We live in strange times, one of those historical moments that happen as Mankind transitions into a new form of global society. We’re witnessing the momentous and monumental decline and fall of the Industrial Age, a time of profound disruptions, and the birth pangs of the futuristic, promising Knowledge Age. This transition phase, as one Age declines and another rises, generates enormous angst, confusion, and uncertainty within the status quo.
Unlike the Industrial Age, with its certainties and fixedness and systematic predictability and rigid solid structures, the Knowledge Age is one of fluidity, openness, organic dynamism, soft skills of heart connections, organic engagement that flows like a living stream, a creative flourish that mirrors the artist, the author, the creator ever perfecting his or her creation. In the Knowledge Age, life is a lifelong journey of learning, growing, constantly ever-developing, evolving and morphing, the old yesterday ever becoming the new tomorrow.
Mankind evolves global society through several distinct historical periods. Such times as the Stone Age, Iron Age, Ice Age defined human progress. The Agricultural Age ushered in modern civilization, and the Feudal Age of lords, kings and tribal chiefs generated significant development in living standards.
Then came the Industrial Age, after the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and the rise of European empires that stretched across the earth with maritime conquest. Eventually, the British Empire overcame strong challenges from the Dutch, French, Spanish and Portuguese, to dominate the earth, winning the wars and treaties that opened up the New World of the Americas, and the Caribbean.
In-between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the British Empire, Europe dominated the earth, with several historical periods, such as the Enlightenment, Dark Age, Romantic Period and so on.
The wheel invention became the mechanical tool and technology that fuelled the development of the Agricultural Age. And the tool and technology of Gutenburg’s printing press (itself an advancement of the wheel technology) fueled the Industrial Age.
That printing press allowed for the mass distribution of ideas.
In Britain, the works of Shakespeare would spread English across the earth within 500 years. The printing press spread Christianity through the 1611 King James Bible. Books became the new technology that transformed Mankind.
In 1776, Adam Smith published his book, a thesis he titled ‘The Wealth of Nations’.
Smith’s book transformed human thinking, and the Industrial Age popped up, with economics, money and production of goods and services the new way of being for Mankind.
By the early 1900’s, the Industrial Age launched with full gusto, and Henry Ford’s automobile manufacturing assembly line in the US paved the way for a brand new world.
Those early days of the Industrial Age saw severe and violent disruption of the Agricultural Age and the Feudal Age that had learned to exist with symbiotic benefits: the lords, kings and tribal chiefs leased lands to farming peasants, and society coasted along with this class division a sociocultural sacred cow, handed down by the gods.
The Industrial Age launched widespread knowledge, bringing such revolutionary ideas as the inalienable rights of the individual to peasants who were learning to read in new schoolrooms. The bible became common reading material for families, who started learning new ideas of equality, rights, and personal empowerment.
Eventually, the Industrial Age lifted the entire lot of humanity, within a century (which historians label as the American Century) to an astonishing high standard of living.
People everywhere learned to read, becoming educated, literate, self-governing. Books populated every corner of the world, with Andrew Carnegie using his wealth as the richest man in the world in the early 1900’s to build free-access public libraries in every city worldwide. Publishing and mass media became the largest industry on the earth.
This Industrial Age lasted throughout the 20th century, and so by the early 21st century, Mankind had seen tremendous progress in global standard of living. By 2015, poverty-stricken countries like China, India and the Asian Pacific Rim had become incredibly wealthy nations.
Each Age builds upon its predecessor. The Industrial Age resulted from the invention of the mechanical wheel of the Agriculture Age, for example – which generated everything from the printing press to electricity generation and the engine.
Similarly, the Industrial Age supplied the tools and technology for its own decline, fall and demise, and for the rise of the Knowledge Age. The worldwide Internet fuelled the birth of this futuristic, promising Knowledge Age.
Since the Internet took off as a mass-based technology in the 1980’s, spreading across the world to touch every human being within two decades of its advent, we’ve seen tremendous transformation across every area of human life – from health care, education and food, to transportation, housing and the development of urban society.
All of this is well and good, except that the ramifications, impact, effects and results of this phase of transition that we’re now in the middle of, causes enormous angst, confusion and uncertainty in the older generation, a generation that is yet young enough to be the leaders of society – the heads of state, politicians, Fortune 500 business leaders, and organization thinkers, educators and policy makers.
So we’re seeing deep anxiety, confusion and uncertainty in the halls of power everywhere, both at national level across the world as nations and countries struggle to come to terms with the new emerging world, and within global organizations like the United Nations.
People like us at Qualped Corp., as happens also with futuristic enterprises that are building the futuristic pathway for the global Knowledge Society such as Google and ABC, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Alibaba, Facebook, and so on, we must exercise patience, understanding and kindness towards the old order.
When one Age transitions to a new Age, three massive impacts result:
One Age simply outlives its futuristic promises once it achieves those goals, and dies off because it produces a new offspring – progress, a new society, the new Age. So the reason Mankind leaps from one Age to another Age, is simply that human society keeps progressing. We’ve moved from cave society to modern cities, through such history as the Stone Age, Ice Age, Iron Age, Agricultural Age, and so on. Progress, however, means a new way, brand new constructs, ideas and functions for society. In other words, Progress demands innovation.
