I’ve spent the last few years searching for a conceptual framework that ties people-centric practices for personal growth and innovation to a larger strategy for global economic development. The goal’s a bit lofty but you only live once, right?
Many people have recommended I write a book, but there’s no time for that. There’s far too much to do! So instead, I’m going to put what I’ve learned into practice and start blogging like a madman in the process.
This post starts a bit higher level, but I promise it ends with focus and action! Spoiler alert: Mozilla is the focus. I’m the action. ;)
Background: Information Economy
Occupy Wall Street and economists alike are paying attention to the wrong metrics. The currency of the 21st century isn’t measured in dollars and euros, but in data. Specifically the abilities to generate, own and process raw data into meaning. Today’s internet favors not the 1%, but practically the .0000~1%. Just about 100% of the information economic wealth in the world belongs to just a handful of large organizations. (Blah blah blah..)
Before we can address monetary inequity, we must first shift the tide of existing data inequity. This is a key civilizational challenge that requires action primarily in the areas of technology development and education. Most importantly, these two must develop hand in hand. The key is access + control.
The “information economy” isn’t a real thing though. You know what’s real? Attention economy. Those who own/control all the data ultimately reap all the efficiencies information technology enables. Attention is time and time is money. More and more of us have less and less time and less and even less to show for the time we do have. Today’s information inequity leaves the vast majority of the population out to dry.. meaning out in the market without the information necessary to embody the ideal rational agents of economic theory.
More Background: Urgency and Agency
Economic inequity is a global problem that America has adversely contributed to while remaining blind to the direction we’ve been leading the world over the past century. This is beginning to change as trickle-up attention economics has led to the Walmarts, Facebooks and Goldman Sachs of the world to own virtually all the data. (Money is a measurement of value. That means it’s data too.) American’s are finally starting to take notice enough to take action. The lack of a sense of urgency is something I’ve been very worried about.. until recently. Occupy Wall Street is one sign amongst many that we’re finally waking up. We’re not out of the woods just yet however. Next we need to cultivate Agency otherwise our newfound sense of urgency just goes to waste.
Agency is defined as the ability for an “Agent” to act within the world. Check out all the wikipedia pages about “Agency.” I’m talking about all of them. Regardless of perspective (psychological, sociological, computational, legal economic, bad-ass spy-shit, etc) we all need to become Agents.
I’m an Agent. You’re an Agent. I give you Agency. You give me Agency. We give others Agency. Social networks/computer networks amplify agency. Agency grows through collaboration. Agency grows through the accumulation of wealth. When wealth is hoarded, everybody (including the owner) loses agency. Agency is the ability to turn potential energy (resources) into kinetic energy (action).
We have lot’s of work to do.
I’ll be talking a lot more about Agency in future blog posts. In the meantime, your homework is to start thinking of yourself as entrepreneurial Free Agents.
Challenges and Opportunities: Data
I’d like to put forth the idea that before we can truly begin to solve the great problems of our time, the challenges surrounding data ownership practice and policy must be figured out.
Cloud computing is both the greatest threat and greatest opportunity here. So far, cloud computing has created information silos unlike any that have ever existed. This means all the wealth flows to whomever has the biggest clouds attached to the smartest sensor webs and noise filters. We need to redemocratize the proliferation of information. Let’s not wait until 2013.
2012 is the year to bust the information silos. This is as much a cultural challenge as it is a technological. Both must be overcome simultaneously. What does this mean? Every individual should not only own their data (policy) but be able to store it in their personal data lockers locally and/or in the cloud (practice). Furthermore, everyone should be able to make accessibility of their data as private or public as they choose (technology standards). Last and most importantly, no matter how public, private, local, or cloud-based your data may be, apps/organizations/friends/etc should respect your expectations when accessing your data to make useful and potentially awesome stuff happen (culture). This solves the access problem.
What about the control problem? Having access to data isn’t enough. We need to be able to turn it into meaning. Build relationships. Tell stories. Contextualize and create our realities. This is the fun part.. and while I may be unapologetic about my ego, I’m not so presumptuous to say that I have any real idea what this should look like! This is the part of the vision we need to construct together. ‘Nuff said.
This is a massive undertaking. And if we succeed, business as usual will pretty much be over everywhere. The rate at which businesses can potentially be disrupted will grow exponentially. Even more businesses will go under. I must also add that job losses could even skyrocket for a bit. We MUST use this fact to our advantage if we don’t want the 21st century to suck.
An environment in which data flows like water is scary. It’s scary for individuals.. but it’s even scary for businesses. It makes us feel insecure. But we will survive this. The lynchpin to solving the threats we face in these times is ultimately the inequity of information economy. It all comes down to access and control. The technical challenges of this vision for the internet are simple compared to the cultural challenges. Access to information isn’t even half the battle. The vast majority is a matter of cultural literacy.
