Every wondered what the patterns of a social movement look like? Check this out. I created a graph for the number of Google keyword searches for the phrases Anonymous (the hacker group), Occupy Wall Street, and NSA to see how they change in time. Each one has a different structure — which reveals important things about how ideas spread in society to produce cultural change.
Note how Anonymous (the red line) has a series of increasing peaks, each representing a new media event where they gained more exposure. Each new event brought them more prominence and notoriety. This is the process of becoming a recognizable and persistent part of the cultural zeitgeist. Contrast this with the large single peak of Occupy Wall Street, which is the classic shape for a viral media event. Occupy arose quickly, spread far and wide, then dissipated and largely went away.
This is different from the seeking of information about the NSA (National Security Agency), which was mostly non-existent until the release of classified documents by Edward Snowden. This event is structured as a plateau with descending peaks to reveal how it rose to prominence and remained in the spot light as new batches of files were periodically released to the public.
All three events have different time signatures that reveal something important about how they (1) came into being; (2) influenced public awareness; and (3) left their mark (or not) on society.
The world is awash in data. Billions of people routinely surf the web and click on links. They connect with their friends, like or block content to suit their preferences, and share information widely on social media sites. This happens every single day.
Even more people get into cars, take buses and trains, board airplanes, or move around by human power on their commutes to work, exercise routines, daily errands, and to socialize with friends and family. This also happens every single day. What most of us are just beginning to realize is that all of these activities (and many more) now produce streams of data. Data that gets aggregated. Data that is analyzed for patterns of meaning to be used by governments, research institutions, and commercial enterprises. Data that makes visible the awe-inspiring dynamics of our human world. Continue reading “Hidden Significance of the Big Data Explosion” »
If I had to pick a single word to describe the global economy today, it would be fragile. Policy makers and business leaders have actively built a system that destroys the environment in order to produce profits in the short term — by distributing goods and services across a global supply chain that is designed to minimize costs and maximize financial returns — while relying on structures that are profoundly susceptible to disruption. Continue reading “Towards a Resilient Global Economy” »
Will human civilization make the transition to global sustainability? Or are we doomed to collapse and possibly even extinction as a species? I have grappled with this question for years as I journeyed through the intellectual landscapes of Earth System Science, cognitive science, and complex adaptive systems. And now it is clear that I am not alone on this journey.
This video is a talk given by Jeremy Rifkin at the British Royal Society about what he calls the Empathic Civilization. Note how he describes a fundamental shift in how we think about human nature — inspired by the revolution now unfolding in the cognitive sciences — while casting a story of cultural evolution through which new energy production regimes meld with new communication technologies to birth new stages of consciousness.
Big changes are coming. Every indicator suggests that the world is transitioning on a global scale. Last year we saw the emergence of populist movements in what has come to be known as the Arab Spring and later watched Occupy Wall Street grow rapidly, taking root in many countries where governing institutions have produced unbearable inequality and suffering. Alongside this civil unrest are a rising tide of natural disasters, rapid adoption of mobile technologies, and a growing recognition that humanity itself has become a truly global force of nature. Continue reading “Toward the Global Transition — 2012 and Beyond” »
Ever wonder how it came to pass that a global economic system was put in place that is so harmful to human well-being? In this video, I share the historic origins of rational choice theory (also known as the theory of rational action) and describe how cognitive science ultimately revealed its foundational prejudices. Hope this is helpful to you!
You can learn more about my work on the applications of cognitive science to political, economic, and philosophical issues at Cognitive Policy Works.
Oh and please forgive my mis-statement about the law of commutativity 6 minutes 30 seconds in… I meant to say that if preference for A is greater than B then preference for B cannot be greater than A. Psychology research in the 70’s showed that this math rule is violated by framing and priming effects.
Are you a social innovator seeking to help in the global transition? Would you like to thrive and survive during the most profound paradigm shift in human history? Then you are going to need a strategy. You are going to have to figure out how to live through the first half of the 21st Century.
What must you do to plan for the tremendous changes that increasing numbers of people are recognizing must take place during our lifetimes? Simply put, we’re going to have to let the old global economy collapse around us while simultaneously building a new one that carries us on to global prosperity and peace. This will be complicated by the converging challenges of planetary climate disruption, resource depletion, financial meltdowns, and diminished confidence in governing institutions. Continue reading “A Social Innovator’s Guide to Riding Out the Global Transition” »
Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. We’ve all heard this adage and many among us take to heart the wisdom of looking backward as a vital practice for understanding the future. As a student of global systems, I’ve followed the rabbit deep down its dark hole on more than one occasion. And I’ve always come back to the surface better able to navigate the terrain with the perspectives gained by doing so.
