Changes for which people are not currently ready
The five impending crises lying ahead will have maximum, and very heavy, impact on people around the globe. Of all the actors that make up our society (government, institutions, political and economic elites and civil society), it is citizens who will bear the burden of the changes to come. Societal changes will only take place if they can change several key behaviors and yet, moreover, they will still be responsible for the financial costs.
Today’s citizens are not prepared for the sacrifices their leaders will impose.
The neoliberal economic model :
Selçuk, le Monde diplomatique, Manière de voir 18, 1993
The emerging fears of younger citizens
The new and younger citizens of the world (notably in the western world) are better educated and more familiar with information technologies. They are now facing several important concerns or fears: :
• Profiling people via algorithms owned by the private-sector empires (eg. FAANG) ;
• the loss of individual liberty / freedom due to espionage by the peoples’ governments, in the name of security ;
• the loss of employment du to dislocation, automation or disruption-by-internet (and the absence of continuous learning / training opportunities) ;
• the diminishing of capabilities and attention related to the spread and encroachment of more and more digitization of information. Etcetera.
Three major societal shifts – the stages
People around the world have experienced three major changes in as many generations. As a result, we have undergone a relatively rapid shift from
- local and homogeneous culture (1900) ;
- a mass culture controlled by commercial promoters (1950) ;
- an interactive digital culture.
The first mutation forced humans to learn to read and write (thus eventually discovering the modernity of ME).
The second mutation drowned humans in a daily tsunami of television images, which reveals endless images of the planet on which we live.
Selçuk, le Monde diplomatique, Manière de voir 18, 1993.
The third mutation involves people using/experiencing cyberspace to discover our connectedness to the rest of humanity – each of us is part of an « US ».
There are three stages of a process of accountability for this environment :
In the third mutation, humans are shifting from physical participation in local life to connecting with each other virtually and exchanging in online social networks :
Over the last fifty years, information technologies have caused citizens of societies around the world to live through historic cultural and economic changes :
If they so wish, humans today can become active members of the global digital village. The culture of connected global citizens borrows from the emerging culture of remote control, touch screens, applications, etc. :
Like plants that feed and enrich their immediate physical environment, citizens feed on the society to which they belong. And in turn their engagement with and participation in that society enriches it.
It is a living system in which humans are in constant interaction with other humans. We use the signs and symbols that give meaning to life to communicate with other humans (chapter 5, no. 3). We use our common and divergent cultures to communicate with and live with other human beings in a society. In general people do not choose their country or culture but are born into it.
During the industrial era, citizens were a critical element of local trade ecosystem ; anonymous and passive beings reacting to marketing campaigns or disinformation served up by the mass media.
However, in today’s connected world we can begin to see and understand that humans operate in a wide range between the infinitely small (local, small groups) and the infinitely large (global, potentially connected to everyone):
Man is the masure of all things
Protagoras (circa – 450)
Between « ME » and « US »
Humans function in a range of contexts about one’s self-awareness, and actions about a human’s place and role in the world. To maintain balance in a constantly evolving world, the culturally-widespread individualism-driven persona of « ME » uses several functions :
The development of « ME »
Five different memory systems intervene in the development of the societal characteristics of individualism and self-prioritization of the « ME ». This development is shaped by the memories, sensations and images stored in the different locations of the human brain (E. Tulving) :
Humans live between their « ME » and an « US » using three different spaces : a personalized space where people spend more than 70% of their time, a private space that takes up 20% of peoples’ time, and a public space that accounts for 10% of time spent :
The social fabric of society
The knowledge-based society has three dimensions : space, time and information. It consists of a social fabric in which citizens grow and evolve according to the dreams and culture shared with others.
The social fabric of a society is what enables people to move easily from « ME » to « US » (from local to global) and vice versa.
The diagram below sets out the factors and characteristics of humans’ learning processes as related to the three major dimensions (space, time, information) of their world :
If presently trust is disappearing, common dreams become non-existent and culture generally becomes weaker. Trust in society’s key institutions has eroded very quickly over the past two decades, which is a key element of the reasons why our current society’s progress seems blocked.
Dimensions of space and time
Throughout our lives, humans must adapt to more and more abstract spaces and calendars :
This pattern resembles that of ekistics (see below).
Ekistics is the science of inhabited spaces. It helps us to better understand and manage the interrelations that develop between human beings and spaces (especially when more than 50% of the world’s population live in a large city) (chapter 8, No. 1).
Above, each space / population is multiplied by a coefficient of 7. This science was created by Constantin Doxiadis in 1942 and published in 1968.
The information dimension
Throughout their lives, citizens exchange with and contribute to the world of ideas (chapter 9, no. 1). In turn each person becomes a node of influence that enriches their world in one way or another :
Because our brain constantly adapts to the tools we use, a primary impact of writing, printing and television has been to alter the human brain’s neural connections.
