What Humans Want and How They Decide

Comment on “Remodeling Education for an Emergent Future” by Lalith Ananda Gunaratne, Ottawa by Anna Frank

“Of all knowledge first we need to gain is about self-first, our own nature, interconnectedness with the natural environment and uncertainty of everything. Next is to build up complement academic knowledge.” [1] Since the dawn of humanity, we wanted to know, and we had to know to survive. So, what and when did it all go wrong?

The science of “I want and I need” overlaps with science of “I know and I think”. However, what now, when “I don’t know” has become such a common statement among youth and kids, and finally adults. Our impressions and decisions are reflections of our education and experience. Education itself is complex experience. We are what we know, and we know what we have learned. So why is there so little in our educational institutions that actually contributes to the creation of better functioning people for the era we live in?

Most of the problems, and the complexity of solutions, depend on human behaviour. Our learning conditions our behaviour. The first role model for us traditionally has been family members, but there is so much mistrust within the family today, and its role is no longer clear. In a world where parents misbehave, kids can think that is the norm. When did all of this start? When did we, as a society, lose control over education and its purpose? It is not just in the West or the East, it is a global trend and a global ache. We humans have lost our role models and those that teach what it is to be a human. There is a general impression that we live in an era of divorce, one without unity or joint action. Politics, education, and the economy are all going in their own direction, without any concern or cooperation with the others. So, let’s start from the beginning:




Is there a limit to education like there is a limit to growth? Has education in an era of limitless growth became useless now as we are reaching our resource consumption limits? What do we need to change? However, before we seek the answers to that, we will focus first on a few more issues and questions: The main role of education has been totally forgotten in recent decades and replaced with mere discovery and creation of new things.

What is our purpose!?

Whenever I was talking to my students and kids, I know, as well as adults, most of them would be quite surprised when I asked simple question: Who are you? What do you want to do? What will make you happy?

Most of the conversation would go towards happiness and finances, but it was a rare occasion to find the person who seeks and questions existence and their purpose. Somehow humanity has accepted all the answers given as being absolute truth and have stopped wondering. Education today wants us to accept without questioning all definitions and scientific knowledge as it is stated. Religion wants us to accept 2000-year-old books and not question them. If you question the rightness of the teaching itself, you will fail in the existing system. It is expected to be an observer and to accept knowledge, but not to seek for it. You are not to wonder who are the teachers, who wrote the rules, how were these rules created and what you can do? There is no freedom to refuse or to try. Errors are deemed expensive, everything has to be perfect, and there is no room for mistakes or failure. So what happened to the trial and error method? What happened with traditional experimental methods? It is expected today to simply accept filtered information and then call it knowledge. And remember, we have been learning since birth, so having a great variety of learning methods available at the university level is too little, too late, especially when we know that when we view humanity as a whole, less than 10% stay that long in the education system.

Limits of learning

CACOR member Robert Hoffman [2] in his presentation acknowledged that our biology is well adapted to deal with the immediate, but not the long-term complex, systemic issues. He suggests, “The human mind is not capable of dealing with the chaos of 4-5 variables not linearly linked at the same time.” But why?

The limits of our capacity to learn is fear. One of our greatest fears is that there is no purpose to our lives, that we can’t change anything, and that all things are predestined. Similarly, we fear that everything is uncertain, we do not actually know WHY, cannot not WHY, and that maybe there is no answer to the ultimate question. Another problem with learning are the expectations and roles we take on as children and then as adults. There is the “success” story that we all want to be. Anything else is viewed as something diminished. But, humans, all humans are precious beings, unique in time and within the universe. All humans have something to offer. So, what then would be an ideal model of education for today? One effective model is to move from a Newtonian system, to an evolutionary or a living one. Hoffman in his paper Systems Modelling: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Policy Analysis suggests that ‘systems simulators’ may be an effective means for communicating the understanding of complex problems. [3] According to him, simulators are explicit and communicable representations of the mental models that guide our perceptions and actions.

Gunaratne states:

“Unlike the deterministic models of classical science, the simulator approach is open to adaptation or learning as we humans have choices and the final outcome is not usually known. Our choices open us to many influences, both external and internal. My interest is with the internal, where behaviour depends on many variables and is predicated on emotions. As our quantum self is an integral part of the system, our personal biases and prejudices create inconsistency and disequilibrium, when we leave things open-ended. This is because our penchant for the short-term and linear simple process is exacerbated by our Newtonian education, which seeks deterministic solutions to our problems. Quantum weirdness is not even touched in our education as it leaves things open, grey and uncertain. We are uncomfortable with the grey – we seek absolute, short-term solutions because they provide us with an anchor. Most of our anchors are material, based on economics and financial flows and temporally located in the “now”. Our consumerist world has evolved on this “instant gratification” premise and Western philosophy’s separation of mind and matter – as Descarte proposed, has been the platform.” In most cases, because of our own biases, without even realizing that we are shutting down a new dimension, we do not even entertain these possibilities.” [1]

So, education today itself fears the unknown. What type of beings would we get once we teach that we don’t know everything, explore the unknown? What humans would walk the Earth, once we would say that we know that there are other dimensions, but we just don’t know how to reach them? Would their lives would be wasted if they simply spend them searching for the doors to other dimensions? What would happen to girls who we now teach that they are a different biological concept than boys, but rather we are all simply humans? What would happen to humanity if education systems would not develop and support fears, but rather hope? What if we teach them that they can be and should be better than us, as they can know what we know and yet have time to learn more than us? What would happen with humanity where “I am” would be replaced with “I wonder”? Where would change lead when a farmer is valued and has the same importance as a doctor? The fact is that they are both essential for the health of humans. One grows or raises food that is the essence to our health, while the other is catching us in our failures (such as when you break a leg because you tried to climb). There are crucial elements of education that Gunaratne explains:

  • Learning to be Comfortable with Living Systems
  • Mindfulness
  • Letting Go
  • Emotions
  • Working with Evolutionary Living Systems


In short, he explains the challenges around which education should be focused. Education is not simply about making a good worker but about raising a good human. Education should help parents and families, should support them in their efforts to raise good, happy human beings, because in time this will contribute to making a happier humanity. Our sole purpose is not to work, or to pay bills, or just deliver kids. Our family should not be limited to those based on DNA resemblance, rather our family should be all those who share the same energy and views, and who are part of our way. Education should prepare us for wondering and not to train us not to wonder.

What humanity and the economic system we would have in that case is the next story.

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