How Culture and Values shape the Future

Big Red CommunicationsUncategorizedHow Culture and Values shape the Future
When contemplating the world of tomorrow, one of the questions that needs answering is: What are the main forces driving the future? It is almost like the holy grail of Futurism. If you could know the main drivers that determine the direction that we will be moving in, then you could guess so much better where our next destination would be.
But before I let the cat out of the bag, I need to give you some context. I am going to draw on two well known concepts.

The first is the concept of causation or causality, which is a construct that asserts a relationship between two or more events, where one event is understood to be responsible for the second event. The Atomic Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two major events that were responsible for a third major event; Japan surrendering to the United States and effectively bringing to an end the war between those two countries. Causal models are also widely used in economics, where interest rate hikes can put downward pressure on inflation by making credit and therefore the cost of money more expensive. We all intuitively understand causality, because we all know first hand that actions have consequences.
The other concept is that of the IPO model (Input-Process-Output). This model is intuitive and sensible, and also highly obvious. For any output, there must be a process that produced the output, and the process depended on inputs. Algorithms are basically the “Process” part of an IPO action. An algorithm is a set of instructions detailing actions to be performed on certain inputs, and the resulting outputs would then be of value to us in terms of having created something more useful.
You are probably still wondering when I will be letting the cat out of the bag with reference to what is the most important driving force for the future. Before I let you in on that secret, I first want to take the above concepts out on a bit of a road test, lets see them in action, and then we can sit back and consider he results.
Road Test 1:
Input: Take a country with a large population and a good measure of natural resources. Make sure the population has at least a good general level of education.
Add the concept of communism to the way of thinking of the population and its leaders.
Process: Let this mixture stew for 20 or so years.
Output: Low general level of economic prosperity, particularly for individuals at the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum
Causality: (Event One) Socialist/Communist control over natural resources and factors of production result in (Event Two) huge inefficiencies.
Road Test 2:
Input: Take a country with a large population and a good measure of natural resources. Make sure the population has at least a good general level of education.
Add the concept of capitalism to the way of thinking of the population and its leaders.
Process: Let this mixture stew for 20 or so years.
Output: Higher general level of economic prosperity, particularly for individuals at the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum
Causality: (Event One) Capitalist control over natural resources and factors of production result in (Event Two) relatively greater efficiencies.
Road Test 1 could be either China or Russia at the end of the Cold War, and Road Test 2 could be the USA or Canada or even Australia around the same time. The differentiating factor between Road Test 1 and Road Test 2 countries is their way of thinking about things.
The concept of culture is something that I want to bring in here now, but before I let it come and sit at the table with us, I am going to let it stand in the doorway and make a few observations about it. East and West Germany supposedly shared a common culture in the post WW2 world. Even if though they surely had a common culture at the time the Berlin Wall went up, I would wager that by the late 1950’s the different side’s would have started to diverge from each other. For the purpose of this article, Culture will be the flavour of the software that drives your hardware. It is that set of beliefs and opinions and way’s of looking at the world that make us feel different when faced with someone who is physically almost exactly like is. If you were to clone me, and raise my clone’s in different countries and then one day bring them all together again, Culture would then be the “thing” that accounts for the differences in the way the see the world.
I mention the two Germany’s because it has been argued that they shared a common culture and the great divergences in economic fortunes were as a result of different ideological environments. For the purpose of this article, I consider economic ideologies to be “Culture” insofar as they shape your view of the world.
Now that you are aware of what I consider culture to be, I will let culture come and sit at the table with us, and introduce it to you as one of the main driving forces of the future.
If you want to change the future, you need to change culture. You need to change the way we see ourselves in relation to the world we live in.
If you want to understand the future, you will need to come to grips with the way we see ourselves in relation to the world we exist in.
Before I end this article, I need to return to our old friends, Causality and IPO.The world is a complex system and complex systems are notoriously unpredictable. The reason is that we have tipping points and feedback loops in complex systems, and with particular reference to social change, it is very tough to know your exact status at any given moment. This means that even if we have almost perfect knowledge of event one, because we may be the one’s creating event one, we cannot predict the exact nature of event two, we cannot even guarantee that we have reached a tipping point that will result in event two.
The same holds for IPO. Most humans are neurologically similar, neurons are neurons, but no two humans, even when given similar inputs, will produce exactly the same output. Society works in very much the same way, input will work its way through the system of complexity and we will have to wait and see what emerges. I am reminded of a scene in one of the Austin Powers movies that unintentionally illustrated the uncertainty of what will emerge from a given set of inputs. In the movie, Austin is awoken from a deep cryogenic state to help the world fight Doctor Evil. When Austin see’s a Russian General standing around, he assumes that the Russians must have won the Cold War and begins bad-mouthing the Capitalists, until one of his British compatriots tells Austin that “We Won”, meaning that Capitalism triumphed. Any one who lived in the 1970’s and 1980’s will tell you that the triumph of Capitalism over Socialism/Communism was not a sure thing.
Getting back to the Holy Grail of futurism. While culture is by no means the only input, if all other factors stay the same, culture will always be the differentiating factor in outcomes.

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