The Challenge of Positive Storytelling for a Future Network Society

Edited transcript of a presentation delivered at the Humanity+ @ San Francisco conference1 on December 1, 2012. The transcript has been revised for better readability and some errors have been corrected. The video2 of the talk, including time-coded captions and translated subtitles, as well as the slides3 used are available online. Copyright © 2012, David Orban, http://www.davidorban.com Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution4

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http://www.gala-global.org/ http://dotsub.com/view/ce4e9445-090a-46f7-9747-3f5b1aa583b1 http://www.slideshare.net/davidorban/the-network-societys-storytelling-challenge-humanity-san-francisco http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en_US

The Challenge of Positive Storytelling for a Future Network Society

Let me talk about what I think is a major challenge and a major bottleneck and give a few glimpses of the right types of questions that I think we can start asking concerning how to go about implementing the wonderful things we want to see happen and what are the challenges. I call the Network Society our next phase of social organization. I am the CEO of Dotsub5, which is a for-profit company; I am on the faculty of Singularity University 6 and an advisor, which is a benefit corporation; and I am a former proud chairman of Humanity+ 7, which is a pure nonprofit. So I see in these 3 different roles all the challenges and all the complexities that current society poses to people who want to make an impact, who want to make a difference in their lives and the lives of those around them. I will talk to you about what are the components as I see them of the Network Society; how what I call achronic transmedia storytelling can influence the memes surrounding it and accelerate its fruitful, healthy development; and how what I call metastructural policymaking can become potentially a tool for eliminating the bottlenecks around these developments. I would have been excommunicated if I didn't include an exponential graph in my presentation. [audience laughter] [applause] We can move on. [audience laughter] Our current society is based on a centralized organization, and the Network Society is going to be based on a peer-to-peer, decentralized organization. A few examples we are already seeing around us of how this is going to come about. We have to be careful to decide whether this is desirable, and if so, how can we manage the disruptions that this change is going to cause and, in general, work so that it benefits people and groups of people and everybody, the stakeholders in our society. Energy production is going from being hydrocarbon-based to potentially being solarbased very, very rapidly all around the world. There are projections that are based on science that tell us that we can generate our energy needs based on solar by 2030-35. Rather than the plans for having this done in the Sahara Desert with superconducting cables bringing the energy into Europe and similarly in other continents, it is, I think, rather self-evident that it should be done in everybody's gardens, backyards, roofs, cars, computers and so on in a distributed manner. If we take it for granted that energy is available, then we have the opportunity of transforming food production and agriculture from a huge industrial business using pesticides and hybridized crops covering immense fields whose production is proportional to the area covered, potentially being impacted by climate change, erosion, desertification in negative feedback loops, in so-called plant labs, which are standardized, self-enclosed, programmable
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http://dotsub.com http://singularityu.org http://humanityplus.org

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The Challenge of Positive Storytelling for a Future Network Society

LED lighted hydroponic structures that are producing food proportional to the volume occupied. This is a radical change that once again is distributed. Imagine New York with just a few stories of each high-rise building or skyscraper dedicated to growing plants, food stuff, for the occupants of the building. A third component is of course distributed manufacturing-- 3D printing, which is becoming more and more sophisticated, capable of producing more and more complex structures of all kinds, and once again maximizes value creation on a distributed level at the designer rather than the owner of the capital production, which centralizes production means and production capabilities, currently on the level of continental and transcontinental production and logistics chains. Learning is a huge enabler and the best tool we know to boost people out of poverty. Distributed massive online learning--the so-called MOOC revolution-- is going to once again upend the 500-, 800-year-old academic structure of top-down proof of education and will empower people to pursue much more effectively their interests. A very important last component is of course the evolution or the revolution in our financial technologies which have been impacting many people-- those in the developing countries much more because of their larger share invested in basic necessities than those in the developed countries. Peer-to-peer electronic currencies of current and next generations that cannot be stopped because they are not centralized are going to be the basis of how we supersede centralized financial control and empower organizations to take action into their hands. So these are some of the components of a societal phase change that I see coming very rapidly, and I see it is not only unstoppable but personally I also see it is desirable. In my opinion, transmedia storytelling is the most powerful tool we have today in order to not only let the means of this discourse be known as widely as possible but to rapidly evolve tools for having knowledgeable conversations about it. I have 3 children, and I very happily embrace their pressures of dedicating some of my time to playing the games that they know are important, and these enable me to be relevant in their lives but also enable me to gain insight in what I think are extremely important narrative tools that we can leverage. I also think that the nature of nonlinear, non-chronological storytelling that we are waving today is extremely powerful. As vituperated as it is, Facebook today is undeniably a global conversation platform, and it is only in proportion to the algorithms that are extracting value that we realize how intelligent emerging decision making can be based on tools of current and future generation software platforms. The future is truly here when you see augmented reality prostheses in the wild, not only in prearranged situations but simply being worn. When e-book reading software on our phones
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The Challenge of Positive Storytelling for a Future Network Society

has options to be semitransparent so that the back-facing camera of the device can help us read while we are walking on a sidewalk, we realize that the power of these real-time conversations is not limited to what has been happening traditionally on web interfaces and in very clearly defined circumstances. The power of memes has been around for thousands of years and shaped human society. I have been fascinated by Richard Dawkins's book8 in 1976, and I have been likewise deeply influenced by Susan Blackmore's The Meme Machine9. But they must give up. The power of the Internet has captured their neologism and they would better find a new term to define what are the units of the reproduction of ideas. It's game over. It is, I think, the case that we realize how delicate decisions that we will be making shortly, or already are, are going to be deeply impacting billions of people through the lever and the multiplying force of our technologies. I posit that it is a fruitful conversation to be had, how is it possible that the supposedly most powerful person on the planet, the President of the United States, claims to be unable to fulfill his pre-electoral pledge such as closing Guantanamo because--and then he stops. Either he is actually not the most powerful person on the planet or he is subject to the goal-seeking objectives of superstructures that he is not in control of. This is not conspiracy theory; it is the daily life of anybody participating in a social setting where it is on the level of their local community, on the level of a city, a nation-state, or structures that go beyond nations, like the United Nations or the European Union. It is time that we studied and recognized where the goal-seeking actions of these entities are aligned or misaligned with what we as human individuals realize is going to happen. The Network Society is going beyond what is the structure of our nation-state organization today. If the nation-state's goal-seeking is stopping billions of people from using solar energy or achieving financial independence because of how things are organized at our voluntary dependency from hydrocarbons or central banking systems, then we really have to choose whose interest we serve-- ours as humans or the nation-state's that potentially disregard our own. I really admire hackers and geeks who rule the world today together with scientists and intellectuals. The rationality of analyzing our future and our present is what brought us where we are today. The joyous, the happy, the creative, the inclusive embracing activities that we can invent and we have to keep doing against the denial of those who don't believe there is a chance for fruitful futures is what I applaud. Thank you very much.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Meme_Machine

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