But what of deep history? Why must we understand the origins of the universe, evolution of stars and planets, and geologic forces in order to grapple with contemporary social issues? The answer — to be succinct — is that only such a broad backdrop will reveal the landscape for potential action today. Continue reading “Want to Change the World? Study Deep History” »
The great challenges of the 21st Century are systemic in nature. From ecological decline to cybersecurity in a digital age, the patterns of change we must grapple with are profoundly complex. Change agents will need to understand how change unfolds in complex systems in order to promote political and economic stability during these turbulent times.
Imagine it’s the year 2050 and a vibrant, high-tech global economy is thriving. We made the transition away from fossil fuels. Our cities are designed around regional security and multi-layered resilience. Prosperity is widespread and capitalism has taken a new form that promotes human well-being as its modus operandi. In other words, we’ve transitioned to a configuration of sustainability and relative stability on a planetary scale.
What will the world look like in 2050? 2070? 2100? It’s impossible to say for sure, especially since the collective impacts of human civilization have altered the state of the world at unprecedented scales. We stand at a cross-roads with an uncertain future. And we have important decisions to make.
In this post, I’d like to suggest a promising path that lies before us. It is a road we can travel down if enough of us choose to do so. Imagine if the major social movements of the world — sustainability, global justice, world federalism, corporation reform, open collaboration, and social finance — were to congeal into a new way of being. There are trends that suggest this is already happening. We can help amplify this convergence. Or we can suppress it. Continue reading “A Global Convergence of Social Movements?” »
I think I’ve discovered the solution to climate change, or more accurately, the paradigm through which innovative solutions will be widely implemented around the world that reduce our collective impact on the environment. No it is not a “tech fix” in the form of new gadgets that people use. Nor is it a piece of legislation that places a price signal on carbon emissions (although that remains essential as part of the restructuring of our economic systems as we transition to sustainable models).
I’ve dedicated a lot of research over the last few years to understanding the deep trends that will define the next economy. As I’ve written elsewhere, the global economy goes through a creative-destructive cycle every 50 years. And now we’re in the midst of a collapsing paradigm that is soon to be replaced by something new.
In this article, I will explain what the new paradigm is and how it will impact every sector of society — including business, government, education, and basic research. The old economic paradigm was a service economy built on the digital communications revolution that began in the early 1970’s. It is winding down now as financial capital has decoupled from productive capital and the global speculative bubble has burst. The financial meltdown of 2008 had many causes, but its most important result is that our major societal institutions have stalled out and the funding models that drove the whole system no longer work properly.
This systemic shutdown requires a new paradigm for economic production, one that has been incubating in the minds of lead innovators for several years now and is just beginning to get recognized as the next model for the burgeoning new economy.
This morning I had a great conversation with a local entrepreneur who has decided to leave Seattle and move to the Bay Area because he can’t find enough institutional support for his team’s tech start-up.
By contrast, a visit to San Francisco showed him what a supportive culture for entrepreneurs looks like. He was chaperoned around from attorneys to venture firms to be sure his enterprise would be walked through all the steps necessary to bring it to market. His team has chosen to relocate because they need to get to market quickly and the pace is just too slow here. Continue reading “Why Talent Leaves Seattle” »
We often hear stories that celebrate the heroic exploits of exceptional individuals. Bill Gates creates a software empire. J.R.R. Tolkien writes a masterpiece that defines the fantasy genre. Mohandas Gandhi brings the British Empire to its knees. These narratives frame the nature of innovation in a manner that blinds us to the web of social systems that actually make big changes possible.
If we are to innovate on the scales necessary to make the transition to a sustainable world, we have to understand how social innovation REALLY works. In this post, I will offer a framework that reveals as much as the Hero Myth conceals in the hope that you will become more effective at driving social change in your own work. Continue reading “How Social Innovation Really Works” »
We are in the midst of a collapsing economic paradigm. This is evident in the widespread wealth inequality, absence of strong civic institutions, corrosive infusion of money into our broken democracy, and a deteriorated environment ravaged by a profound blindness to our impacts on the larger world.
Public Speaking :: Innovation Design :: Integrative Research k I am a social visionary, innovation strategist and interdisciplinary scholar who weaves together brilliant people and ideas to create integrated solutions t0 the world’s most pressing challenges. My passions include design for social change, the architecture of social enterprises, creating large-scale behavior change, and incubating social ... Continue reading »