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Semantic Organization and Connectivity - Anne McCrossan

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This is an entry in The Future We Deserve - a collaborative book project about the future. See all the entries or talk about this entry.



Generations of the future may well look back at the turn of the 21st century and see it as a coming of age, a watershed, and I hope they do.

This is a time in which to embrace the fact that the challenges of the human condition are changing.

Up until now our time on earth as a species has focused predominantly on seeking security, shelter and subsistence, and our quest has been to protect ourselves from our own vulnerability by taming the forces of the planet.

Now we can say that, largely speaking, that box is ticked. We know how to harness power, how to create refuge and security, how to harvest our environmental resources, how to create a thriving existence. We know how to do this almost too well, at least for some.

So now, our biggest challenge is not how to tame the planet. Our biggest challenge is how to tame ourselves.

The threats we face today are of a different kind. They come from the over-exploitation of our environment, exploitation of one another, and the damage we wreak in the thrall to our egos because we do not accept the meaning of the word 'enough'.

The future we deserve will be a sustainable one only if we tame ourselves, if we learn to co-exist and consider a joined-up, interconnected and a greater good. This is the sightline that technology now gives us and this is maybe our greatest challenge.

The social possibilities for collaboration are immense, but only if we focus on how we can all win, if we can work out how we can collectively engender abundance instead of fighting over slices of the pie, and if, importantly, we can create models of existence that revolve around profiting 'with' and not 'from' each other.

So the future we deserve is one in which exploitation becomes a thing of the past, where 'I win, you lose' is seen as a zero sum game.

When people talk about the social technology revolution as being as important as the invention of the Gutenberg Press, the crucial ingredient that's not mentioned is not the technology, but the skill.

People forget that the arrival of the printing press meant people needed new skills to make the most of it; they had to learn to read and write. Having a book without being able to read and write was as useful then as it is to have a Twitter account today without the skill to contribute and lead socially, to connect with others and to have a voice of value.

Even though the web remains text-based, the potential for human connectivity the social web gives us asks that we develop skills every bit as unfamiliar as the ones we needed all those centuries ago.

It asks that we develop new levels of social and emotional intelligence, that we develop collaborative skills, physical restraint and the ability to iteratively and creatively seek and arrive at equitable solutions in conjunction with others.

It asks us to put chest-beating to one side and balance our primal drive to progress as a species with the good husbandry of society as a whole, for us to be able to create value as curators, and not just as acquisitors and owners.

The future we deserve asks us to think beyond ourselves even as it opens up new horizons. It asks us to accommodate new needs at a meta level, knowing this is now a joined up and shared world where the plunder and adventuring in pursuit of human supremacy is of an old age.

The sustenance and growth of the future now depend on the forces of equilibrium, harmony, and biological and cultural diversity, as we begin to evolve into maturity as a sentient species and organise across boundaries in new ways.