Saturday, July 18, 2009

20 Rules For the Twenty-First Century

As we really start to dig into this new century, I've been thinking lately about the lessons learned from the past 100 years, and how they so intimately apply to our lives now. Things that have changed our way of being in the world but have also become new insights into the nature of our existence and what it all means. I've been thinking that there seem to be roughly twenty insights for our new times that will underpin how we live in this new century.

1. That a well-functioning society is a complex thing that can easily be quickly unwoven (Katrina) or repaired (the West Bank) by a change in just a few key parameters.

2. That democracies unleash both powerful creative forces (crowdsourcing) and intractable political paralysis (global warming).

3. That all work is about being social, even if it's done at a computer at home alone in your underwear.

4. That compression of the human compound into smaller and more crowded spaces turns us into our basic elements: flesh, sound, and stink.

5. That every generation is a Moses to the next: they can lead us through the desert, but they will never enter the landscape we're destined to inherit.

6. That love is what provides meaning, but not fulfillment. Work is what provides fulfillment, but not meaning.

7. Companies are just big brands that contain and manage smaller brands (products) that are created by assembling contributions from even smaller brands (other products and people). All of these assemblages work best as flexible systems that can easily adjust to constantly changing markets.

8. Rather than right or left or conservative and liberal, a better way of describe competing political forces would be "defensive" and "offensive." And yes, offensive is the old "liberal."

9. That the new meritocracy now most values creative talent, rather than managerial politics.

10. That our educational system now requires rebellion, skepticism, and incredulousness as key personality traits for success.

11. That raising people from poverty requires lowering people from wealth - which can happen both gradually and all at once.

12. That there is nothing more poisonous than a bad idea that seems true.

13. That the more removed we become from physical labor, the more nostalgia we have for the raw dynamics of the earth: pets, gardens, parks, and extreme sports.

14. That sometimes inefficient, low-tech, unhealthy, and complex can have more value than fast, efficient and healthy, if it's emotionally meaningful.

15. That in addition to the four traditional types of labor - making things, destroying things, distracting people, and caring for them - we now have a major new type: managing information. That the United States is really good at three of these: destroying things, distracting people, and managing information - and not so good at the other two; probably due to the natural character of Americans.

16. That the source of celebrity is notoriety, and that celebrity is the source of political power. Ergo, political leadership is the art of being notorious.

17. That all resources are limited, even seemingly unlimited resources like the sun, hope, desire, or lust.

18. That we pay too much attention to avoiding death and not enough to managing it well.

19. That the last unexplored country is the 1/3 of our lives we spend asleep.

and finally

20. That Wall-E is really a movie about how a nerd wins the heart of a sexy girl.