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Network Society: The Coming Societal Phase Change - TEDxBologna

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And ... go towards the future, with the determination not only to believe in new ideas, but to escape from the old ones! TEDxBologna: Passion and Creativity – October 13, 2012 Today I want to tell a story about the future. A story of social transformation, that I think will happen quickly. Quickly, in relation to the scales that we see. And that allows us to analyze and understand how to deal with this change that in my opinion will arrive very quickly. This future history I analyze and try to understand telling it to myself first and then telling it to you because we will live it together a future which we will together build. And I start from my own personal experience. Because every story we tell ourselves can only start from that which we live simultaneously. This transformation of our society from what currently is in what will be in the future which I call the Network Society. And I started trying to understand what will be the shape of the future, just talking with my children, who just like me, as well as your children, will live and build this future. They ask me what are their perspectives in life, what are the ambitions and opportunities that the world will give them. And because I teach, analyze, and build exponential phenomena. — Phenomena that start slowly then reach the common consciousness, and get in front of all of us, suddenly if we are not careful to what happens around — I am well aware of the complexity and how difficult it is to understand the weak signals of a future that is approaching. The way that I am analyzing the future is different from how we see it told in the newspapers or on television. It is a new way, which I hope you will share. The society around us is apparently changing slowly. These changes have occurred in the past, in times that we decided to call in a certain manner. The age of the pharaohs, when the pyramids were built, and later periods. The age of the pharaohs, when the slaves were taken by the tens of thousands to build year after year marvelous monuments that we still admire to this day, is an era that is over, not because these slaves looked at each other and said "This is not right, we must rise up!" It is an era that is over for different reasons. The Middle Ages, characterized by a feudal hierarchy, relations of vassalage and empire, is an era that is over not because the Medieval knights are finished, who were to dominate the vassals. It is not over because a decision was made in advance about what the new social contract should be or because the French Revolution raised everybody's awareness. And today we live in an era industrial where many see the specific challenges difficulty of growing production or exploitation of natural resources. An industrial era that is becoming with difficulty an era that wants to be called post-industrial and that faces cultural revolutions, demographic and democratic revolutions. But even this will not end for an awakening of consciousness transforming into a new society, whatever this might be, and whenever this will happen. Both for the previous transformations and for the one that we will see in the future, the key is technology. It is what precedes the change, what makes the change possible. People, individuals, groups, those who dream the change certainly realize the injustice. That the slaves were unhappy was clear in Egyptian society. That the vassals could try to have a better life is clearly told in fairy tales where the youngest child of the family leaves and ultimately marries the princess. It is a concrete representation of unspoken ambitions silent in that society. But as long as steam power has not been discovered, hydrocarbons or atomic energy which our society today is in part based on, it was not possible to build a form of society that would allow those individual ambitions, cultural, or a new social contract to be realized. What will happen then soon? What are the keys to understanding the future, what are the pillars that will support the change that is coming? I will mention a few and give you an initial reading and then give you some input, some provocations so that you can reason about them if you like, and if you share this analysis, or argue that no, it will not be like this. And there will be others of course, but in the meantime I wish to list you four pillars of this change. Each of these four pillars that I will list have the same feature. And that is why I gave the name of Network Society to what will soon come. Because the opposite of what we see today, which is a centralized hierarchy, each of these elements is characterized by a decentralized distribution and it is this that produces the network effect that we'll see around us. Let's first see the production, distribution and consumption of energy. Today, the energy we use arises from hydrocarbons for the most part, and a little from the atom. But there are already projections that see the solar energy by 2030, so little more than 10 years from now, 15 years, 18 years from now, meet 100% of the energy needs of society, not today's consumption, but including projected growth. Solar energy, whose efficiency increases at the same exponentially manner that we have seen take place in the last 40-50 years with computers, is a distributed energy production. There is no need, even if there are projects that require it, to realize huge plants to cover the needs of an entire region of an entire nation or even of an entire continent. When you are told that we will cover the Sahara with solar panels and then carry through transoceanic superconductors across the Mediterranean to Europe all the energy needed, not