One might think: “What’s there to add to the concept of connectivity in an era where everybody seems to be in touch with the entire world. The question is: “Are we in touch with the world, with each-other or with our inner self?” The information age gave us Google, Wikipedia, social media and more, but did it give us insight into complex issues? For instance: “How does globalization relate to local roots,” “do we have a clear view how the economical system affects the human psyche” and most of all “are we overseeing the consequences of complex technological developments?” One might expect that access to information would provide us knowledge accordingly, but this is not necessarily true.
Since the beginning of the Cold War, our alleged connectivity to this information overload has directed us farther away from a balanced society.In 2012 the difference between rich and poor is growing, conflicts and wars are still part of the everyday news, not to mention that the European Union is close to falling apart.
Where did it go wrong and what is needed to transform today’s world of “sound-bite” politics, “leaky bucket” economics and short-term leadership into a solid socio-political and financial situation, based on establishing a society where everyone is challenged to excel on individual and collective levels?
It is time to revise the fundaments of society. Organizations continue to be one-dimensional, dealing with communities as manageable subjects without the ability to take responsibility on their own. Today’s concept of power, forces leaders to deny the fact that by creating self-sustaining units a country, a company or a household can be transformed into an organically growing entity, that can regulate daily matters from within rather than directed top-down.
After all isn’t it just a matter of observing nature? Ant colonies have a very high level of social organization that show what a coherent, efficient society can be. Yet a single ant doesn’t seem to be a highly developed creature. Scientist are inspired by insects and create simple robots that multi-task collectively like ants or bees. It rests in the principle that actions based on collective power and intelligence can be more productive than centralized structures. “Swarm intelligence” provides insights in how to deal with complex issues, using simple “building bricks”.
The question of whether we are really aware of what globalization does to our local daily lives, was probably ignored during the introduction of the Euro. In order to have “means of payment” functioning in more than one sovereign country it seems logic rules are needed to guard the stability of a currency. Not an easy task, given the fact that cultural differences between the North and South are not easy to ignore. The difference in interest rates between Northern and Southern countries are similar to the period before the introduction of the Euro. Linear formulated rules are not adequate to deal with local complexities that come along when things don’t go according to plan. In other words, there is not one truth and a balance can only be reached weighing every component input, opinion or standpoints, being aware of local, cultural differences.
In this same way we can explain the current political instability. Why are we confronted with a European landscape that more and more starts to look like a street fight? In the Netherlands the populist Geert Wilders is breaking codes of parliamentary respect and ethics by telling the prime minister “why don’t you act normal dude”, the election in France of the socialist François Hollande is driving the rich out of the country, as if they were expelled from the barrio and extreme right wing parties are on the rise with the Greek Golden Dawn as the latest scary example. A situation that is a result of one-dimensional decision making where the electorate votes, ideally, every four years without any political participation thereafter. We seem to have a system failure, causing immense dissatisfaction among the people in the streets. Emphasized by the fact that those in charge don’t have solutions nor understanding of how to tackle the current situation in the European Union.
Is democracy failing? There was socialism, communism, capitalism ... are we maybe ready for a new-ism?
Our natural ability is to compete or at least this is what we have been educated to do, but isn’t cooperation more profitable on the long run? I am not advocating to give away ideas for free, yet by sharing ideas and expertise you can perform better and reach viable competition.
Let’s face it one of the most successful companies of the moment is all about “sharing” and “liking.” Didn’t Facebook give some kind of proof that being nice can be more productive than to compete? I would suggest that social media at least gives us another perspective in approaching stagnating businesses and unmanageable political issues. All the ideologies we have followed until now seem to have lost it’s impact, although some theorists believe that we should revise the capitalist system, others believe the communist approach had angles to follow, while China opted to combine two schools of economic thinking.
Coming to my last question: “Are we, as a society, overseeing the consequences of complex technologies currently being developed?” Once again I tend to answer this question with a “no.” Already in the Second Sight yearbook of “2012 and beyond” I wrote an article about “Full Automation” and the lack of attention for robots taking over human labor.
The principle of swarm intelligence, “systems based on collective power and intelligence are more productive than centralized organizations,” might come in handy while defining new organizational structures that connect us to a reliable future.
(This article will also be publishes in the "Connectivity" issue of Second Sight 2012