Big History and Great Transition – Great Transition Network

To become astute visionaries and shrewd activists, must we also be students of history? This question animates our March forum: Big History and Great Transition. Of course, our concern with the shape of the future springs most immediately from the dire condition of the present. Still, discerning a feasible path to a transformed civilization rests with an understanding of the roots and driving forces of the contemporary predicament, and that requires looking to the past.

In our own past, GTI has prolifically examined questions of the present and future (Where are we? Where are going?) but only sparsely the question of the past (How did we get here?). What fresh lessons, insight, and inspiration can we glean from a long view of history? In a mind-expanding opening essay , David Christian, an eminent historian, and leading figure in the emerging transdisciplinary field of Big History, offers answers.

David sees three key dimensions that link Big History to Great Transition. The first is epistemological: taking a panoramic view across the phases of cosmological, planetary, and human evolution is essential for grasping this moment of history. The second is cultural: our interdependent world of shared crises and destinies spurs the scientific knowledge, public awareness, and a cosmopolitan ethos necessary for corrective action. The third is futural: deep technological and social innovations can be expected that provide a basis for optimism.

What are your thoughts on these intriguing claims? What does the view from the moon reveal and what does it conceal? How can the cultural contribution of big picture perspectives be augmented, e.g., curricula organized around Big History? Does the arc of history point strongly enough toward enlarged public consciousness and collective action to warrant optimism?

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