So the sooner we pull the full real-time dataportability and decentralized geosocial internet of things bandage, the better. We need to up the disruptive potential of the internet to full throttle so that we can just as rapidly shift our civilizational focus toward the real challenge at hand: bridging the exponentially widening digital culture literacy gap.
This leads to the next section.
Challenges and Opportunities: Security
Going full throttle on the disruptive capacity of information technology innovation is counterintuitively essential.
Of all the shocks to our global system in the recent past and approaching future, this shock (which we are already experiencing in painfully rapid slow-motion) is the only one that offers the opportunities for economic growth that will lead to security (personal, local, national, global, galactic, take your pick). In order to fully democratizing the innovative potential the world wide (geosocial) web (of things) offers us, we will need to continuously innovate around the ideas of curation and filters. Curation and filtering aren’t just about sifting the waterfall of information represented by our twitter and facebook newsfeeds… it’s about personal security as well in a very visceral sense. Door locks and vaccines are filter technologies. Project portfolios, nutritional diets and city planning are forms of curation. Hiring good trustworthy people from a flood of applicants involves both techniques.
Access to increasingly abundant information combined with better filtering and curation control mechanisms lead to the the identification of creative opportunities that add value. This is where market capitalism kicks in and money starts flowing.
If done right, economic development is the best investment leading to security at all levels. The disruption of businesses and industries may FEEL insecure, but in aggregate creates greater overall economic opportunity for those willing and able to take it. (Uh oh.. there’s that literacy gap again..)
Challenges and Opportunities: Education Reform and Makers
The Maker Movement is being well documented right now. If you don’t know about it, you need to. I’ll be talking extensibly about makers in future posts.
Research tells us that the best learning happens when we are personally engaged in what we’re learning. Curiosity drives learning, and the requisite playfulness is driven by the desire for fun. Play is the natural learning state. I’ll also be talking about this in future posts. It’s one of my mantras.
Play is the natural learning state.
There’s lots of talk about ‘gamification’ going on right now. We don’t need to gamify education. We don’t need to gamify anything in fact.. because everything is already technically a game! (Just ask economists, cross-sections of academia, video game designers, and anyone between the ages of 12-24).
To be honest.. if everything is already a game, it’s not a very fun game all around. It’s time to change the game. Literally. (Google: systems thinking and game theory)
There’s enough activity going on right now in the area of education innovation to fell a great many trees and (possibly) fill whole kindles! So I’d like to direct your attention to one organization that could potentially bring all the elements I’ve discussed so far together: the Mozilla Foundation.
The most publicly visible signs of transformation within Mozilla come from the shift toward a web-speed rapid development cycle for Firefox. By joining Google Chrome in bringing agile development to the web browser, the web is changing faster than ever. This comes at a time when the openness of the internet is under threat from all sides. In response, Mozilla is rapidly building toward a new strategy of public engagement based upon creating learning environments in which makers flourish, grow and replicate.
What makes Mozilla unique among other organizations trying to innovate within education is that Mozilla has been and continues to be a key player in building the future of the internet. Their current technology roadmap hints at a not-so-distant future in which the web is THE primary operating system upon which our society runs. We’re not just talking technology, we’re talking about upgrading our societal operating system (google: Douglas Rushkoff.) By making commitments to education and makers, Mozilla is rapidly increasing the scope of their operation to solve the global literacy gap: the first step toward upgrading the rest of our global infrastructure.
Economic Development = Cultural Innovation + Technological Innovation
The header of this section says it all. And you know what? Mozilla is an organizations that could potentially tackle both sides of this equation at a global scale. They’re missing one key element though: Local.
Economic Development = Global focus+ Local focus = Glocal focus
Globalization. It’s a thing. Glocalization. It’s also a thing. It’s time to bring things full circle. Localization.
This is where Airship Atlanta comes in. Local economic development is what my crew and I are all about! In a globalized world, it’s pretty much a given that successful local economic development efforts have global impact. This requires building bridges between local creatives and global infrastructure builders to enable global creativity that’s locally based and local infrastructure that’s globally based.
And so it is my ambition to see Atlanta begin a process of rapid economic development. Immediately! (If you don’t mind.)
Let’s see what we can do in a year.
I do declare that Atlanta’s future is to build the future of the web. In doing so, Atlanta’s economic development will become a resilient seed for global economic development.
This is my challenge to everyone else in the world trying to solve global problems: act as though the place you live is the capital of the world. I will be. Focus on building relationships and businesses based on service that encourage personal development just as much as local economic development. Find and engage the Mozilla Foundation, its network of partners and global organizations like them at intersections of the technological, cultural, local and global.
I’m not done, but this blog post is.
My next few posts over the course of this week will be focused on the opportunities I see emerging at the Mozilla Foundation that represent an expedient for Atlanta’s economic development.