Friday, November 13, 2009

Change Is As Change Does


There were many people who may have talked a good game about the promise of space and telecommunications 50 years ago, while privately despising and even undermining the very people who Actually Made These Changes Happen. Doubt and fear-bound humans have never understood change on that scale, much less at that velocity. Sputnik and the space race didn't cause that. However, they do provide a vivid depiction of technological change.

It's not entirely the doubters' fault. It's in our monkey genetic code. Different kinds of change frighten different types of monkeys (humans) on various levels. Even when we vote for change, we often don't really mean it. Often, what we really mean is: can I get that in blue instead of red? None of us is entirely immune to this desire for change that's not change.

Today, as in 1959, many continue to talk a good game about the promise of accelerating change, but privately they do not believe it for one second. They want to be perceived as hip and knowledgeable, while hedging their bets in private company; this, in order to not appear foolish, later. Ironically, that's the very strategy that ultimately exposes the timidity and indecisiveness that they attempted to hide.

We want change that's not change. We like our scarcity thinking. It's what we've always known. It puts some nebulous "they" in charge of the economy; the economy in charge of our everyday reality; and our dispassionate circumstances thereby dictate our every waking decision. Safe. Stagnant.

Postscarcity means that I may have to rethink all of that. I might have to make new decisions, based upon better conclusions, derived from closer inspection of the current situation.

What if postscarcity is not a cute little theory, but the long predicted result of the past 200 years of industrial development and success, the past five thousand years of cultural evolution and uplift? What if postscarcity brings with it today all the attendant organizational and institutional challenges that one might reasonably expect as we witness the last gasps of a dilapidated, pre-industrial ideological infrastructure that worked so very well, for so very few, for so long?

This is what cultural metamorphoses feels like; a gut wrenching transmutation of the vestigial, collective assortment of expectations and norms that forged the comforting mythological consensus reality affectionately referred to as emergent industrial America.

Scarcity and myth were our center, but the center didn't hold.

It's as if the forecasted inversion of the Earth's magnetic poles has occurred. East is the new West.

It's a confusing time. An uncomfortable time that just feels somehow unfinished, not properly planned, incomplete.