The Information Age? Think again.
Change is everywhere: how we communicate, what we do for a living, the values we hold, the way we raise our children, even the way we access information. Thanks to a global economy, the force of the Internet, and the explosion of mobile technology, we have—almost imperceptibly—been ushered into a new era, the Shift Age, in which change happens so quickly that it's become the norm.
Man-made developments—such as tools, machines, and technology—defined previous ages, but the Shift Age will be defined by our own power of choice. In Entering the Shift Age, leading futurist David Houle argues that we are going through a major collapse of legacy thinking, eroding many of the thought structures that have defined the last two hundred years of humanity. Houle identifies and explains the new forces that will shape our lives—including remote workplaces, the cloud, "24/7" culture, speed-of-light connectivity, creativity, and the influence of Millenials and Digital Natives—for the next twenty years.
In this eye-opening book, Houle navigates this pivotal point in human history with clarity and anticipation, focusing on the power of human consciousness and the direct influence we can impart on everything from healthcare to media to education. According to Houle, we are more independent than ever before. We are in control.
There's no "going back" to the way things were. Reality is changing ever faster, and ENTERING THE SHIFT AGE is your guide to keeping up.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Are you unsettled? Do you feel anxious about the future? Why does everything that used to work no longer work and the way that things used to be now feels long gone? Are things getting better or getting worse? Are your children coming of age at a wonderful time or a horrible time?
Well, the reason you may be feeling uneasy and asking these questions is due to the time we live in and the fact that we are at a major inflection point in human history. We have left the Information Age and have entered a new age, the Shift Age. The Shift Age is and will be one of the most transformative times in all history. Almost everything in your life and every part of your life is in some relative rate of shift.
No wonder you are worried and anxious! Or you may be incredibly excited by the future rushing toward us. Either way, Entering the Shift Age is the book to better help you understand all the incredible change swirling around you. Consider this book your road map to the future. This book also has a unique lineage.
In early 2006, I launched my futurist blog EvolutionShift.com with the tagline "A Future Look at Today." The reason I started the blog was simple: I had a strong sense that humanity was entering a new age-that manifestations of this new age were everywhere—and I felt the need to write about them.
The year before, when sensing that perhaps a new stage of humanity's development was underway, I went back and reread the futurists who had shaped my thinking, who, writing in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, had been right about what was and would be happening in the decades ahead. These were the greats in my pantheon: Alvin Toffler and Marshall McLuhan first and foremost, along with Buckminster Fuller. Later John Naisbitt and Nicholas Negroponte wrote books built upon these greats. I even revisited the science fiction writers Arthur C. Clarke and William Gibson, as their fiction had become fact. What I found was that though these brilliant writers, particularly Toffler and McLuhan, had been incredibly insightful about the last quarter of the twentieth century, their clarity into the twenty-first century became a bit diffuse.
What was this next age? It was clear to me that the end of the cold war, the globalization of the economy, the incredible force of the Internet, the astounding revolution in computing, and the explosive growth of cellular communications were ushering all of us into a new time that didn't yet have a name or conceptual shape.
As I researched, the word that kept coming up for me was "shift." It seemed as though a profound shift was about to occur, that there were many shifts going on that were altering humanity's reality in significant ways. How we lived, how we thought, how we perceived the world, and even our consciousness were being altered. This shift was going to be so pronounced that it seemed nothing less than an evolutionary next step. Hence the name of the blog, EvolutionShift.
As I wrote one to three columns a week, two things happened. First, my constant study, observation, and reporting from the front lines of the shift helped to shape a larger, more cohesive view of humanity's next step. Second, my blog developed a following. This ever-increasing group of followers opened doors, brought invitations to events and conferences and then to speaking engagements. As I was developing a sense of clarity of the future, people were asking me if I was writing a book, or told me that I had to do so. So I did.
Armed with good contacts, a good agent, and a book proposal, I approached the traditional book publishing industry, though with a great sense of conflict. Here I was, a futurist, knocking at the door of an industry that clearly was about to be eviscerated due to disintermediation-and they didn't see it. The responses to my manuscript ranged from cold to ludicrous. Publishers said I was too optimistic, that the future was about apocalypse, that I needed to have the word "trend" in the title, that they already had a futurist so another one was not needed. One editor, Peter Lynch at Sourcebooks, liked my proposal but could not get unanimous agreement from the editorial committee at that time.
