Comparing the 1st and the 2nd Renaissance

What have we learnt so far? The 1st Renaissance was, and the 2nd Renaissance will be, turbulent times, times of change. The 1st Renaissance transitioned from the Middle Ages to modern time. During the Middle Ages human fate was thought to be inextricably linked to suffering — with a focus on death and afterlife. The 1st Renaissance shifted the focus to life and human potential, changes can still be felt today. When we look at what is already unfolding at the beginning of the 2nd Renaissance, we see the potential for similar upheaval — the transition from the post-modern industrial society to the new connected society. Chris’ contribution is a plea to emphasize the human aspect in this apparently so technologically driven 2nd Renaissance. He describes transitions he observed from a personal vantage point. In the following contribution we will start to try to link the individual and the societal perspective.

The 1st Renaissance and the 2nd Renaissance both represent transitions that can only be categorized as major upheavals. Additionally we maintain that these transitions are linked to a higher common model of societal development. Once again, we will discover commonalities between the two Renaissances.

We will see that the model does not necessarily “by default” lead to a “perfect” and harmonious world. Again, we can use historical reflection what we need to pay attention to. We believe that there is significant potential to influence the shape of the new connected society. Can we find out what we have to tune?

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Psychology and organisational processes

The Process Iceberg


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The War of the Worlds — 4. And the Winner is …

The table below has been constructed to summarize and highlight key differences in the traditional and the modern perspectives. Each pair of terms are not to be seen a binary “either – or”, but rather as the ends of a spectrum. And the distinction between traditional and modern will be not the same for all organizations. Each company will have its own pattern.

We will investigate some of the drivers behind the observable indicators at later stages.

Traditional View Modern View
market eco-system
push pull
product platform
competition co-evolution
proprietary interfaces open interfaces / open source
protected IP co-innovation
OR (linear) purposeful systems (living systems)
central decentralized, networked
hierarchy flat
vertical authority meritocracy
external control internal purpose
man is selfish empathic man
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The War of The Worlds — 3. The Third Wave

The third wave of the industrial revolution started around the same time when modern physics challenged Newtonian rule. A new world view originated from a greater insight into the physical world — compared to the one that had existed before. And with this new concepts of economies and corporate structures were to come. Isn’t it a strange coincidence that Heisenberg, Gödel, Turing and many others “of the first hour” were contemporaries? You will have guessed by now that we consider software the next wave of technology that affected industry — aided by digital communications. Software is the something like the “long distance force field” of the new world — the gravity of the new world that distorts the old: War of the Worlds.

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The War of the Worlds — 2. The Traditional Industry

What we call the “traditional” industry today is the result of a major upheaval: the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution reduced the value contribution of labor in the world’s economies by shifting from craft to mechanization and automation. The scientific and technological foundation is a mechanistic and reductionist understanding of the physical world — the Newtonian world. The conceptual model of this world is deterministic: you can predict the result of any action based on the knowledge of the behavior of the components — all you need is sufficient resources to compute this output. This understanding of the material world also forms the basis of a deterministic model of human motives and behavior. Societal behavior is the aggregate of the behavior of individuals. This understanding was aptly described by Adam Smith in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations [Smith 1776]:

Adam Smith: Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776

“… every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command. It is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of society, which he has in view. But the study of his own advantage naturally, or rather necessarily, leads him to prefer that employment which is most advantageous to the society.”

This is still the fundamental dogma of capitalism. This is not meant as an oversimplified presentation of Adam Smith’s work. We are not intending to write a detailed historical account, we are looking for patterns, for drivers, which influence the governance of organizations. And the quote from Adam Smith’s work is still the credo of society: man is first and foremost selfish. This paradigm has influenced the development of modern society and the organization that make up the “traditional” industry we are examining.

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The War of the Worlds — or: How the Internet of Things Will Change Your World

War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast
[Newseum | The Power of Radio: Is Hearing Believing? – edited by Hans-Jürgen Kugler]

Have you heard of the panic caused by Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of the Martian invasion? [audio|bg=0x0000ff|righticon=0xff0000|align=left]

The book “The War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells was greeted with great interest in 1898, however, neither its publication nor the previous serialization had an impact that was comparable to that of the radio broadcast. Applying new technologies can significantly increase the impact of something, even if this something isn’t new. Something to remember for the new changes about to happen.

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The First Renaissance — 4: Initial Summary of Drivers Identified

The previous three post about the Renaissance gave some examplary evidence about epochal changes. In this first wrap-up about the First Renaissance in the following table we offer a condensed look at some of the technological and social drivers of the first Renaissance. Continue reading

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