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  • I do believe that humanity has reached a crossroad.

  • I hate to exaggerate that, and I don't want it to sound sensational, but I think it's true.

  • I think our species, the species of human beings is coming to a place where we are deciding about ourselves.

  • We are making a huge decision about "Who are we?" and "Who do we really choose to be?"

  • "Who are we?" and "Who do we really choose to be?"

  • "Who are we?" and "Who do we really choose to be?"

  • We imagine that the issue is a political issue.

  • Then we say, "Ah, well it must be a financial problem."

  • The problem is not political and it's not financial. And it's also, by the way, not military, ...obviously.

  • Circumstances don't determine who you are, they reveal who you are.

  • And the world that we live in now, the circumstances are changing so rapidly, that we're being revealed.

  • There's no such thing as a problem. A problem is essentially a transition.

  • So, I see the crises of today as a transition point for humanity.

  • Look down on the human drama, and discern through your critical faculties what's going on, without judging it,

  • just discern, 'What is this human drama about right now, and what role can I best play in it?'

  • The latest global risks report, published by the World Economic Forum,

  • presents an astonishing "Risks Interconnection Map."

  • It clearly reveals how all global risks are inter-related and interwoven,

  • so that economic, environmental, geopolitical, social, and technological risks are hugely interdependent.

  • A crisis in one area will quickly lead to a crisis in other areas.

  • The interconnection and complexity in this map, compared to our surprise at the impact and speed of the recent financial crises,

  • illustrates the discord that exists between all systems we built, and shows just how disconnected we've become.

  • Our attempts at managing these systems are fragmented and simplistic, and not up to the challenges that we face today.

  • The way we use natural resources is based on our economic system,

  • which is closely related to our social values,

  • which directly affect our psychological and emotional systems, and all our actions.

  • What we see in the world is a reflection of who we are.

  • You cannot separate what's happening in the world, and what's happening within people.

  • So we're not just in crisis in politics, or in economics.

  • Human beings are now in crisis with themselves.

  • When I studied biocybernetics, it was a wonder to see that the more we delve into naturethe animal kingdom, plant life ecosystems,

  • we see that everything is interconnected through reciprocal actions, some of which we understand, some of which we still don't.

  • But now, human society is also becoming so integrated that it's like a single, closed system that encompasses the entire globe.

  • The crisis we are facing now is actually very unique.

  • We are all closed together in the same system, and we can no longer do whatever we want in it.

  • World leaders, presidents, have lost the ability to manage the people.

  • It's as though the world began to move without any reins,

  • but rather according to a new lawof interdependence, of connectionthe law that is characteristic of integral systems.

  • And here we see that world leaders, first of all can't even make decisions, whether it's G8 or G20,

  • and even if they arrive at something, they can't realize it.

  • In science, we started as Newtonian physicists, and we started pretending like we are machines, and that was the worldview for some time.

  • That changed with biologists coming along. Biology gives a different view of the human being altogether.

  • Biology says that we are machines, but we are machines with competition, with survival in mind, and we fight for our survival, we compete.

  • So our higher values are important only if they're important for survival. Outside of survival, there is no other impetus for the human being.

  • And because of this idea, we have become, as you know, extremely competitive in our society. If somebody else has something, I must get it.

  • If somebody else doesn't have it yet, I must get it before he or she gets it. This idea is causing havoc in our society.

  • Much of our progress in human civilization has been driven by egoistic competition. People try to outdo each other, and that creates better science, better technology, etc.

  • However, now we're at a point where this ego drive has become so extreme that it will stop at nothing in order to be more, or have more, than others.

  • And so companies are destroying the ecosystem, bankers are creating economic crisis, people are building themselves on the ruin of others.

  • Our food supplies are increasingly at risk. Water resources are increasingly being strained, and our financial systems continue to be highly volatile and risky.

  • At the same time, we're also discovering how all our systems are connected and interdependent. Clearly, business-as-usual is a dead end.

  • In the previous days and times, we've been involved, not exclusively but largely, in the process of individual survival:

  • how do I get through the day, how do I get through the week, how do I get through the month.

  • In the 21st century, we're learning now that we can no longer concentrate on individual survival strategies;

  • that unless we begin to coalesce those strategies and learn how we can survive collectively, that no individual is going to survive in the long run.

  • Again, I don't want to be an alarmist, but I realize that we are facing a very critical time now.

  • The separation theology that humanity has established through the years has created a separation cosmology,

  • that is a cosmological way of looking at things that says 'everything is severed from everything else.'

