Monday, July 13, 2009

"A Requiem for the Age of Oil:" Affecting Gen Y & Women in the Muslim World

Elza S. Maalouf
In their series "Speaking to Futurists," EnlightenNext asked Ray Kurzweil, John Peterson, Patricia Aburdene, Joel Garreau and myself about " The biggest shift or shifts in the next few years."

My topic was the Middle East and the Muslim world. Here's a snippet from the interview posted on EnlightenNext website:
“We’re entering a requiem for the age of oil,” says Lebanon-born cultural development expert Elza Maalouf, “one that will no doubt push oil-rich countries to look for other ways to enrich themselves.” Maalouf, who heads up the Center for Human Emergence—Middle East, has some cutting-edge ideas about just how these nations might go about doing that.

In this interview with EnlightenNext senior editor Elizabeth Debold, Maalouf outlines some of the most promising trends she sees emerging across the Muslim world. Maalouf is not your average international development consultant. A former lawyer and corporate executive with over a decade of experience in depth psychology and consciousness studies, her specialty is finding practical, on-the-ground applications for the theoretical framework of cultural evolution known as Spiral Dynamics. She says that the future of the Middle East will be decided by how much these oil-rich nations support the development of their most valuable resource: their own people. Drawing on her work in countries across the region like Syria, Palestine, and Qatar, she explains why she thinks that expanding the opportunities for women and the rising generation of young people (the vast majority of the population) is the biggest challenge and opportunity for Muslim countries as they transition into the twenty-first-century, globally connected world.

You can hear the whole interview here...

During the early days of the Iran GenY Internet revolution (June, July 09), Joel Pitney quoted my interview on his EnlightenNext blog confirming what I said about Muslim youths read more...

Here's my comment on Joel's blog post:

Dear Joel,

Thank you for initiating this timely debate. What is happening in Iran is a clear manifestation of the sea change taking place in the Muslim world which is triggered by countless Memetic factors that have converged to add complexity to the ‘habitat’ of the culture. This phenomenon is in turn activating more complexity in the “biospychosocial systems” of that culture. In an era where technological complexity is surpassing brain complexity, emergence of cultures is exponentially accelerated. In the case of Iran as you mentioned, Gen Y is maximizing its use of the Internet and IT, and no longer accepts the Mullah’s narrow definition of worldview. Iranian women are maximizing the use of what I call IMT - Innovations in Memetic Technology-. These are the skills that read the cultural DNA and provide the appropriate support through culturally-fit solutions.
My work for the last 20 years in the Muslim world has been to interpret and document these memetic changes, while working in the field as a business consultant and socio-political adviser. This is what allows me to uncover the deeper patterns of emergence rather than just trends and surface changes.
When I mentioned a “Requiem for the Age of Oil,” it was a reference to oil being the currency that rarely contributed to the development of human resources in those countries, and only concentrated the wealth in the hands of the few. The data is clear about peak oil, as most OPEC countries are facing higher costs for extracting every additional barrel, and after 9/11 the West woke up to the reality of the environmental and national security consequences of its dependency on oil . I am talking here about ‘tipping points’ or phenomena that are accelerating change dramatically while keeping in mind that change in the developmental stages of cultures might take decades.
The largest producers of oil like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE are now focused on building their infrastructure; from traditional manufacturing in Saudi Arabia to Ivy League type higher education in UAE, Qatar and Kuwait. Currently the Persian Gulf is the home of the most ambitious government spending programs to fully develop a full range of industrial capacity with a focus on solar farms and green cities.
These measures towards self-reliance will drastically reduce the unemployment rates and offer job opportunities to Gen Y and women in specific. These home grown 1st world type conditions will bring equality and educational standards that fit the unique contours of each culture, rather than a Western projection of what equality ‘should’ mean to emerging cultures.

Since the brief interview in EnlightenNext was subject specific, we couldn’t cover intricate details. You can read my iPolitics blog and a more detailed essay on the patterns of emergence in the Middle East with a comparative study of these patterns in Iran and Lebanon

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