For the first segment in this series, I will touch on the social tipping point I believe we are currently on. I won’t address any specific advances I think will impact us in the future yet. I will save these for the segments to come and rather touch on the social impact or “Social Physics,” as Adam Frank of the Big Think puts it.
Firstly, what is a “tipping point”? The dictionary defines it as:
“tipping point noun: The point at which a series of small changes or incidents
becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.”
Frank states, “Digital Technologies are pushing us into entirely new and unknown social forms at speeds that make even the last century’s change seem languid.”
In his book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler wrote almost 50 years ago: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Incidentally, anyone interested in a great book to read on the concept of tipping points, I recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s first book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, it is a terrific read, and all his books are fantastic.
So, what is this tipping point that we are approaching, or have tipped over, in my opinion? It is the chaotic information landscape that has emerged from the democratization of journalism and publishing. There is no quality control on the information that is disseminated at the speed of thought. Those historically trusted sources of data look identical to those published by charlatans. How is the average person able to decide between fact and fiction? Everything you read seems so credible. It is not to say that manipulation of the truth wasn’t possible in the past. It certainly was, but it relied on slower forms of communication that could potentially be stopped before too much damage was done. Misinformation slipped out then, but today it is a torrent enabled by the low cost of publishing. The publishers of such misinformation call any attempt to quell their voices “censorship.” Crying that their free speech is being suppressed. Is it really censorship if what is being stopped is misinformation?
The challenge is that the subjects’ complexity is non-trivial and often oversimplified to make it easy reading for those not versed in the matters. The question then arises, who is an expert that can be trusted?
In physics, the degradation of order into chaos is called entropy. This is the tipping point we find ourselves in. Technology is the cause of this entropy, and only technology can restore order. Food for thought……..