loren Eric Swanson: Bold New World by William Knoke

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bold New World by William Knoke

One of the things that resonates with people I interact with is the way William Knoke thinks about communication, space and time in the 21st century. I thought I'd put my previously written thoughts here so I can refer people to this important paradigmatic way of thinking.

As a futurist, William Knoke has left us with a new way of thinking about the world. Knoke posits that to understand the trends and forces that will shape the world of the twenty-first century, we need to understand what has happened to the world at the meta-level since the dawn of history. To give the reader context in how to think about the future, Knoke outlines a way to organize the past—not in terms of sociology, politics or geography but in terms of space and time. Knoke puts forth the idea that human society first was organized as “dots”—small communities living in isolation from one another. Knoke refers to these people as “zero-dimension” people because of the limited contact with other people and places. Because, in a hunter-gatherer society, a larger community is counter-productive (because of the accelerated depletion of food sources) small bands of people, living in isolation proved to be more efficient. But isolation also meant that knowledge and ideas had little opportunity to spread and cross-pollinate.

As nomadic bands discovered that grasses could be grown to produce edible grain and animals could be domesticated and bred, larger groups of people settled in permanent villages. Nomads became farmers. The permanence of place allowed people to interact with other neighboring villages. In time trade routes were established carrying goods and ideas along lines of connections along a fixed path. These are “first dimension” people, operating from point to point along the “Amber Route,” the “Silk Road,” the “Roman Road” or the “Inca Road.” As trade routes crisscrossed, the “second dimension” evolved allowing people to explore the length and width of their world. By the fifteenth century, through the technological maritime advancements, man could circumvent the globe. Two-dimensional maps of the world were drawn to help two dimensional people move from one place to another.

The dawn of the twentieth century ushered in the “third dimension” with the advent and perfection of commercial air travel, satellites and space travel. Each dimension has its own characteristics. The second dimension was dominated by those who knew how to set up empires and control the seas. The third dimension, was controlled not by nation-states but by multinational corporations.

The forth dimension is a “placeless” society where “everything and everybody is at once everywhere.”[1] Far and near are the same. The primacy of “place” in the zero place, first dimension, second dimension and third dimension is quickly being replace by the placeless society where global communication is instantaneous, where corporations run a “just-in-time” global assembly line. Through the Internet and powerful search engines “ideas, facts, and knowledge gathered in one place are available everyplace; location becomes irrelevant.”[2]
The implications of living in this fourth dimension are quite dramatic. Knoke predicts:
Nations as we know them are becoming anachronisms
Terrorisms will emerge with the upper hand
Labor unions are doomed
Religion will resurge around the world
World government is inevitable
Large corporations will fragment
Business strategies and economic theories need radical rethinking
The labor skills of today are already irrelevant for tomorrow.

Because Knoke points out that those who were the first movers into the new dimension had a distinct advantage of those who did not choose to connect, this thought has a lot of implications for today. For instance, in your organization or church setting...or company for that matter, are people living as isolated dots--learning better ways to strike a flint arrowhead but never having the capacity and connectivity to share it with others? Supposed leaders who say, "I don't want to get a cell phone...too expensive" or "I can get dial-up for a fourth of the price of high-speed" are telling you and the world, "I'm choosing to be left behind. Don't follow me!"

Now because we live in an everything and everyone at once present age that presents another level of complexity--how to go past data to information to valuable insight and knowledge that helps bring about change for the better. Is that not what leadership is about? But that's a different challenge.
[1] P. 8
[2] P.8


At Friday, November 18, 2005 9:59:00 AM, Blogger Eric said...

Very fascinating! It feels fun to be in the fourth dimension, but what are other ways the church can shape culture in this new dimension? I feel that we must be organized more like Al Quada than like a Kingdom. So often we have a "come here" mentality rather than a "go out" mindset. May we take hope, peace, and love to others in new ways in this new world.

At Monday, August 31, 2009 1:20:00 AM, Blogger nationaldefenseparty said...

I do not see how this "placeless society" will evolve. Clearly, the haves are where they want to be and the havenots are not. The energy that is cheap is destroying the planet. Will we have to keep most of the world "dirt poor" in order to stop fossil fuels from cooking us. Of course they will vote for limiting the consumption of fuels for those who need it to maintain their wealth, but only if they are poor. Furthermore, they'll certainly sell their resources at a bargain rate to eat!

It's clear that Mr. Knoke sees this problem. His next book is going to be called "The Tipping Point". It is about energy.

Mr. Knoke is also apparently a dual citizen of France and the United States. Yet he does not mention "Oranges" as a global tribe? Why? Were the French made aware of this?

At Sunday, January 09, 2011 3:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This a very good article. We are in the middle of a transformation process.
Does William Knoke says something about automation, i.e. that most of the manual work will be automated?
Thanks for your help in advance

At Monday, January 10, 2011 11:10:00 AM, Blogger Eric Swanson said...

knoke may have writte about it but to understand outsourcing read Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded and Daniel Pink's a whole new mind....

At Monday, January 10, 2011 2:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks. I will have a look.


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