only this project would be complicated and very fragile, but absolutely not necessary, because, as we know, you can put solar panels on all of the houses, you can put solar panels in the countryside, easily distributed. And there are countries that are already doing this in a big way, for example Germany. Let's see the second pillar, the production of food. Today we talk about agricultural industry, of "agribusiness". A centralized way to produce cereals, to produce plants, and also meat in an industrialized manner where we need to standardize, to hybridize, to sow and to reap enormous quantities of uniform food which then must be transported over great distances. Opposed to this there are already ways to grow plants in a distributed manner reproducing what is the concept of the garden, in a controlled manner, not only in the countryside but also in urban areas, inside of shipping containers. These containers, using LED lamps and infrared lamps, allow in hydroponic farming using very little water and very little soil giving a much greater yield than what can be achieved now in the absence of pesticides and in the absence radical interventions of hybridization or genetic modification which otherwise is needed in the traditional agricultural industry. The most important thing of this approach is transforming agriculture from a production proportional to the area covered, to one proportional to the volume used. And so it is no longer a question that I do not have enough land or or that we have to leave land fallow so that they can regain fertility lost through industrial exploitation. But in every city we can take a ten-story high-rise building and dedicate two floors to the growth of food consumed in the same building. Or to have a home where underground simply you grow the food needed. The third pillar is the production of physical objects, traditionally called the industrial production. This is also centralized today, even on a global scale. Probably 70% -80% of the technology objects we have here was produced in China and through a very complicated distribution chain, made and transported worldwide including this place, so that it could be purchased and used. The new technology of 3D printing allows to produce objects locally, where the complexity of the design is the value added, but the complexity of the realization is completely independent of the scale. Costs the same to print a cube of dumb material as to print a beautiful object, complex and useful. And today we are certainly at the beginning, but there are printers of increasing sophistication that allow to realize electric circuits together with support material, even biological material, and we're going to have a distributed infrastructure instead of centralized production which in fact is the third pillar of this vision of the Network Society. The fourth and final one is finance which is also a technology. When money was invented as a unit of exchange or for storing units of value, it was a major technological leap forward. It allowed an improvement in the quality of human life. What we see today, the financial troubles due to the complexity of derivatives, or the lack of regulation for some, excessive regulation according others, of the behavior of banks or of central monetary authorities, can not be answered with a return to the past abandoning all that we have built so far. Just as the response to industrial problems can not be that of relinquishing the technologies we discovered. The transition from a centralized management of finance to a distributed management of finance that is no longer dependent on decisions that we assume independent but which very often are politically influenced and instrumental can find an answer in mathematical innovation and technology applied to finance. One example of which is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a type of electronic money anonymous, secure and untraceable whose production is not in the hands of a central authority but is distributed. Just like the modern file exchange protocols are not dependent on central servers, which can be turned off to stop the file exchange, and which protocols allow legally or illegally to exchange data, so the infrastructure of Bitcoin is not dependent on a central server and it allows individuals or groups of individuals to operate independently to carry out the financial exchanges they need. We saw then four pillars and of course I invite you to check what I said to elaborate seeing with your own eyes the literally revolutionary power of these fundamental technologies that will lead to the societal change that I described, and then to ask as I am doing what the shape of this future going to be, what will be the shape of the Network Society where electric cars will refuel no longer through central production but through individual production. How this will be taxed if the state needs to produce 60% of the cost of fuel in taxes. That's the product of your transportation. What will be the shape of the future when finance is no longer centrally controlled when individuals can based on mutual trust that they have or don't have in each other grant loans, and there won't be a bank that decides what should happen, who could have it or who can not have it. What will happen to the food industries of today when the production of food can be delocalized, and be distributed, and revolutionized in accordance with the principles I have described. I think it will be a radical change a revolutionary change towards the Network Society, that you and I together with my children will live. Thank you.

Video Details

Duration: 20 minutes and 27 seconds
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Views: 182
Posted by: davidorban on Nov 12, 2012


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