John McCann

Current transition

In Culture & society, Early Predictions on August 4, 2006 at 11:56 am

In cleaning my office at Duke, I ran across a book I had read several years ago: Nicholas Imparato and Oren Harari, Jumping the Curve: Innovation and Strategic Choice in an Age of Transition (Jossey-Bass Publications, 1994). I plan to re-read it again to see what I can learn about the transition to the Participation Age. I will relate one passage here that I had underlined during my first reading because it sets the stage for understanding the history of major transitions.

The authors consulted the work of historians and philosophers to identify major historical transitions.

“They traditionally maintain that these dramatic transitions have occurred only twice in the entire history of Western civilization, thereby breaking history into three periods. The first period is called the Classical Age, the second is called the Middle Age, and the third is called the Modern Age. … the first age goes from early civilization to the years 313-476, a time that marks the fall of the Roman Empire. The second age stretches from that point until medieval life declines and gives way to the rudiments of modern social structures. This process spans different years in different parts of Europe, but began in Italy during the 1300s and continued through the scientific revolution of the 1600s. The third period that began then continued until sometime in this century. None of these changes, therefore, was abrupt or sudden; each dovetailed with a wide array of human activities. Graham Greene once remarked that there is always a moment in time ‘when a door opens and lets the future in.’ Nietzsche, more directly, called these moments of epochal transformations ‘new dawns.’ Today we are in a period of similar transformation, a source of both turbulence and renewal.”

After this discussion of the past, the authors begin to address the present and future, warning us that our current transition is likely to be much faster than those in the past.

“We should be mindful that the current transformation will occur more quickly than did previous transitions. The Middle Ages lasted one thousand years and the Modern Age has endured half of that. Events today will compress into an even tighter time line. As historian Arthur Schlesinger has noted: ‘A boy who saw the Wright brothers fly for a few seconds at Kitty Hawk could have watched Apollo II land on the moon in 1969.'”

What, the authors’ opinion, is at the root of this current transition?

“The most dramatic driver, of course, is the revolution in communication and information technologies.”

I will continue to read this book as well as look through some of my own earlier work to see what they have to say about our current “new dawn.”

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