Before wisdom comes learning. Before learning comes observation. Before observation comes perspective.
Globalization, as we have all come to see it from our various cultures, is confusing at best. It appears chaotic even though it does have several key vectors of direction. These are increasing integration, increasing technology, and increasing need for resources. Somewhere between he cultural and political chaos and these strong directions there is a reasonable anxiety, often expressed very well in popular culture as dystopian fantasy. From the perspective of where we are today these forces appear to lead us off into something not just new but very likely out of control
Clearly, a different perspective or set of perspectives is necessary to produce the right observations which will lead to the appropriate learning and eventually wisdom. But what is that perspective?
An important starting point, from the perspective of the known forces of change, is what we might broadly call Industry 4.0. This is a body of work based on extrapolating current economic and business trends into where they are going and where they have to go in order to maximize their own potential.
As summarized before, these trends are based on a fundamental assumption of open markets of some kind The presume the primacy of market forces, a pull system of determining needs, rather than previous industrial models based on production and the creation of demand. What is being optimized is not industrial output, but rather the relationship to various kinds of market itself. The principles of this, as elaborated on here before, are:
- Transparency, or an open concept of a “company” and “industry.”
- Interoperability, or a need to have all products work together.”
- Decentralization, or operations which are scattered across the planet.
- Human factors, or a need to work by and for people.
It’s this last one that is the trickiest, frankly. There are many articles written by many different companies and consulting groups on how all of this might come to pass, but the human part of it is much thinner than most. One paper in the Journal of Business and Media Psychology (PDF) by Bonekamp and Sure of the Hochschule Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Cologne does a good job of summarizing current thinking and providing references for further study. Their conclusion includes:
It becomes evident that a growing number of researchers view the implications of Industry 4.0 technologies not only from a microeconomic but also from a macroeconomic point of view addressing consequences from a broader perspective especially with reference to implications for social welfare and tax systems which may be completely reviewed in order to compensate for lost job income and balance off growing inequality.
In other words, there’s a lot more to this than kewl apps. It requires a complete reorganization of society and politics.
This paper is more of an example of a perspective than actual knowledge or solutions. It may seem disappointing in that sense, but it should not. We cannot, and indeed should not, expect that corporations are going to lead us through the current state of anxiety to a better world on their own. Industry 4.0 is indeed a useful perspective for understanding the forces on our world, but not their implications. It most certainly is not a useful perspective for understanding how this will work to make a better life for people or indeed help the people of this planet have control over their own destiny as individuals.
The same paper goes just a bit further in its conclusion. The current state of general anxiety, so often expressed in politics throughout the developed world, is entirely justified.
To what extent those consequences would become evident and materialise in the future remains uncertain at this point in time. How such new technologies may affect worker well-being and inequality is also most likely dependent on who owns them in the future (Blasi & Freeman & Kruse, 2013). Though technological advances may be to a large extent already predictable, their consequences on social impacts and associated regulations on a national or international basis are obviously not.
This is simply one paper, but it summarizes and presents perspective on the issue very well. I recommend it highly. The journal itself, on business and media psychology, is itself only nine years old. It is an excellent example of syndeiscs as I would like to present it, which is to say the art and practice of connecting. Like other words ending in -ics, such as politics or economics, it is not science or a study in itself (ology) but an application of them to solve particular problems.
This is the perspective which is necessary. There are implications of where we are going which are much larger than the business and corporate world which are driving them. The understanding has to be pulled from many different places to create new perspectives on the situation. From those we can make observations and gradually learn what our options genuinely are. With some wisdom, we can make useful choices and in turns support this transition and control it.
But it must start with perspectives. What we have right now for a view of what we know is coming is chaotic at times, far too highly directed at others. Let’s start from that and ask how we should be looking at things to relieve the anxiety.
I hope we can all do this together. Here is one article, a relatively rare one, which addresses these larger issues. What do you think? What is your perspective on the change that is not only coming, but arriving right now?