So, I turned to one of my favorite companies, Amazon, and had them publish The Shift Age in late 2007. On my blog I had forecast the coming explosive growth of ebooks, due to the probable development of a new eReader. Since this happened shortly before the Kindle was introduced, my book became available in print and ebook format by early 2008.
My life changed. Though The Shift Age never became a best seller in the traditional sense, it did become influential. The book made its way into the hands of CEOs, upper-level executives, and business owners. My speaking career took off-within two years of the book's first appearance on Amazon I had made some 150 speeches in several countries in North and South America. Heads of companies from around the world wrote me that the book had led them to alter the strategic vision of their enterprises. Audiences told me that my speeches changed how they looked at the world and gave them a context for understanding the scary upheaval all around them.
Simultaneously the crash of 2008 happened. Legacy thinking being what it is, most people I encountered before simply assumed we were still living in the Information Age. Now audiences were unsettled by the bursting of the housing bubble, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the unprecedented speed at which the world fell into the worst economic downturn in seventy years (due to the ever-increasing connectedness of the financial world). My view, that we had entered what would be a five-year reorganizational recession between two ages, was the first context that provided understanding. This great global recession was coincidental with the transition from one age, the Information Age, to the next age, the Shift Age. In times of uncertainty, having a path to understanding at least provides perspective, if not a line of credit or a secure job.
During this time in the United States, in question-and-answer sessions after speeches, I was repeatedly asked if America would remain a great nation. I found myself answering this question by saying something along the lines of "If we don't better educate our young, if we don't become healthier, and if we don't rebuild our communications, energy, and transportation infrastructures for the twenty-first century, it doesn't matter what else we do."
Well, this led me to face America's future on those first issues and write two books. The first, Shift Ed: A Call to Action for Transforming K-12 Education, written with friend and co-author Jeff Cobb and published by Corwin Press, was published in the spring of 2011 and was embraced by educators across the country. As a futurist, I challenged educators to either follow the vision set forth in the book or create their own, but that transformation was the only way forward. Many committed educators at all levels have risen to the occasion, and that transformation has begun.
The second issue-oriented book was The New Health Age: The Future of Health Care in America, co-authored with health care attorney Jonathan Fleece and published by Sourcebooks in January of 2012. Simply put, the conversation about health care in America was and still is driven by fear, misinformation, and manipulation by politicians. The goal was to write an intelligent book to bring both intelligence and vision to the country's health care discussion. It seems to be starting to do so as of this writing.
Entering the Shift Age is now bringing me back to the more global, macro issues of this new Shift Age we have entered. (That third issue of infrastructure will be dealt with in the latter half of this book.) The Shift Age was published quickly four years ago. The goal was to get the concept of this new age out to the world in a summary form. The first quarter of that book was a general discussion of the new age, and the remaining three quarters of the book consisted of reedited columns that I had written in my blog: the reporting from the front lines of the Shift Age. Since the publication of The Shift Age in early 2008, I have known that I would want to write a follow-up book that was a fuller, deeper, and more comprehensive explanation and guide to the Shift Age. This desire was driven further by the constant demand of The Shift Age readers for another book dealing with the larger aspects of this new age of ours.
Entering the Shift Age is that book.
What I had not yet figured out was how to publish this book in a way and format that was more in line with the future of publishing. This is where Dominique Raccah and Sourcebooks came in. Dominique heard me speak in mid-2011 and had a screamingly loud, full bells-and-whistles "aha moment" about publishing my work in an entirely new way. As someone who restlessly seeks new ideas and ways of doing things, Dominique had been reflecting on what new publishing models might look like. One such model was a perfect match for my book.
I came in to Sourcebooks to present to the company and to start the brainstorming of what this new publishing model would look like. Now, for the first time, I got to meet Peter Lynch, who was the only person who had wanted to say yes to my book proposal years earlier. The symmetry, serendipity, and karmic aspects of this new partnership were and are exhilarating. This book is being published using the Agile Publishing Model, which will be one of the new forms of bringing "books" to market. As a futurist, for the first time I feel the process and form match the content.
