At the turn of the 20th century the zeitgeist was an intellectual ferment in science and technology. From the Industrial Revolution through the Atomic Revolution, the potential of science and technology to redeem humanity of its suffering was seen to be limitless. Still, the man who had invented the dynamite, Alfred Nobel, perhaps regretted his invention, just as Einstein was apprehensive of the Bomb before he was compelled to write to FDR about the Manhattan Project.
The century turned again. Human suffering, albeit and because of the rise in living standards, is persisting. Even as geniuses aspire for “The Coming Singularity” or the immortality of the species through technology ― the synthesis of man, God’s creation, and machine, Man’s creation ― all of it seems at once promising and futile, because Man is limited by his own nature and by nature. By God. The yearning for peace continues for as long as the species survives. For as long as history remains.
Any recognition of those who have contributed to advancing peace must, therefore, capture the essence of the human condition. And technology it is not. It is the question for the ages: happiness in living together. Technology is an enabler. Science being its source. The beginning of it all being the technology of creation itself: nature. The Nobels in the natural sciences are about understanding the material self to replicate it. The Nobel in Peace is about sustaining the object and subject of that understanding. About sustaining the self.
Of the five prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace, all five constitute the human condition, but literature and peace is the motivator of the physics, the chemistry and the medicine. There is no recognition for the arts: painting and sculpture, music, dance, drama, film and fashion, each of which reflect on the way we live as human beings and constitute the stuff of civilization. There is none for the engineers ― for the technologists such as Alfred Nobel. Yet, Riksbank of Sweden, the oldest central bank, began awarding a prize in memory of Alfred Nobel in Economics in 1968, as if homo economicus was distinct from the homo sapiens of the remaining five in the Nobel’s will.
The Nobels must be reformed. All prizes are not equal. The new Peace prize should merge the prizes in literature and economic science and awarded for extraordinary contribution to the advancement of peace by those in the arts, letters (literature) and humanities; applied sciences; and the applied social sciences. This should be the weightiest prize of all, worth about $4.2 million, in 2010 dollars, to be shared by up to three persons, typically one in each group.
Peace, in the pursuit of species survival, is always a negotiated compromise.