I describe the Social Age: the new world we live in, an ecosystem of constant change. An evolved space that is characterised by the democratisation of power, the rise of Social Authority, the rapid iteration and holistic impacts of new technologies and emergent classes of technology, and the shattering of existing epistemologies and hierarchies of organisation and control. Broad disruption that has transformed our high streets, will rewrite our cities, is redrafting notions of identity, and is stretching the principles of commerce, healthcare, defence, governance, manufacturing, and creativity, that our old world was framed within, and built upon. So i talk about ‘The Social Age’, but what we are experiencing is ‘The Social Revolution’, a new era of organisation, the final triumph of homo narrans, the storytelling ape, an age of storytelling people, the culmination of post industrial, post base technological, possibly post national, identity and expression.
Unlike previous revolutions, which have swept away all that came before, the Social Revolution is a parallel one: facilitated by technology, in the sense of providing the foundations, but somehow meta, greater than simply the mapped lines of communication and control that are visible to us in the ether. Bigger than big data: the Social Revolution is one of identity and individual agency, collectivism and democratised expression, and organisational fluidity. It is about organising principles, the philosophy of identity, the struggle for control around different forms of power, and ultimately about the human condition and identity. Storytelling man: but whose story, and under whose control?
I’ve decided to chart six aspects of the Social Revolution, part of an ongoing reflection into the new realities of the Social Age: ‘health’, ‘industry’, ‘technology’, ‘creativity’, ‘education’, and ‘nationhood’.
Health: there are multiple shifts in healthcare provision, and mindset, that chart an overall move from ‘exception’, to ‘everywhere’, health related intervention and activity that is integrated into our everyday. Customised and personalised healthcare, effected by underlying industrial revolutions in manufacturing, and the biomedical revolutions in genetics and big data, coupled with artificial intelligence and the emergence of almost synchronous expert diagnostic systems. The social aspect of the health revolution is about purpose, longevity, social justice and fairness.
Industry: as we shift from reductive to additive engineering processes, and the circular cycle of resource management, we will see corresponding shifts in social organisation, innovation, new value chains, and the emergence of enabled connectors (as well as disenfranchised skills workers, and geographically impoverished resource orphans, whose demand network has evaporated), as well as the dereliction of older socio-industrial models of urban organisation.
Education: learning is changing, away from something formal, additive, and abstract, into something continuous, located, personalised, tacit, co-created, rapidly evolutionary, democratised, iterative, and increasingly free (both in cost terms and of control). The new professors may be artisan philosophers, the rebirth of purpose, the locus of pride in craft. Vast shifts in the organisation and engagement in learning, and the abstraction of the former formal/social/adult/child distinctions.
Technology: in ever more rapidly spiralling cycles of new classes and categories, in particular, integrative and experiential outcomes, joining together previously individual disciplines and activities. Technology moving from facilitating existing interactions, towards enabling, defining, entirely new ones: creative, communication, manufacturing, personalised, iterative, etc.
Creativity: the decoupling of ownership around creativity and distribution (farewell to the publishing industry), the dis-aggregation of the creative process, in parallel with the creation of new creative, and co-creative, opportunities. The democratisation of three dimensions. The strengthening of the link between creativity and industrial prototyping, and innovation itself: perhaps a rebalancing of the social recognition of creativity, removing a legacy of devaluation, celebrating the rise of new, empowered, creative communities. The age of the artisan industrialist?
Nationhood: we will see emergence of new models of engagement in government, and new models of governance, as well as a likely shift in the nature of nationhood itself. Possibly poly amorous in our national identity, as the notion of geographically defined nation states evolves to cater for nations of interest and shared social values. Key in the Social Revolution (which may already by afoot in the United States) is social justice, fairness, inclusion, equality, the right to individual identity, and trust. This evolution of nationhood may be aligned with the emergence of the proto-currencies, free from national ownership, and with quantified trust. Blockchain technology will revolutionise more than simply money.
These six aspects are not a definitive picture, but rather six of many aspects that i want to play with in more detail: expect not answers, but my own thinking is to explore the disruption, and to focus on the accompanying Social Revolution. Not ‘what is the thing’, but rather, what may emerge from this disruption.