Eighty years ago, nationalism sounded really great. It sounded great to the Americans. It sounded great to the Japanese, and it sounded really great to Germans. The reality is that our intuition often can be a poor guide for change. Though it is almost certain that small things can produce sudden, big changes, more often than not humans are surprised and confused when sudden change occurs.
In his Gettysburg Address, the first thing Abraham Lincoln did to honor the fallen was refer to The Declaration of Independence. He urged Americans to increase their devotion to “the unfinished work” of advancing liberty. Four score years later, the world was embroiled in a war that could have ushered in an era of oppression, fascism and tyranny, the very antithesis of Lincoln’s vision. Now, nearly 80 years after The Gettysburg Address was delivered (see image below for full speech), we are engaged in another pivotal time. It is the era of globalization that shall put humanity to the test. Can we recognize the small changes that are before us and choose to create a better way?
We are on the precipice of globalization, and it inevitably will tear down the borders that have separated humanity. The change won’t be easy. If history is any guide, I suspect most people will ignore the small signs that a tsunami is fast approaching. Most will be dragged kicking and screaming into the undertow of the digital age.
Like a deep underwater earthquake, the invention of the Internet and subsequent rise of social media shifted our foundation at its core. The wave that was created is closing in on land. The water in which people usually swim has been sucked out, fish helplessly flip-flop on dry land and previously hidden coral structures emerge. For the first time ever, those on the shoreline can see the bottom of the sea where they usually swam. Many scratch their heads at this unnatural looking landscape. Some run toward the sea-less sand for a better look. They have no idea of the unimaginable power heading their way at 500 miles per hour that will drown them.
The potential for the tsunami in our workforce has always been there. As the wall of water heads our way, awareness of the changing landscape grows. Things look different now, but few grasp that the metamorphosis is a radical shift, and the landscape will never look the same again. Many will be hurt or will die, for change never comes easy. Social media has just started to democratize business functions, but the C-Level suite is not immune. None of us are.
“In our democracy, 1% of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income … In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1% control 40% … [as a result] the top 1% have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1% eventually do learn. Too late.”
Joseph Stiglitz, Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Vanity Fair, May 2011
United We Evolve
What the people on the shoreline are witnessing is the unveiling of a communal mirror. My understanding of the human unconscious only scratches the surface but I see that crowdsourced inventions from a group of amateurs usually are better than the creations from professionals or so-called experts. People with something at stake make better guesses too. That’s called crowd wisdom. When we come together something powerful and greater than the sum of its parts happens. We have new tools to bring society and the world to the next level, and we are capable of much better things than what we’ve created in the past.
This is not political. To see the truth, we need only to breathe in the gray and polluted air, swim in trashed filled oceans and rivers, live with no clean water, or fear a looming water crisis, turn away from the extinction of animals and the more than six billion people who inhabit this planet. The Earth has never had to support the existence of so many human beings. A child could tell you that something is amiss.
There may be hope for us after all and perhaps social media is the start. The inherent trade-off between profitability and destruction does not have to exist. It does now, but only by our own design. The industrial age is over, but in its place is the power of connection, which waits to be unleashed fully. Comprised of individuals, our collective work has the power to become the true democratizing force for our world. Should we choose to make the world a better place, we now are more able than ever before. Our survival no longer will depend upon having to be separated by and defined as people representing companies, states, countries, languages and ideologies. We no longer have to work as cogs in a machine that produces something we cannot obtain and which is foreign to us because we know of only one stage in its manufacture. Today, we are all able to contribute and become fully aware of the entire creation. This is our age—the age of information and connection—which, I hope, will historically be remembered as the time when we woke up and evolved into humankind.
To Conquer Division of Labor
This thing we term “the crowd” is ringing the industrial age’s final death knell. Its faithful servant, division of labor, a myopic mass of ignorance, rests in the coffin next to it. The assembly line has fizzled out and will be a chapter in a history book. The crowd has the power to fundamentally change current economic and political systems that are based upon scarcity. The rise of social networks and information sharing democratizes power and can hasten the birth of a meritocracy. The elite few need only to leave it alone.
