Its 2017. Time to Wake up!

The FrictionLess Society is Happening

What the hell happened in 2016?  Look no further than this YouTube. It’s a glimpse of the new frictionless society coming into being; the video was produced in January last year by the World Economic Forum 

  I call this the FrictionLess Society (FLS) because it is driven by information which organizes all material things in our reality, and moves between times and places virtually without resistence, or friction, faster than any of us can think.

This is the new age of the Frictionless Society, the age of the fourth industrial revolution.

As with all previous “ages” this next one is also full of promise and peril. As in the past, we will try to maximize the promise and minimize the peril as we learn to adapt faster and faster. Fortunately, nature has prepared us for this next great leap of humanity with millions of years of in-the-moment training to always be capable of more than the way we act in the moment.

(Hint: Einstein taught us how to think about change when he asked this child-like question in his twenties, which led him to discover the theory of relativity:  What would the world look like if I could ride on a wave of light? Answer: Everything would stand still, relatively speaking.)

I coined the phrase Frictionless Society in 1998 as the Internet age began to boom. In 2002 I took a two-year sabbatical from my paradigm consulting business and accepted an appointment at George Mason University to conduct basic research on innovation, teaching and business. I used Frictionless Society in a GMU research proposal I wrote to the National Science Foundation to better understand the paradigm shift that was taking place between the current industrial age and the information age. The organizing principle of the first was “replaceable parts,” or–interchangeable tangibles; the organizing principle of the second was “idea connection,” or interconnected intangibles. It was a project to be funded by NSF’s Partnership with Industry Program designed to accelerate innovation of industry and government.

I had offered my experience to NSF as a PhD physicist/entrepreneur who had provided strategy consultation since the 1980s to business and nonprofit clients on how to recognize and adapt to paradigm shifts caused by technology innovation. I had come to GMU at the height of the first Internet boom and accepted a two-year appointment to set up GMU’s online entrepreneurship program for its 12 colleges, to teach entrepreneurship to all disciplines, and to conduct basic research on how technology was changing business and the world. All of these initiatives were very satisfying, including winning a competitive research grant from the Kauffman foundation to set up GMU’s online entrepreneurship program. But the NSF research proposal was a disappointment; it was not funded because it was judged to be “too futuristic.”

I went back to my strategy consulting practice and continued to conduct research on how digital technology was impacting all parts of society when the economic crash happened in 2008.  I could see clear evidence of a digital paradigm shift tipping point in the making.  I wrote about it and sent several opinion essays in 2011 and 2012 on the emerging Frictionless Society to the New York Times and Washington Post.

Both essays were politely turned down by both newspapers.  Meanwhile, newspaper headlines focused on the surface issues of bad mortgages, bad guys, bad banking regulations, and bad politics; these were important, but were the surface consequences of deep underlying digital technology issues that were not being addressed by mainstream news or other leading institutions.

Then 2016 arrived and the digital cat jumped out of its bag of tricks to show us all what it had been up to for 40 years. We did not like a lot of what we saw because we had been asleep while it was all happening right under our noses.

Now 2017 is here and so is the fourth industrial revolution.

Twitter has become the source of “news” that major news media report on. People are making up and publishing their own fake news. Education is dipping into its endowments for the first time, and questioning its role in the online world of “free” knowledge. And we are hacking into each other’s private lives, some by invitation, some not.

Digital technology is tending to squeeze us all together, alone, as Sherry Turkle says in her book “Reclaiming Conversation.” It’s a new situation we are still trying to figure out.

The new Frictionless Society is clearly out of the box, and we are all wading in it up to, at least, our knees trying to find our way. I intend to continue being a part of finding clarity in this journey by publishing my thoughts, with backup, in my three blogs as I try to keep a step ahead of change by researching, learning, and advising new ways of adapting to this new reality. Happy New Year to All.

Follow my journey (#FrictionlesssSociety) on twitter for updates: @Viewshift1

1 thought on “Its 2017. Time to Wake up!

  1. Bob, a thoughtful way to begin the new year. I look forward to following your thoughts and commenting on them. There’s a good book out by Joe Blasi of Rutgers entitled “The Citizens Share” that discusses ways to reduce inequality tracing useful and applicable methods beginning with Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Franklin and others who espoused land ownership as the initial method in our nation’s beginning.

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