Welcome to the Post-Modern World

In his podcast, Akimbo [https://www.akimbo.me/], Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses what a modern/contemporary world is and what we need to do living in a time of fast changes.

The current modern world we are living in was brought forward by several great inventions. One was the electrification of the world. Electricity brought the light, machines, comfort, and productivity enhancement in everything we do. Next was the invention of the telephone, which improved communication. The third major invention was in transportation with train, the automobile, and the airplane. Lastly, we have computers and all related electronic devices.

The first big idea about modernization is the difference between being modern and being contemporary. Modern art was a reaction to centuries of classical art after humankind invented the camera. Once we have a camera, there was no economic need to paint things that we see, because we can take a picture cheaper and faster.

The shift from modern art to contemporary art was not about seeking a revolution from the classic. Contemporary art is the art of the moment, and not a reaction to camera and technology. Contemporary art, instead, is one artist’s statement about the viewpoint they want to express. We are entering an era where many things are shifting from merely “modern” to “contemporary,” which is going to be very different from what we have been used to.

In the short run, it is the smartphone and the ubiquity of connection. The Internet is a game-changer because of this massive peer-to-peer instant fusion of culture and information. It means that, for the first time in the history of the world, anyone who wants to learn something can learn it. The idea that we can learn ideas and get better at them faster than ever will change the pace that our culture advances.

Tow second factor is the interactions with machine learning and artificial intelligence. Computers are doing many things that we used to define as something they could not do.  One job after another is getting replaced by an infinitely trainable, infinitely patient, infinitely cheap system that will do the thing we used to think of as work.

And the third factor is that we are replacing humankind’s aggressive desire to kill everybody else by a different threat. The new threat is the warming of the climate and the rising of sea levels. Given that one out of every five people on earth lives in a coastal region, this new threat and associated side-effects are going to dominate the conversation.

Smaller contemporary concerns start to add up until it becomes the new “modern.”  They are not the giant leap forward that modernity was, but they all add up to something significant that we should pay attention. We are living in a world that just had a revolution, this revolution of connection. Culture is changing faster than ever.

We are no longer living in isolation behind geographical or national boundaries. Computers now connect everyone. Those computers are doing the jobs that we can write down the steps, leaving nothing for the rest of us to do except for the tasks we cannot yet write down.  Those tasks are the disruptions from leading people and solving interesting problems.

We live in a turbulent time, and the world is changing fast. We may not have been noticing it much because we are the ones who are making the changes.