Though individuals comprise the whole, together they form the collective unconscious, an entity unto itself. The collective unconscious now has a tool that lets it listen, speak, judge and translate as one, and that tool is social networks, which hastened experiments with crowd-wisdom, crowd-funding, crowd-voting and crowd-sourcing. The discovery, now called counter-intuitive, which causes some substantial uneasiness, shows that an undivided human race (the whole) performs better than a fragmented one. The Internet is our unification tool and catalyst for a new and happier age that awaits our design.
From the dawn of civilization, great thinkers have struggled to create an organizational structure to be the proxy of the collective unconscious. The unrelenting drive for individual power eventually erodes all of these structures no matter how well designed. It could be argued that America is the best one to date. What prior societies lacked was an ability to join together. The crowd is not going away, but I wonder how well it will cooperate during my lifetime.
Divide and conquer has been used successfully in war, economics, politics and labor since the dawn of civilization. It is based upon the truth that the whole is less powerful and easier to overcome when it is torn apart. At best, complex challenges become easier when divided into smaller, more understandable units. At worst, division allows an elite sovereign to control populations for personal gain. I would be naive to believe world leaders are unaware that unification via the Internet opens the door to the power they currently hoard. History teaches us a free Internet will be threatened by those in power seeking to maintain their individual status.
The worldwide web allows individuals from around the globe to choose their subject of interest and get to work on it. In the future, I imagine human beings born into poverty, with little or no formal education, who don’t speak the same language being able to do the work they love unhindered. We hear about the widening gap between rich and poor in our country, yet pay little heed to the gap between rich and poor on Earth. The injustice and outrage that disenfranchised workers from western societies feel now is the same injustice that third-world countries have suffered for years. How many Einstein’s had to till a field, or work in the rice paddies to keep from starving? What happened to the Venezuelan Hawking, Nigerian Newton, Chinese Marie Curie, Bosnian Monet, or Ecuadorian Beethoven? Now, the Internet gives all people a chance to emerge, be brilliant and advance the human race. Wave patriotism good-bye and say hello to a new way of thinking: If you work hard doing something you love to do, you’re likely very good at it and will be able to survive by sharing your gift with the world. It has value. The tradition of scarcity and the concept of money are disappearing because they’ve been illusions all along.
“The dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crisis…The solution to this is to replace the national currency with a global currency.”
Justin Yifu Lin, Former Chief Economist of the World Bank
So, what is our new currency?
The mindset and setup Americans inherited from the industrial age isn’t relevant and doesn’t work anymore. You know what I’m talking about: the daily grind that’s been instilled in Americans since birth, or perhaps before that. It goes something like this. Wave good-bye to youth, and grow up. Work for a a living because if you work hard, you’ll be successful. Drive to and from where this work requires us to be. Endure long hours in an unnatural setting to prove commitment to the company through its downsizing, outsourcing and trimming of the fat. Get married, have children and buy a house. Fear being cut because now it will hurt more than just us. Go for the money. Look out for number one. We can’t imagine what the reality of not having a job looks like, so we push the thought out of our mind, smile bravely, dress and act the part and live our lives as-if they will happen to us sometime soon.
Good News – Your Job No Longer Exists!
Here’s the truth. Nearly all of those who are employed at companies and factories will lose their jobs, if they haven’t already. The unemployed in mid-career will not be hired for full-time work ever again. They shouldn’t think the reason is because someone pegged them as too old, overqualified, under-qualified, over-educated or not educated enough. The jobs no longer exist. It’s that simple.
This is great news. This is the time to break free, devote yourself to liberty and invent a better future. The past doesn’t predict the future though it should inform it. There’s a brave new world that is waiting for all of us to design and it looks more like Star Trek and less like now. It’s taking over quickly–like Tsunami, 500 m.p.h. quickly. We shouldn’t stand on the beach scratching our heads at the approaching disaster. We can make the new currency. Our combined knowledge is the new wealth.
To get in on this deal at the ground level, start by asking yourself a few questions:
1. What have you done to help someone today?
2. What have you contributed to make the world a better place?
3. What do you want your legacy to be?
“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
Together are more powerful than we possibly imagined.