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Yesterday in Davos Peter Schwartz witnessed about the result of a report concerning the effects on global climate:

The rate of climate change is much faster than we all think

There will be many extreme large weather events. It is more urgent and catastrophic than we previously thought.

Read Stephen Voss report about it at bloomberg.com

Today Paul Saffo is commenting on the mood on the current meeting in his journal.

...the mood this time is a sense of vast uncertainty regarding the scale of the challenges we all face and the ability of global institutions to meet these challenges.

Ironically, this uncertainty has grown because other issues have become more clear. There is no debate about global climate change here because everyone accepts it as a fact; all the conversation is about how to respond. And there is also a clear consensus that the nation-state order is on the wane, and thus the discussion is all about what institutions will fill the void.

This just confirms that the apparent decline of the nation state have reached Davos as well. What concerns me is the next passage in Saffos comment:

Perhaps there are no surprises in the foregoing, but what is a surprise is how I hear CEOs and other business executives responding. The sense here is that the weakening of traditional institutions means that the new global challenges can be overcome only if corporations throw their full effort into finding solutions.

This really worries me since many of us have time after another found that corporations are inherently blind to aspects of life not directly related to this or next year revenue. Maybe they haven't noticed what I use to call "the strategic gap" which cuts through almost all organizations effectively cutting of the top management from the lower parts where the work is being performed. I will certainly blog on this subject really soon.

From a forthcoming blog post on the future of the hierarchic organzation:

exploding hierarchy

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When living in a society which is so totally focused on progress and development it is sobering to note the other perspectives. A story in Guardian refers to David Edgerton's "The Shock of the Old" and gives us something to think about.

Guardian Unlimited | The age of technological revolution is 100 years dead:

To Edgerton the thesis that civilisation must innovate or die is rubbish. Nations are not sharks that must move to breathe. Yet we are so dazzled by newness as to lose the power of scepticism, indeed of reason itself. The result is a grotesque overselling of the new and neglect of what is tried and tested.

Edgerton is implicitly underlining a couple of the most important lessons for technology forecasters:

  • it is not the technology development that change the world, it's the technology diffusion
  • it is not the functionality or potential use of a technology or an invention that change the world, it's if and how people chose to use it that matters
  • people in general do not base their choice or use of a product or service on it's potential but on their perceptions of its functionality and potential value (and on many other social factors)
  • people in general perceive products and services as extensions or modifications to already existing concepts - when concepts become mental or cultural objects they get stuck and stifles change
  • innovations that threatens existing power structures meet resistance
  • innovations that don't fit in to the current structures and the current logic takes much longer time to diffuse (if ever)

In short its people's perception and social structures that matters. Our obsession with progress seems to trick some of us into misconceive potentiality for reality and this tendency makes us frustrated about how fast things seems to change but also blind to how, if and when change really takes place.

Read Guardian Unlimited | The age of technological revolution is 100 years dead and sober up!

From IFTF Future Now - "Go read this"

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Flat Earth
What is the point with some research if there is a widespread tendency among the general public to take private decisions about its truthiness??

I am not the first to comment on, or being inspired by rise of the word truthiness, and I will certainly not be the last. The word recently surfaced in a political satire context and have been bouncing around there for a while, but I think the rise of truthiness is signaling something much deeper than the breakdown of trust and communication between politicians and the citizens. It tells something about what it is to live and act as a modern individual - maybe an existential individual.

Jay Ogilvy wrote an article in Strategy & Business called What Strategists Can Learn From Sartre and it struck me then as being an important point he was making, even if few people understood the profound implications. He starts by telling the reader about when he first recognized when the world became weird, and as a philosopher he understood that large groups of people had gone existential and was basing their actions on something else than what the traditional theories predicted.

If we have gone existential, maybe we should learn more about what the theories of Existentialism tell us about what we base our decisions and actions on.

As a philosophy, existentialism stresses that human beings have almost unlimited choice. The constraints we feel from authority, society, other people, morality, and God are powerful largely because we have internalized them — we carry the constraints around within us.

As individuals we are then disconnected from societal rules and conform ideas because we have already internalized them. We have become the independent judges of the rules of our own actions...

As a parenthesis this also relates to when I wrote about an upside down version of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in November I was continuing along that path. I got some positive feedback. Larry Dunbar commented and suggested to call it a hierarchy of wants, which he believes occurs in a different kind of organism. Maybe he can call this other type existential organisms?

