It is not the end of the world, but the end of the world as we know it
Time magazine, 2012.
Because human beings live in a world in which the forces of change are in combat with the forces of resistance-to-change, our world has become blocked from advancement:
We live in turbulent times because our society is changing rapidly in deep ways. It is changing because processing massive amounts of information in continuous circulation changes the way human beings think, both individually and collectively :
It is important to understand clearly that with the advent of the digital era we are experiencing a cultural and societal mutation that is much deeper than regular, ordinary technological or economic change. The changes are fundamentally cultural because this mutation changes the ways we think and feel. We no longer live in a society focused on the production and consumption of goods ; our society now functions primarily on the basis of exchanges of information.
Our societies have become dysfunctional because private companies that own the entire media universe (several platforms have recently been internalized, see the diagram below) now broadcast unverified information : there are too many rumours, lies, propaganda and half-truths.
This daily tsunami of half-truths results in the dilution of trust between citizens and their leaders :
We are at an historic moment of choice.
Since the dawn of time, all societies have progressed from crisis to crisis through the choices they have made. Our ancestors had to choose between order or chaos, between war or peace, and then between nomadism or the city, and between using an oral saga or writing, and so on.
The art of living together is the fruit of a very long reflection and series of possible choices on the part of a society’s citizens.
Closer to home, our grandparents were confronted with choices that seemed simple but concealed complex crises :
||Executives (or the 1 %)
||industrialized countries etc.
The texts offered on this site present the new choices imposed on us by the crises that lie ahead :
|network of networks
|(or bottom up)
||(or top down)
||new interactive writing
Our current society is the sum of this very long process of reflection and choice-making. As it stands, our societies are the accumulation of all the choices that human beings have already made :
What has been fundamental since the beginning of this long historical journey is the right of human beings to decide their own affairs – the freedom to choose !
The cultural progress of our current society is blocked because its devotion to an economic establishment does not let us decide collectively about important and critical matters affecting everyone.
Transformations pose important questions for us.
Our world is currently changing because the flows of information that feed human activities are being modified. In turn, this obliges us to ask ourselves some hard questions.
An analysis of the schema below reveals the appearance of an initial major trend : the personalization of content and services :
This schema reveals that :
- For each era in history, the quantity of information put into circulation has grown so much that we are now faced with the question of Big Data.
- The quantity of information multiplies during each era (see the schema above) and thus raises the question of the credibility of all the non-validated content in circulation.
- The appearance of large numbers of mobile devices also raises the question of the ongoing pertinence of Internet 2 and its eventual replacement by Internet 3 (the Internet of services).
- Each major international consortium (Big Four, GAFA, etc.) is trying to impose its own proper ecosystem, which in turn generates questions about the impact(s) of the Data War that is being created.
We are entering a very difficult period
Throughout history our societies have oscillated between two extremes which have wrestled with each other while creating inequalities. It is these inequalities which have blocked democracy from evolving.
(Aristotle spoke of this in Politics in 329 BC, as well as Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776). Watch the documentary Requiem for the American Dream, by Noam Chomsky on Netflix).
- On the one hand, there are the current masters of the universe (the large global banks and multinational enterprises, the Big Four – GAFA, etc.) that want to control their business activities so as to ensure profits (chapter 6, no. 15);
- On the other hand, there are the citizens who want to develop better forms of democracy to ensure their continued well-being (chapter 6, no 18) :
What is less well-known and understood is that the two new mechanisms behind these polar extremes are playing an important rôle in the acceleration of the crises we face. The two new mechanisms are financialization and the Internet :
- During the industrial age, the economy functioned thanks to the production of goods and services, while now the economy operates on the basis of financialization. This central aspect of today’s economy encountered an important dead-end with the 2008 crisis (chapter 6, no. 15).
- People now have access to a communications tool which permits them to speak out, via the online public spaces offered by the Internet (chapter 7, no. 7) :
Now, the situation has changed. We are being forced to reinvent many of our cultural models (because we have lost our reference points) and our economic models (no alternative yet to neoliberalism ?). We are entering a spiral of violence because the inequalities have become too glaringly visible, and felt by almost everyone. Formerly, even miserable people had the hope that one day everything would be better (thanks to the promise of mobility). Today, because people have lost trust in society’s leaders, they will revolt (their leaders will lose all legitimacy).
Why do citizens no longer have confidence in the political classes ? The current politicians are a generation (or more) behind current realities. They cannot respond rapidly or intelligently enough to identify the surging crises and do not possess the appropriate tools with which to respond.
A three-dimensional post-industrial society
Instead of living in an industrial world in two dimensions and at two levels, we are beginning to live in a post-industrial world of three dimensions (adding the dimensions of information to the existing dimensions of space and time) and three levels (adding the world of ideas to the worlds of land and technology) :
Examples of transformations created by the Internet at each level :
A world of ideas
Our world is becoming a knowledge-based society in which ideas will connect and link from one brain to another, from one culture to another. This dynamic will gradually replace the top-down industrial age way of making and implementing decisions.
And because information is often emotion (and thus energy) people in the 21st century will use it as leverage to deal with the ongoing emergence of crises.
Transitions in history
Life, whether physical or social, is always creating and discovering diversity. The answers to necessary adaptations are found in the richness and variability of human activities.
Essentially, life is a constant creation.
That is why throughout history, human beings have created new worlds. Currently, this is what is happening at the beginning of the 21st century ; we are living through an historic shift from an industrial society to a knowledge-based society :
- What will we do with the continuous accumulation of all this information?
- What will we lose and what will we gain?
