.