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Only days before(!) Donald Trump is inaugurated as POTUS the US Nation Intelligence Council released a public report on the future which underlines their views of the uncertainties which will shape the next 20 years. The timing of the release of an open intelligence report is of course a whole discussion in itself.

What caught my eye was the formulation of the critical uncertainties formulated in the executive summary in the report:

Yet this dreary near future is hardly cast in stone. Whether the next five or 20 years are brighter—or darker—will turn on three choices:

  • How will individuals, groups, and governments renegotiate their expectations of one another to create political order in an era of empowered individuals and rapidly changing economies?
  • To what extent will major state powers, as well as individuals and groups, craft new patterns or architectures of international cooperation and competition?
  • To what extent will governments, groups, and individuals prepare now for multifaceted global issues like climate change and transformative technologies?

If the stability of the last century was built around the Westphalian model as the organizing principle, the dominance of US as the dominant economic and military state and the relative stability and predictability when it comes to the environmental and technological changes it is not the case any more.

In my thinking I have been sketching about how we could perceive what happened in 2016 with this little sketch. At least the sketch will point out to us that we need a new model to understand where we are heading next...

It is not yet finished but may work as a model for a discussion about where we are and what is happening.

The report can be downloaded here.

On October 11 Thomas L. Friedman, author of widely selling books like The Lexus and the Olive Tree, The World Is Flat and Hot, Flat, and Crowded as well as a NY Times columnist wrote a massively referred and tweeted column by the name Something’s Happening Here, which he started off by:

When you see spontaneous social protests erupting from Tunisia to Tel Aviv to Wall Street, it’s clear that something is happening globally that needs defining. There are two unified theories out there that intrigue me. One says this is the start of “The Great Disruption.” The other says that this is all part of “The Big Shift.” You decide.

And ends with:

So there you have it: Two master narratives — one threat-based, one opportunity-based, but both involving seismic changes. Gilding is actually an optimist at heart. He believes that while the Great Disruption is inevitable, humanity is best in a crisis, and, once it all hits, we will rise to the occasion and produce transformational economic and social change (using tools of the Big Shift). Hagel is also an optimist. He knows the Great Disruption may be barreling down on us, but he believes that the Big Shift has also created a world where more people than ever have the tools, talents and potential to head it off. My heart is with Hagel, but my head says that you ignore Gilding at your peril.

You decide.

Since I have been following and been talking about the future based on the underlying driving forces that lead up to this development for many years now, I couldn't agree more to about the relevance of these narratives. But I think Friedman makes a mistake when he thinks just one of these two narratives about "The Great Disruption " and "The Big Shift" are right. To me these two theories actually describes two driving forces that play out simultaneously , which both will have huge ramifications on our society. Because of this model I call our society which now lives through this the transition society.

This is a compressed version of a slide I usually show in order to talk about how these forces are related to each other. As you can see here I think of the impact as a transition phase where one s-curve shaped development is replaced, being succeeded or eventually melted together with another development in form of an s-curve. As we know from ecological systems, the outcome from such a transition is highly uncertain, and I think we should think about our future in the same way.

This way of visualizing the future is of course highly abstract and theoretical, but is nevertheless one of the few ways I have found to visualize the complex development of what we see happening around us. One argument for this S-curve/transition model is that it would also explain the transients and rapid swings we see today and which is a normal effect in the observation of phase transitions in e g  physics, chemistry and biology.

Mr Sarkozy has now taken the battle of the Internet to the next level of open conflict between governments and the Internet by initiating the e-G8 meeting where he argued:

"The universe you represent is not a parallel universe. Nobody should forget that governments are the only legitimate representatives of the will of the people in our democracies. To forget this is to risk democratic chaos and anarchy."

“We need to hear your aspirations, your needs,” but that “You need to hear our limits, our red lines.”

(quote from Don Tapscott - G8 and the Internet - Sarkozy Messes With a Good Thing - you can read even more about this in Alex Howard's article: At the eG8, 20th century ideas clashed with the 21st century economy)

What Sarkozy miss completely is that the current form of democratic government system, the current ideas and laws around Intellectual Properties, well the whole concept of the nation state and even of our current civilizational form is in fact a result of, and is completely built on the previous major communication revolution: the printing press.