  • And the separation cosmology has produced a separation sociology, that is a way of socializing with each other that says

  • 'I'm over here, and you're over there, and our interests will not meet, unless they do.

  • If they do we'll try to cooperate, but if our interests do not meet, if we have separate interests,

  • I may just have to harm you, I may in fact just have to kill you.'

  • There's an old story of a grandfather who's speaking to his grandson in the lodge.

  • The grandson comes in and says, 'I had a dream last night, and in the dream there were two wolves inside fighting,

  • and one was a black wolf, and one was a white wolf, and the black wolf scared me, Grandfather, and the white wolf made me feel hopeful.

  • Which one will survive?' And the grandfather said, 'The one you feed the most.'

  • And so, to me that is the nature of humanity, the nature of humans, is we have both.

  • Which one we're going to feed the most is the one we're going to see in the world.

  • The Asch experiment is one of psychology's oldest and most popular pieces of research.

  • A volunteer is told that he's taking part in a visual perception test.

  • What he doesn't know is that the other participants are actors and he's the only person taking part in the real test, which is actually about group conformity.

  • Please begin. The experiment you will be taking part in today involves the perception of line length.

  • The task will be simply to look at the line here on the left and indicate which of the three lines on the right is equal to it in length.

  • The actors have been told to match the wrong lines.

  • The volunteer will be monitored to see if he gives the correct answer or if he goes along with the opinion of the group and gives the wrong answer.

  • In the first test, the correct answer is two.

  • 'Uh, one'....'one'.... 'one'. .......the volunteer answers, 'It's two'...... 'one'

  • Once again, the correct answer is two.

  • 'Three.....'three'.....three.... the volunteer answers 'three'.....'three'

  • The Asch conformity experiment has been repeated many times. It's been suggested that first, the distortion happens at the level of action.

  • The subject believes the others are wrong, yet goes along with them anyway. Then it happens at the level of judgment.

  • The subject begins to think, 'Maybe they're seeing something I'm not seeing.'

  • And then, it happens at the level of perception, which means that the subject's actual perception of what's right or wrong is distorted by the majority.

  • Now, when you link these conclusions to what's happening in the world today, you have to ask,

  • 'In what way have we been using the influence of society, which is probably the most powerful force in human psychology?'

  • Over 40 years ago, I was cloning stem cells and one of the first experiments just so blew my mind

  • that it really changed the whole course of my education and my life.

  • I put one stem cell in a culture dish all by itself and that stem cell divides every ten to twelve hours.

  • After about a week to ten days, I had thousands of cells in the petri dish, but what's most important is all the cells are genetically identical to each other.

  • And then what I didand this is the experiment-I separated the culture of genetically identical cells into three different petri dishes and I changed the environment.

  • But, the culture medium to cells is like the world that we live in: it's got the the air, the water, the food, all the things in it.

  • So I had three different environments, yet genetically identical cells in each dish.

  • The results revealed that in environment A, the cells formed muscle,

  • in environment B, the cells formed bone,

  • and in environment C, the cells formed fat cells.

  • What was so profoundly important about this is that if you ask the questionWhat is responsible for controlling the fate of the cells?

  • what the experiment clearly revealed was that all the cells were genetically identical.

  • The only thing that was different from one dish to the other dish was the environment.

  • So, while at the time I was teaching medical students the conventional story out of the textbook, the concept of genetic determinism that genes control our fate and our lives,

  • my experiments revealed a completely different story, and that was that environment the was primarily responsible and shaping the behavior and genetics.

  • There's new research out of Harvard Medical School about social contagion.

  • I think it's kind of obvious and intuitive that you catch the moods of people around you,

  • but now they're finding that people get fat in groups, they get happy in groups, they quit smoking in groups.

  • Nicholas Christakis and I have been very fortunate to find a resource in the Framingham Heart Study that we never imagined we could find.

  • They were asking people for thirty-two years, 'who are your family members? where do you work? where do you live?'

  • And most importantly, 'who are your friends?' For the first time, now that we have data like this,

  • we are able to get a bird's eye view of networks like the networks that you live in.

  • We had some validated measures of various emotions, including happiness, and what we attempted to show, and were able to show,

  • is that my happiness depends not just on my own actions, thoughts and behaviors, but also on the actions, thoughts and behaviors of the people to whom I'm directly connected-

  • my friends, siblings, spouses, neighbors, coworkers and so forth, and the people to whom they are connected, and the people even to whom they are connected.

