(Also called transition, rupture, tectonic shifts or thresholds in the US)

Throughout history, the emergence of each new era was accompanied by the appearance of new ideas :

Antiquity (starts in -3300 BC)

A new world arrives and grows thanks to the creation of writing. First to appear are cities (Damascus, Athens, Tyre, Luxor, etc.), with their kings, warlords and high priests.

Influential players in this era were Hammurabi, Hérotote, Tacitus, Homer, Sophocles, Cicero, Thucydides, Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Pericles, etc. ; and on the religious side, Moses, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Gautama Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, etc.

During this era humanity acquired three fabulous gifts: writing, the city and democracy. Human beings became citizens of a society, and began to seek ways to live together more effectively. This period also saw the beginning of a long quest for knowledge and the meaning of life

One of the symbols of this era is The Seated Scribe of Egypt from the the 4th or 5th Dynasties (2600-2350 BC, AD). It can be viewed at the Louvre Museum in Paris :

Renaissance (1400-1700)

As the Renaissance began, a new world started to emerge. For the first time, explorers draw a real world map (Vasco de Gamma, Magellan, Christopher Columbus). Then came the distribution of our Greco-Roman heritage throughout Europe thanks to the printing press (Gutenberg). The planet becomes spherical (Copernicus), while Europe is recognized as such (Mercator), a religious reform was launched (Luther and Calvin) and the idea of ​​the western world based around the Atlantic appears. Next to arrive are the ideas of progress and civilization, and especially opinion, common sense and justice,

A new intellectual context is organized around a network of universities and the Encyclopedia; thus the Church no longer has a monopoly on knowledge. The notion of modern sciences begins with the publication of Principia Mathematica (Isaac Newton, 1687)

During this era, information is controlled by the political and religious elites while the culture begins to be homogenized by the emergence of schools. This results in a first phase of globalization organized around the European network of universities and trade shows.

Influential actors of this era are Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Nicolas Copernicus, Vesalius, Kepler, Hobbes, Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Francis Bacon, Machiavelli, Erasmus, Hegel, Titian, Raphael, Martin Luther, Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Machiavelli, Dürer, etc.

The symbol of the Renaissance – Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci :

The industrial era (from 1700)

This revolution is the sum of three accelerated developments :

  • meeting the capital and energy requirements for the development of factories in big cities;
  • the birth of the State guaranteed individual liberties and privileges hitherto available only to absolute monarchies (the French and American revolutions) ;
  • the geographical reconfiguration of European states and their monarchies after the Napoleonic Wars.

Peoples’ perspectives are shifting from the assumption that the Earth is at the centre of a small universe to it being a part of an infinite universe turning around the sun. In this context humans must tame and manage the emergence of science (cosmos, calculation, etc.), printing and the discovery of a new continent : America.

In this revolution a new vision of the world appears that is much less focused on using capital to acquire and use steam and electric engines, rail and steel booms, and much more focused on development of concepts such as modern medicine, division of labor and letters patent.

An useful symbol of this historic transition is the famous piece of music titled « Beethoven’s 5th Symphony ». The emergence of modernity is due all these new ideas and attempts to define and express the continuous growth of complexity.

The actors of this era are: René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, Locke, Baruch Spinoza, Georges Cuvier, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Adam Smith, James Watt, David Hume, Jacques Vaucanson, Joseph Marie Jacquard, etc.

The Industrial Revolution II (from 1900)

Because all time zones are now aligned (GMT), the planet is now seen as an entity unto itself. Soon, it will be seen as an interconnected system (chapter 9, no 5).

Scientists and artists who define this new world : Charles Darwin, Pierre and Marie Curie, James Clerk Maxwell, Louis Pasteur, George Boole, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Heinrich Hertz, Grigor Mendel, Nikola Tesla, the Lumière brothers, Guglielmo Marconi, Thomas Edison Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Pablo Picasso, Walt Disney, etc.

For their part, philosophers define new concepts : Georg Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegarrd, Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi etc.

One of the architects of Industrial Revolution II was Nikola Tesla, who developed the alternating electric current, reliable motors, lighting, radio waves and wireless communications ; in a word, all the clean energy that made this world different and modern.

Information in this era is controlled by the economic elite, while culture is diluted by the mass media. This shift was magnified by the new medium of images (photographic first, then film and later television). (chapter 5, no 3).

This period ends with the dead-ending of the neoliberal economic framework (2008 ) and an international disorder for which the United States bears much responsibility. Indeed, the conditions in the USA often exaggerate the disorder.

Now a period of transition has begun (2000-2010) which is leading us to a post-industrial era.

Charlie Chaplin The Modern Times represents well the beginning of the era (1936) :

The knowledge-based society (from 2000-2010)

Today, a New World is emerging : cyberspace is juxtaposed upon industrial-era space-and-time (chapter 3, no.14.). Economic globalization is organized around the world (with the launch of the Internet in Brussels by the G7 in 1995), its objective being a global duty-free market in 2015.

At the same time another kind of globalization, political this time, has been trying to organize itself, but thus far in vain.

The pioneers of this era are: Babbage, Turing, Marshall McLuhan, Isaac Asimov, Vinton Cerf, Seymour Papert, Alvin Toffler, the Shockley-Noyce-Moore Trio, Steve Jobs, Mark Andreessen, Jeff Besos, Mark Zuckerberg, Al Gore, Jacques Attali, Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz, Noam Chomsky, etc.

One of the signs of the knowledge-based society, which will rely mainly on interactive images-on-screens (chapter 5, no 9), is the appearance of the Apple Macintosh (1984) :


Several authors have described in their way the transition (or the rupture with the known past) that we have been living through between 2000 and 2010: turning point, decisive breakthrough, major discontinuity, like techtonic plates shifting, The Big Switch, etc.

2012 : Time magazine : It is not the end of the world, but it is the end of the world as we know it.

2009 : Margaret Atwood thinks that at the present moment the world is on the edge of a crisis much more serious than it may seem …
Today, people are like children who have not yet learned what life means or how to live. In Comptes et légendes, la dette et la face cachée de la richesse, Boréal.

2009 : James K, Galbraith qualifies the current crisis as beyond normal, a crisis for which our exisiting models of interventions are useless and / or obsolete. Washington Monthly, édition de mars.

2008 : Al Gore uses the phrase “shaking things up” in his book An Inconvenient Truth, Melcher Media.

2008 : Clay Shirky speaks of revolution in Here comes Everybody, The Pinguin Press.

2008 : Thomas L. Friedman, columnist at the NewYork Times, announces on March 7, 2008 that 2008 will be the year when « The Great Disruption » began.

2008 : It is not a clash of civilizations (S. Huntington) but the beginnings of a new world Jean-Claude Guillebaud in Le Commencement d’un monde, Seuil, page 48.

2008 : Parag Khanna speaks of a New Global Order in The Second World, Empires and Influences in the New Global Order, Random House.

2008 : We are facing an epochal economy and social shift, perhaps of an importance unsurpassed since the bourgeois revolution that gave birth to the capitalist economy that we have today. Adam Arvidsson and Nicolai Petersen, in The Ethical Economy (on the Web).

1995 : Benjamin R. Barber describes the struggles which are unfolding between a MacDonald-izd world (global and submissive to the major multinational companies) and a traditional world (fundamentalism in a wide range of forms). In his book Jihad vs McWorld : How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World, Ballantine Books.