Monday, January 17, 2005

Understanding 1910 is key to understanding today, according to William Draves

Nine Shift

“I’m not a futurist. I only describe the present to the 98% of people who are not there yet.”
Richard Thieme, technology expert

In 1910, the world was shifting from an agrarian society to an industrial society. Today, the world is shifting from an industrial society to an internet society. The parallels between these seismic shifts in the way society functions are not just interesting sidelights; they provide important insight into what is happening and what we should anctipate. In Nine Shift, William Draves points out:

In just twenty years, between 2000 and 2020, some 75% of our lives will change dramatically. We know this because it happened once before. Between 1900 and 1920, life changed. We moved from an agrarian farming way of life to an industrialized way of life. Now it is all happening again.

The way we work is changing. The way we live is changing. The way we learn is changing.

. . .The last time we experienced this nine shift in society was between 1900 and 1920. The driving force of the last century, the 20th century, was the automobile. The automobile and the way the automobile was made — the mass production factory — shaped how people worked, how people lived, and how they learned, for the last 100 years. The auto is not a symbol for the 20th century. Instead, the car and the car factory literally changed most of life.

So many common features of life today would not have been widely present without the car. They include offices, suburbs, fast food restaurants, company organization charts, unified school districts, and many more aspects of life that are considered “standard” today.

People in society are so dependent on the car that to do without one for a week would be an enormous burden for the majority of us. We simply have no readily implementable back-up plan to working and living without a car, even for a week.

The car shaped and defined the 20th century.

. . .[Now] the Internet is behaving exactly the same way as the automobile did 100 years ago in its impact on society. The auto is not used here as an “analogy,” which is defined as something “somewhat similar.” Instead the influence of the Internet on our lives is exactly a replay, a mirror, of the influence of the auto on society 100 years ago. The outcomes will be different of course, but the forces and how those forces interact and change our lives, are the same.

. . .Most all of the fundamental changes in our society in this century will take place before 2020. We know this because most all of the fundamental changes in 20th century society took place between 1900 and 1920.

Draves compares key years in the transition from 1890 to 1920 with what has already happened and with what is likely to happen:

1990-2000 and 1890-1900: Technology first introduced. Intellectual excitement and creativity.

2000-2005 and 1900-1905: New way grows; old way becomes dysfunctional, but is still dominant.

2005-2010 and 1900-1910: Conflict and chaos as the new way challenges the old way.

2008-2012 and 1908-1912: Turning point in society.

2010-2020 and 1910-1920: Old way gives way to new way.

2020 and 1920: New way is clearly dominant and accepted. The old way is clearly in decline.

He examines key trends--changes that are already occurring and will likely accelerate:

Commuting to an office become a rarity, a thing of the past. A significant part of the workforce will work from home or telecommute.

Intranets replace offices. Offices will diminish as primary work places. Intranets will replace physical offices for most businesses, companies and nonprofit organizations.

Suburbs, and suburban sprawl, come to a halt and then recede. Towns and cities are reformulated around dense communities composed of shops, stores and homes.

New values, work ethics and behavior of the 21st century take over. Boys are leading the change in values and behavior, just as they did 100 years ago.

[Draves and Coates say boys dropped out of school in huge numbers in the first two decades of the 20th century. Yet it was young men, experimenting with technology, who led America’s manufacturing boom, especially in the automobile industry.

They say something similar is happening today: boys are into the internet and computers. They like to innovate and experiment. They “like taking risks, being entrepreneurial, being collaborative - all behaviours that lead to success in the workforce today”.

But while they are rewarded for their behaviour in the workplace, they are punished in school because they are non-conformist, poor at listening and following instructions, and restless.]

Half of all learning is online. The traditional classroom rapidly becomes obsolete. Education becomes web-based. Brick and mortar schools and colleges of the past century become outdated. All education becomes web-based, providing a better education for both young people and adults.

Audio presentation by William Draves (5 minutes)
PDF of Draves’ workshop presentation

(Hat tip: Bill Edelman)

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 01/17 at 03:12 PM
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