  • What this finding is showing us is that it's not just behaviors that are spreading through networks,

  • it's also these emotional states that are spreading through networks.

  • So we think that what's spreading is this tendency to transmit ideas, these norms of behavior.

  • You are, in fact, are a social organism. You are created by your environment. There is no 'you' and there is no 'me.'

  • Once you begin to think about how everything you do has been taught to you, one way or another

  • granted you're putting things together and you're making decisionsbut your decisions are limited to the information that's been given to you and that you've learned.

  • So I'm a walking amalgam of a 'social engineering' so to speak. If I see myself as separate from everything else, that I can say is incorrect.

  • For example, everyone knows they have to breathe. Through time, people will begin to understand that their integrity is only as good as the integrity of everything else around them.

  • So what is happening in science is really quite pathetic, and what is happening in the public at large is also equally pathetic,

  • because what is happening, is that by pretending to be something, we are becoming that something.

  • I began to feel that I was losing my identity, that the person I call Clay, the person who put me in this place, the person who volunteered to go into this prison

  • because it was a prison to me; it still is a prison to me—I don't look on it as an experiment or a simulation.

  • It was a prison that was run by psychologists instead of run by the state.

  • In 1971, today's well-known psychologist Philip Zimbardo decided to examine what would happen if you take perfectly normal and healthy young students

  • and create a prison-like environment within Stanford University, and tell them, "For the next two weeks, some of you will act as prisoners, and some of you will act as guards."

  • One day into the experiment, a riot broke out. The guards began humiliating the prisoners. They used physical punishments.

  • Some became extremely sadistic. The prisoners began to have emotional breakdowns.

  • Some had to be removed from the study early, and after only six days, the experiment had to be completely shut down.

  • I had really thought that I wasn't capable of this kind of behavior. I was surprised... no, I was dismayed.

  • to find out that I could really be a... that I could act in a manner so absolutely unaccustomed to anything that I would even really dream of doing.

  • And while I was doing it, I didn't feel any regret. I didn't feel any guilt.

  • It was only afterwards, when I began to reflect on what I had done,

  • that this behavior began to dawn on me and I realized that this was a part of me I hadn't really noticed before.

  • By pretending to be something, we are becoming that something.

  • By pretending that we are mindless matter-we're just material and that's it-we are excluding the finer aspects of life,

  • we are excluding the finer aspects of our experience. And, this is very serious business.

  • If you take Darwinian theory, which says that we're in a competition and we have to compare each other as to where we fit,

  • and you mix that with a Newtonian vision from physics that the primacy of the universe is found in the physical structure.

  • Then you put those two together and you say, 'How do you know where you fit in the Darwinian world?' And the answer is, 'How much material do you own?'

  • And so, evolution of humanity since Newtonian times was to extract the material from the planet so that we could have possessions,

  • and that the possessions then were a reflection of where we stand in the hierarchy.

  • If you were very low in the hierarchy of human life, you have nothing. If you're very high in the hierarchy of human life,

  • you have money and possessions and houses and toys and all these things. So then you say, 'Well, who suffers from all this?'

  • Well, there's great suffering at every level, whether suffering in the physical planet, or in the human civilization, there's suffering all over.

  • In order for me as a human to prove my hierarchy, I have to extract the material from the planet. So what do I do?

  • I mine the planet; I rape the planet of all of its possessions so that I can hold in my hand this chunk of gold and say, 'See how much I am worth! Where's your gold?'

  • The theory of evolution is not based on community but based on the individual. Newtonian physics said it's only the visible things that are relevant.

  • But in a world based on quantum physics, which is based on energy, some of the things that we understand in the nature of energy are emotions and feeling, such as love and beauty.

  • These are expressions of energy, and in a world of quantum physics, we surely emphasize more the nature of love, feelings, energy, beauty and harmony

  • over the money and material expressions that we look at today. Why is this important?

  • Because then you look at the world and you say, 'Do you want a pound of gold, or do you want to be totally in love in your life?'

  • This is a painting known as, "The Supper at Emmaus," and in the 1940s, when it was thought to be painted by Johann Vermeer,

  • it was worth millions of dollars-it was literally priceless. It was in Holland and it one of the most renowned paintings in Europe. People would travel through Europe to see it.

  • Until one terrible day, when it was discovered that it was not painted by Vermeer at all, but by the great forger Van Meegeren.

