Often we hear from people and tell others that when discussing the future, we should involve children and young people as stakeholders in the future as they are in a sense the future. One could see such a tendency as but another testimony of an evolution towards a societal model in which the young are those we turn to to innovate, to make decisions, to lead as ‘older’ people are considered increasingly out of touch with the new worlds (e.g. new technologies, new ways of using one’s social network, new values, etc.). At the same time in many countries of the industrialized world we are dealing with an ageing population.
In tribal society, the elders were the undisputed decisionmakers, as those worshipped for their wisdom. They could rely on multigenerational experience and understanding. In the knowledge society, we tend to forget the step of wisdom, which is at the lonely top of the ladder starting from data, to information, to knowledge. Hence we are losing important knowledge, wisdom concerning systemic changes. This has little to do with the past being no guarantee or guide for the future, yet everything with the often intangible metaknowledge about systemic change, of seeing clarity in complexity.
Photographer and director Andrew Zuckerman turned to some of the elder beacons lighting our past, present and undoubtedly also future and created The wisdom project. In one of the many fascinating portrait-interviews, at a certain point Jane Goodall says:
“It is awfully sad that with our clever brain, capable of taking us to the moon, we seem to have lost wisdom … and that is the wisdom of the indigenous people, who would make a major decision based upon: how would this decision affect our people seven generations ahead?”