How revolutionary we might regard the printing press, we must understand that it provided just a gradual change of human organization. It was a innovation that only increased the efficiency and effectiveness of the old model of one-to-many communication. We are now facing a much bigger and more profound change in human organization than ever. The global diffusion of Internet is the birth of something completely new and unprecedented, a fundamental change of the inner wiring of human society and organization: many-to-many communication between already hundreds of millions and soon billions of people and artifacts on this planet.

Fundamentally new communicational and computing capabilities is on it's way to  completely redefine almost everything and in particular how humanity is organized in larger groups as e g cities and countries. To use Sarkozy's words and seeing the world from his or many other traditional democratic governments perspective: this will without doubt result in democratic chaos and anarchy. The change will not take the form of something to fight with or decide about but will rather emerge from the inside of ourselves and take the form of old concepts, systems and structures that suddenly and curiously become irrelevant or at times even dangerous and counter productive.

The challenge for all of us now (including governments) is to put ourselves into a state to avoid repelling everything new but continuously learn about the new logic as it emerges in order to 1) dismount the current systems which in the current situation might cause more harm than good and 2) in their place develop new interim systems that will result in temporary islands of order where we can thrive in waiting for the next wave of deep change. Always knowing that the current structure, the current idea or the current system soon will be irrelevant again and need to be rebuilt .

It is becoming increasingly clear that the knowledge and systems that have taken us this far NOT will take us into the future.

And in times of fundamental transformation any firm and unadaptive construction will most likely turn out to be the things that keep you immobile and stuck to the bottom when the water rises and the tsunami is rolling in.

2

Today FuturePundit reports about the decline in healthy life style in the US. chips-in-bowl.jpg

Investigators from the Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston compared the results of two large-scale studies of the US population in 1988-1994 and in 2001-2006. In the intervening 18 years, the percentage of adults aged 40-74 years with a body mass index greater than 30 has increased from 28% to 36%; physical activity 12 times a month or more has decreased from 53% to 43%; smoking rates have not changed (26.9% to 26.1%); eating 5 or more fruits and vegetables a day has decreased from 42% to 26%; and moderate alcohol use has increased from 40% to 51%. The number of people adhering to all 5 healthy habits has decreased from 15% to 8%.

[From FuturePundit: Healthy Lifestyles On Decline In United States quoting the June 2009 issue of The American Journal of Medicine]

(In the light of new research one can of course wonder about the validity of the recommendations when i e fructose seems to be bad to your health rather than good.)

The important question for me as a futurist is to understand which are the major factors making this happen and what could potentially make it change?

Part of the explanation can be that we are more collectively adaptive beings than rational individuals. This is suggested by the experience of the vast majority of us share: most of us don't change our behavior even if our doctor tell us we will die early if we continue to live the way we do. To quote the book "Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life" (Alan Deutschman) we need both to reframe our conceptualization of our situation and move to a different social context which support the new behavior to actually change.

Another part of the explanation has most likely something to do with our resistance to change based on advices or recommendations because of our declining faith in authorities. A trend which is boosted by the exploding amount of new knowledge which increasingly is experienced as perspective changing and even contradictory. This is causing us to diminish the area of reference to one which we can understand i e to a more myopic and consistancy based view of truth which I usually refer to as truthiness - a truth which we feel in your stomach rather than looking up in a book (or on the net). The result is that our close environment (or even yourself) is the only frame of reference that you use to evaluate if a statement is true or not.

Both of these factors are suggesting that the key to behavioral change lies in the complex group logic - at a spiritual level - rather than at a rational psychological level.

In my head this refers me to what Axelrod wrote in his important book "The Evolution of Cooperation: Revised Edition" where he used the concept of shadow of the future to explain why cooperation changed during different collective perspectives of the future. Some time ago I referred to that concept in order to blog about why we are becoming more violent, more careless and more likely to cheat (in Swedish). The basic idea about this is that if we are likely to have a future together, we are cooperating. But if we don't have a future together and are not likely to meet again, we tend to cheat on each other more.

