An Example of How to Shape the Future
Brasilia, the capitol of Brazil, represents an example of what humanity must do in this early part of the 21st century. In my last column, I discussed the history of this great city and the fact that it was created in the late 1950s to be â€œthe capitol of the third millenniumâ€ and that it was built literally in the middle of Brazil hundreds of miles from the nearest city. In other words the eyes of the visionaries who built the city were completely focused on the future. What should a capitol of the future look like? How should it be laid out? How can future governmental needs and functionality be anticipated and planned for?
It is this type of thinking on a grand scale that is needed now more than ever as humanity approaches 7 billion in number, the planet is warming, water scarcity is growing and we have entered our global stage of evolution. Forward thinking these days seems to come primarily from innovative, fast moving, companies in the private sector. National leaders seem increasingly to be following their citizens rather than leading them. There seems to be a reliance on past processes as ways to confront the future. There is a growing number of people who are now realizing that many of the â€˜old ways of doing thingsâ€™ have run their course and that new approaches are essential for facing the issues. This is, to be sure, one of the forces fueling the success of Barack Obama in the current American presidential race.
Brasilia was initially built 1957-60 and has been developed in an on-going way ever since. Standing in front of the Congress building in 2008, I was struck by how futuristic it felt, 50 years after its construction. That is what can happen when there is a visionary directive to create a capitol city for the next millennium. Forget the past, look to the future and think about the needs of humanity and how it can best function to manage the affairs of the country. Now take that same sentence and substitute the word planet for the word country. That is where we are as we enter the Shift Age.
Standing in front of the Congress building I was struck by something else. As a regular visitor to Washington D.C., I have been greatly depressed by how it has become a fortress city since 9/11/2001. I remember how, as a high school student I walked up the steps of the Capitol and walked the corridors to my Senatorâ€™s office, or how I could take a public tour of the White House. I think there are more concrete barricades, metal detectors and guard houses than in any other capitol in the world. The U.S., simply put, is a target country of irrational, hateful religious zealots ( I think some are housed there as well).
In front of the Congress building in Brasilia, there was one guard, smoking a cigarette and one low tech metal detector. The tour I went on was comprised of four people and we walked onto the floor of the Senate, the floor of the Chamber of Deputies and sat in the seats. Both chambers were equipped with laptops and the latest technologies. We walked up and down the corridors and all was open. There were skylights under which was dense rain forest vegetation, providing a dense oxygenated feeling to the air amidst the bureaucratic work place. It was open to the people. It was open to the sun, it was open. I only hope that this might be what capitols of the future can be.
As a futurist, I think a lot about where the world is going in the next 20 years. It is clear that the BRIC nations â€” Brazil, Russia, India and China â€” will be the dominant areas of economic growth and influence in the decades ahead. While the EU, the U.S. and Japan will all continue to be major economies and political forces, we are entering the new global era of humanity. Where will the new global capitol be? Though Beijing may have something to say about it, and Berlin is certainly a worthy candidate that stands for human history. Brasilia stands open, facing the future.