When more and more people become existential it is maybe not that strange that the modern man or woman also are taking their own decision (in the stomach) about what is true or not. What is more unexpected is maybe that more and more people also are questioning things most of us are considering facts. Surprisingly we note that in more and more cases belief are suddenly again trumping facts.

How will this e g affect the roll science have in our future society? When we talk about technology research it is usually just about if it works or not. Belief doesn't play a role between knowledge creating into products and services. When we talk about e g abstract science (as e g Darwinism) and social science it is a different matter. It is only worth investing in science if it is believed to have some impact on society which is questionable if more and more people become existential.

I miss the driving forces towards a more belief driven or socially constructed knowledge diffusion when I e g see the Delta Scan: The Future of Science and Technology, 2005-2055 which Alex Pang wrote about in IFTF Future Now in December.

internet-controll-wave
The other week I answered a friend who asked about the future of Internet, that I'm not as optimistic as I used to be. It is obviously so that when a technology starting to spread to the broad masses, the society effects are showing up. We usually recognize it when we publicly starts to blame a technology for this and that. Today Internet takes a lot of blame for many different things e g being the cause of addictions, being harmful to the music industry and of course being the communication channel for global terrorist groups. Since Internet still is an extremely fertile ground for innovation the blame game will continue for quite some time. And for the most of the cases for the right reasons. Digital communication are on its way to fundamentally change our society and the Internet is of course one of the central components in this change.

There are however an number of driving forces that are working against Internet exactly for the reason that it is breaking structures which have been powerful peoples safe haven for some time.

The train of thought catched on again yesterday when I saw a short article in Wired End-Time for the Internet where professor Jonathan Zittrain, who recently wrote a (forthcoming) book on the subject, tell us that he is worried that

users will drift into gated communities defined by their hardware or their network. They’ll switch to information appliances that are great at what they do [email, music, games] because they’re so tightly

Zittrain believes that the reason is that we are moving towards software-as-service where we have less control of the structure. When I hear this I directly think about services like e g iTunes where we sell out our independence and control of the structure because of

  • external threats like viruses and trojans
  • the outstanding integration and ease of use
  • a great user experience and value for money

But also the addiction to a more integrated and service invaded necessary infrastructure software packages like Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.

Driving force: External threats and maturity of technology into integrated services
Uncertainty: Will the drive of "open source" innovation and new development structures be able to stand up against polished commercial products and services in the long run?

This is of course an interesting driving force towards an Internet which is more in control by a number of successful service providers out there. He has definitely a point, but I believe that there are more powerful driving forces affecting the open Internet the next 10-25 years ahead.

Right now there is a sleeping struggle over the power of the technical infrastructure i e control over ICANN. At least for the time being. The driving force behind this fight is of course the need for some nation states to control and restrict the use of Internet because it is seen as a threat to law and order (read "the government"). Behind this driving force is both the increased threat from global terrorism but also the increased need for threatened hierarchies like the nation states to try to retrieve their power over the people.

IHT December 3, 2006: What's in an 'i'? Internet governance
IHT October 30, 2006: 'Gambits' put at risk Web domain system
IHT March2, 2006: China sets up system for Internet domains

Driving Force: Control incentives based on security and law and order
Uncertainty: Who will have the control over ICANN in 25 years and what consequences will it have on the openness of the 'net?

Another driving force which is supporting the above power struggle is the desperation of the former communication giants e g the phone companies. Their revenue is dropping rapidly because people are not buying high-margin services from them anymore, they just buy low-margin bandwidth. And bandwidth is rapidly getting cheaper. If all they got are the pipes, where will their future revenue stream come from? By controlling what runs in the pipes of course! Both countries and service providers are interested in controlling the Internet and the communication pipe companies are offering them that opportunity. And you bet that the highest bidder will have most control! Modern network equipment are today both capable and fast enough to look into the packages and actually know what is inside, which means that whoever sits on a communication pipe also can control the traffic.

Guardian Unlimited April 6, 2006: Trouble on the line
MIT Technology Review: From Information Freeway to Toll Road

Driving force: Commercial control incentives and new technical possibilities of control
Uncertainty: Will there be technical solutions to avoid being controlled and restricted by the network providers in the future? Is new independent bandwidth providers the answer? Is wireless communication going to bypass the controlling providers?

What stands against these driving forces? Basically only power of the billions of connected individuals who believes in a more fundamental right to communicate freely.

What is starting to happen or will happen in the next number of years is that these controlling driving forces will start to reinforce each other at the same time as Internet naturally will be so commoditized that it will not be an enough interesting political issue any more.

I hope I am wrong!!!