Could it be, that if our collective view of the future - the shadow of the future - is playing a major role in explaining how we behave socially, it also has some explanatory power for how well we take care of ourselves? This would imply that this change towards unhealthy behavior is a social macro-group behavior which might continue until we change our view of the future, which to many citizens seems rather gloomy today.

2

Asimov's Foundation The other weekend I reread Asimov's Foundation trilogy, one of the brilliant books that might have influenced me to work within the area of foresight. In these times it might be appropriate to use one of the major SF novels of all times in order to reframe the situation. I quote here from the first chapter when the scene is set and the famous Dr Seldon is questioned about his plans and has just mentioned the coming fall of the Empire:

Q. (theatrically) Do you realize, Dr Seldon, that you are speaking of an Empire that has stood for for twelve thousand years, through all the vicissitudes of the generations, and which has behind it the good wishes and love of a quadrillion human beings?

A. I am aware of the present status and the past history of the Empire. Without disrespect, I must claim a far better knowledge of it than any in this room.

Q. And you predict its ruin?

A. It is a prediction which is made by mathematics. I pass no moral judgements. Personally, I regret the prospect. Even if the Empire were admitted to be a bad thing (an admission I do not make), the state of anarchy which would follow its fall would be worse. It is that state of anarchy which my project is pledged to fight. The fall of Empire, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative, a freezing of caste, a damming of curiosity – a hundred other factors. It has been going on, as I have said, for centuries, and it is too majestic and a movement to stop.

Q. It it not obvious to anyone that the Empire is as strong as it ever was?

A. The appearance of strength is all about you. It would seem to last for ever. However, Mr Advocate, the rotten tree-trunk, until the very moment when the storm-blast breaks it in two, has all the appearance of might that it ever had. The storm-blast whistles through the branches of the Empire even now. Listen with the ears of psychohistory, and you will hear the creaking.

Q. (uncertainly) We are not here, Dr Seldon, to lis–––

A. (firmly) The Empire will vanish and all its good with it. Its accumulated knowledge will decay and the order it has imposed will vanish. Interstellar wars will be endless; interstellar trade will decay; population will decline; worlds will lose touch with the main body of the Galaxy – and so matters will remain.

Q. (a small voice in the middle of a vast silence) For ever?

A. Psychohistory, which can predict the fall, can make statements concerning the succeeding dark ages. The Empire, gentlemen, as has just been said, has stood twelve thousand years. A Second Empire will rise, but between it and our civilization will be one thousand generations of suffering humanity. We must fight that.

Q. (recovering somewhat) You contradict yourself. You said earlier that you could not prevent the destruction of Trantor; hence, presumably, the fall – the so-called fall of the empire.

A. I do not say now that we can prevent the fall. But it is not yet too late to shorten the interregnum which will follow. It is possible, gentlemen, to reduce the duration of anarchy to a single millenium, if my group is allowed to act now. We are at a delicate moment in history. The huge, onrushing mass of events must be deflected just a little – just a little – It cannot be much, but it may be enough to remove twenty-nine thousand years of misery from human history.

Q. How do you propose to do this?

A. By saving the knowledge of the race. The sum of human knowing is beyond any man; and thousand men. With the destruction of our social fabric, science will be broken into a million pieces. Individuals will know much of the exceedingly tiny facets of which there is to know. They will be helpless and useless by themselves. The bits of lore, meaningless, will not be passed on. They will be lost through the generations. But, if we now prepare a giant summary of all knowledge, it will never be lost. Coming generations will build on it, and will not have to rediscover it for themselves. One millenium will do the work of thirty thousand.

Here it is worth noting that the main inspiration too this novel, which started as a series of short stories by a 22 year old Asimov, published from 1942 and forward, came from Gibbon's famous work "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". When I see it in this perspective I can't avoid thinking of the role of the monasteries which worked as knowledge capsules during the dark ages.

What does Dr Seldon say about what causes the fall of the Empire:

  • a rising bureaucracy
  • a receding initiative
  • a freezing of caste
  • a damming of curiosity
  • ...a hundred other factors

And the effects will be:

  • its accumulated knowledge will decay
  • the order it has imposed will vanish
  • interstellar wars will be endless
  • interstellar trade will decay
  • population will decline
  • worlds will lose touch with the main body of the Galaxy
  • ...and so matters will remain

Do these bullets sound familiar?

