Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Former CIA Consultant Provides Global Insights- Opportunities to Engage Learning

The tools of technology, communications, and our modern methods of data collection and analytical analysis today can provide us with a very insightful picture of our current and future worlds.  The way we live, consume our news and information, and how we interact with the world provides us clues into where we might be headed as a country.

Recently I was provided the opportunity to interview, Herbert E. Meyer, who served during the Reagan administration as special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence, and vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. He is credited as being the first senior official to accurately predict the fall of the Soviet Union, a forecast for which he later was awarded the U.S. National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, which is the Intelligence Community’s highest honor.

Meyer spoke at an event sponsored by the Wisconsin Chapter of TEC21, which is made up of executive members representing area companies employing 10,000 workers and generate revenues in excess of $1 billion. The global organization TEC, is a professional
Nearly 200 business executives and 
professionals attended Herb Meyer's talk.
development group of CEO’s, presidents, and business owners that meet in a confidential environment to “help each other succeed.”  Meyer, who speaks to business executives on global intelligence, provided a personal interview of key issues he feels the world needs to pay attention to. These key observations are not only helpful in our daily lives, but are also important concepts to discuss in our college curriculum. Meyer’s assertions and observations provide a good framework for faculty and students to “dive deeper” into worldwide trends barely noticed in the short term. Meyer provides a framework and opportunity to make learning both relevant and engaging for both faculty and students.

Birth Rates.

Of the many topics Meyer focuses on, perhaps the most provocative is his analysis of world birth rates. He says to sustain a country’s population; a birth rate of 2.1% is required. This means two children, one each to take care of mom and dad, and the .1 child to keep the county’s population stable. Easy to understand, but becoming more difficult to achieve in developed countries.

In nearly 20 European countries, the birth rate is actually less than 1.3%. Meyer stresses, “This is suicidal and in 30 years, there will be 70 million to 80 million fewer Europeans alive than there are today,” says Meyer. Meyer points out his figures are quite real and be can be looked up on the World Health Organization web site.

Meyer points out that Japan also has a 1.3% birthrate. “As a result, Japan will lose up to 60 million people over the next 30 years. Because Japan has a very different society than Europe, they refuse to import workers. Japan has already closed 2,000 schools, and is closing them down at the rate of 300 per year. Japan is also aging very rapidly. By 2020, 1 out of 5 Japanese will be at least 70 years old. Nobody has any idea about how to run an economy with those demographics.” Meyer said that for the first time in Japan’s history, more diapers are being produced for the elderly than for babies. Understanding birthrates, according to Meyer is critical to forecasting the effect on business, and on future generations.

The News.

Meyer stresses that, “News tells you what’s going wrong, but it doesn’t tell you what’s going right. If an airplane lands on time it is not a news bulletin.” Meyer points out, that the story we are not hearing is that the “world is emerging from poverty at a rate never before seen in world history.”


With our interest in news, comes our focus on pessimism in the world. Meyer says, “If you are being told everything is going wrong it’s hard not to be pessimistic. There are things that are going right.” Meyer cautions that if you are hearing so much pessimism, “You are getting a completely skewed view of the world.”


Most importantly, Meyer says that our “Journalism has to change. Journalism is the radar. If the radar
gives you bad information, then pilots make bad decisions. The radar is not tuned properly.” Meyer continued by noting that the while the mystery of flight 370 is a big story, the larger story we are missing is the democratic vote in Afghanistan. Meyer said, “Afghanistan had the most extraordinary vote better than anyone could have ever thought. That’s a gigantic story and our troops made that possible. No one is making that linkage, not even the President. He should have been on national TV....saying ladies and gentleman did you see that election in Afghanistan? That would not have happened without the armed forces of the United States, and people would feel better about it.”
Meyer stresses, “If you are the radar screen you have to tell them when there is a mountain in front of you, but if there are clear skies you have to tell them that too. The radar is only built to look at trouble. And that’s the glitch. You don’t get a balanced picture.”


Meyer tells us “the world is becoming modern. If you don’t have a framework then all you see is little events here and there that don’t make any sense. During the cold war decades we saw the world through a prism- this titanic struggle between the Soviet Union and the free world. When the cold war ended, nobody knew what the world was going to look like. George H. W. Bush tried to explain what the new world order was, but could not explain what it meant. It wasn’t clear.” Meyer says that, “Now it’s clear- the world is becoming modern, and it’s the best use of American power and ingenuity to make it go.” Meyer added, “As the world becomes modern, this is less of a reason to go to war.”

Message to the Young.

To conclude the interview, I asked Meyer how he would address today’s youth with so many daunting
challenges ahead of them. Without hesitation, and a smile on his face Meyer said, “The job of your generation is to take the world out of poverty without trashing the planet. I can‘t imagine a more interesting and complicate chore for a generation- lucky you!” He said he had very high hopes for the youth of the world.

For Meyer, he said he enjoys telling his story. He added, “It seems to resonate with people. People come up to me, and say, “I haven’t heard that before.” I am painting the picture they aren't getting.” Meyer concluded the interview by emphasizing the goal is to get his predictions of global intelligence on the public’s radar. He concluded saying, “You don’t have the radar with the green lines sweeping around. And that’s the missing piece. That’s what I am trying to fill in.”  Understanding technology, communications, and analytical data collection and analysis are important concepts to help educators make learning both relevant and engaging. Understanding and discussing what Meyer has uncovered can help motivate faculty and students to dig deeper into topics and issues that will have a dramatic and profound impact on our daily lives, today and in the distance future.

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