living in the 21st century: the collaborative economy, peer to peer, climate change, the last five billion and other changes

March 23, 2017

by Nora McDevitt

Technology is democratizing our relationships. We share information, resources, goods and services. We are just beginning to get glimpses of this transformation. Everyone is accessible in today’s world, and the messenger can no longer control the message.  Relationships are peer-based. Each one generates a democratic environment in which everyone has a voice and the ability to share knowledge. This phenomenon is evident in the democratization of media, which is quickly unseating the publishing, film, television, advertising and, in fact, all the creative professions. In the 20th century brands told consumers what to think, and in the 21st century consumers tell brands what they think. And it’s not too distant in the future that we will have technology available that will enable users to create their own movies. You will be able to choose what your (fill in the blank) is instead of having to pick from a design, movie, story or home chosen for you.

We are also quickly approaching a day when you will not need an architect to build a house. Instead you will be able to design your own home using software you downloaded (probably for free) and then manufacture it yourself using a 3D printer. The Internet of Things has landed. You can create your own goods to share with other people. With democratization of the ability to manufacture goods through 3D printing, we can only begin to imagine how our economies will be transformed. Its profound impact will also ripple through how we form companies, communities and other civic associations.

We are also becoming increasingly aware that we cannot consume at 20th Century levels anymore. It’s just not sustainable. There is a real, pressing need to rethink our disposable culture and redesign how we produce and consume goods. Climate change and sustainability are not minor factors: they comprise a massive, global, front and center issue that directly impacts not just the human species, but also the entire planet. What we do today impacts generations not yet born. We are just beginning to see the emergence of a mainstream consciousness that considers the effects our creations today will have on generations in the future. It marks a shift from the “only me” culture to seeing ourselves in a wider, intergenerational systems context. This consciousness recognizes that we do not live in self-contained vacuums, but instead are a part of the vast web of life.

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