A world without coal-fired power plants is something most people are able to envision. But a world without the future versions of Britney Spears, Madonna, Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson? That’s harder. However, these two things are more connected than you would think.
Two years ago I, a recently-graduated-and-completely-confused-twentysomething-with-quarterlifecrisis, started a personal quest for the answers to the big questions of our time. A journey across 4 continents to interview 15 of the most influential doers and thinkers of this world about how the world works, and about what we as the young generation can do. I recently returned from my 11th interview, with Parag Khanna in Singapore. He is a renowned world strategist and an advisor of Obama, and this visionary also acknowledged what I see as the most important insight of my quest: we – you, me – are more influential that we have ever been in the history of mankind. From the latest insights within the fields of system theory and quantum physics to those of the most important experts on globalization, they all express the same. Or like Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and the 6th role model of my quest, summarized it: ‘The future is for ordinary people doing extraordinary things.’
Why is that? It has to do with the transition phase we are currently in. The interviews show that we have come to the end of an era, an era with oil and gas being the most important energy sources. This has had far-reaching consequences for the structure of our current society, way further than you would think. The characteristic of oil and gas is that it can only be extracted from certain places by certain companies, which resulted in the fact that we are now living in a highly centralized and hierarchical world. From the large international power structures to the way we have built our organizations, and even to the way we do our daily work, in all of those situations this influence occurs. The transition towards a sustainable society, in which everyone can start his or her own energy plant on the roof of their house in an instant, will not only influence the worldwide carbon dioxide emissions, but it will completely disrupt society, in a good way. The energy transition causes a trend of decentralization in many parts of our society. You no longer have one central financier – the bank – but there are thousands of financiers available through crowd funding. You no longer stay in a hotel, but you find a local address via AirBnB. These are only two concrete examples. And… Britney Spears will be an endangered species.
Two months ago I spoke with Peter Sunde, the founder of the download website The Pirate Bay. We met at a secret address in Sweden. Peter told me that the current trend of decentralization is becoming more and more visible in the industries of music and film. Where there are now about a hundred super famous (and super rich) music stars and film celebrities, the signs indicate that a decentralized era is coming. YouTube and similar websites are the trendsetters of a world in which possibilities and opportunities will be divided more horizontally. With an energy transition that will disrupt society, in 2030 you’ll not only be able to generate your own energy, but you may also be the next Justin Bieber. If you want, that is, because with an exponentially growing influence of ‘ordinary people’, a.k.a. you and me, the question arises: what will you do with that influence? Or like Jane Goodall, the woman who studied chimpanzees for more than 40 years in the jungle of Tanzania, stated: ‘Everybody has an impact on the world, and the choice is up to you if it will be a positive or a negative impact.’ In short: what will you do?
This blog was published at OneWorld Toekomsdenkers.