Could we develop a world culture without limits, with an expanding number of ways to reach the many kinds of greatness in all of us? If a Digital Earth delivers the world’s best to everyone, being connected will mean rising to the top in the ways we each choose. Could that include everyone, all the time, for everything we all want?
For the past 10,000 years, the long wave of human history has been like a gentle swell traveling across a smooth ocean. From the start of civilization to the Industrial Revolution in about 1800, most of humanity lived like livestock.
During those thousands of years our greatest obstacle was never ignorance. It was the illusion of knowledge, the certainty that we knew the world we live in.
Almost everyone was stuck and lived impoverished agricultural lives, even when their country did well. The prevailing belief was bleak: Nearly universal poverty was inevitable.
Before the Industrial Revolution science and technology did not take us far. Our minds were governed by what we saw and thought, so we were trapped in a comparatively small and poor world. We believed that was the only world.
Now we know better. But to go far, our greatest obstacle remains the illusion of knowledge — the belief that we know what the world is, and that’s all there is.
The Great Divergence: When the world added its self-created future
About the year about 1800, only about 200 years ago, an unprecedented expansion began. For one thing, population growth took off. The human population has multiplied repeatedly in just 200 years. By today we have swelled to over seven billion people. By the year 2050, the middle of this century, the United Nations forecasts that the human population will stabilize at about nine billion people on the Earth.
A similar expansion began in the economy. Starting about 200 years ago, with the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom, Western Europe and in the United States — which came to be called The West — there was an economic acceleration some historians call “The Great Divergence.” The West took off economically by embracing technology and science.
For the next 150 years The West made the mistake of thinking they were different from the rest of the world, because they outgrew the world economically.
That triggered a global awakening. Other countries wanted these benefits but had to spend generations absorbing the advances.
The great convergence: Prosperity made the West better, and everyone else too
By the middle of the 1900’s the Industrial Revolution was reaching the rest of the world, with many countries catching up.
By the year 2050, the middle of this century, the West’s leadership will vanish. Four of the top five economies in the world will not be from the West. China and India will be one and two. The United States will fall to third. Brazil and Japan will be the fourth and fifth largest economies in the world.
While each of these countries are different culturally, they have learned the same economic patterns.
History will record that the West was not different. It was just first.
Economies that grow don’t require abundant natural resources. That’s shown by resource-poor island nations like Japan and Britain that have led the world, while some resource-rich countries in Africa and South America remained behind.
The future will say that the world reached a centuries-long turning point. It will say that we are only half-way through an industrial revolution that is still spreading to include the whole planet.
Crucially, it could say that the digital stage of that planetary evolution found a turning point, a way to accelerate its progress.
What is that turning point?
Can technology remove our ceilings, so people can blossom?
The most powerful changes come from growing beyond the world we see. We were always limited by believing the visible world is all there is. An industrial revolution came from discovering that numerous innovations are ready to advance the world, and relentlessly finding and adding them.
By now we should know that wealth comes from our minds. Yet we still struggle with eliminating our current illusions, removing bureaucratic barriers, and replacing them with improvements.
Technological imagination is still able to become one of our largest sources of wealth and progress. For a vivid example, Apple is the the most valuable company in the world.
For another example, new Expandiverse Technology, in confidential development for years, adds to our knowledge of how to build a more powerful future — how to conceive and build tomorrow’s digital world today.
With a new opportunity to accelerate, a more successful Earth becomes imaginable, distributable and buildable.
Everyone who is motivated can periodically update their screens — and their minds — to this latest vision of tomorrow’s Earth. As each step is added, connected screens can be used to see or try new versions. Each step moves the cycle forward another turn, flipping our biggest question from whether to when.
With the Industrial Revolution, we started evolving a new culture where everyone has the chance to be free of what held back societies and people since the dawn of human history.
As tomorrow’s world becomes one digital room, every person could have a new and more personally valuable opportunity — to rise to personal greatness.
If we learn to do this, economic and market size growth could take off on a scale never before imagined: Universal prosperity. For 9 billion people over the coming centuries.
Until this has been imagined, and we see how to build it, it can’t happen. But once we do, and “get it,” watch out.
Recognizing this could make us ready for a new stage in history, for a worldwide Journey to Greatness.
A torrent of continuous, amazing advances could become a new world culture.
- J. Bradford DeLong, Department of Economics, U.C. Berkeley, Estimating World GDP, One Million B.C. – Present, http://econ161.berkeley.edu/TCEH/1998_Draft/World_GDP/Estimating_World_GDP.html
- Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, The Economic History of the Last 2000 Years: Part II, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/06/the-economic-history-of-the-world-after-jesus-in-4-slides/258762/
- Larry Elliott, The Guardian, GDP projections from PwC: how China, India and Brazil will overtake the West by 2050, http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/jan/07/gdp-projections-china-us-uk-brazil
Image credits: First image: Shutterstock. Second image: Based on EI T (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APopulation_curve.svg Third image: Based on Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, The Economic History of the Last 2000 Years: Part II, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/06/the-economic-history-of-the-last-2000-years-part-ii/258762/ Fourth image copyright Dan Abelow.