As a result of cumulative adaptation, the Internet has had the most recent impact. Its conditions have resulted in its evolution into an extension of the ME and the US because of the ways it changes our short and long-term memory.
A citizen is both a « ME » (body and mind) and an « US » (extended family, « friends », niches, etc.) His or her life is a constant struggle to address and balance the changes in one’s personal environment (see the diagram below). This is even more true today in the context of the five major emerging global crises (chapter 0, no 1). For the first time in history, all inhabitants of the planet are affected and at risk. The messiness and violence of the transition to a post-industrial era is only beginning to be felt.
This violence, whether that of the Charlie Hebdo (Paris) attack or victims of the bombing of hospitals or refugee camps, creeps into a citizen’s brain via all the images-on-screens that show daily all the details, instead of being filtered and edited by gate-keepers as before.
Over time this violence leaves traces in the brain of the viewers and pollutes the imagination.
The functions and needs
Needs vary from one individual to another depending on the space (eg the region) and time (yet). They range from survival (« ME » down in the following diagram) to the personal achievement recognized by others (the « US », top) (compare with the work of Abraham Maslow, see below).
This is an accountability path, the aim of the community that is researching well-being :
A New World in which citizens speak out
Today, human beings live in a social space that looks like a pyramid (chapter 6, no 2). At the top of the pyramid we find the government. In the middle of the pyramid we find the various institutions that support the functioning of the community. At the bottom is the space where peoples’ lives unfold on a daily basis (throughout all life’s stages – birth, marriage, death, etc.) – it is the link between immediate family, extended family and the village where the person lives (so the main actor in the middle of the area is both « ME » and « WE »).
On second thought, this pyramid is strangely similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see below).
Formerly a simple dark chain at the bottom of the social pyramid, now the citizen is at the center of decision-making that thus must be a collective process. The changes required by the current crises require changes in behavior, and participation in decisions.
If the mass media of the industrial age has rendered citizens anonymous and passive, social networks now require them to become proactive (no 7).
Its not about believe, aim behavior,
Today, after an period of personalization (goods and services, based on data) people are beginning to discover that they are also the key actors in creating and maintaining social ties : there is a growing realization that post-industrial society must become more than a group of isolated individuals, becoming instead an interlinked set of communities.
The « US » is not the sum of the united « MEs » but the fruit of a common will.
Consciousness is perhaps individual, but thought is collective.
Structural crises (youth unemployment, socio-economic inequality, deterioration of the biosphere, etc.) require new policies and regulations based on a culture of equity, self-management (based on proximity), new relationships between a society’s citizens and its bureaucrats, and on horizontality and connective intelligence. (see the work of the International Observatory of Participatory Democracy).
The citizen that I am was born in 1932 has had two different states of being (child and adult). However, today my grandchildren know four states of being (child, adolescent, adult and elderly adult) :
I was considered a minor until I was 21 years old. Once married (formalized status, children, mortgages, etc.) I became a true citizen (I was able to pay my taxes and to vote from time to time). But during my life I have always had the impression of being passive and anonymous – part of the silent majority of the era.
My grandchildren were initially babies (kings’ children : loved, pampered and overprotected). Then around the age of ten, they metamorphosed into teenagers entering a sphere besieged by vendors peddling CDs, clothes, idols and smartphones. They officially became of majority age at 18, but not really full-fledged adults until much later.
We have passed from 2 to 4 states with the arrival of mainstream television, around 1960. With it, the behavior of citizens began to change :
A generational change
Today, citizens mainly identify with commonly-shared dreams and less with a flag or borders (except perhaps in the USA, where the flag and borders are essential aspects of the American Dream). And because human beings are still works in progress, our commonly-shared dreams become signifiers of identity.
We now face two solitudes ; both groups have biologically-similar brains, but culturally their brains are very different. Seniors who were not so long ago the silent majority know that massive changes are underway, but they do not want to leave their places, abandon their status and, even less, consult the coming generations. Today elders generally see with horror the legacy they will leave to younger generations, such as the growing under- and unemployment that has become the daily struggle of many under 30 or so.
Because these generations do not engage in any meaningful dialogue, there is no intergenerational transfer of cultural knowledge or values, and thus no real preparation for a very different future (at least currently) :
A generational change
Today’s citizens are beginning to initiate other metamorphoses :
- the social fabric is unraveling as it is confronted by ongoing urbanization and immigration ;
- a citizen’s world grows incoherent as mass media offers up only continuous infotainment ;
- citizens’ confidence in the political and economic elites is dissolving as the elites’ insistence on defending their privileges becomes increasingly apparent.