By Max Borders
“The fact of the matter is, that into your cell phone, is dematerializing a lot of the things we used to have in life. Think about it. I don’t have a GPS for my car anymore. It’s in here. Nor do I have an HD camera, my HD video camera, my music library, all of these things are literally dematerializing into your cell phone.” – Peter Diamandis
At Voice & Exit, we keep our eyes on the megatrends that are likely to shape our lives in positive ways.
There is also a sense in which such megatrends have corresponding narratives. Narratives drive trends, just as trends drive narratives. In other words, what we say about these trends is as an important a driver of change as the phenomena we describe.
In order to continue this back-and-forth between trend and narrative, we have to be able to unpack trends and articulate them. A few megatrends are now emerging that hold promise and possibility for the future. Three in particular stand out, and they all happen to begin with D.
1) Decentralization — Power centers are breaking up.
Decentralization is the idea that technology and human interconnection are hastening the breakup of traditional centers of power or authority. Human beings are able to work collaboratively like never before. (Related is the concept of disintermediation, which means technology allows us to remove go-betweens.) Thus, permissionless innovations are starting to proliferate.
Some people are threatened by these phenomena. But when we consider that most of the worst events in human history were caused by people with too much unchecked power, decentralization — at the very least — reduces the odds that such accretions of destructive power can accrete. Some would argue that humanity needs “good” central powers to protect the innocent. And this is of course arguable. But on a whole, decentralization allows us to build trust centers instead of power centers, reputation capital instead of political capital, and relies on persuasion instead of coercion to bring about change. Hierarchies are thus being replaced by robust networks as the preferred mode of human organization. And this is more an inevitable process as a plan.
2) Demonitization — More than just money now makes the world go round.
Money is a good thing. It’s a medium of exchange. But now more than ever, it looks like cosmopolitan human interaction can be driven by more than money. At the most basic level, consider that competition for money in the form of cryptocurrency networks is threatening to disrupt the status quo of national currencies. Such as profound implications not only for decentralization and disintermediation (say of large banks and governments) but also for the mode, manner and speed with which human beings can cooperate and exchange.
But demonitization goes deeper. More and more of the world is becoming open sourced. People aren’t always looking for a transactional relationship, but rather a way of participating in the creation of something bigger. Large scale collaboration — whether on software or systems of law — means that much more of the world can be driven by our deep human desire to become of part of something larger than ourselves, whether to leave some value to posterity, or to ensure that something wonderful comes into existence for all to enjoy. This is also, therefore, a narrative of radical volunteerism.
3) Dematerialization — People can do more with less stuff and people want less stuff.
We are witnessing the decline of scarcity, as things that used to require lots of energy and lots of space are being compressed, compacted and merged. Vast halls of computer banks, album collections, and libraries now fit in your smartphone, for example. An economy was once only about goods and services has become more complex and diverse.
Internetworking and technological advance means we’re not only able to do more with less, human beings are starting to value experiences over stuff. This burgeoning experience economy is seeing expression in everything from the amusements our kids are finding on their mobile devices, to the desire on the part of more people to see more of other cultures, the natural world and to find meaning in their lives.
Interestingly the three megatrends above were not planned by any enlightened autocrat or committee of anointed leaders. These trends have arisen from processes of human interaction and unfolding rooted in entrepreneurship and innovation.
And when we talk about them in certain ways, we’ll realize the benefits of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Max Borders is the Co-Founder of Voice & Exit