I’m not a sociologist yet very engaged in the field through my social media work since many years – see me post how I got involved. I noticed a significant development that I want to share with you.
Our society is experiencing one of the greatest evolutionary steps in human history
~3,000 BC. About 5,000 years ago for the first time mankind evolved into a society. Egypt was the birthplace of a society never seen before. Cities were built, trade was created and business developed like never before.
~ 1,800 AD. About 200 years ago mankind went through yet another dramatic change bigger and faster than any change before: Industrialization. Technology came into our everyday lives, transportation of goods and people around the world was all of a sudden possible. Financial wealth of an average worker was as great as a kings rich several hundred years ago. We doubled average live expectancy and cut work load in half. We created technology that wasn’t even part of the most remote fictions. In just 200 years we changed the face of earth more than in the 50,000 years before that.
~ 2010 AD. We already see early signs for yet another dramatic change. This time it is not trade development or technology but a major social shift. In the next 2-5 years our economy will be affected by that change more than through technology in the past. “Democratization of influence” accessibility to nearly “Omnipresent connectedness” and “Direct Access to Experience” (not only expertise) is providing our modern society a tectonic shift that, in my opinion, has an equal magnitude than our technology development a few hundred years ago. Almost everybody can gain “connections” that just a few years ago was a privilege of the top educated people or best connected business executives just 5 years ago. We already experience that business negotiation on all levels change faster than many people realize. Our society is on the verge to yet another major change.
Social Capital Development
While “connections” were a rare privilege for the top 10,000 people in the world, “connections” become a commodity. While trust was an attribute of a person to person relationship, trust will have a new dimension in just the very near future. The most fascinating aspect of this change can be seen in twitter and active social communities. Generation Y is not only much faster in SMS and IMing messages, that generation developed a sense for the relationships they develop, not existing in the older generations. People 30 and older mostly need personal face to face meetings to judge and understand the social relationships they are having. They need to reed the body language in a negotiation in order to navigate their behavior. That is limiting those people to only a small range of connections and a very limited number of negotiations. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar introduced “Dunbar’s number” and assumed that our neocortex is responsible for limiting social relationships to about 150. But since the invention of the wheel – mankind is not giving up because of any physical or now social limitations.
From overcoming physical limitations to overcome social limitations
The industrial revolution was essentially about overcoming our physical limitations. What began in Europe in the late 1700’s spread like wildfire over most parts of the western world. With the process of overcomming our social militations (Dunbar’s Number) this time the revolution started in the US and has the potential to radically change the face of our society. Not only that tools will allow us to maintain 10 times as many relationships, our social evolution will help us develop the skills to use those tools to make those substantiually bigger number of relationships as deep and valualble as the small numbers we were limited to before.
The new social divide
We had the two or three class societies in the past. And it looks like that class building is a law in nature. Despite our effort to help all people in our respective cultures to equally thrive. Nature seem to keep a balance through classes and continues to stick to it’s “survival of the fittest” rule. The Social Revolution is no difference. While companies, teams and individuals thrive by applying the new tools and develop a new attitude and behavioral pattern – many stick to the old paradigm, argue that nothing is new and it will go away. The biggest difference to the past revolutions in technology is that this evolution is not a piece of equipment somebody can buy – even later in the game. A person who rejected the use of a computer for the longest time, can buy a computer today, take a few lessons and use it. In contrast to a person who rejected the idea of social media, who can create a profile at any given time but that doesn’t give that person a social network, that person has to build it. That person can’t just buy reputation or trust – it needs to be built over time. That person can’t just buy a history of contribution to the social ecosystem – whether it’s good or bad – it’s not even possible. The new social divide is just about to develop and will widen in the next 5 years. And like the technology divide in the early 1900’s The social divide will affect not only individuals but the companies those individuals are working with.
The Next Value Shift
Anything money can’t buy has become an invaluable asset. So far we only know true love and time. Everything else can be purchased, if not now then we can at least imagine we will be able to buy it soon, like health. No connectedness and reputation are other things we can’t buy. And as I pointed out above it is gaining significantly in value. As we understood that time is money we will recognize that online reputation is money too. What does that mean? Very simply speaking: Money is getting quite a competition. Now money was a big deal because it changed the way we were able to trade things. But with time and reputation coming in we simply have alternatives to trade things. Today this may sound very scifi or esoteric – but that’s no different than telling people in 2003 when we started with LinkedIn that LinkedIn will rule large parts of the business network world.