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kare anderson

Since we are more likely to change, at any age, when we see an irresistible alternative, methinks that you are spot-on re the unstoppable change from knowledge stocks to knowledge flow.

Like the long simmering unrest in so many countries, felt most intensely by the young, the spark that sets off a wave of change is usually someone and/or action that comes to symbolize the horrific current situation and/or the SPECIFIC alternative that is worth fighting for. That unleashes the many, setting in motion the ways of change where the balance of power shifts - and all can see it.

Knowledge flow in this connected world reinforces and magnifies the actions of those at the beginning, attracting others to the cause.

You asked what we could do, John and vividly outlining the situation and the possibilities as you and others are doing is a vital step in framing the possibilities so they can feel real to those who have never experienced a movement before yet yearn to become part of one


thank your words/insight John. i hadn't seen Wadah's talk.
i love when he said with such passion -
at this point in time - the youth are the wisest for making change.

and i think what you write is huge in that regard: confronting and opposing the obstacles to sustainability..

i think change is going to happen, but i believe we can hasten it by acting as the parents that Wadah talked about did, and rather than taking our kids home as requested, going and standing with them.
we need to unleash, give permission, so that the youth of today are free to spend their hours on things that matter. i believe all policy will change as a result.

Penelope Trunk posted what i think is a great summary of the generations: Baby boomers changed politics, Gen X changed family, Gen Y changed work, and Gen Z will change education. http://tinyurl.com/6abx2uy

i guess i feel the passion of Wadah on a daily basis. the youth are wise. we compromise that wisdom by not believing in them. we compromise that belief by thinking we're protecting them - by taking them home.

here's to giving them a voice. i love your 3 t's.
helping them create ways to expose their tacit knowledge through trust based relationships as they develop their talents.

Joe McCarthy

As I was reading your analysis, I kept thinking about the notion of externalities, and how effectively the current generation of powers that be - in government and industry, here and abroad - has mastered the art of maximizing benefits for a select few by externalizing costs for the many.

Although I now hesitate to include a link to anything on NYTimes.com, an op-ed there this week by Matthew Klein offers additional corroboration for the global nature of the revolutionary momentum we (or the media) in this country tend to see as external or foreign: The Frustrations of the Educated and Unemployed American.

I hope you, Matthew and a few other thought and action leaders are right in predicting a shift of perspective, because most of the current incentive schemes in business and politics are setup to perpetuate extraction and exploitation.

And speaking of extraction, exploitation and incentives, I've also been thinking about George Orwell's prescient insights in 1984, as described in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, allegedly written by Emanuel Goldstein, the allegedly traitorous archenemy of Big Brother. As I wrote in my most recent reading (and review) of 1984: Big Brotherhood, Hierarchies and the American Way:

Over time, the High become inefficient, insecure, or otherwise ineffective (e.g., being too "liberal or cowardly" or unwilling to use adequate force) at governing, the Middle seize the opportunity and enlist the aid of the Low to rise up against the High, on the premise of liberty and justice for all, after which elements from the Middle become the new High, and the Low are relegated to their former status, and the cycle starts up again.

I hope we are able to break the cycle, but not in the way that it was broken in Oceania.


John - Really enjoyed your piece and would like to offer two more elements of 'shift'. The broadest one I can see is the fading of the hard power paradigm - the idea that guns and money will guarantee you having your way in the world. America has seen this fading and shifted to a 'smart power' formula, a blend of hard power and soft power - meaning cultural attraction.

I believe there is a bigger shift towards soft power as the dominant paradigm because of the growing understanding of the agency that networks, particularly the internet, can deliver. China, India, Indonesia have all adopted an explicit soft power agenda for their international relations.

The other big shift is the growing influence of women - in business and public life. This is still hard to measure, because we are still reluctant to acknowledge feminine values and ways of being in the world as being distinct and effective. However, the call for more women in the boardroom, in politics and in public office generally, has arisen out of a sense of the previous model, dominated by men talking only to men having run its course.

Mike Moore

These revolutionary outbreaks will most certainly change the world and in a short time. We seem to forget during these times that it was just such a revolution that gave birth to the good old USA. They are messy and confusing and take time to gel. Many people I talk to are overly optimistic about the results. Yes, as Americans we may support emerging democracies but we may be surprised about the governmental, political and cultural choices these new democracies elect to pursue.


It will not get better here in the USA. Change will be quashed, probably before it gets started. Our tax dollars are spent to monitor and suppress internal dissent, to keep the ultra wealthy ultra wealthy. We discovered that the government infiltrated an anti-death-penalty group in Maryland; they don't even push for economic change, and they're considered a threat. We keep FBI dossiers on entertainers and musicians. Maintaining the status quo in America is job one. No real change will be tolerated.

The NRA, TeaParty and the rest are kidding themselves. They cannot force or cajole a return to citizen-centric government. They will be infiltrated and debilitated before much happens. Even if it does come to violence, they'll be squashed like bugs with the enormous asymmetry of firepower available to the government.

Ghaddafi may be viewed as cruel in crushing his opposition. But, he will pale in comparison to the US Executive Branch (president in power makes no real difference in policy, as we observe election after election). Our troops are MUCH better trained than any others, and our military leadership is extremely competent and sophisticated. It will not get better in the USA.

We have essentially returned to a Feudal society.

The only hope for real change is that some future technological development(s) will fundamentally change civilization, destroying the economic rules that we endure today.

