Ecology/ Environment / Ethics / social innovation / women

Tracking social trajectory: Indicators of civilisational maturity

Indian society is passing through a critical phase. The rise of entrepreneurial aspirations, as I said last week, has given rise to a justifiable rise in material and consumptive ambitions. But when these ambitions overtake other values in society, something precious is likely to be sacrificed. Therefore, financial capital should be balanced along with ethical, natural, cultural and social capitals.

There are the five indicators which help us track where are we heading as an individual/institution and society to seek balance of these capitals: These five indicators are

a) upload to download ratio

b) ratio of private, common and public goods

c) Reciprocal to non-reciprocal relationships

d) Seeking to sharing ratio of innovations and

e) Share of perfect strangers in one’s contributions

Upload to download ratio: I have argued for some time that India is becoming very fast a consumptive society of externally produced, ideas, concepts, thought-systems and structures besides of course metaphors and slangs. A society which aspires to be a global knowledge producer is lagging behind in both scholarly productions but also ideas of common people being shared in open source. Each individual and institution should track its upload to download ratio every week and share it openly so that a sense of shame or embarrassment may arise. Unless we develop this habit among younger people, start-ups and all new ventures, we will remain a follower and never become a leader in any domain or schools of thought. It is through sharing ideas that we get feedback and gain humility and learn faster.

The ratio of private, common and public good production and consumption indicates the degree to which society is leveraging ethical, social and natural capital. If utilitarian logic supersedes in everything then contribution for common and public goods will not rise and such a society lacks a generous and caring spirit. The kind of self-righteous and exclusivist language, devoid of social amity,  is gaining ground, concern for common and public goods is becoming obviously weaker.  That directly affects social happiness index.  Any society which produces less common and public goods, invariably becomes conflict prone and tense society.

Finally, the share of perfect strangers in one’s personal institutional and societal allocations of resources determines the sustainability of our actions. Perfect stranger is the one who is unknown and is not knowable. We don’t know the preferences of future generation which is not born yet. We have to use our value system and adopt a lifestyle which leaves enough for them to exercise freedoms that we take for granted. I cannot figure out what the ant on the wall looking at me writing this is thinking?  The share of an ant, squirrel, birds or other wild grasses and wildlife and the unborn determine how sustainable a society is.

I hope we can reflect on these ratios and start re-strategising our value system, educational philosophy, institutional design and evaluation criteria so that as a society we know better where are we heading.

Published at DNA India

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Tracking social trajectory: Indicators of civilisational maturity

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