When one Age of Man declines and falls, and a new, futuristic Age arises, the old must give way to the new. The old comes crumbling down, because space must be cleared to construct and build the new. An old Age does not and cannot exist alongside the new Age. This dismantling of the old and creating of the new demands creative thinkers, futuristic visionaries who could see new possibilities of what tomorrow could be like in this new Age of Man. Innovators arise to build the new society, even as the old falls away in confusion, anger and bewilderment at the forces of fate and nature that tear at their set mindset. When the Agriculture Age died off and the Industrial Age came upon Mankind, the visionaries who built the new world were the bankers, like the Rockerfellers and Rothchilds and Morgans, and Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie who transformed aluminium into household pots and pans and eating forks and spoons and made a fortune doing it, and Walt Disney and Colonel Sanders, and so on. It took two world wars to dismantle the old order, with the eventual collapse of Bavaria, the Austrian-Hungarian dynasty of the Habsburgs, and the demise of European royalty, including the Russian nobility.
Innovation happens hand-in-hand with Disruption.
The current status quo population, accustomed to the Industrial Age systems that their grandparents, parents and themselves know and find their comfort zone in, cannot comprehend why they have to give up their old ways of being and doing things. They live within the security comfort of fixedness – a fixed career, a set retirement date, fixed concrete and stone buildings, a lifestyle of clocking in and clocking out at fixed times. They love their culture of family and tribal expectations, with set, fixed holidays. They work for fixed goals – house and mortgage, car, financial security, existential satisfaction in fixed outcomes to their entertainment and sports and culture. They want solid, concrete, fixed, secured, solid existence. The status quo hates any sign of disruption. So they cower in fear and dread when the system of assembly line factories collapses.
Now, as we prepare to enter the third decade of the 21st century, we’ve progressed human society to the optimal height of progress, the Knowledge Age. With the Internet, robotic technology, Artificial Intelligence, and mass data fuelling a futuristic humanity of vast, incredible, unimaginable promises, we’ve leaped to the highest mountain top of civilization. We see ourselves conquering the universe, opening up new planets for human habitation, overcoming mortality, generating whatever we could imagine.
But such progress cannot happen without a total shattering and dismantling of the old order, and clearing space for the new global Knowledge Society.
For progress to proceed new creators, visionaries, thinkers, inventors will arise, generating a wealth of new ways of being for society. These futuristic souls will build the Knowledge Age. We’re already seeing them take up key position, with the big tech firms already dominating the globe. The innovators have already taken up positions.
But the Disruption that is a sad necessity of dismantling the old and building the new, we’re right smack in the middle of, and the old order, those who are conditioned to live lives of fixedness, solidity, security, rigid lifestyles of scheduled events, these are caught in their status quo expectations, confused, angry, uncertain, and kicking against the innovators.
Unlike the Industrial Age, with its certainties and fixedness, the Knowledge Age is one of fluidity, openness, organic dynamism, a creative flourish that mirrors the artist, the author, the creator ever perfecting his or her creation. In the knowledge Age, life is a lifelong journey of learning, growing, constantly ever-developing, evolving and morphing from the old yesterday to the new tomorrow.
These two worlds now clash, in this dark trench of transition, this phase as the Industrial Age declines and falls and the Knowledge Age experiences its birth pangs.
We will yet see massive socioeconomic disruptions, as power shifts from the titans of old to the new creators of human society. We could see a world war. Nations will rise and fall. Enterprises will transform from fixed brick and mortar entities into fluid subscription-type experiences – as we see with the collapse of Sears and the rise of Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos as the richest human on the earth.
The prophet of the Knowledge Age is Ray Kurzweil, who founded the Singularity University. He’s the new Henry Ford. Then, there’s Brin and Page at Google, and Elon Musk at Tesla, and Bezos, et al.
The old order sees the writing on the wall. The politicians, university and college professors, regular business owners, leaders of all shape and stripe, they all know that the earth is shifting into something new that frightens them because it pulls the carpet of fixedness, security, solidity, what they call “real estate”, from under their solidly planted feet.
The new order is busting with zeal, excitement, creative energy to knock down those old concrete and steel monstrosities, and to erect new knowledge in the land.
The global Knowledge Society is upon us, and we must be patient, understanding, generous to the old Industrial mindset that is dying off, even as they kick against the status quo falling apart. We hold the future tomorrow in our hands, and we must be grateful to these tired, ole, fatigued souls for their century of progress that delivered for us the technology on which we create and generate the best tomorrow that Mankind could ever dream of and imagine – a humanity of global Knowledge Cities, and us knowledge souls brimming with creative aesthetic power.
Today may be fuelling angst, confusion and fear among the status quo of this world, but yes, tomorrow flows to us with exciting anticipation for that eternal aspiration of the human heart, a global knowledge society.