Democracy, Citizenship, & the Greater Good:
Charting a Path in Changing Times
The mechanisms by which societies govern themselves – how they define, create, promote, and defend the “Greater Good” – will be increasingly refashioned and dispersed, and increasingly “multi-polar,” in the 21st Century. Technological advances are changing the ways that people can aggregate with or separate from others, thus changing the nature of “society” and “government.” They are reducing marginal costs and creating new markets, making some things profitable that used to be unprofitable, and others unprofitable that used to be highly profitable – making it possible for some things that used to be thought of as the proper domains of private enterprise to become potentially collective, social or public activities, and vice versa. They’re reducing the importance of location, and to some extent time; they’re changing the relative value of tangible and intangible resources.
All of these changes are profoundly changing all aspects of human society and culture, on both the level of the lived daily experiences of individuals and the level of societies, nations, and the world itself. The “Greater Good” conference is a part of addressing these larger concerns. Our interest is in looking deeply and cross-disciplinarily, at how the means for addressing and promoting the Greater Good may be changing in today’s world – and that includes the “technology” of how we, as multiple individuals, collectively interact and govern ourselves – and how to address and adapt to those changes.
It thus conceives of “public policy” as something potentially broader than governmental action – in the sense of public entities or nation-states – and looks at “governance” of the human enterprise as potentially encompassing non-governmental, for-profit, non-territorial, non-profit, and as-yet-undreamed-of mechanisms. Our interest is what such changes are coming in the 21st Century, how they will increase or decrease the possibilities for human progress and well-being, and – crucially, in distinguishing this from other “futurism” discussions – what we should and (because of such changes themselves) can do to either “ride this wave” or “bend this curve” so as best to promote the Greater Good.