Our thinking about what we have to do is most likely not in the same line as Dr Seldon – mainly because we don't have the luxury of having developed the science of psychohistory – but realizing what stage we really are in, when it comes to societal and civilization development maturity cycle in combination with ecological and technological reality is crucial if we are going to meet the future in a way which don't turn out to be a horrifying apocalypse.

So go back and read the quote again and come back with comments about differences and similarities between this stage of our society and maybe the roman empire, or Asimov's Empire.

2

200812010134.jpg

One major strength with humanity is that every time the current system is being threatened it is learning something. Some of us argue that we should be using our relatively recent develop pre-frontal cortex in order to foresee things, but at the same time we know that real collective learning emanate from real experiences which stirs op real emotions.

So what learning are we talking about in this sad situation?

First military and security groups around the world, including India, saw a new and horrifyingly effective tactic when a rather small number of individuals with ordinary weapons and explosives could terrorize one of the world's major cities for hours after hours and kill hundreds of people. I shrug when I think about which consequences this lesson will have when it comes to new kinds of security measures being implemented in more places in our society.

For all the different small groups of terrorists, guerillas and organized criminals around the planet this was a lesson in the efficiency in the swarming tactics we have seen small examples of here and there. In my home town Göteborg organized criminals seems for some time been experimenting with placing fake bombs or committing crimes elsewhere in the city in order to divert the attention of the authorities. This successful attack in Mumbai will become a major lesson of the learning processes John Robb calls Open Source Terrorism in his blog Global Guerillas.

For the Internet crowd and the traditional media channels the learning this time was about the effectiveness of tweeting, or as Paul Saffo puts it: News no longer breaks - it Tweets. Every time the social media crowd is engaged in something, new structures are emerging when the social software tools are being used in a slightly different but more effective fashion. I first noticed the real large scale effect of this in the aftermath of the dreadful Christmas tsunami in 2004 when the citizen journalists in place with cameraphones connected to the blogosphere and actually made all the necessary analysis hours before any journalist arrived and days or week before some governments figured out how to do. At that time the tools were blogs and wikis and mobile cameras. In every crisis after that I have been noticing how the connected crowd quickly restarts the process, but every time on a bit higher and more sophisticated level. This time the tool of choice was Twitter and since Twitter is a much faster paced technology, the information flow was even faster than before which meant that the reports were almost instant. For the curious you can go to Twitter #Mumbai to follow the Twitter updates in real time.

What does this mean for the future? If we compare these three groups when it comes to the speed and potential of learning to act in this new emerging environment the picture becomes pretty clear. It is not the governments or the security professionals that will adapt best or more quickly, even if they control a lot of resources. Most likely they will intensify their already ongoing work of trying to identify and stop potential dangerous people. They will undoubtably make the life difficult for many citizens around the globe, but if they don't redefine themselves and their mission to be much more bottom-up and preventive, they will not learn how to really cope with new emerging security situation.

The fastest learning is definitively taking place in the bottom-up part of the game where a race of mastering these new emerging technologies in a new emerging environment have been going on for some time. The question is not if the nation state will be able to handle terrorism but if the networked global citizen will develop a working distributed "defence system" in order to shield the society faster than what terrorists and other radical forces will develop their effective swarm tactics.

Update: John Robb have made a couple of interesting follow up posts about the Mumbai tactics:

Global Guerrillas: JOURNAL: More on Tactical Innovation

Global Guerrillas: URBAN TAKEDOWN: MUMBAI

There were also more articles about the use of social media as news reporting and communicating platform e g

Mumbai attack coverage demonstrates (good and bad) maturation point of social media | Feeds | ZDNet.com

Update 2: And guess what communication technology the terrorists were using?? Blackberrys of course!

Update 3: In NY Times February 14, 2009 John Arquilla commented on these kinds of attacks and called them Swarm tactics and characterized them as

The basic concept is that hitting several targets at once, even with just a few fighters at each site, can cause fits for elite counterterrorist forces that are often manpower-heavy, far away and organized to deal with only one crisis at a time.

and ends the article with a prediction:

Yes, the swarm will be heading our way, too. We need to get smaller, closer and quicker. The sooner the better.