You are part of a new form of publishing. You are also now entering the Shift Age, one of the most transformative times to be alive in human history. This book, in all its electronic, print, and video aspects will introduce the Shift Age to those of you who come to it conceptually for the first time. And for those of you who read and had your thinking changed by reading The Shift Age over these past few years, the book you hold in your hands now will give you a greater depth of understanding to these times.
We have entered the Shift Age, when almost everything is in a state of shift and change is accelerating and all around us. So, let's take a look at this new age.
Sarasota, Florida, February 2012
Table of Contents
PART 1: WELCOME TO THE SHIFT AGE
WELCOME TO THE SHIFT AGE
A Very Brief History of Humanity
Leading to the Shift Age
The Four Ages of Humanity
THE THRESHOLD DECADES
Major Transformations in the Threshold Decades
Summary of the Threshold Decades
PART 2: THE THREE FORCES OF THE SHIFT AGE
THE FLOW TO GLOBAL
Culture and Politics
The Global Stage of Human Evolution
THE FLOW TO THE INDIVIDUAL
Choice and Control
The End of Alienation
The Global Individual
The Transformation of Communication
The Two Realities
The Evisceration of Ignorance
PART 3: THE TRANSFORMATION DECADE
THE FIRST DECADE OF TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY THOUGHT
THE COLLAPSE OF LEGACY THINKING
Areas of Legacy Thinking Collapse
Ideas and Concepts That Will Take on
New Meaning and Acceptance in This Decade
GENERAL TRENDS AND FORECASTS
The Concept of Place Continues
to Be Eviscerated
A Major Generational Shift Takes Root
Biology and Technology Merge Ever More
Spaceship Earth Becomes a More
Widely Held Mindset
Creativity Is a Dominant Value
Globalism Ascends, Nationalism Declines
Governments Shake Loose Many of
Their Industrial-Age Structures
Energy Moves into Its Systemic Stage
A Shift in Every Field
PART 4: THE FUTURE OF THE SHIFT AGE
THE EARTH CENTURY
A Quick Look Back
Helping to Shape the Thinking
The Current Reality
The Anthropocene Era
RETROFITTING THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
A Time-Lapse Photographic Sequence
The Need to Let Go of the Twentieth Century
Retrofit the Twentieth Century
THE CONCEPT OF PLACE HAS
The History of Place
The Concept of Place Is Being Eviscerated
Screen Reality Changes Place to Space
BIOLOGY AND TECHNOLOGY MERGE
Biology and Technology Merge
AN EVOLUTIONARY SHIFT
The Three Forces of the Shift Age
THE SHIFT AGE GENERATIONS
The Millennial Generation
THE ASCENDENCY OF WOMEN
Structures and Hierarchies to Nets and Nodes
Emerging Transformative Technologies
Transformative Technologies of the Future
A Systemic Global View
Retrofitting the Use of Energy
Twenty-First-Century Energy Breakthroughs
MEDICINE AND HEALTH MANAGEMENT
Medical Miracles around the Corner
Major Shifts in Education
A Look Back
A Look Ahead
Accelerating Electronic Connectedness and Art
New Business Models
BRANDS AND MARKETING
Brands through the Ages
Memes and Conscious Consumerism
IP IS THE WEALTH OF THE SHIFT AGE
IP in the Information Age
IP in the Shift Age
The Future of IP
THE ERA OF BIG DATA
The History and Future of Information and Data
A New Level of Mapping
Business and the Era of Big Data
SOCIETY AND ECONOMICS
Investing and Economics
Cities and Urbanization
Intellectual Property and Influence Power
Accelerating the Speed and Power of
an Idea Whose Time Has Come
The Direction Is Clear
The Global Stage of Human Evolution
Forces and Contexts Initiating the
Global Stage of Human Evolution
A Transition Time
THE GLOBAL AGE OF MIGRATION
The Forces at Play
EPILOGUE: WELCOME TO THE 2030s!