  • In other words, it was discovered that it was not this painting, but

  • that painting, and all of a sudden its value dropped to nothing.

  • How you taste something is critically affected by what you believe you're eating. And this shows up in all sorts of ways.

  • One nice finding involves children. How do you get children, not just to to eat their carrots and drink milk, but after they have the carrots and milk,

  • to report that they tasted good. Better than your normal carrot. Better than your normal glass of milk?

  • It's actually terribly simple to do this. This was done in a study a couple of years ago.

  • You take them out from a McDonald's bag.

  • They get people in a brain scanner, and as they're lying on their back, there's a tube going into their mouth.

  • And they get to drink wine through the tube while their brains are being scanned.

  • Above them is a screen where they can read information about the wine that they're drinking. Everybody drinks the same wine.

  • If they think they're drinking the cheap stuff, they'll report, 'Eh, it doesn't taste so good,' and they'll have a low-level neural response.

  • If they think they're drinking out of a $200 bottle, they say they love it and the pleasure centers of their brain light up like a Christmas tree.

  • This is John Cage's work. It comes in a different name, but it's often called 4 minutes 33 seconds,

  • because it was a famous modern performance, where the pianist is instructed to sit at the piano and be silent for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.

  • Now, as you can imagine, this is fairly controversial-whether or not this is brilliant or just ridiculous.

  • But, my favorite fact about this is you can go onto I Tunes and you can buy,

  • for a $1.99, the entire thing of 4 minutes and 33 seconds, which is of course silent.

  • And, I've read commentaries on this, where people are outraged, 'Look just turn down the volume on your computer,and sit there for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.'

  • But, psychologically I think that wouldn't be the same silence. This is 'that' silence, from 'that' performance.

  • It's astonishing to me that we don't realize we make this all up. We made the whole thing up. You know why gold is the value it is?

  • It's because somebody said so. That's it. You know why fuel costs what it does? Because somebody said so.

  • Somebody speculates, somebody decides, there's a belief, enough people join in: this is what a thing costs.

  • We've all decided this. So an awakening of we're repeating these cycles and we're getting kind of tired of it,

  • maybe we should do something different this time aroundbe something different.

  • We have to hear that. It's the society; the media especially that puts ordinary people into this vain search of material goodies.

  • People didn't live this way even 50, 60 years ago. You know, this is just a very recent phenomenon,

  • that if you have instead of one cell phone, two cell phones in two pockets, then somehow you'll be better off.

  • Ha! Ha! Right! I'm the King of Excess. I'm the Sultan of Sales. I'm the Boss of Bargains.

  • My credit cards, they never fail. I got a seven hundred something on my credit score which means

  • I don't own a thing and I can buy even more. I'm a buffet-eating, tabloid-reading lovable guy.

  • I get the best of the best that my money can buy. It's a wonderful life!!

  • It's a wonderful life with my red-headed wife. It's a wonderful life!

  • The average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did fifty years ago. Ask your grandma.

  • In her day, stewardship and resourcefulness and thrift were valued. So, how did this happen?

  • Shortly after World War II, these guys were figuring out how to ramp up the economy. Retailing analyst Victor Lebow articulated the solution that has become the norm for the whole system. He said

  • Advertisements, and media in general, play a big role in this. Each of us in the U.S. is targeted with over 3,000 advertisements a day.

  • We see more advertisements in one year than people fifty years ago saw in a lifetime.

  • And if you think about it, what is the point of an ad except to make us unhappy with what we have.

  • So 3,000 times a day, we're told that our hair is wrong, our skin is wrong, our clothes are wrong, our furniture is wrong,

  • our cars are wrong, we are wrong, but that it can all be made right if we just go shopping.

  • Mr. Rogers, who was the TV guy here in the United States, said 'The space between the television and the viewer should be sacred.'

  • It comes down to moneyif they can sell it.

  • Even if it helps humanity, I don't believe that the make or break point for anything that's done in the media for the most part,

  • 99%, is about the influence on the consumer; it's about 'can we sell it?' And if they can sell it and it's good for you, they'll sell it.

  • But if it's not good for you, they'll sell it anyway. In my world, I think that matters greatly on the impact on the listener, because it changes their lives one way or the other.

  • Part of the problem is that people are focused only on their own little world, their own little lives,

  • what it is they want to accomplish, when in fact there's really nothing you can accomplish that feels quite as happy as doing it with other people.

  • And so I think there's been too much of the entrepreneurial greed—'me, me, me'—focus in the last few decades,