FOR THE GOOD OF THE WORLD: Is Global Agreement on Global Challenges Possible?

AuthorHoadley, Stephen

FOR THE GOOD OF THE WORLD: Is Global Agreement on Global Challenges Possible?

Author: A. C. Grayling Published by: Oneworld Publications, London, 2022, 232pp, 16.99 [pounds sterling].

The title question may provoke a negative answer from sceptical readers but a positive response from optimistic ones. Both should pause and consider Grayling's evidence, and his argument, before taking a stance. They may meet somewhere in the middle.

On his first page Grayling poses the existential choice facing humankind: forge international agreement on values or risk human extinction. With erudition and eloquence, he then delineates the undesirable, available and ideal options in three broad sectors: climate change, technology and justice. Alert readers will be familiar with the gloomy scenarios of rising temperatures and sea levels, extreme weather and drought, flooding and disease that will make swathes of the planet uninhabitable and survival marginal for millions, if not billions of humans. Less visible but no less worrisome is the prospect of rampant technological innovation producing not only benefits but also mass machine takeovers of jobs, intrusive surveillance and the increasing lethality of wars fought by drones and robots. And unfairness, inequality and disinformed extremism threaten to undermine trust in democratic governance and fuel violent anarchy. These are the three modern horsemen of the apocalypse (or should we call them apocalypse drones now?) identified by Grayling.

Driving these three vicious spirals is 'Graylings Law': 'Anything that CAN be done WILL be done if it brings advantage or profit to those who can do it.' Fossil fuel company executives, for-profit technocrats and demagogues have the institutional capacity and personal gain motivation to drive greenhouse gas emissions, unregulated technological interventions and tendentious disinformation, so they will. And unless this dynamic is checked, the planet, and the humans that cling to its heating and turbulent surface, are at increasing peril.

What is to be done? Grayling inverted his Law to arrive at the following: 'What CAN be done will NOT be done if it brings costs to those who can stop it.' In other words, if costs can be imposed on those who would drive carbon emissions, technical proliferation and anarchy, they would desist... and perhaps join those campaigning for global benefits rather than parochial advantage.

Throughout, Grayling...

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