Open Center History: Technology and Globalization in the New Millennium

Do We Know Where We’re Going?

Seventeen years ago the Open Center co-sponsored one of the most prescient programs in its history. Working with our friends from the International Forum of Globalization (IFG) we pondered the country and the planet’s predicament at the start of the millennium: “The interface between technologies, economic globalization and centralized corporate power is arguably leading the earth to the brink of environmental, social and political traumas unprecedented in history.” At that time, the media were filled with virtually universal acclaim for the unalloyed benefits and blessings of combining globalization and technology. In the techno-utopian dream of the time, very little consideration was given to the possible downsides of these new phenomena, downsides with which today we are much more familiar.

Now we know about the huge loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States, the massive invasion of privacy and political manipulation brought to us by Cambridge Analytica with stolen Facebook data, and of course the looming catastrophe of global warming as our consumption based global economy continues to eat up the planet’s resources and enrich a tiny minority. Back in 2001, Vandana Shiva, Jerry Mander, David Korten, Jeremy Rifkin and many other speakers were among the few with the clarity and wisdom to cast a skeptical eye on the naively optimistic celebrations of economic and technological globalization. But 1600 participants found these issues sufficiently compelling to join us in the large auditorium at Hunter College for a truly seminal weekend.

Holistic thinkers will always seek wisdom and try to practice foresight, not just about their own personal lives but also about the state of the world and the future of humanity. In 2001, the Open Center, IFG and our other partners were truly on the leading edge, asking the right questions when most of mainstream culture was blind to the challenges ahead. It was a special moment in our history as we entered the new millennium with hope and love but also with a realistic awareness of the major obstacles that must be overcome and the questions that must be posed if our world can look forward to a healthy and sustainable future. And we look back with affection and respect on those who partnered with us to create an unforgettable,  transformative, and necessary teach-in that addressed some of the great issues of the day.