Global Perspective

From WikiLove - The Encyclopedia of Love

Knowledge and technology growth has been explosive, however well-being has stagnated. This presents grand opportunities for humanity. Albert Einstein advised: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." As philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed: “Every person takes the limits of their vision for the limits of the world,” therefore it is important for us to expand our vision toward a global perspective. This course explores the prospects of adopting a global perspective to begin to meet the grand challenges.

Only a global perspective brings us uncensored realty.

Images:Pale Blue Dot.png
Seen from about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles), Earth appears as a pale blue dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space.
36px Attribution: User lbeaumont created this resource and is actively using it. Please coordinate future development with him/her if possible.

The Objectives of this course are to:

  • Quickly survey the Grand Challenges we now face,
  • Understand how narrow perspectives have contributed to creating problems,
  • Explore how broader perspectives can lead to solutions,
  • Introduce specific skills for solving problems by adopting a broader perspective,
  • Adopt higher integrating models that change your perspective,
  • Outline an approach to solving a particular problem,
  • Expand your worldview to encompass the entire world as it is.

This course is part of the Applied Wisdom Curriculum.


The Grand Challenges:

Many of the world’s Grand Challenges, the greatest, most pervasive and persistent problems facing humanity, have languished for a long time and may seem immune to analysis and solution. These are the subject of the companion course on the Grand Challenges. An important premise of this course is that adopting a global perspective can help us accurately establish priorities, and can suggest new solutions to these important problems.

If you have not already studied the Grand Challenges course, please take time to read over the Mountains of Problems described there. Give some thought to how a narrow perspective may contribute to those problems and how a Global Perspective can help to identify solutions.

Seeing Through Illusion

Each of us face convincing illusions every day that distract us from seeing the full extent of what is. Perhaps the most pervasive and persuasive illusion is that what I see is all there is. To attain a global perspective it is important to recognize these illusions and strive to see through them.


  1. Read the essay Toward a Global Perspective—seeing through illusion.
  2. Identify the illusions that you have recognized and overcome as you have learned more about the world. These may include childhood beliefs as simple as the Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy stories, or more significant misunderstandings about the diversity and scope of the world, its people, and the universe. What caused you to see through these illusions? How did your worldview change as a result?
  3. What illusions do you not yet see through? What can you do to see beyond these and expand your perspective?

The Premise:

We are like the blind men examining the elephant when we fail to adopt a global perspective.

Problems persist because a narrow point of view has prevailed:

  • Narrow focus on economic growth (And economics is a flawed and narrow metric)
  • Negative externalities are dismissed
  • Short term time frame
  • Narrow scope of concern. When we accept a narrow point of view, we are like the blind men examining the elephant. We are each correct within the limited scope of our reference frame, but we are incorrect when a global perspective is adopted.
  • Evidence is denied, delayed, distorted, and disputed.
  • Narrow definition of success
  • Assumptions of unlimited growth


An externality is an economic impact resulting from your activity that is kept outside the scope of your organization’s financial accounting. Here are some examples.

Owners of coal mines manage several externalities. Coal miners risk death or injury from a mining accident. They can get black lung disease from long exposure to coal dust. Extracting the coal diminishes the supply of a non-renewable resource, and burning coal is dirty. The environmental impact of the coal industry includes land use, waste management, and water and air pollution caused by the coal mining, processing and the use of its products. In addition to atmospheric pollution, coal burning produces hundreds of millions of tons of solid waste products annually, including fly ash, bottom ash, and flue-gas desulfurization sludge that contain mercury, uranium, thorium, arsenic, and other heavy metals.

Air pollution including anthropogenic climate change; water pollution, depletion of the commons, and systemic risk are all important examples of negative externality.

A key skill in attaining a global perspective is to become aware of the externalities of any activity, then take action to reduce impact on others from that externality.


  1. Study the Tragedy of the commons.
  2. Identify your own activities, such as driving a car, eating meat, cooking dinner, heating your home, turning on the air conditioner, taking out the trash, flushing the toilet, using a string trimmer, protection from the rule of law, living in freedom, and enjoying civil liberties, that create or depend on externalties.
  3. For one activity identified above, identify the externalties it creates or depends on. Suggest a fair scheme to eliminate, manage, or assign the costs for those externalties.

Economics and Well-Being

How similar are economic prosperity and well-being? To answer that question we need to consider:

  • Who’s prosperity?
  • What level of prosperity?, and
  • What does well-being require?

Although Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is not a measurement of the standard of living in an economy, it is often used as such an indicator, on the rationale that all citizens would benefit from their country's increased economic production. Similarly, GDP per capita is not a measure of personal income. GDP may increase while real incomes for the majority decline.

GDP does not measure externalities, including wealth distribution and ecological damage. It also makes no distinction between activities that negatively impact well-being and those that contribute to it. For example, a fatal car crash increases GDP because it requires economic activity to care for the dead and injured, replace the destroyed cars and other property damage, and litigate the various injuries and other damages.

Historically, economists have said that well-being is a simple function of income. However, it has been found that once wealth reaches a subsistence level, its effectiveness as a generator of well-being is greatly diminished.[1] This paradox has been referred to as the Easterlin paradox[2] and may result from a "hedonic treadmill."[1] This means that aspirations increase with income; after basic needs are met, relative rather than absolute income levels influence well-being.

No comprehensive model for attaining well-being is widely accepted. Until such a model emerges, the definition of good from the Virtues course provides a suitable surrogate for well-being. It may be helpful to imagine prosperity in terms of flourishing rather than as opulence.


Part 1:

  • Read this essay "Simply Priceless"
  • Identify: 1) Ways in which economic prosperity is contributing to your well-being, and 2) Ways in which your well-being is independent of, or even harmed by, economic prosperity.

Part 2:

The Virtues

The virtues guide us toward a wise global perspective.


Complete the Wikiversity course on the Virtues.

The General Solution:

  • Choose Humanity, Preserve Dignity, First do no harm.
  • Expand the time horizon
  • Expand to consider a global scope
  • Apply a robust theory of knowledge to evaluate the evidence and make well-informed choices.
  • Acknowledge Limits to Growth and incorporate these as design constraints.
  • Employ Systems Thinking (Systems Analysis) to better understand the full extent and causes of the problem, examine interconnections, and design solutions.
  • Use Quality Management to align efforts with needs.
    • Manage redundancy, resilience, and efficiency.
    • Integrate symptoms to identify and address common causes.
    • Use a prevention-based approach.
    • Understand variability
    • Reduce waste
  • Become Creative in seeking solutions
  • Use Wisdom to guide us.
  • Use the Twelve leverage points

Specific Solutions

Apply the general solution described above to selected problems listed below.

Could adopting a global perspective have prevented us from losing our way along the /tobacco road/?

Can the Global Zero campaign succeed in eliminating nuclear weapons?

Can adoption and pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals reduce poverty and hunger, increase education, improve health, and increase environmental sustainability?

Suggestions for further reading:

  • Kelleher, Ann; Laura Klein (2005). Global Perspectives: A Handbook for Understanding Global Issues. Prentice Hall. pp. 240. ISBN 978-0131892606.



  1. 1.0 1.1 Explaining Economics
  2. Carol Graham, 2008. "happiness, economics of," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract. Prepublication copy.
      • _____, 2005. "The Economics of Happiness: Insights on Globalization from a Novel Approach," World Economics, 6(3), pp. 41-58 (indicated there as adapted from previous source).
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