Before I begin the post proper, an argh and an explanation on why I call this a catastrophic wave of change (As opposed to say the changes mid nineteenth to mid twentieth century.
The ARGH: Amazon on the last day of the year has invented a new and heretofore unheard of brand of stupid. Last night I uploaded all of Through Fire, ebook and paper. Normally they gag on paper. When it’s a rights thing, they gag on all of them. Today? Today they published the paper without a burp, but are holding fast on demanding I prove I’ve the right to publish myself to publish the ebook. Of ALL the stupid possible. Head>desk.
An explanation on why this wave of change is completely catastrophic. And I wouldn’t, btw, say it’s smaller than say beginning of twentieth century of 1950. It’s just less spectacular. It’s a wave of change hitting details of every day life.
Because the wave of the late nineteenth to first half of twentieth was spectacular. It was also the completion of a wave started somewhere circa the 1500s: a wave towards mass/specialized production; centralization; expertise; urbanization.
Yes, the cresting of the wave took us to what we consider “normal 20th century” but the push had been going that way for a long time. And while the end of it bore spectacular fruits in science and engineering, it had already gone sour in politics. The centralization had already reached the level where it wasn’t meeting market demand and was breaking more things than it helped, even as it completed.
The wave we’re going through really only started sometime in the eighties/nineties, and might have started first with politics because it had already gone sour. But it was reinforced by computing; e-commerce; an internet bursting with knowledge of all kinds.
And…. And it’s going the other way from the mass-industrialization wave: to personalization; to individuation; to non-site specific, and therefore — for the first time in history — anti-urbanization.
And before you say “But it’s just little stuff.” Yeah, it really is. It’s little stuff that affects every day life. What we know. What we think. What we do and how we do it.
If you think it’s not astonishing that I can talk to my friend and co-worker (well, same profession) across the world free of charge and not metered — also instantly — you aren’t my age. If you think it’s not astonishing that I can look up how to repair my specific brand of vacuum and do it in minutes, you weren’t born in the twentieth century.
But it’s more than that. For someone like me who always wanted to KNOW? There is graduate level education on history, on writing, on…. everything on line, and most of it is free.
This is untethering the “rule of experts” and frankly untying our institutions. It’s part of the reason we’ve gone Full Tilt Boogie clown world with the shoes on. The institutions can’t add anything sane, so they’re specializing in full-frontal crazy.
But…… But the wave goes on. People put things online teaching other people to do things. Right now I could take a month and become the world’s foremost expert in something in a few days. I could learn animation and start making short movies in two or three years (which I don’t have. Ah, to be twenty again!)
And parents are teaching their own kids. One of a couple (usually the woman) is going home to do that. And young people, starting with millenials (well, really with my generation, but we had fewer resources) really want to know “the right way to cook steak” or “the right way to iron a shirt.” They’re trying to re discover every day skills lost to the great wave of industrialization and specialization.
And people are moving out of the cities (granted, leaving them to be occupied by ferals, but that’s a political thing.) People are writing and doing art and writing music and making crafts, and teh Amazon stupid notwithstanding selling directly to a starving public. I also hear of doctors who let you pay in cash (we haven’t found one yet) and it’s cheaper. And there are probably a hundred other people doing workarounds for the non-functional systems.
Now, I know I’m not seeing all the “Green shots.” But if you look around in your own area, you’ll find them. The centralization and specialization movement was great for humanity and for the technology of its own time. Some things will always be cheaper and easier done on a grand scale. But not all. And it’s time to start walking a lot of it back. Which is happening.
Tomorrow — yes, I know I inverted the order of promised posts. Deal — and appropriately for New Years, we’ll be talking about to do to prepare yourself for the future.
Because it’s coming at us fast, and while a lot of it is unknowable, and some will feel like pulling the rug from under your feet (all of 2020) there are things you can do to prepare and ways to remain flexible.
Be not afraid. The future is deep and long and the wave is going our way for once!