Beyond the context of the current synchronic financial crisis, we find ourselves today, in a crossroad where several factors converge, heralding a “Perfect Storm”. As Sir David Attenborough quotes in his recent conference at RSA, “People and Planet” , population growth, climate change and peak oil production will determine a severe turmoil in global society, with devastating consequences in such a short time, that many of us will witness it.
Society has “natural” roots based on immanent physical and emotional characteristics of human beings: biological needs, joy, love, fear, need of getting together, optimizing results of production, trying to get as much leisure time as possible, having control on each one’s own life.
On the other hand, there are drivers from the cultural-artificial environment, that lead the evolution of any social group. Interaction, communication, serendipity, trigger new ways of conceiving reality and generate quantum leaps interrupting the continuum of historic facts as known.
Both aspects need to be addressed: individual / collective, one towards the biological brain, the other towards the social brain.
The aims could be described as societies thriving in the achievement of the maximum AUTONOMY. The individual would gain it’s own autonomy in the same movement than society as a whole.
To reach this status, there must be an AWARENESS and ENVISIONING of the new conditions, which, the same as every milestone in human evolution, both represent a new certainty on the full potential of mankind at a certain time.
In addition, ETHICS / EMPATHY are a perfect pair which concepts I love both. The first one relates to one’s own behavior, when alone, doing things just because of one’s conviction and not measured on the benefit or loss they might bring. It’s a mean to get through the short term, with a teleological perspective, towards the long term. The other is what keeps a social network cohesive. Bonds between individuals translate into the cohesion of a social body. If a simple mechanism replaces the network, it will probably be more efficient and run even faster, but surely will not do it better.
What are the key drivers in today’s society that enable this change more in these days, than in any other time of human history?
SPEED: Changes happen so fast that speed has gained a new qualitative status, not anymore quantitative. Social phenomena were historically bound to a temporal development. Information had it’s channels to reach the appropriate person in time. But today, every member in contemporary society is instantly connected with plenty of acquaintances, which produces a viral effect. From one moment to the other, the news has been spread between millions of people.
SCALE: Since the beginning, the number of individuals in human groups or societies, has been growing increasingly. Today almost half of human beings lives in a urban environment, which creates such a density that any change affects, again, millions of people. Globalization got its’ counterpart, when social networks have also become global.
STRENGTH: another level of awareness that will rise sooner or later, is that if knowledge is power, the exchange of information between people, will multiply their strength. Should any agreement be achieved by a significant number of people, its’ strength to change/maintain the course of history would be unbeatable.
STRATEGY: Nobody takes any risks without a strategy. It’s plain clear that a strategy is planned better by a few than by a multitude. Until today. Social discussion will be a new feature, that will exceed a group of friends, or a debate on TV. People will be in contact with other pairs all over the world. And will gather, “virtually” first, but undoubtedly “in reality” soon after. Common interests (the basis for a strategy) will be as easy to discover, as in other times was to pick up the phone and have a chat. A social strategy will not be a Utopia anymore.
TECHNOLOGY will definitely play a vital role in the way Society will design and decide its new PARADIGMS. The infrastructure Internet provides, prepares the field to an ever faster changing course.
We’ve just witnessed how in few days, information, opinions and thoughts spread in Internet, not through traditional media, but through blogs, posts, social media, put the United States Government in a very difficult position having to explain clumsily, the fantastic capturing and killing of Osama Bin Laden.
The impact of social media discussions on the Internet about Greece bail-out/default, as well as the recent experience of elections in Spain, both have been outstanding experiences compared to traditional news media. Broadcasted live by the people in the squares, by being it blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or the live stream placed on top of a building in Sol, they have put in evidence the fact that there is a movement at the base of society and that it will become more and more ambitious in terms of transparency and the compliance of the representative duty of official agents.
Democracy will need a redefinition under this light, since many of its procedures and methods, created two centuries ago, were based on physical factors for the organization of elections, like geographic distances, districts, infrastructure of space where to carry out the elections, transportation.
New tools for surveillance, control and revocation of politicians in power, must be developed. We cannot even imagine in which ways technology can support society management, and it’s a major task we need to address URGENTLY, if our wish is to live in a more transparent, fair and equitable society.
Today, when if you wish, you can buy almost anything, anywhere in the world, just by paying it by electronic means 100% secure. Markets, commerce, financial world are thousand of steps ahead in the race for technology application.
Under this perspective, some social methdodologies and procedures, ( i.e.: elections carried out electronically with instant result of votes, even from you mobile phone handset), are becoming easily conceivable. In similar ways, referendums could be just a “click” away, should everything be accordingly set.
Democracy should be revised and recreated, to integrate new movements and new social paradigms before it occurs by collision of social forces.