About 500 years ago a new communications technology came along and changed the face of Europe — print. The Protestant Reformation saw the rise of religious wars, which were later followed by the scientific revolution and The Enlightenment. An age of exploration followed, which brought not just gold and silver to the coffers of Europe, but new foods such as potatoes from the Americas, to fuel the Industrial Revolution. These new foods increased the population and in turn brought about the demise of the Indigenous people of the Americas.
Did print help to enable democracy, and is that why the founders of the USA put freedom of the press into their Constitution? If print enabled democracy, will the emerging digital (electric) medium destroy it? Yuval Noah Harari thinks this may be the case, “The main handicap of authoritarian regimes in the 20th century — the desire to concentrate all information and power in one place — may become their decisive advantage in the 21st century.”
However, a connected world is much more than digital networks and includes global transportation technologies that also enable the rapid spread of disease vectors as we have recently seen. During a pandemic too much control leads to filtered information, making it more difficult to quickly react to complex problems at the local level. Authoritarian regimes then are less able to address complex challenges — as we are witnessing with China’s Covid shutdowns at the moment.
Authoritarian regimes can lose the trust of the people when faced with complex decision-making. When trust is lost, knowledge fails to flow, hampering the regime’s ability to react even more. In the long run, will these regimes be forced to become more open because a complex world demands it?
The end of the Print age and the beginning of the Digital age marks the end of The Enlightenment and all the institutions and scientific disciplines it fostered. We are entering The Entanglement.
“As we are becoming more entangled with our technologies, we are also becoming more entangled with each other. The power (physical, political, and social) has shifted from comprehensible hierarchies to less-intelligible networks. We can no longer understand how the world works by breaking it down into loosely-connected parts that reflect the hierarchy of physical space or deliberate design. Instead, we must watch the flows of information, ideas, energy, and matter that connect us, and the networks of communication, trust, and distribution that enable these flows.” —The Long Now Foundation 2019-12-26
The idea of The Entanglement is that the world has become so complex and interconnected that the individual disciplines developed during The Enlightenment — like medicine — are no longer adequate to help society in our collective sensemaking, especially during global crises.
“Unlike the Enlightenment, where progress was analytic and came from taking things apart, progress in the Age of Entanglement is synthetic and comes from putting things together. Instead of classifying organisms, we construct them. Instead of discovering new worlds, we create them. And our process of creation is very different.” —Long Live the Entanglement
Networked individuals, outside established hierarchies of institutions and corporations, are the power behind digital media, I noted in my last post — we are on our own. How we move forward is up to us and we need to create new ways of thinking about how to organize and make sense of our world. My small piece in moving forward has been to develop the discipline of personal knowledge mastery so that we can Seek > Sense > Share together.
This post is a summary of ideas from several posts from 2019-2021, and continues my entangled thinking.
It seems that many humans don’t understand (or have never heard of) The Commons.
Without this basic understanding of sharing—it’s not looking good for our species.
The planet will be fine and will recover sans Homo sapiens.
Good article. I think the concept of a commons will require us to radically rethink a millenium-long perception of ownership and power (of all kinds), arising since we developed agriculture. The ‘big man in the middle/top’ structure has no place in this network, instead a more egalitarian mode of thinking is required. Sadly that’s not particularly compatible with our current modalities of thinking about the world and society. It likely will only come about once other models become unsustainable.
if entanglement is the present/future (and i agree it has been, is, and will be), i personally believe the answer isn’t necessarily personal knowledge mastery (albeit it is certainly a component). at least in a business environment i believe it will hinge upon two things (a) the law of the situation – to steal a Follett concept: the situation dictates the solution as well as the sensemaking … and, yes, personal mastery helps, (b) conceptual thinking – as things are seen as more connected in a situation the solutions will be less and less “this or that” and more shaped by concept frames in which options/possibilities/probabilities reside with … and, yes, there is a bit of personal mastery that assist in this.
i do like the entanglement thought. i have always focused on conceptual thinking (which is more the solution pathway to progress) but i like entanglement as the context.
In physics the concept of entanglement brings everything back to the Big Bang. All particles , all of us, were once One.
Arthur Koestler ‘s holons are this an interesting concept to bring to mind.
An individual’s action therefore has a consequence to all of us. Be it the war in Ukraine, the way we wasted oil and food or the cheap T-shirt bought at a dollar store.
I sometimes remind my clients who complain that they cannot change the system because of their very small impact that sometimes a small things can lead to profound changes. If they do not understand I invite them to sleep with one single mosquito in a bedroom with their windows and door shut tight ( a metaphor I read somewhere).
And let’s discuss this small impact the following morning…
Yep we are all entangled!!