Deja Vu all over again
This is my grandfather Alec Paterson. It is 1917 and he has just been made major.
My grandfather Alec was born in 1893. The British Empire was at its peak. Monarchs and Princes ruled the world. Coal powered our energy needs. Horses were ubiquitous. The car was a novelty. Most people lived in the country. Many had never been more than 20 miles from where they had been born. He served in the WWI as a gunner. His battery had 250 horses. He retuned to Canada on the Aquitania. Radio was the coming thing.
He died in 1956.
By 1956, the British Empire was dead and humiliated during the Suez crisis. The American Empire was rising fast. The monarchs were gone or were figureheads. Oil powered our energy needs. The horse had become a hobby. Cars were ubiquitous. Most people lived in cities. The airplane was now the normal way to cross the Atlantic. He could make a trans Atlantic phone call. TV was the coming thing.
Alec Paterson lived during a revolution. But while everything changed for Alec, he could see in 1918 what was to come. All that had made that war possible, leadership by technocrats, mass production, processed food, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, the radio, the airplane had all been proved.
I think we can see the same proof of how the future will work today.
It’s deja vu all over again.
The big picture
Data source: Ribbonfarm.com
What was the force that took us from a world where only 20% of us had a job to one where 80% of us had one? What is going on now to reverse this trend?
If we can understand this process, then we will stop being lost. Then we can make decisions about what to do based on evidence.
What is really going on?
(Image: Harold Jarche)
What happened, and what is happening now, is that the Socio Economic Paradigm is shifting. In plain English, this means that new technology, new energy and new communications tools have come together in a bundle and will force a whole new perspective on life. Our reality will change, as it did for Alec Paterson. If you live to an old age, you will die in a very different world from the one we live in today.
This image shows us three “worlds”. Listed under “Artisans”, we see the local and personal world of the preindustrial era. This is the time when 80% of us did not have a job. Then listed under “Hierarchies”, we see our own industrial era a that peaked with 80% of us having a job. And then we see something new. Listed under “Networks”, we see the emergence of the Network era where the job will be much less important.
In the first “Artisan World”, we see a lot of dots that are not connected. This world was ending as Alec was a young man. Most of what we needed then we made for ourselves inside each of these small communities. We ate local food. We read the local paper. We banked at the local bank. We bought from the local store. Our kids went to the local school. Our local doctor attended our births and our deaths.
The railway did connect each community to other ones but most of what we needed came from within the community that we lived in.
All the enterprises inside these dots were small. They did not have to be big as they mainly supplied the small local market. Farms were small. Schools were small. Stores and banks were small. And everyone knew each other. For better or for worse. It was no paradise. It was just how life was lived.
But in 1910 something happened that would change everything. All of this local and self sufficient world would disappear in a few decades. Just as the world that we know today will also disappear.
What happened was that Henry Ford put together a new set of technology that would allow the scaling of work that before then could not be scaled.
He found a way to take the skill out of complicated work.
He took away the need for skill and so took away the value of the artisan. He was able to cut the costs way below what a skilled artisan could manage. He could afford to pay unskilled people a living wage and so create something that had never existed before.
He could create a mass market.
He made the job the new normal. All you had to know to have a job was how to assemble things. All the skill was in the design of the larger process.
This new model was so powerful that it was later applied to every part of life. The local school became an end to end school system from K to Post Graduate. Children moved through the system like cars along the line. The local farm became part of an end to end system that ended up in our cereal bowl or in a Happy Meal. For industrial food meant that we lost the skill of cooking. Health Care became an end to end system with tests, pills and procedures where the patient moves along the line as a consumer.
It worked. For maybe 80 years, this new model delivered the goods. The goods and services were valuable. Wages were higher for most people. Mass markets were created. Schools worked. We got healthier. We had good media. Again, it was no paradise but most people did very well.
But no longer.
Goods and services are less valuable today. The quality drops all the time. Wages are declining in relative terms for most people. Our large institutions such as education and healthcare are not delivering a good education us or are keeping us well.
We are seeing a system that has reached the point of diminishing returns. It does not have to be reformed. It cannot be reformed. Henry Ford did not force his model on the world. We all adopted it because it worked well. The very same Darwinian, evolutionary, process that swept away the local artisanal model of the 19th century, is sweeping away the Ford model.
Just as the Ford Model won because it cut the costs of goods and services. The new network model will win because it too will cut costs. It will cut costs dramatically. It will also increase the value of the products and the services. It will offer more value more broadly to more people. It will change how and where we live. It will also break the dependence on institutions that the Ford model created.
It will also bring back the need for real skill. It will bring back the artisan. It will bring back the “village” and the human scale of how things get done. It will bring back a more dispersed world where we can choose to live where we want. All this will happen because of a new tool set and a new understanding of science that will enable us to connect the dots. We will be able to have the same trust and the same human relationships globally that we had back in the village.
Above all, it will change who has the power. So the stakes are high. There will be conflict.
The new Luddites are the old institutions. They can see the threat and have taken up the role of the Inquisition. The push back by the old system against breach of copyright, local food, sound banking is all part of the normal reaction of the dying system where the regime is fighting the war against the future. The massive systemic fraud that is revealed every week, is the same as the church charging people for indulgences to pay for the building of St Peters.
Many people can see that the system only works now for the few. Many people want change. Many are demanding reform. But when the issue is a failure of systems, reform is not the answer.
The most valuable step we can take is not to resist. It is not to protest. It is not to try and reform the Ford system. All this takes vast amounts of energy and time. The dying system cannot be reformed. It has to die. And it will die more quickly if you choose to live your life differently.
When we stop paying homage, we break their power and we create our own. This book is all about this choice.