Clare Graves and His Three Scenarios for the Future of Humanity

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"If our design decisions are fundamentally worldview and value-system dependent, a dynamic map of the emergence of progressively more inclusive worldviews in human society and consciousness could help us in understanding past design decisions as well as provide a way for taking future design decisions from amore holistic perspective. Such a perspective would be more fitting to the complex dynamics of the wicked design problems of an interconnected and unpredictable complex world. A collective re-evaluation of human nature may help us to reframe the guiding intentionality behind all design. This may lead to a more conscious approach to designing, from within a participatory understanding of reality and guided by world-centric ethics. An integral perspective can access a whole range of value systems and discern adaptive and evolutionary priorities, as well as which needs are best met materially and which immaterially."

- Daniel Christian Wahl [1]


Daniel Christian Wahl:

"In 1974, the American psychologist Clare Graves published a paper entitled ‘Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap’ in which he argued that human society is facing a period of fundamental change, “the most difficult, but at the same time the most exciting transition the human race has faced to date.” Graves believed that humanity was at the beginning of “not merely a transition to a new level of existence, but the start of a new movement in the symphony of human history” (in Beck & Cowan, 1996, p.319).

According to Graves’ predictions, humanity had to collectively make a conscious choice between three distinct possibilities for the future of human society. The list below summarizes these three possible futures.

* Clare Graves’ Prediction of three Possible Futures for Humanity

(Reproduced from Beck & Cowan, 1996, p.13)

A massive regression back to Stone Age beginnings if we fail to stabilize our world’s weapons and endangered resources.

A version of George Orwell’s 1984, embodied in forms of tyrannical, manipulative governments with glossed over communitarian overtones.

The emergence of a Second Tier approach to business and society which would be fundamentally different from the one we know today, equipped to act locally and plan globally while acting globally and planning locally at the same time.

After more than a quarter century of research into how humans live, act, engage in decision- making processes, and change as participants of complex systems, Graves provided a dynamic map of the developmental stages of human consciousness, value systems and worldviews. He described a number of behavioural systems, based on the biological, psychological and social way of relating to the wider world — the whole — that these “biopsychosocial systems” result in (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p.49).

Ken Wilber — a major contributor to transpersonal psychology and the founder of ‘integral psychology’ — recently emphasized that the Gravesian model has so far “been tested in more than fifty thousand people from around the world, and there have been no major exceptions found in the general scheme (Wilber, 2001, p.6).

Clare Graves himself described his model of human psychological development that involves a progressive transformation of the worldview employed as follows:

- Briefly what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiralling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower order behavioural systems to newer, higher-order systems as an individual’s existential problems change. Each successive stage, wave, or level of existence is a state through which people pass on their way to other stages of being. When the human is centralized in one state of existence, he or she has a psychology which is particular to that state. His or her feelings, motivations, ethics and values, biochemistry, degree of neurological activation, learning system, belief system, conception of mental health, ideas to what mental illness is and how it should be treated, conceptions of and preferences for management, education, economics, political theory and practice are all appropriate to that stage." (Professor Clare Graves in Wilber, 2001, pp.5–6)

Graves was convinced that a dynamic map of worldviews and their associated value systems could be a useful tool for integrating insights and concerns voiced from within these different ways of seeing. If design is worldview dependent, then a more holistic approach to design and decision-making in general should be based on a constructive and co-operative dialogue that spans disciplines and value-systems.

Graves’ map may be able to provide a helpful framework for integration in such a dialogue process. In turn this may facilitate the creation of more appropriate and sustainable design solutions based on a holistic or integral (Wilber, 2001) perspective rather than the specialized and limited point of view of a particular value-system or academic discipline."