Its a real honor to stand in front of you and have you give me your attention. And its a real honor to be in this beautiful place, this theatrical place. and it is about place that I’d like to talk, because we are at a transformative evolutionary shift about place because the concept of place has changed forever. Now, everybody in this room didn’t choose your parents, which means you didn’t choose where you were raised. That was done unto you. And, its a really formative experience- childhood where you were raised.
Yet we dont really think about how much place shapes who we are, how we think. But it is something that we always kind of intuitively know is important and I’m sure that all of you have had this experience: you get on the plane, buckle up, haven’t quite put on your noise reduction headset. Or you’ve just had your first day of vacation at a wonderful resort, and you’re just sitting down to have a nice cold drink, look at this beautiful visage. And somebody comes up to you sits down next to you and says “So- where are you from?” But intuitively we know to lead with that, even though its not a very smart, intelligent way to open a conversation. But why do we do that? Because place has always shaped us. it shaped us our entire lives and the entire history of humanity. Why? Because of where we live. If we live in France, we live differently than if we live in south Florida. How we speak if where born in Alabama we speak differently than if we’re born in Boston or born in Hamburg. We speak differenetly because of our placeness.
What we think and believe is obviously clear. If you live in Mumbai you think differntly than if you live in Baghdad because of your placeness. The way you live if you live on the equator, you live differently than if you live above the arctic circle. Completely differently ways to live simply because of the place in which you are living. What we eat, that’s pretty obvious- national cuisines came about because nations are places and cuisines kind of bubbled within that nation state. And of course who we root for- if you’re rooting for the Toronto Maple Leaves or if you’re rooting for the Boston Redsox of Manchester United, it is probably because you live near there or you grew up there or you passed through there. Or who do you root for in college? Most of us are out college here, most of us, and yet we root for our college team because we spent four years there. So that was the place. It meant a lot to us so we’re gonna root for that team through good or bad. Kind of interesting
So place really defines us. But it also limits us and it has limited us throughout history. Just think about how you learned about ancient civilizations. You know you learn about em individually, but that’s because place kept them apart. Now the Roman Empire, a little bit before BC, about 476 AD, happened in the Mediterranean. it was a great civilization we have read about hte decline and fall of the roman empire. decline and fall in large part because it imploded on itself it didnt have any interactivity with anywhere else and it could have because simotameously to the roman empire was the great dynasties of china. Chinese never interacted with the romans because place, distance, kept them apart. At the same time there was the Mayan civilization. All three of these civilizations coexisted.
But they didnt know that they did because the distance kept them apart. They were completely based within place. Remember that if you think about history, how we learned about them separately. What if these three existed today? We would know everything within 24 hours -we’re all so connected. So place has really limited civilization. Now, the Agricultural Age started 10,000 years ago and thats where the concept of place began because we stopped following the food and following the weather and put down roots, literally, and place began.
So the 10,000 years of the Agricultural Age is when all the great civilizations, and all the great religions that come to mind occurred. Up until about 200 years ago so only in the last 2% of all of recorded history has distance begun to shrink. and that’s because of technology. technology and connectivity shrinks distance. clearly, 200 years ago, roughly- the telegraph. that was the first thing that closed distance that started to make the world smaller. The radio 100 years ago roughly you know market penetration first electronic medium landline 75 years later television 60 years later and the internet
But if you look at these words, and you think about when they first came into being, they were entirely place based. You had to go to where the telegraph was, you had to plug the radio in in the home, you had to have the television in the living room, the landline was connected to the wall – and even early stages of the Internet was connected to a wire. So even though these technologies shortened distance, made the world smaller as we refer to it, we still were stuck in places. The profound thing is cellular connectivity. Completely eliminates the concept of place. Why? There’s 7 billion of us, little bit more, closer to 7.1 billion now on this planet. And 5.6 billion of us have cellphones. Take away the very young and those those in the very remote parts of the world and you have cellphone ubiquity.
What does that mean? That means if I were to call anybody in this beautiful room, cellphone to cellphone- one one-thousand two one-thousand three one-thousand four one-thousand, five seconds! Your phone would ring. If I were to call somebody on another continent 12,000 miles away, maybe another two seconds because of the relay of the satellite. So the first thing that cellphone ubiquity means is that there’s no time or distance limiting human communication. You couldn’t say that 10 years ago, certainly 100 years ago. And when you’re on a cellphone, cellphone to cellphone, after “Hey how ya coin?” one of the things you ask is “Where are you?” Or in my case, “What time zone are you in? Is it okay to talk?” So there’s no time distance or place any longer limiting human communication. That could not be said even 5 years ago, let alone all of recorded history. So theres no time distance or place limiting human communication, so human communication is one of the things we humans do more than anything else- we communicate. So the concept of placeness has left one of our major activities
We’ve gone from place to space. Think about that. Think if you had a grandma that say had been dead more than 10 years, and she had come back to you today. And you go “grandma I’ve got this great space i go to to hang out with my friends. I’ve got this space I go to where I can buy anything I want! I’ve got this great space where I can watch a movie. I’ve got this great space were I can go and learn about anything I want that has ever existed.” And she’d go “Wait hunny don’t ya have to go to the playground to play with your friends? And don’t you have to go to a shopping center to buy something? And don’t you have to go to a theatre to see a movie? and dont you have to go to a library to find out?” No -its called cyberspace! So everybody in this room and the current iteration of humanity its the first time that a majority of humanity can share the same space.
And the digital natives as I call those born from 1997 till now- digital natives because they’re the first generation born into the digital landscape. Everybody older than that is a digital immigrant into the digital landscape. So they are the first generation in human history who will spend their entire life completely living in a global space. So think about that. I was thinking about this stuff and I was going down some other thought. I looked up the definition of utopia- I was following some of the line of reasoning. Here’s the definition of “utopia”: in ancient Greek, “utopia” means “no place”. Thomas More, 1605, called it “no where”. Again, they where place based. Utopia can’t exist, there’s no such place as that. That made me think of one of my great, intellectual heroes- Buckminster Fuller. Now, Buckminster Fuller said several decades ago that humanity is moving to a fork in the road. The fork in the road is Utopia or Oblivion. So hopefully the fact thatf the concept of space has been changed forever is giving us an indication of the road we’re going to take.