Text by Tuomo Kuosa
According to macrohistorians, societal change is continuous but not a constant trend with determined direction.
A societal epoch consists of wave-like cycles including phases of transitions, ups and downs; or in other words revolutions, reassembling and phases of increasing societal pressure. The last one can be seen as an alarming sign that indicates a major societal shift is about to begin. We as a society may just have passed that increasing societal pressure phase, and with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, now entered the actual phase of societal revolution that eventually leads into a new epoch of world order at some point.
Predicting beforehand what kind the new epoch after the revolutionary phase is going to be is very difficult, as the new setup comes out from a chaotic turbulence where dozens of drivers collide. Yet we can know that once this revolutionary phase is over the system will stabilise again and start reassembling into the new world order – whatever kind that will be.
Another thing we know regarding the forthcoming epoch are the pieces that will be there.
These will be, for example, the outcome of the current identity crises, social classes change, new economic thinking, part of life moving into virtual worlds such as metaverse, normalisation of virtual assets, currencies, crime webstores, remote education and work, intensifying cybercrime, cyberwarfare and surveillance of everything/loss of privacy, industry 5.0, sustainable energy systems, circular economy and material revolution, coping with climate change, coping with vast refugee and immigrant waves, more nature-like green cities, lots of more powerful new apps and services like big data-as-a-service, general automation of systems including part of the traffic system, the drone revolution, hybridisation of everything, and the rising power of China and Asia. Especially we can emphasise the rising importance of the digital, data, computation, AI, and cyber domains that are strongly interconnected. Their joint foundations are based on Moore´s Law, the World Wide Web, scientific method, exponentially increasing amount of researchers and developers, and cumulation and scalability of the digital products.
Everything mentioned above suggests that the “oil” of the next epoch is “data” together with carbon free electricity. And if IT was the new layer on top of kinetic world, making it more efficient, the cyber-virtual domain is going to be the next layer that will be built on top of the IT domain. This cyber-virtual layer including virtual, augmented and mixed reality, will not only give a new boost to efficiency, but it also opens a new ecological niche for businesses, services, and entertainment that we cannot fully imagine yet.
There are also huge uncertainties with several issues that can divide the tides on a larger scale, such as: will globalisation continue and are we heading towards large federal states and global citizenship or towards nationalism, separatism and protectionism; are the demands labelled under wokeism going to prevail; will democratic countries form an alliance that will triumph or will the autocracies set the new rules; will some of the developing countries rise; and are there going to be civil wars in Russia, USA or China.
The sustainability of the global economy is also a huge uncertainty as the current trend of endless influx of money to the system together with low interest rates and huge national budget deficits cannot continue forever, unless new growth etc. emerges. This leads to the following uncertainties: will the whole monetary system crash, are we learning to cope with perpetual bonds or are we forced to make a full economic reset? Other huge future uncertainties are also the following: how will climate change actually impact global food production and habitable areas; does the real production get disconnected from artificial assets; will the new epoch lead us to a more equal or unequal world; how far does AI develop and can we ever fully understand and mimic the human brain; can we really extend human life; does the forthcoming societal revolution cause a massive world war that destroys most of civilisation; will we legalise gene therapy and GMO and start to add technology willingly to our bodies? And finally, is the new epoch going to be an era of individualism, freedom of choice and classical liberal values, or is it going to be an era of collectivism with binding dogmatic or authoritarian rules for individuals?
To sum up,
we know with quite high certainty that the future is at least going to be a combination of these strengthening pieces and the mentioned uncertainties turning out one way or another. And at the same time various recently or even currently important aspects will become obsolete and be left out from the next epoch. The forming societal revolution is a turmoil where just one strongly new direction of a large uncertainty can quickly affect many other pieces in a chain reaction, which leads to a unique setup from which the new world order starts to emerge.
As long as the basic foundations for science, technological development, market economy and societal stability survive through the years of turmoil we can expect to enter a society where the cyber-virtual domain has a vastly bigger role than what it has today. It becomes one of the key engines of the new economic growth, yet at the same time it changes many of the social things that matter to us today. Our life gets better in many ways. We become more powerful, prosperous, entertained, social, and interconnected but also more vulnerable, lonely, alienated, lost with privacy and insignificant for traditional working life. Fact and fiction get permanently mixed in most contexts, and the role and scale of cyber warfare, information warfare and cybercrime, in many of its new forms such as Bug Bounty, Synthetic Fraud, Crime Webstore, will reach new heights.
For more information, please contact
Dr. Tuomo Kuosa
Content Director of Futures Platform, Associate Professor (Docent) of Strategic Foresight at the Finnish National Defence University firstname.lastname@example.org
Kuosa, Tuomo (2022). “Epoch Change – The Revolution Ahead of Us”. Futures Platform Publications 1/2022.
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