When I meet a person who asks me what I do for a living, I usually answer:
My mission is to convince people who are not yet convinced that we (humans) are going through an unprecedented transition in the history of humanity. And that this transition can be good news if we understand it.
My mission is also to find and share the tools to surf the tsunami of changes that we are going through and will continue to go through and leave a better world for our children.
I easily admit that it is a bit ambitious… even pretentious!
And most of the time my interlocutors do not fail to remind me that not only is it ambitious but also a bit stupid!
It Was already Like That before…
Thus, one of the objections that I hear the most is:
You think this time is exceptional, that we are going through an incredible transition because it is YOUR time. 100 years ago, 1000 years ago or 10000 years ago, humans must also have thought that they were living in an incredible time!
Objections that take different forms but that can be summarized by: it was already like that before!
If a person tells you that, I invite you to say to him or her that he or she is right! Because of course, our ancestors lived through amazing transitions, crises, wars, chosen or forced migrations, and pandemics!
The difference in OUR transition can be summed up in two words: scale and speed.
No transition has impacted so many people in such a short time!
Scale And Speed
The evolution of the lithosphere (the mineral) is counted in billions of years. The evolution of the biosphere (living things) is counted in millions of years. The evolution of the noosphere (information) can be counted in nanoseconds!
At the very level of human history, it took thousands of years for Man to pass from the Hunting-Gathering era to the Agriculture-Livestock era, then hundreds of years to pass to the Industry-Commerce era.
And none of these transitions affected everyone, everywhere at the same time. They spanned both time and space.
The transition that we are experiencing, the transition to the Creation-Communication era, the era of knowledge (and, I hope, one day wisdom…) is happening over only a few decades.
And it affects almost everyone at the same time!
One Single Human Lifetime
Today’s technological, social, and economic revolutions mostly take place in a single lifetime.
Human beings and cultures no longer have time to adapt smoothly. For example, our grandparents were born, worked, and died close to the same geographical location while the probability of being born, working, and dying in the same place is now almost nil for most of us!
Likewise, the 1000 words of a common language that our parents learned were, with few exceptions, the same 1000 words they used at the end of their lives. The 1000 words you most commonly use are already a far cry from those you learned when you were younger. It wasn’t that long ago that you weren’t downloading, chatting, tweeting, podcasting, posting, Zooming…
30 years ago, I used my first mobile phone. It was the size of a small suitcase…
Since 2014, there are more cell phones on earth than human beings (you distort the statistics a bit if you have two of them… but that doesn’t change the orders of magnitude).
40 or 50 years ago the Internet did not exist. Today, more than half of human beings are connected to the internet.
Internet of Things Map
No technological revolution has touched so many human beings in such a short time!
The human world is accelerating.
And I would like to add a more recent example.
Just a Little Flu
On March 16th, 2020, I return from Thailand to France… one day before the first lockdown in France. Just enough time to join my resilient home and my little family.
Many of my friends, clients and journalists I have met in the past remember then that I have worked on uncertainty and crisis management for over 20 years. And they all ask me for my advice.
My answers are in this article: Crisis, what crisis?
Many of my interlocutors also were asking me: don’t you think that all this is just a little “a little flu”. And many draw the comparison to the Spanish flu or even to even more deadly older pandemics.
Of course, I couldn’t comment on the seriousness of the new disease.
Unlike many people at the time, I didn’t self-qualify as an epidemiologist after reading 3 Facebook posts and watching 2 YouTube videos…
On the other hand, it was already obvious to me that the consequences were already far beyond just a little flu.
A Planetary Lockdown
At the end of March, there were a few hundred thousand deaths attributed to COVID (it was then called coronavirus), perhaps more in reality.
By the end of April, just weeks later, more than half of the world population was in some form of lockdown.
This is a perfect example of the butterfly effect or self-amplification described in chaos theories.
In the memory of human beings, no event has affected so many human beings in such a short time (it would be interesting to have the opinion of the dinosaurs though…)
To this, many people still answer me today: it’s the fault of the media, it’s the fault of the social networks, it’s the fault of the evolution of our relationship to death, etc.
This may be correct… and it is missing an incredible phenomenon: in a few weeks, the daily lives of several billion human beings have been impacted in a very significant way.
More than 4 billion people have seen their daily, professional, and family lives radically changed in a few weeks!
To my knowledge, no event of this magnitude had occurred in the past (your ideas or comments are welcome).
Even the previous World Wars… were actually not really global.
I repeat: no event has affected so many human beings in such a short time.
So yes, I believe that we can say that we are experiencing a transition, or rather transitions, on a scale and a speed never observed in the history of humanity.
Because we have never been so numerous on earth, because we have never been so connected to each other, and because a number of phenomena are accelerating, we are experiencing an unprecedented transition.
The Friction Between Slow and Fast
We must add to these accelerations, the incredible friction between things that evolve very quickly and things that cannot evolve very quickly:
- It still takes about 9 months to have a child
- It still takes between 15 to 25 years to become an adult
- It still takes a season to grow some fruits and vegetables
- Even if we immediately and completely stop our CO2 emissions, it will take thousands of years to dissipate the CO2 produced over the past 300 years
A more Chaotic World
This leads to greater uncertainty and an ever more chaotic world. Thus, chaos theories tell us that we are probably on the eve of an incredible collapse… or an incredible emergence.
An Unprecedented Transition
So yes, I really believe, and I have facts to prove it: the transition we are experiencing is unprecedented in the history of humanity, in its scale and speed!
No transition has touched so many human beings in such a short time.
And this transition is full of risks, of potential collapses. It is also full of opportunities, and possible breakthroughs.
It’s time for collapsologists… or emergeologists!
So What Do We Do?
As indicated above, my mission is to convince people who are not yet convinced that we are experiencing an unprecedented transition in the history of humanity.
I hope that you can now help me in this mission by remembering: that it is the scale and the speed of this transition that changes everything.
And my mission is also to find and share the tools to surf the tsunami of changes that we are going through and will go through in order to leave a better world for our children.
So, in these articles, I share with you the tools. How we can thrive in this more uncertain world, be more resilient, and even benefit from crises thanks to the three gifts of chaos:
- The butterfly effect: how to have very big effects with small actions?
- The Strange Attractor: how to make sure good things happen when you can’t predict anything anymore?
- Fractal images: how to recognize an emerging world?
So, find out how to join the tribe of emergeologists 🙂