Tunisia: It Has Now Begun
In the past two years, I have given around 200 speeches and presentations. I speak to the reality that humanity is entering a new age – the Shift Age. The last few years have been extremely disruptive, as it is the transition between the Information Age and the Shift Age. I have presented my view that, after this re-organizational recession and time, we have entered not only the global stage of human evolution, but also an exciting time of transformation almost unparalleled in human history.
In small situations – such as corporate retreats and CEO groups – I spend a lot of time interacting with people, answering questions about the future. I’m often asked whether Islamic extremists, dictatorships and governmental bureaucracies will keep this transformation from happening. My answer has always been that the three forces of the Shift Age – the Flow to Global, the Flow to the Individual and the Accelerating Electronic Connectedness of humanity – will ultimately triumph over these impediments to transformation.
Accelerating Electronic Connectedness is not just about social media, the creative destruction of 20th century-business models and mobile apps. It is about the collapse of wall gardens and ignorance. Dictatorships survive not only through brutality but also by controlling information. Religious extremists gain power by creating walls to block outside views and information. In both cases, ignorance is a key part of the foundation of dictatorships and religious extremists. As humanity becomes ever more connected, this is much harder to maintain.
In these past two years, I have forecast that the entrenched dictatorships and feudal governments of the Middle East would soon have to face developing unrest, as citizens of those countries would have increased access to the rest of the world due to Accelerating Electronic Connectedness. How can mullahs cultivate ignorance unless they isolate their followers from outside forces? How can dictatorships keep their citizens oppressed if these citizens can connect online and share knowledge and information? Controlling the media no longer suffices, as global connectivity empowers all individuals. People are now media companies that cannot be censored.
Why did Iran immediately shut down Facebook when the protests began? Twitter kept the demonstrations going and was the information conduit for the rest of the world to learn what was going on. Why did Tunisia and now Egypt try to shut down social media? Social media empowers people. The Accelerating Electronic Connectedness has, is and will create a new place, a new environment that does not recognize the structural boundaries of the 20th century.
The single-most important story in the world today is the sweeping unrest in the Middle East, as empowered, connected citizens rise up to end years and decades of dictatorial rule. In the next few months and years, the political landscape of the region will be profoundly changed. Wise leaders in the region will soon try to get out in front of this irresistible force of freedom and choice. You will see these leaders rapidly offering changes in policy that will open up their societies. Less-wise leaders will think they can continue to wield power under 20th century rules, and they will be the ones having to fly off in the middle of the night to political exile.
Technology is not really about itself. It is about the empowerment of people – the people who actively use it. Technology combined with the Accelerating Electronic Connectedness of the planet is now changing the geopolitical landscape. Tunisia: It has now begun.