2007: Looking Back and Looking Forward
Recently, I have been struck by the number of anniversaries of significant events that have been acknowledged this year. This past summer was the 40th anniversary of the â€œSummer of Loveâ€. August was the 60th anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan. This week marked the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of public schools in Little Rock Arkansas. This year is also the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain. Next week is the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. All of these events were very significant events.
Why is a column with the tag line â€œA Future Look at Todayâ€ taking a look back on significant events? The accelerating speed of change is the reason. It is clear that, in the past 200 years, the speed of change has been accelerating. During the 1800s, the first full century of the industrial revolution, the rate of change was noticeably faster than the 1700s. The amount of change that occurred in the 1900s dwarfed that of the prior century. The speed of change coming into the current century is much faster than it was coming into the last century, perhaps ten times faster. In the Shift Age we are now in, the speed of change has literally become part of our environment.
What all this means is that the next 10, 40, 50 and 60 years will all encompass more change, more innovation, more acceleration than in the same amounts of time looking back to the last century.
The transformation of India in the last 60 years has been amazing. At independence, India was a poverty stricken agrarian economy with a rigid caste system. While still suffering great amounts of poverty, India is now the most populous democracy and the twelfth largest economy in the world. It has leapt into the Information Age in such a way that it is the back office and customer service center of the world. What will it look like in 2067? It is almost impossible to imagine.
Triggered by the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, the forced integration of Little Rock schools 50 years ago truly ushered in the era of the federal government supported civil rights movement. The emergence of Dr. King as a great moral leader, the march on Washington D.C., and the Civil Rights act of 1964 all quickly followed. There is no question that racial issues are still on the front pages today. We have come an incredibly long way, but we clearly have a way to go. What will equality and race relations look like in 2057? I canâ€™t help but think that it will quite different that it is today.
Think about the cultural revolution that began during the â€œSummer of Loveâ€ in 1967. American culture and European culture was transformed. Music, art, fashion, sexual mores and hair styles all changed dramatically. Drug use, political protests and cause related demonstrations, meditation, and a changing concept of oneâ€™s place in the world and role in life all brought about cultural and political changes that reverberate still. There has been more cultural change in America in the last 40 years than in any similar period of time in our countryâ€™s history. However, given the accelerating speed of change, the cultural changes that will occur between now and 2047 will be even more transformative. Hold on to your hats!
In 1997 when the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim museum opened in rusty old Bilbao, Spain, it transformed the way that cities could reinvent themselves during the transition from one age to another. There has been an explosion in the building of either new art museums or major additions to existing ones. It seems like every major city in the world has decided to make some sort of image enhancing investment in a new museum or cultural edifice. In addition the elevation of architecture and the star architect can be seen all over the world. Just look at the skyline of Shanghai or Dubai. It is probable that the changes around the world in this area for the next ten years will match and exceed the last ten.
Please stop and reflect on all the changes and the rapidity of change that we have all experienced in the past decades. Then look ahead and embrace the concept that this recent past is only a comparatively slow prologue to the decades ahead. Fasten your seat belts.
As for the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik next week, well that deserves a column unto itself, next week.