All posts by Said E. Dawlabani

President & CEO of The MEMEnomics Group

Graves and the Anthropocene

The World Economic Forum published its 2019 Annual Global Risk Report this week, and for the third consecutive year, it points to Climate Change as the most ominous threat to the global economy. Sadly the paradigm this powerful group holds on this issue only has the effect of re-arranging some of the chairs on the sinking Titanic as it seeks solutions for our greatest threat through the narrow scope of economic activity.  What is needed is for these world business leaders to shift their focus from “economics” to “everything that underlies planetary life.” This is quickly becoming the essential Quantum Leap in our values that we must make to ensure planetary survival.

This is a monumental task that’s being undertaken by people and institutions from many different disciplines,  but what hasn’t been considered seriously is the psychosocial approach to the challenge. Specifically, the Gravesian approach. In a recent piece I wrote for Kosmos Quarterly‘s Special Edition on Climate Change, I introduce the possibility of what’s missing from the current calculus on this matter.  Below is a small section of that piece describing the nature of the problem.

In the Gravesian development model, we believe that evolution of human consciousness is an endless quest. It is a psychosocial model that relies on two essential cornerstones that determine how adequately we resolve life’s challenges. The first lies in the problems of existence. It is in how well we identify the depth and breadth of these problems that the necessary Adaptive Intelligence within us (individually and collectively) is triggered and an adequate solution is pursued as our conscious recalibrates at higher levels.

The problem we face today is that human existence so far has been limited to what we call the values of subsistence where we choose to either compete or cooperate, but with little awareness of planetary values. We are not fully conscious of the fact that we are an inseparable part of earth’s ecology. We rarely think in terms of the world being a single organism with its own collective mind and that we are all part of a compassionate, dynamic whole, inseparable from nature.

On our journey so far, we’ve identified our problems of existence to be primarily of social, political, or technological nature. As we exhausted the values of each system we successfully sought solutions from a higher-level system throughout the Holocene with little regard to problems of existence that lay outside our subsistent worldview and therein lays humanity’s biggest challenge.

In his research, Clare W. Graves showed this particular issue to be of utmost concern. His greatest fear was that our species will become complacent as it indulged in the spoils of the lower value systems ignoring existential threats that lay outside it’s conscious awareness thus derailing our emergence back to hunter-gatherer values. He made these predictions in the early 1970s a few decades before climate change became a major concern. Graves also offered an optimistic scenario where we embark on taking a momentous leap in values requiring completely different mindsets capable of responding to problems of existence that ail all forms of life, not just our own.

This is precisely what the Anthropocene calls for since our problems of existence are no longer just sociopolitical or technological in nature. We need to adequately represent the defenseless planet and all her ecosystems. In order to do that we first and foremost must embark on a comprehensive worldwide campaign to become the mouthpiece for the planet. It is in doing so that we gain a fuller picture of our new problems of existence in order to trigger the needed Adaptive Intelligence capable of addressing the degradation of planetary ecosystems.

In order to have more knowledge about this half of the Gravesian model at the level that addresses planetary survival, we must embody earth’s problems of existence as our own. Today, initiatives such as the empowerment of the values of the commons, the green revolution, sustainability practices, and regenerative economics, as noble as they are, they’re operating on partial data, and therefore, much of our Adaptive Intelligence on this issue has remained dormant.


Trapped in First Tier Thinking: The Black Elephant Phenomenon

Recently Quartz Magazine ran and end of the year issue about climate change. While acknowledging that 2018 will be the worst year on record, the authors praised our collective efforts to address the planetary ecosystems issues we’re facing. Should we give a pat on the back for these efforts for addressing climate change from a New Second Tier paradigm? Hardly.

This week a judge in my hometown San Diego rejected the county’s climate action plan in light of the October reports that say things are a lot worse than we initially thought. He ordered county administrators to draw up a realistic plan that is more restrictive than “the worst case scenario” which their pre-October research relied on.

Can that be real? Can matters be a lot worse than what our research shows, and are we ready to take the necessary action and still live within the paradigm we’ve created for ourselves? The simple answer is no, or we don’t know for sure. But we will continue addressing this issue through readily available methods, because if we admit that we really don’t know, we become completely paralyzed. Therefore the Black Elephant Phenomenon, ignoring rare and devastating events that are not hidden but are in plain sight.

I’m a believer in how Albert Einstein captured the nature of the First Tier mind in this simple statement: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. Yes, let’s reverse that carbon stuff and all will be fine. This, is my opinion is the most complex form of linear thinking, but it remains linear in the face of a problem requiring the anticipation of exponential change.

Mother Nature is the most complex system we will ever be tasked to understand and we have weakened her resilience and ability to forgive. This requires our thinking to be as resilient as that of Mother Nature. We need to anticipate what a complex system in collapse is doing and plan from there.

