Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Great Paradigm Revolution

I'm going to say something today that some of you are not going to like. We are in the midst of one of the greatest multifaceted revolutions in modern times. I'm not talking about about peasants Storming of the Bastille. I'm speaking about a potentially much greater social, economical, political, environmental and technological upheaval, one not seen in the last 200 years. I'm calling it the Great Paradigm Revolution.

During Barack Obama's political campaign to become the leader of the free world, (aka the United States) his message was clear and concise, "Change". In this message lies a far more ambitious goal. One that stretches across almost all aspects of our current establishment. For me, this idea of change represents a movement away from the paradigm paralysis of the late 20th century. A period of time which was marked by the inability or refusal to see beyond the current way of doing things.

From the financial industry to medicine, the environment to agriculture the keys of society were handed to a generation that seemed to have collectively objected to deviating from the common conventions while systematically engaging in one of the biggest periods of technological advancement humankind has ever seen. A kind of generational oxymoron. It's almost like they (the boom/bust generation) were too busy changing the world to remember someone needed to manage it.

There appears to be a disconnect between this technological advancement and how we as a collective society interact the world around us. The problem with paradigm shifts is you can't see them, you can only realize them. Think about Microsoft's failure to see the shift to the Internet in the 1990's or the American auto industry's failure to embrace smaller more fuel efficient cars, or even the environmental advocates failure to spot the global climate change. It's always been a reactive response, rather then a proactive vision for our future. My question is why do we never look ahead? Why is the current economic crisis even a problem? Was the fact the housing boom may lead to bust not obvious? Or was it because we truly believed it would be different this time.Or may we just didn't care.

As a technologist and futurist I believe we have the ability to take control of our collective direction. One such way may to to look at an area of study known as cybernetics. The essential goal of cybernetics is to understand and define the functions and processes of systems that have goals. Think of this as a social/economic feedback loop. In the short term this means not just blindly putting money into half-cocked bailout plans, but programatically looking at how we came to be in the predicament that we're experiencing and taking steps to avoid doing it again.

To accomplish this, I'd like to prose a new area of cybernetics called "Predictive Cybernetics". The general concept is by analyzing current and historical data we can make predictions about future socioeconomic events. Predictive cybernetics may provide us with the means for examining the future outcome and function of any system. More importantly for the systems that matter, including but not limited to social systems such as business, healthcare, environmental, economic and agricultural with a focus on making these areas more efficient and effective for future generations.

With advancements in computing and access to near limitless computing power, we now have the ability to map or even predict our future. The problem is we're not looking. Maybe I'm idealistic, but this would seem to be a key aspect missing from our current governing elite. We must starting looking ahead. We have to be proactive rather then continually reactive. I suppose what I'm saying is let's spend some of the bailout money on making sure this sort of boom/bust cycle never happens again.

It is my belief that what we're experiencing now, is an unprecedented socioeconomic revolution, one that if handled correctly may present a tremendous opportunity as the shift in power moves from a failed generation to the next. Those of us who realize this opportunity will be the ones who will prosper. I don't have all the answers, but like Obama I am hopeful for change.

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