Friday, November 18, 2011

Those 100 Objects, and Our Current Measures of Community Well-Being

My blog about the British Museum’s “100 Objects” which define history attracted the interest of a friend who dug a bit deeper and visited the Museum’s web site and then wrote:

“What I found most interesting were not the specific objects per se, but rather the types of objects and categories that the curators used to group them.

The tools of human civilization really haven't changed all that much, aside from technological advances. Currency, weapons, maps...

The categories were interesting to me, because they provide a framework for evaluating the current state of our society:

  • ·         What is the current condition of our cities? (First Cities and States)
  • ·         How is the economy doing? (First Global Economy)
  • ·         What advances have we made in science and literature? This could also be interpreted as advances in public education; are kids learning? (Beginning of Science and Literature)
  • ·         What is the current state of basic needs and food security? (After the Ice Age...)
  • ·         What are we doing to teach tolerance? (Tolerance & Intolerance)
  • ·         What has happened to people’s faith, not only in spiritual leaders, but in our political leaders? (Rise of World Faiths)
  • ·         What are we doing to strengthen our communities; what will be our legacy? (Empire Builders)
  • ·         Who are the next generation of leaders, and who is forging the way? (Pilgrims, Raiders & Traders)
  • ·         What is the impact of status symbols and mass communications on decisions that are made? (Status symbols, Mass Production, and Mass Persuasion)

Thus all leading back to the questions of: What is it that makes us human (Making Us Human), and how can we use our tools to create a world that reflects the best of our humanity? (The World of Our Making)

Perhaps someday, much like trying to crack ancient hieroglyphics, our successors will try to recover information from massive computer servers that tell the story.”

Minnesota Compass tracks directly some of these categories used to classify and describe the course of human history (for example, education and the economy) – in order to understand how we continue (hopefully) to make progress in the 21st century. Our recently launched neighborhood indicators section offers insight into the condition of our cities. Several elements of our work provide tools for understanding and addressing issues of tolerance, of mass persuasion, and of empire building, even though we don’t measure these directly.

In addition, we seek to strengthen our communities by gathering together in meetings and seminars with thousands of people each year and communicating through our website and publications with tens of thousands more. And, at no point in history, more than in this “Information Age”, does there exist a greater need for a solid platform of credible, nonpartisan information, to which people can apply their creativity and act on their values to create a better world for all.

From one’s own little perch looking outward, it might appear that we inhabit a big, complex world. Yet from another perspective, we live on just one very tiny chunk of rock in a universe expanding to infinity. We have a duty to keep that little rock in the best possible condition. The civilization we’ve created on the rock reflects human achievement; perhaps not equaled anywhere else in the vast universe, and perhaps never capable of replication.

Through Minnesota Compass and all of our work at WilderResearch, we want to take the many small steps with our partners that, in combination, will achieve progress for the human race.

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