And those in power will fight the change tooth and nail, even if they can see that they will continue to enjoy their present standard of living. They will oppose the rest of civilization being raised to their level. It is the asymmetry itself that they crave. They are sociopaths; the adult version of the school yard bully.

If technology is to free us, it will have to come fast and hard and irreversibly (so that the "haves" cannot derail it). I don't harbor any any hope of seeing it in my lifetime.

All our yakking won't make any difference. We won't be see any Star Trek utopia. Indeed, with the renewed growth in the delusion of religion, it is likely that we will blow ourselves up, returning to some even more primitive state of civilization, as repeatedly depicted in the future-dystopia movies.

It will be the battle of the religious nut-jobs: conservative evangelicals versus conservative Islamists. Loony versus loony. The collateral damage from their conflict will likely destroy science and most of the society that we know today; setting us back a thousand years (or more). Dark Ages 2. (maybe only the microbes will survive?)

My analysis may be bleak, but it is much more fact-based and realistic than the assessment provided by the feel-good futurists.

Steve Hopkins

Hi John :) thanks for the post.

I agree with Tristan. The people that are living here on the edge are, by definition, activily learning all the time, at a rate far superior than any structured approach could offer.

The people in the crowd with the higher levels of consciousness will lead the way, naturally educating people around them - as this is what is good for them, others and the planet.

'The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed'
- William Gibson


A superb post with wonderful analysis and insight.
Yes, as it plays before our eyes, we are connected. However our connectivity is dependent on economic and technological infrastructures over which we exert limited influence. User up and scaled management must become a political objective.

As we watch old political systems crumble, we must prepare ourselves for an indigenous narrative. It is their narrative, though we feel somehow connected.
We must permit it to be theirs, even as hesitating or uneven as it may appear. I think it is important to not permit our sense of White House or Congressional "think" to interrupt what is at the moment an exciting movement of new generation middle eastern "wonder" provokers.


I always thought that through the evolution of Web 2.0 - with its consumer based proliferation - that the industrial revolution-led organizational hierarchy might fall as Web 2.0's inherent model of reciprocity helped to break down the silos, barriers and cultures of fear prevalent in many industries and companies.

In the end, might it be that corporate hegemony is displaced, not as a result of Web 2.0 in the organization (through Social Business, Enterprise 2.0, Collaboration, etc.) but by the examples of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and others to follow?

Tao-Te-Ching: "The wise look for a solution, the stupid only cast the blame."

Will the obstacle of hierarchy be toppled by the flow of common sense, reciprocity, collaboration and kindness?


Thank you for this wonderful piece! Perhaps it is also a systems/culture clash. On one side you have the system that is best described by "moving, interlocking parts" and that is tailor-made for the state as a pyramid, with a king (or whatever) & a clique of courtiers on top, and below political impotent masses. On the other side there is the system/culture that has "copy & paste" built in. I don't mean that in a negative way, to me copy&paste is the superior system (also the younger). Governments in the West are as unprepared for that, as they are in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

Tom Klein


I watched Wadah Khanfar's passionate report on what is going on in Egypt on TED, and just watched Naomi Klein on Rachel Maddow on msnbc talking about Wisconsin, and thought about two movements: one from authoritarianism to new freedom at the periphery, and one from mature freedom to authoritarianism in the old center (though the battle in Wisconsin has apparently been lost by the authoritarians). The flow momentum is emerging where it was least expected, and where it could reasonably have been expected to reach new heights based on earlier accomplishments, it is in full retreat. It is breathtaking to watch, sad for the US and uplifting for the rest.

Stephen Downes

It is worth noting that if the streets of Cairo are at the edge, as the revolution spreads it will eventually reach the centre. The centre is not some other street in Cairo, but rather places like Harvard Business School and Wall Street. These revolts are not simply revolts against dictators, they are also revolts against the economic and social system that profited by propping them up in the first place.

Brooks Jordan

Yes, a great post John. Thank you.

I, too, have been watching what's happening in the Middle East and knowing that something novel and profound is happening.

When I watch videos of the protesters, it's clear to me "that's me, they're us." I mean that in the sense we're all human beings, but I recognize many of the protesters as people with the same views and values, tastes and tastes, and so on.

And, yes, it has made me wonder, what are we going to do here? What would catalyze a revolution in the US, in the West? I can certainly feel the potential for it.

Because surely we can't say that our problems in the US are any less dire and, as you say, issues of sustainability, debt, and talent are totally intertwined with the rest of the world. It's more an issue of immediacy for the youth in the Middle East.

So thanks for putting words to what I was thinking and give me some things to reflect on about how this might ripple out.

I walked into my local convenience store this morning and the owner, who is from a Middle Eastern country, was listening to the Arabic Al Jazeera and we talked about Libya and Egypt for a minute.

We're all watching, and we're all connected.

Tristan Louis


First of all, thanks for a fantastic piece. One dimension I would add here is issue of generational shifts in power. What we are witnessing is the beginning of Generation X and Y working to transition power away from the older generations (boomers included). In that sense, it is not dissimilar from what happened in 1968.

Accelerated talent development is one thing that will be needed but I think you underestimate the importance of networked thinking, where people rely on loosely coupled networks to achieve goals and then breaking apart again when they no longer need to be aligned. It's the kind of thinking that has made the internet a revolutionary power and I suspect that the thinking that has permeated the internet ethos being the one that generations like mine (Gen X) and later ones came of age in.

I would not be surprised if a similar revolution were to come to the US in the next decade or so, probably triggered by skirmishes over social security and medicare benefits.

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