200811262159.jpg

One major challenge with the failing global financial markets is that the amygdala is directly connected to the economic system. This means that individual feelings of billions of people around the globe is directly linked to the global economy. To some extent this have of course been true for a long time, but the increasing speed due to more online transactions i e removal of buffering mechanisms, makes the connection even tighter for every day.

And gradually economics becomes social psychology (or complexity theory).

Once upon a time I played volleyball, a sport which I sadly retired from after I had a bit of surgery in my shoulder. I really liked volleyball because of the magic that occured when playing. Volleyball is an explosive and intense sport where all team members have to connect to each other - have flow - to play really good. To achieve this volleyball players repeatedly talk to each other and touch each other in order to create bonds that connect the bodies and minds of each other. When you feel you are connected you don't think consciously about where the other players are positioned, you simply know where they are and where you should be. It is an almost magic sensation and the team seems to behave like one organism.

After some time of flow, the opponents might be catching up and play better and you lose a couple of points. Suddenly you feel like if you've lost all the flow and your team seems to have a problem performing as a team. You start losing even more points and it feels like nothing is working anymore.

The key question here is what you do to recreate your flow again?

The wisdom from tight team sports like volleyball is that you cannot recreate it with less than forcing the whole system to completely disconnect, wait for a while, and then restart the whole process of connecting again - not creating exactly the same connections - but starting to connect again in order to find the flow of the team. In volleyball it is called a timeout.

I would argue that since the economic system more and more behaves like a volleyball game - i e a tightly connected system of brains and bodies - and what it would need right now is a timeout.

Why would timeouts be better than bailouts? If we look at the economic system from a social psychology perspective, or even a complexity system perspective, changing a destructive spiral into a constructive one is extremely difficult. The reason is that all the small reinforcing drivers are working in concert in order to maintain the direction of the system. And it will continue until the energy runs out or something at a very basic level is turning some of the fundamental drivers in another direction e g a positive spiral. This is basically the reason why many billion of dollars of aid to the third world didn't change anything. It is first when a number of internal key forces, albeit very tiny-looking, are starting to positively reinforce each other the economic development turns into an upward spiral. To be able to reinforce these small, but important drivers within our economy, we have to be extremely clever to reinforce the right ones, without also fueling the destructive ones.

So why not try the timeout idea? If we don't, the system will crash anyway in order to create it's own natural timeout, and we will take the full hit. If we on the other hand create an artificial timeout and forces ourselves to rewiring the system in a new way, the we maybe have found a heuristic to stop these kinds of globally reinforces crises?

Many of you readers know that I am skeptical to to future of traditional hierarchies. I believe the huge change that is happening now (again) is that new communications technology is simply creating another playing field for the basic human capacity to organize and solve problems at hand. A field where the model of traditional hierarchic and static institutions is not the given answer for solving problems, as we have been assumed for some years (read "hundreds of years") now.

Maybe this thought is at last coming through in a more traditional context? Or am I just exaggerating what my mother recently pointed out to me in the latest issue of Time Magazine? On the question on the chaotic situation in the Japanese government Michael Elliott asks:

Yet on Japan serenely sails. It makes you wonder if most of us have still not figured out the question of 1962 [How do they do it?], or if the answer to it is so radical that we miss it. Could it be that an old society is leading us into a postmodern age, one where the world of politics, something that we have assumed for 200 years was the wellspring of national success or failure, is somehow just not that important?

[From The Moment -- Michael Elliott -- TIME]

I am aware of that there are (at least in theory) other angles of attack for questioning the relevance and impact of the national political governing system, but Elliott is pointing at an important issue here. We are assuming that the national political system still is a wellspring of national success or failure. I would say that it is much worse than that: we can't even use the word society today without bringing along a complete system of assumptions containing the dominance of the nation state model and it's constituting institutions. In all writing that I read, regardless if it is in an academic context or not, I can track these underlying and implicit assumptions. Assumptions that effectively clouds the discussion of how we should go about organizing the society of tomorrow. A society where the nation state may or may not be the fundamental organizing model.

Is publication of Michael Elliott's short essay a weak signal that this line of thought is on it's way to breach into the mainstream discussion? Is it just a call in the dark? Or am I filling in too many blanks myself?

