This is a book I am working on, hopefully due for completion by mid 2018. The original purpose of the book is to explore where we are at, where we are going, and how we can get there, in the broadest possible sense. Your comments, feedback and constructive criticism are welcome! The final text of the book will be freely available under a Creative Commons By Attribution license. A book version will be sent to nominated world leaders, to hopefully encourage the necessary questioning of the status quo and smarter decisions into the future. Additional elements like references, graphs, images and other materials will be available in the final digital and book versions and draft content will be published weekly. Please subscribe to the blog posts by the RSS category and/or join the mailing list for updates.
NOTE: The outline below has been updated to reflect a pivot in intention from individuals to addressing systemic issues including the potential role of governments, in late 2017.
Where are we going and how do we get there? An optimistic book exploring the possibilities for our future as a species that shows how our global society is changing, what opportunities lie ahead, and what we need to collectively address if we are to create the kind of life we all want to lead. It challenges individuals, governments and corporations to critically assess the status quo, to embrace the opportunities of the new world, and to make intelligent choices for a better future.
We have seen a fundamental shift of several paradigms that underpinned the foundations of our society, but now hold us back. Like a rusty anchor that provided stability in high tide, we are now bound to a dangerous reef as the water lowers. We have seen a shift from central to distributed, from scarcity to surplus and from closed to open systems, wherein the latter of each is proving significantly more successful in the modern context. And yet, many of our assumptions are based on the default idea that centricity, scarcity and closed are the desired state. Are they?
Meanwhile the complexity of people’s lives is exponentially growing, with local, national and transnational rules and systems that overlap, intersect and contradict. This means new solutions need to be exponential by design as linear solutions simply won’t scale over time.
There are many books that talk about technology and the impact it has had on our lives, but technology is only part of the story. The immense philosophical shift, particularly over the past 250 years, has created a modern perspective that all people can be influential, successful and mighty, certainly compared to our peasant ancestors who had very little control over their destinies. People — normal people — are more individually powerful than ever in the history of our species and this has enormous consequences for where we are heading and the opportunities ahead. This distribution of power started with the novel idea that individuals might have inalienable rights, and has been realised through the dramatic transformation of the Internet and wide spread access to modern technologies and communications.
How can we use this power to build a better world? Are we capable of identifying, challenging and ultimately changing the existing ideologies and systems that act to maintain a status quo established in the dark ages? We have come to a fascinating fork in our collective road where we can choose to either maintain a world that relies upon outdated models of scarcity that rely upon inequality, or we can explore new models of surplus and opportunity to see where we go next, together.
This requires both individual efforts, as well as systemic transformation of the institutions and organisations we have created.
This book is in three parts and will include case studies, research and references and questions about the status quo:
- How we got here – looking at the history of modern society including our strengths, weaknesses and major paradigm shifts along the way, including the massive distribution of power from the centre to the periphery over recent centuries and decades. It will also consider the combination of human traits that have served us so well including communication, shared cumulative learning, curiosity, cooperation and competition, experimentation and a constant quest for new forms of stimulation.
- Exploring optimistic futures – exploring possible optimistic futures we could consider and the urgency need for a vision for our society for people to naturally converge on, taking new trends and technologies into account. Opportunities such as nanotech and 3D printing to address poverty and hunger, the possibilities of human augmentation given the brain’s capability to adapt to genuinely foreign inputs, the inevitable shift from the Olympics to the Paralympics, and the shift from nationalism to transnationalism, with significant implications for politics and other traditional geopolitically defined power structures.
- How do we get there – the final part of the book will look at the different actors involved in society and the potential roles of governments (public and political sectors) in enabling an optimistic and inclusive future. It will also address artificial systems, thinking and structures we have put in place that will continue to hold us back from our potential, including how the law is always behind reality, how a variety of entrenched systems of thinking present the next major philosophical hurdles to progress, how centrist competitive models are failing against distributed cooperative models, and how our ability to move forward relies on being able to let go of the past. This chapter will cover traditional thinking about property, copyright and law, capitalism and zero sum thinking, traditional belief systems, globalism and digital literacy issues.
Below is a more detailed index of draft chapters which will be linked as they are written on this blog for your interest and feedback. Many thanks to everyone who has encouraged me in doing this, and I hope to make you all proud Enjoy!
Table of Contents
Foreword & Introduction
Chapter 1: How we got here
The skills, attributes and context that brought us to where we are.
- Clever monkeys – key traits that brought us to where we are
- Many hands make light work, for a while – the growth of communities, diversification of skills and impact of interdependence
- Emancipation and individualism – human rights, suffrage movements and liberalism
- Paradigm shifts of the 20th century – from kings in castles to nodes in networks, scarcity to surplus, closed to openness and other changes
- Increasingly powerful citizens – the emergence of technocracy (for now this is linked to a paper I did on the distribution of power and emergence of a ‘technocracy’ of sorts)
Chapter 2: Exploring optimistic futures
Some predictions, opportunities and analysis of where we are likely to go, based on trends and the consistent predictable human attributes explored in Book 1.
- Exploring optimistic visions for the future – what could good look like? Whose good and who for?
- Massive distribution of everything – things will only get further distributed, so what does this mean for how powerful individuals could become?
- Augmented humanism – wearable and embedded tech is just the first step, so what does it means to be human and how far could we go? Why limit ourselves to replicating human limitations in technology when we could dramatically enhance our selves?
- Restoring cooperative competition – models of cooperative competitive are clearly succeeding but how far can it go, what is the role of traditional power structures (like government) and how can we enable people rather than things?
- Challenging the bell curve – “normal” was broadly popularised and promoted with mass media (radio and television) but the Internet has laid bare our immense variety. Perhaps there is no norm in the future?
- The ghost in the machine – automation, robotics, AI and how we blend the best of technology and humans for a symbiotic future without outsourcing what makes us human. How does this change us, our lives and work as we know it?
- Competitive citizenships – companies already jurisdiction shop for the most beneficial environment, and citizens have started doing the same. With the reducing cost of travel and access to global work opportunities, nations will have to start properly competing to attract and retain citizens.
- Distributed and participatory democracy – how could we transform democracy to be more participatory (not just better consultations or voting). How can our lives be more broadly represented in a transnational sense when national institutions are limited to national interests?
Chapter 3: How do we get there
What are the key things we need to question moving forward and make conscious decisions about if we are to fully explore new possibilities for the future.
- Open society, open future, open government – what is the role of government in all this and how can we ensure government – both the political and public sectors – best serves the interests of the people on an ongoing basis?
- Overcoming collective amnesia, tribalism and othering – how can we ensure we have a well informed, skilled, empowered and supported community where individuals and groups can thrive?
- Economy vs society – how do we measure progress, what are we working towards, who will benefit and how do we embrace a long term vision for society? How can capitalism evolve to a post capital world?
- From fake news to real news – how can we ensure that reasons prevails? That evidence and science form the basis of major policy and programs that affect us all?
- How to collaborate at scale to collectively address and adapt in response to increasingly complex and fast pace of change.
Conclusion and call to action
Individuals, governments, corporations and all other human created entities, what roles, responsibilities and rights should you have into the future? What sort of future do you want for your children? What can you do about it today and what systems do we need to reform on the path to get there?
- Tim O’Reilly released a book called “WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us” in late 2017 exploring the future more broadly based on technology and business trends. Well worth a read!
Note: the index will change over time, as the book develops