Global Studies: Some Big Questions

Global Studies–Some Big Questions

1.  Since it is clear that the world economy is going to be based on a capitalist market model for the foreseeable future, how can social, spiritual and environmental goods be represented in the market and given their own proper weight in the calculation of profit?  And how can the socially, spiritually, and environmentally damaging side-effects of market enterprise be properly reflected in market terms?  Can there be a moral marketplace?

2.  The world’s peoples seem to be entertaining two apparently opposed aspirations: to be recognized as participants in a global society and to control and shape their own local ethnic folkways and institutions.  What political and legal structures can be created (or borrowed from successful examples across the globe, or adapted from past periods of history) to reconcile these apparently contradictory desires?  How will the meaning of sovereigny change?

3.  Since almost every part of the Earth’s surface is accessible to human beings, can be identified and mapped by GPS, and reached by modern transportation, where is the new frontier for human discovery, innovation, adventure, and dreams?

4.  Are religion and science doomed to oppose each other, or can there be another such grand synthesis of them as occurred in classical Greece, Upanishadic Hinduism, Taoist China, Medieval Islam, Renaissance Europe, or Mayan Mesoamerica?

5.  In view of the fact that disease strains are showing signs of adapting to medical countermeasures faster than new medical research can find cures, and that disease knows no national boundaries, what developments in medical philosophy, medical law, and world epidemiological institutions are called for?

6.  Should the internet be based on a policy of completely open access to all information, a policy of perfect encryption and privacy for all participants, a policy of government surveillance, or some combination of these?  What would be the effect of popular access to quantum cryptography, now under development, which is in theory impossible to decrypt?

7.  Given that informational goods cannot be sequestered in their physical embodiment and guarded there as physical goods can, and given that information, once made available to one person, can be copied infinitely without loss, how can intellectual property be maintained and creative invention rewarded?

8.  In the past the nation state supported the artistic and cultural institutions of its people as part of its nationalistic mission and as an often chauvinistic assertion of its ethnic identity.  Can modern democratic representative government, with its often multiethnic population, universal franchise, anti-elitist populism, and sensitivity to lobbies and interest groups, act as a true patron of  high quality art and culture?  Can art and culture be adequately supported by the market instead?

9.  How can pure science research and education be supported in an international economic environment of increasing competition, with its demands for swift technological applications and narrow research goals?

10.  The standard social science model of human behavior, based on the idea that humans are born as blank slates, is under major challenge by scientific evidence pointing to a formidable array of innate human genetic predispositions, inclinations, talents, and needs, and a species-wide set of cognitive, emotional and perceptual structures.  How might–or should–this change in paradigm affect our institutions of law, education, family, business, and government?

11.  Current studies of the evolution of the universe suggest provocative new models of cosmology: for instance, that the universe is made of  information, that it may not be running down as in older thermodynamic models, but growing in organizational richness, that it may be significantly free rather than deterministic, and that the fact-value and ontology-epistemology distinctions may not be entirely valid.  What light might such new models cast on traditional issues of ethics, religion, and philosophy, especially those that divide world ethnic and cultural groups?

12.  In view of the current flare-up of religious conflict, what are the chances for global religious ecumenism?

13.  Rich people are known to have fewer children, educate them better, demand a healthy natural environment, tolerate and even relish cultural and religious differences, seek out and pay for good medical care, patronize the arts, establish and vote for relatively democratic governments, and avoid war if they can.  It would obviously be a good thing for everybody in the world to be rich.  Is this possible?