We are not only warming the planet, we are destroying earth’s species and it’s oceans at an exponential rate. In our First Tier myopia that pleases the Blue-Orange Green Complex, we plant a tree and create ocean sanctuaries and go about our ways trusting that Mother Nature’s resilience will take care of the rest. That paradigm is quickly dying and we haven’t invented a new paradigm that renders our old ways obsolete. We cannot solve our problems from the same values prism that created them and therein lies humanity’s biggest challenge: Having the courage to take a monumental leap in thinking that will show us what we know today to be a Band-Aid solution for an issue requiring major surgery and decades if not centuries of restorative contraction and rehabilitation.




Looking Beyond the Midterm Elections

Looking Beyond the Midterm Elections

In Quest of Humanity’s Master Code

By Dr. Don E. Beck

I want you to stand 30 years in the future and tell me if the America you see is the one you envisioned in November 2018. Has the “us v them” polarization disappeared? Have we become a stronger union because of it, or did one side of the political spectrum overpower the other and forever silence it. If it’s the latter, then look closer and see what has become of the other side. Has it transformed ideologically or has its repressed voice become even a greater vehicle for division sewing seeds for another civil war?

The question posed here might have caught you by surprise, but it is the type of exercise that triggers a mass learning experience. I have used it in academic settings as a professor of social psychology to address the unrest we experienced in 1960s. In later years it became a conversation started for large-scale systems change that take years if not decades to fully manifest as the next cultural expression of values.

As a doctoral student of Muzafer Sherif, one of the founding fathers of social psychology I learned early in my career about the psychosocial characteristics of conflict resolution. Oftentimes, competition for political leadership can lead to negative prejudices, frozen stereotypes and fractious interparty conflicts. These are the early signs of trouble. As competition increases, each side moves towards an-all-or-nothing end point making it difficult to find common ground. Under this type of political division, one side enjoys the spoils of victory, while the other waits in the wings for its turn ignoring the real damage the discord is causing to the very fabric of a country.

I have been a witness to these political dynamics several times in my life in many hot spots around the world. They were present in South Africa where, over a 10-year period I helped the country’s leaders design conflict-minimizing measures to insure a smooth transition from Apartheid. If you’ve seen the movie Invictus then you’ve seen the work I’ve done on nation building through sports after years of helping Mandela and de Klrek create a future vision for South Africa. Similar efforts were undertaken in the West Bank and Israel. In both of these initiatives, what gave people hope is the idea that a peaceful, conflict-free future is possible. This type of optimism and long-term thinking is exactly what is absent from today’s political debate in America. Just as the right vilified President Obama, the left is doing the same with President Trump. Both sides of the political spectrum have become closed minded, set on demonizing the other side and rejecting any and all ideas on compromise regardless of their merit. Things can’t possibly get any worse.

But here’s where solutions begin: the creation of super-ordinate goals. This concept comes from one of Sherif’s research efforts called the Robber’s Cave Experiment. At the heart of this model is the idea that groups in conflict, who don’t see compromise with the other side as a possibility, must be made aware of the bigger picture and the resulting consequences should division worsen. The definition of a super-ordinate goal is one that both sides to a conflict desire to achieve but cannot do so on their own and must enroll the help of the other. It is working together to avert disastrous outcomes that neither side desires. This is what responsible leadership at the highest level must undertake, but unfortunately the world has not seen it happen too many times. Historically when countries fail to properly formulate superordinate goals the results, at best have been further division and at worse devastating wars.


Unfortunately the belief systems of both political parties in America today have become so rigid that ideas like saving the planet or stopping climate change as superordinate goals don’t speak to all sides equally. These values are generally associated with the progressive liberal side of the political spectrum that has been demonized and thrown into the enemy camp. Similarly, ideas on merit, self-reliance, limited government and jobs for all Americans receive the same level of vitriol as they become rigidly demonized into the conservative side of the political spectrum. When there’s clarity on a nation’s superordinate goal, it is the middle that’s made up of pragmatists and conciliators on both sides that kept the system moving smoothly. Seniority and political craftsmanship was its hallmark. Unfortunately today, that middle has disappeared and those who hold seniority on both sides are choosing not to run for reelection leaving the nation more polarized.

The solution to our predicament does not lie in whom we elect in the upcoming midterms. It has more to do with a political system that needs to be informed by a new superordinate goal that speaks to the future. Our current political parties are beholden to values of a bygone era informed by the standards of the Industrial Age. This is the narrative that suppresses the emergence of new paradigms. The voices of our politically ambitious youth are muffled. The minute they declare their desire to change the system, they’re thrown into the dark rigid confines of the two political parties. The result is more of the same gridlock.

I can’t claim to have all the answer for, or to know the finer details of a superordinate goal that has a future pull for all of America. But I do know this: the future of American politics is not a fight between the left and the right. It is a fight between the future and the past and we have to make room for young leadership to emerge. Solutions in the future will be based on leadership that deploys the talents of the “best fit” that champion the values of “thrive and let thrive” not on rigid ideologies of the left or the right which today only produce “win-loose” outcomes and create further division.

Historically, we have called on the youth in the military to defend us against enemies. Today, we must help our youth create a positive superordinate goal and empower them to pursue it so when we stand 30 years in the future, we can look back and be proud of our actions today. That’s leadership at the highest level that’s sorely missing from politics today.