One of the highlights of LIFT08 was the Asia track. First on stage was Marc Laperrouza who talked about the telecommunication situation in China. To summarize what I thought was most interesting (download PDF of presentation):

  • 59% of the world's 2,5 billion mobile phone users are in developing countries - it is the first time in history that a technology has more users in developing countries than in developed countries
  • 3 of the worlds 5 largest mobile phone operators are in China - the largest is China Mobile with 350 million users
  • Super Girl, the Chinese version of Pop Idol, received 800 million SMS votes - government reactions was to quickly apply severe restrictions to prevent something similar to happen again
  • mobile phones are e g used as tools for instant crowd shopping - a phenomenon which I in the late 1990:s thought was going to emerge faster in the West than it apparently did

Marc ended by quoting Wang Jianzhou, Chairman of the world's largest mobile phone operator China Mobile in Davos in January:

“We know who you are and also where you are!”

A comment that made the relation between technology and politics in China very clear to everybody.

Another interesting speaker was the South Korean researcher and consultant Heewon Kim who talked about social software spread in her home country. (her slides can be downloaded at LIFT_HeewonKim.pdf)

Interesting facts from her presentation was

  • South Korea have 37.89 million subscribers to Mobile Internet services with a usage rate of 43%
  • 20 million people = half of the number of citizens is members of the hugely successful Cyworld, the most successful virtual community sites in South Korea
  • Of the younger population 98% of the young people at the age of 20-30 are members = everybody
  • $260 000 worth of virtual items are sold every day in Cyworld

Heewon focused on the word "almost synchronous communication" to describe the common communication pattern, which means that you have access to status updates and messages all the time and can response immediately, but is not required to do so by the communication situation. It is basically the same kind of pattern that fits very well with MSN and SMS which is hugely spread among young kids in Europe, but not with ordinary phone calls (which is completely synchronous) and not mail and blogs (which are basically asynchronous). The mobile phones was the natural and always present tools which was able to support this mode of communication and Cyworld was of course extended to mobile phones anymore. The point with the emergence of almost synchronous communication seems to be that supports the emergence of real-time intimacy. (See also my earlier post about Consumers in a connected world)

Last on the Asian track was Gen Kanai, head of Mozilla in Japan.

What I though was most interesting and thought provoking in Gen's speech was his description on how bad the Open Source model really worked in Asia. Of course Gen didn't describe it as bad, that is my interpretation. E g during the Linux development the Asian participation was very low in Asia. There seemed to be few theories of why but cultural, language and educational barriers were discussed.

He also talked about good examples and mentioned Bhutan which is a really small country who have chosen Linux (Dzongkha Debian Linux) as their major operating system. It was developed during just 13 months and to a cost of about US$80.000.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Volvo IT and how they blocked blogs and other sites mentioning social software. Particularly it was sites that happened to have "typepad" or "blogspot" in their address or any other trace of being what could be categorized as "social software". Examples of site that was blocked from Volvo employees was

Recent news tell us that e g US Air Force is also blocking blogs as reported by Wired recently:

The Air Force is tightening restrictions on which blogs its troops can read, cutting off access to just about any independent site with the word "blog" in its web address. It's the latest move in a larger struggle within the military over the value -- and hazards -- of the sites. At least one senior Air Force official calls the squeeze so "utterly stupid, it makes me want to scream."

[From Air Force Blocks Access to Many Blogs | Danger Room from Wired.com]

What might all this mean?

To me these events resonate with something much bigger. Is it a coincidence that these actions mirrors what leaders in China, Burma and other totalitarian regimes have been taken to protect their positions? I think this is a chain of events that are on it's way to spread on a global scale and is the result of a number of conflicting driving forces

  • The information and communication technology changes human organizations much deeper than we think - the whole traditional way of building static hierarchies are losing out
  • Leaders in one hierarchy after another are waking up to the fact that they are becoming increasingly powerless, and maybe even in the long term irrelevant and the main culprit seems to be be modern communication technology - by trying to restrict and control Internet they think they can decrease the chaos and again return to control
  • Because of the 9/11 and the growing threats of viruses, stealing sensitive information through the Internet and global terrorism
    (1) the security industry is booming and provide a vast range of better and better tools to restrict certain kind of use as well as gather and analyze enormous amount of information much easier than before and
    (2) citizens and employees are in a psychological state when safety and order is regarded as a goal of higher priority than many other things

