Temple Works conversation

I was talking with Matt Edgar at the Temple Works party in Leeds on Wednesday and we discussed the accelerating pace of change that is happening in our society today. Or at least I was because Matt’s position was that this idea was a myth. As a history graduate, he believed the rate of change occurred at a constant speed throughout history  (this is how I interpreted his premise anyway). I totally reject this polemic for reasons that I won’t go into now but today I suddenly realised what we were actually talking about. We were really discussing the rate at which power is transferred.

The disruption that occurs after a societal earthquake has its epicentre at the relevant power base. That’s all that matters when we consider change. The adaptability, innovation and creativity that people will need in the coming years refers to their retention of power (for the majority of people this simply equates to their ability to access the means of survival – food, water, shelter). The speed of change is secondary to this concept.

Here’s an example. When Copernicus came up with evidence that pointed to the earth revolving around the sun, the peasant working in the field was unaffected; the sun came up, it went down. However, the world of the church was turned upside down. Their entire power base was threatened. Everything they knew was, potentially, wrong. They would need all the creativity and innovation skills they could muster to overcome this threat. Should they fail, then there might be a change that the peasant would eventually detect – ‘Ah, a new boss, science instead of church. Still working in the fields though.’

A more modern example would be the banks. The banks have a near monopoly on wealth creation as they supply credit. That is their power. When the system threatened to collapse because the myth of confidence was exposed most people would have been immediately impacted (you see, change has accelerated over time) but the people most affected would have been the bankers. Some innovative thinking was required to save their power base because in the event of a collapse people eventually look for an alternative. Of course, if the change is too rapid, then no amount of creativity and adaptability will help.

In the coming years, the people most threatened by change will be the current rulers – the multinationals. The sheer scale and rate of change will be unprecedented and it will be those who demonstrate the greatest innovation and creativity who will benefit the most in the ensuing power shift. Just make sure you are one of them.

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