- What new model to choose?
In principle, all countries are equal :
Selçuk, le Monde diplomatique, Manière de voir 18, 1993.
From one era to the next new era
History teaches us that in each new era (Prehistory, Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Industrial Era and post-industrial era) there is a significant increase in population accompanied by an equally significant increase in the amount of information being put into circulation.
During each of these leaps into the future, human society has had to invent communication tools to enable the necessary adaptation to change : symbols, alphabet, printing, radio, television and Internet.
Each new era and its new tools has brought us greater information-processing speed thanks to the development of new forms of media used for communicating :
We often forget that over the past fifty years our dominant forms of information processing have progressed through several important stages of capability and sophistication, from a simple piece of cardboard with holes in it to an interconnected and integrated platform and ecosystem of information that helps to manage what is called a smart city :
This diagram shows a critical trend : human beings will eventually live immersed IN the information. Virtual reality helmets, Google Glasses, 360-degree monitors and immersive-reality projection domes already offer forms of immersion that will become, over time, more and more participatory (chapter 4, no 9).
Our universe has changed because a few visionaries have changed the settings :
||space and time
||sound, image and light
||editing and publishing
Will we know how to analyze and understand the next indicators and parameters that will appear ?
Who does not look far into the future will see the problems close-up.
The true nature of our evolution
The impacts of the work of the visionaries such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Graham Bell and Steve Jobs are the real reasons for ushering in the need for a new paradigm, a new era.
There has been a growing accumulation of impacts over the years such that we must now confront fundamental changes in our ways of thinking and doing.
The current revolution (in the sense of accelerated evolution) is cultural.
A misdiagnosis that will cost us dearly
For several years now the mainstream mass media has been describing a bleak future because the economy is going from bad to worse. According to their reporting and analysis, our well-being and the revival of the economy will depend on the sacrifices to which we consent, individually and collectively.
What a misunderstanding and misdiagnosis !
Our western society uses not one but three structures to function effectively (chapter 6, no 9):
- An economic structure which reveals a recent fundamental shift; power that previously was in the hands of the political class has been shifted to the private sector, and is focused on maximizing profit-making and profit-taking (using job creation as blackmail).
- A political structure which reveals that citizens have lost confidence in their political leaders. Citizens around the world are increasingly frustrated by not having any say in major economic and social decisions.
- A media structure which reveals that the Internet has become THE dominant global medium and that it belongs (so far) to the economic elites. Thus far, its evolution continues to protect the existing and vested interests of an economic elite,
Believing that governance is reducible solely to economic issues, is to admit that our democratic system no longer follows the societal rules, but rather depends upon private interests.
Our society is facing five simultaneous crises. The solutions are not only economic (chapter 6, no 1) :
A matter of trust
Essentially, today’s society is based on the co-existence of three central structures of action which will have to learn anew how to interact effectively – the government, the private sector and civil society :
(See the three structures in chapter 6, no. 9)
Recently, the generalized confidence in the effectiveness of these structures has been seriously eroded ; 70% of citizens around the world have lost faith in their leaders. (See Edelman Trust Barometer 2016).
Because of the failure of the neoliberal economic model in 2008, our society now faces the choice between two models that are currently under development.
Influenced by the industrial-era context, the current political leaders cannot find solutions to the post-industrial crises ahead. They are familiar only with three industrial-era economic tools : oil, concrete and credit.
However, it is too late for our political leaders. Power is now in the hands of the economic classes (because economic globalization has made political boundaries too porous and insufficiently regulated).
Citizens speaking out
However, thanks to the Internet and Web, a citizen can NOW « speak out » in a space without constraints. This capability is beginning to call into question the legitimacy of the existing societal and institutional powers (chapter 7, no 8).
There is a crisis when the old refuses to die and the new laws have not yet been born.
Antonio Gramsci, 1930.
The diagram below shows us that the world of information and now connected information flows has changed dramatically in just fifty years. It is dematerializing familiar objects, customizingour lives and multiplying the resulting impacts in a process that is creating a more intuitive, immersive and interactive society.
In today’s and tomorrow’s society imagination is becoming more important than intelligence.
1940 Information Theory: Turing, Wiener, von Neuman, etc.
1945 Mass Media : newspapers, cinema, television, radio, etc.
1960 Commercial Computer : IBM mainframes.
1980 Personal Microcomputers : TRS-80, PET, Apple II.
1990 Internet & Web : Tim Berners-Lee, etc.
2000 Mobile Devices : GPS, WiFi, etc.
2005 Smart devices : smartphone and tablet, etc.
2012 Devices wearable : glasses, watch, clothing, etc.
2014 Smart Networks : Smart TV, Netflix, HBO, etc.
2020 Smart Environments : smart objects, micro-robots, 3D, etc.
Our societies are becoming ill because of information
Our societies are becoming fed-up with, and diseased from, all the desultory and unverified information that invades citizens on a daily basis. Underneath this process is a visibly rising roar of muted anger (chapter 7, no 6).
A mis-informed world
Today we live in a world penetrated and surrounded by non-validated information (opinions, rumors, lies, disguised advertisements, etc.) and massive amounts of infotainment (see below).
The political classes have abdicated responsibility to the economic elites (chapter 6, no.1). Citizens have become a nation of suitcase-carriers and media consortia fill the suitcases daily with anything that people will buy :
Communications between citizens are the foundation of modern democracy ; they are a fundamental right. But today, citizens are not free from interference. In our connectivity-and-security-obsessed society, these rights are increasingly violated by the institutions charged with political oversight (chapter 6, no 17).