Those of you who have either read “The Shift Age” or have heard me speak about the Shift Age, know that the accelerating global electronic connectedness is one of the three forces that has, is and will continue to reshape our world. There are now 4 billion cell phone subscribers in the world. Facebook has more that 200 million users. Twitter is approaching 20 million users and all these numbers are increasing every day.
There is no longer any time, distance or place in human communication. That both transforms reality and creates new realities and opportunities. It is as though human communication is completely fluid and like water, can flow anywhere without boundaries, channels or hierarchies. Humans can interact with other humans in ways never before experienced in history. Our connectedness is a force in and of itself.
What has occurred these past few weeks in Iran will be regarded as one of the events in the geopolitical world that is both a confirmation of this new force and a signpost to our future global orientation.
Even a month ago, it would have seemed hard for most people to imagine that Twitter tweets would be used as news sources about a major event in the New York Times, The Globe and Mail and on CNN and other news channels. This has now happened with the Iranian crisis. The autocratic theocrats of Iran sent journalists packing – and beat them if they didn’t, jammed broadcast signals, and tried to shut down web sites. They were largely successful in these efforts. However, due to twitter, facebook, cell phone videos and email the world has been kept informed of the brutality that is going on in Iran. Here the water metaphor is perfect as it always finds the cracks, the holes in the dyke, the weak spot in the levee, the porous part of the structure and flows through it.
I have several followers from Iran on Twitter. I did my part by tweeting that the world was in fact watching, that their messages were getting out and that their struggles were known and supported. It was interesting how often such tweets, both mine and others, were RT (retweeted). This is another new unique experience, people feeling participatory in a struggle half a world away through personal communications.
It is clear what lies ahead for Iran. Autocratic governmental power and centralized authority kept in place through brutality, misinformation, xenophobia and false prophets will ultimately collapse. This is particularly true when the educated, the young and the affluent are the ones in the streets being beaten. As long as the current leaders are in power in Iran there will be an exodus of the best and brightest out of the country – if they are allowed to leave. These leaders are so insular and consumed with maintaining their power that they do not realize the new reality of global electronic connectedness on a personal level.
If internal political upheaval does not bring these leaders down, the tidal waves of personal communications due to this electronic and immediate connectedness will. The nation state structure cannot defend against it anymore.
A year ago it was estimated by various global health organizations that there were some 900 million people living in hunger. Due to the global economic recession, that number has now climbed past 1 billion which is approximately 15% of the 6.75 billion people alive today on planet earth. This means that every week in the past year, some 2 million people, due to economic hardship, have fallen into a state of hunger.
Hunger has been defined as living for a prolonged period of time consuming less than 1,800 calories per day. Of course a significant number of these 1 billion people are substantially below that level. This is clearly the case, as the World Food Program estimates that 25,000 people die each day due to hunger and related causes. This means that 15% of our species is operating at the lowest fundamental level of survival. This is one of the horrible examples of ‘trickle down economics’. Financial greed and economic collapse occurring at the top 15-20% has now trickled down in the form of hunger to those at the bottom rungs of human society.
We in the U.S. are well aware of the growing obesity epidemic in our country. It is what we read about, hear about and of course see wherever we go. On this simplistic level it is clear that global food distribution systems are imbalanced and out of whack. While hundreds of millions of people are exposed to “super sized” meals and portions, as many or more are slowing dying or temporarily suffering from starvation. It has been clear for decades that if efficient distribution systems were put in place and corrupt and autocratic governments stood aside, the world’s population could be better fed. This is something we must all carry until such time hunger numbers drop significantly.
What makes this situation all the more tenuous is the reality of Ug99. Ug99 is a type of fungus called stem rust and it has now the number one threat to the global wheat supply. Wheat by the way is the world’s most widely grown crop. International organizations estimate that up to 20% of the world’s wheat, which provides food for 1 billion people in Asia and Africa is in imminent danger. Fear that this fungus will cause damage at this level has caused a spike in world wheat prices. Famine has been averted, but many experts in the field believe that a humanitarian hunger crisis is almost inevitable.
There has been and is a frantic effort to identify genes that can be bred into wheat to make it resistant to Ug99. There are some 500 million acres of wheat planted around the world and it is all potentially at risk. This is one of many cases where genetically altered food is an essential human scientific effort and must be supported.
Why am I writing about this? Well, as we move into the Shift Age, we are moving into the global stage of human evolution. We have become ever more interrelated and connected. We move goods globally 24/7. We now need to elevate our view of the future to a more strategic, knowledgeable and compassionate level. We need to start to see things more globally and have intelligent dialogue as we continue to grow our population on an already stressed planet.
Just think of the media frenzy about swine flu. While that is a real threat to human health, more people die of starvation globally in two hours than have died this year from swine flu. What if Ug99 decimates the global wheat supply? Those in affluent societies will end up paying more for food. Those in the poorest countries will die.
Think about all the reporting on the global economic meltdown. Where have you read about its effect on global hunger and starvation? In the next decade we must elevate our view of crises – and opportunities – to a higher, more interrelated global view. We are entering a time of great consequence. If we matriculate it well, there is great probability of a new golden age of humanity. If we fail to do so, this golden age will not occur. Nation state vested interests and cultural insularity must and will give way to a more global view of humanity. We are all on this precious planet together.
I am very excited to announce that next month the first Shift Age Trend Report will be published. This Trend Report will be something very different from other trend reports and newsletters. It will be full of short, medium and long range forecasts. There will be in depth commentary on many of these forecasts. There will be interviews with visionaries from different fields that will offer their own forecasts of their fields and industries. There will be a lot of rich media. There will be a lot of interesting facts, charts and videos that will provide subscribers with a unique view into the future.
The future we are looking at will be measured in months, years and the coming decade. We are entering a truly transformational time in human history. The next 15 years will be a time so amazing and full of shift that to look further ahead would be just wild speculation. Of course, as I regularly speak to and advise CEOs, I am attuned to their need and desire to know what lies ahead in the next few years as these years will determine so much. Many CEOs have asked me what I read and pay attention to, to have been so successful in my forecasts. They have asked me if I could provide a single source document that they could consume that will help them navigate the future rushing at us.
The Shift Age Trend Report will be an attempt to synthesize information, sources, forecasts and fun stuff to provide clarity and opportunity for those interested in what the future looks like and how it might impact our lives and livelihoods. In addition to this semi-annual report, there will be video updates where questions you have will be answered. We hope to create a community of interactive intelligence that inquires about and looks to the future.
I am working with a few talented, creative and future facing individuals to provide subscribers with a unique reinvention of what a Trend Report can be. To quote my favorite comedy group: “Now for something completely different!”
As a subscriber of this newsletter you will of course be provided with an inaugural subscription discount. Stay tuned!