It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but it’s hard to get a unbiased view of history.
Question: How many years does Western Civilisation have left in it?
10? 20? 100?
Answer: “There are forces that want you to believe that end of civilisation is inevitable.”
I’ve been talking with Dymphna Boholt. I’m helping her with the marketing of her “Next 10” event. Dymphna has one of those minds that is always hungry, and that hunger and curiosity is going to be on full display at this one.
She’s been doing a deep dive into what the future looks like, particular the future of real estate. And seriously? The stuff she’s found is mind blowing.
And its not so much the stuff that’s happening 10, 20 years down the track. It’s the stuff that’s happening right now.
We are living in the future.
So as I was saying last week, I went into a bit of a dark worm-hole looking into artificial intelligence. The future was looking a little scary from where I was, curled up in a foetal position clutching a McMuffin.
So I said, “So what do you think Dymphna? End of the day, are we going to be alright?”
Her answered surprised me:
“There are forces that want you to believe that end of civilisation is inevitable.”
What she’s saying is that the idea that civilisation is on the brink of collapse serves particular agendas.
Namely, if you’re agenda is introduce some radical solutions, you need a radical crisis to justify it. If you want people to swallow something as out there as fascism, then they need to be pretty worried about the future.
In fact, they need to be so worried that they can’t see any possible way through the malaise with the current tool set. They need to believe that the most probable scenario going forward is the end of civilisation as they know it.
But how many civilisations have collapsed in a burning pile of poo? And how many have slowly petered out, or been peacefully absorbed by the paradigm that followed?
I don’t actually know the answer to that, but I’m pretty sure no one else does either. And if we focus on the fall of the Roman empire, as the only data point in a uselessly small sample, our conclusions are going to be pretty biased.
I mean take the British Empire.
We can say that we’re definitely past the peak on that one. But has it been a disaster? Hardly (on the scale of human disasters). By and large it’s been a fairly peaceful transition to the new story.
So why are we so convinced that the only way empires go down is in flames? Why are we so convinced that the only way change can happen is in massive violent leaps?
The wane of the British Empire. The end of French colonialism in Asia. The fall of the Berlin Wall. The break up of the USSR. Sydney teams joining the VFL.
The evidence for the ‘messy transition’ theory is all around us, but we still believe that the mostly likely way forward involves queues for food and armed mobs on the streets.
But this idea serves particular agendas and so it sticks around.
“If you don’t vote for me, your children will be hunting for rats in the ruins of the state library.”
And so we stand at a similar cross-roads, with some mind-blowing tech already rolling off the production line.
There are and will be forces that want us to believe that the only way the human species is going to survive this radical upheaval is with the strong hand of a strong leader guiding the way.
We’re primed to accept this at face value. We’re not conditioned to say, hang on, the evidence overwhelming says that humans are exceptionally good at muddling through. Are things really that bad?
But this is the attitude that the times demand.
We need to be optimistic about the new tech on offer, and confident that humans will get messy, but ultimately muddle through… as we always seem to do.
And so at the end of the day, Dymphna is optimistic and hopeful about the future on offer. And she’s not buying the idea that collapse is inevitable.
And when you see the stuff she’s come up with, I think you’ll agree.
Are you coming to the Next10 event? It will all make a lot more sense if you do.