This development wouldn't be something to worry about if this "shut-the-gates" behavior was just occurring in totalitarian states and old and rigid corporations. But I think we should be a bit worried when we see it being spread elsewhere. What maybe is starting out is a war against free horizontal communication and Internet is the target. 9/11 can be seen as the pivotal event because it started a chain of reactions that eventually turned what could have been a contained shift of organizational models into an open battle between the leaders and the rest.

Some effects of the changing human communication capabilities are inevitable since the old model must make place for new ones. But how this transformation will develop is dependent on many factors. Some uncertainties I see right now are

  • how far will the major influential global powers go when it comes to maintain/regain control?
  • will the fragile democratic processes actually work when it comes to redefine the power structures according to the new communication reality?
  • how much is people in general willing to sacrifice to achieve to some level of (superficial) order and safety?
  • which real world power will the horizontal networks gather before one of the major conflicts occur?
  • will there be a wide spread awareness of the nature of the conflict or will other issues (like e g the environment)?

Four possible outcomes for the next 20 years?

I think there are four possible scenarios for the future of the relation between the new communication paradigm and models of governance.

200802282254.jpg Scenario 1 - a smooth sail

It will turn out as the technology people are predicting. New communication possibilities will revolutionize the world and the existing governing structures will first be bypassed and then step by step become irrelevant and eventually disappear as a new organizational paradigm will rise from the rubble of the pieces of the old ones.

This will not happen without conflicts but the conflicts will be contained and of a small scale. In most case reason will win and new rules and regulations will emerge from bottom up.


200802282300.jpgScenario 2 - back in line

After seeing some of the consequences of a horizontal and anarchic world almost all top leaders agree on the dangers of entering the unknown and collectively decide that this can't be allowed. The strategy will be to fuel image of the external threats and convince people that we will not be able to solve all these global problems if we allow communication to be completely free.

Some major events will also help to make it very clear to most of us that the price to pay for that relatively small freedom of communication will not weigh up all the chaos that will follow in the trace of dismounting our governing structures and hope new ones will arise.

Scenario 3 - full scale war200802291149.jpg

It is perfectly clear that most of the leaders of influential hierarchical organizations and countries will not tolerate that new communication technology will change and maybe even destroy the current governing models as well as the nation state - the perceived foundation for stability of the world. In order to maintain order and recreate a well needed economical stability almost all possible means will be used to diminish any further effects of new communication technology. The strategies will differ. Most countries will start off with the nice path of surveillance and infuse a silent threat in order to keep some people afraid and silent. When this fails because of the emergence of DarkNets they will be forced to take the path of the more brutal governments and pull the plug to the public Internet completely. Instead new and restricted channels for financial and corporate use will be developed and financed by e g the dying but now revitalized phone companies.

Countries who still naïvely believes in democracy and liberalism and accept and tries to adopt to the new communication paradigm will not be able to stand outside of this but will be drawn in to the conflict by the large and more totalitarian countries like China, United States and Russia. The world will be divided between the countries who have invested too much in the hierarchical governance model and actually relies on it for it's existence and the rest of the world who will have a better chance if the game is redefined in a less hierarchic manner.

Scenario 4 - many small wars in different areas at different times

The perceived negative effects of changing communication models are not evenly spread. It is almost impossible to decide on one line of action and the war of organizational paradigms will pop up in different arenas and will be followed by actions in isolation to this area. Each conflict could be geographically contained (within China, Burma or United States), contained within an industry or area (traditional industry organizations or military organizations) of activity or even be contained in an aspect of other things (copyright, terrorism).

This scenario could be a prequel to both scenario 2 and scenario 3, and it could maybe even be perceived as a prequel to scenario 1, but it will be the most tedious and slow chain of events. It is unlikely that this scenario will work since the world is more connected than ever. A conflict of governing models within an area will most certainly spread to other areas very quickly.

This is just a short and shallow analysis that might be severely flawed so please comment on it if you have something to say...