The Big (Bad) Picture! How ready are we??

Today Jamais Cascio wrote a post about The Big Picture where he paints a picture of the 6 main drivers behind the major development of the next 20 years. I am really looking forward to following posts in the issue.

  • Climate Chaos
  • Resource Collapse
  • Catalytic Innovation
  • Ubiquitous Transparency
  • New Models of Development
  • The Rise of the Post-Hegemonic World

He starts his last paragraph in his post with

As always, this is meant not as a prediction but as a provocation.

OK, I am a bit provoked!! 😉
It is really an interesting list which cover a lot of the important drivers. My purpose with this post is possibly to touch on to what I think is either a meta subject or possibly an even larger driver. At least I think it is a major uncertainty underpinning how we react to the consequences of these drivers, but also how we are able to organize to meet the coming challenges.

The rise of the modern man

I am talking about the rise of the Western modern man, as sociologists call the phenomenon, and specifically how the modern man is silently and by just ignoring it challenging the existing hierarchical structures everywhere. For this purpose I would characterize the modern man as

  • more pragmatic and critical in larger scale than ever before – most notably to experts, media, authorities and institutions
  • is being able to create a (socially constructed) personal worldview – truthiness rules
  • is to an increasing extent driven by the need for self esteem and creating a personal identity
  • has more input then ever which gives a broader and at the same time more shallow perspective of the world
  • is increasingly connected
  • is increasingly empowered by different means of technology – more and more of a prosumer

Eroding organizations

But what maybe is more important now and a consequence of all this, the modern man is starting, beginning with the younger generations, to throw off the inherited mental limitations and cultural patterns of hierarchical subordination. This is already having consequences to many organizations. The ideas behind almost all of our current organizations, including nation states built on democracies, relies on a too simple principle of subordination and division of labor.

If I am right and the emergence of the modern man have already been eroding the steering mechanisms within our society and companies there are a number of consequences. The most subversive aspect here is that you don’t notice it in everyday operation, but how the more long term steering works. This means that when you are going about and do the operational stuff it works pretty well, and the only thing that we notice is the increase in Dilbertian sarcasm. But when you are trying to redirect the ship you realize that wheel isn’t connected to the rudder anymore.

What are the uncertainties?

One conclusion of this is can be that, OK some structures are rotten and will die or at least radically change when things are getting serious. So what?

I think it is more serious than that because these defunct organizations

  • harbor most of the available resources in the world
  • are still relied upon by the other organizations to do something about the situation
  • are symbols for a defunct model for organizing e g maintaining dangerous knowledge in the times to come

To me this might really qualify as a black swan. I am not worried at all that we as the human race will change our way of organizing ourselves according to the new situation over time, but in the coming 20-30 years when facing the big challenges it could be really dangerous to rely on a non-working organizing principle. It will have a big difference for how we succeed if we collectively noticed this change and actually started to identify and actively destroy the bad structures in favor of building new ones which actually worked.