Portrait of a New Radical: Hyper-Transparency and the Coming Radicalization of America

by | Jun 10, 2013 | Future Scenarios

Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker portrait o -a new radical hyper transparency and the coming radicalization of america
Over the past few days I’ve been wrestling with a very troubling thought.

It started with the simple question, “Ten years from now, anyone who is frustrated with those in power, whether it’s a local, national, or international issue, what options will they have for protesting what they see as an injustice, inequities, or outright corruption?”

Voicing complaints on social media like Facebook or Twitter, organizing a sign-waving rally on the Capitol steps, or taking out a full-page ad in a newspaper will probably still be options, but they’re also a quick way to be branded a troublemaker.

Every shift in technology brings with it positives as well as the negatives. In a hyper-transparent, open society, being the whistleblower for injustice can quickly become more about the accuser than the wrong that needs righting.

Like it or not, transparency changes the equation.

Is humanity prepared to live in the hyper-transparent world we’re creating? Caution, the conclusions I’ve reached may be more than a little disturbing.

Rich History of Rule Breakers

Rule breaking has many dimensions and there’s a wide chasm between someone who takes a calculated business risk in pursuit of something positive and a demented psychopath breaking rules in a purely evil fashion.

Pete Diamandis, as an example, who bluffed his way to his first X-Prize payout cannot be compared to Bernie Madoff whose only plan was to bilk people out of billions of dollars.

Similarly, Bugsy Siegel’s sleight-of-hand financing techniques used to build The Flamingo, the first major resort in Las Vegas, also cannot be compared to Bonnie and Clyde whose only goal was to rob banks.

Yet, as we begin extending the long arm of scrutiny, and attempt to shine the transparency spotlight on all forms of rule breaking, we often run the risk of lumping them altogether and throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater?

Could it be that our overarching drive to use our soon-to-be all-seeing, all-knowing technology for the powers of good, to rid society of corruption, fraud, and depravity may actually make things worse?

It is not only possible, but also very likely.

Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker Protester in Turkey wearing a Guy Fawkes mask

Protester in Turkey wearing a Guy Fawkes mask

Caught in the Transparency Spotlight

For years, the world cheered when someone like Mike Wallace, of 60-Minute’s fame, managed to confront a person on camera and catch him or her red-handed in a boldfaced lie. But capturing a “Mike Wallace moment” back then on video or photos was a rare occurrence.

Today, just the opposite is true. It’s rare not have a confrontation captured on photos or videos.

Within a decade, if you participate in a demonstration or protest, the probability of being personally identified will soon reach 100%.

Recent protests in Turkey have many wearing gasmasks or the ever-anonymous Guy Fawkes masks to conceal their identity. At this point in history, those are probably sufficient.

However, in a few short years, people will become infinitely more traceable and simply using face paint, masks, or other theatrical disguises will offer little to shield them from the scrutiny of those who take time to investigate.

Young people involved in the Turkish protests find it easy to get caught up in the moment, and are often involved in the destruction and burning of property in the streets.

To be sure, the dividing point between a protest participant and those officially labeled a “terrorist” is a very fine line.

As we move further down the path of automating justice, the use of drones for surveillance, identification, and capture will be greatly expanded. And once a person is labeled a terrorist, it will be a designation that haunts them the rest of their life, regardless of where they live, anywhere on the planet.

Are we prepared to throw away the lives of our young people, for these brief moments of indiscretion?

Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker The Screwed Generation

“The Screwed Generation”

Consider the Following

We currently have a generation of highly educated young people, trying to make a name for themselves. Many are deeply in debt from student loans, either unemployed or under employed, and often sidelined because they lack experience.

  • Both Newsweek and NPR are referring to millennials in the U.S as the “screwed generation” because student loans, which now exceed $1 trillion and are not dischargeable through bankruptcy, a debt that will haunt many of them for the rest of their lives.
  • The promise of “better living through high-priced education” has turned out, for many, to be a total lie. Over 43% of recent graduates are now working at jobs that don’t require a college education, according to a study by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.
  • Since 2008 the percentage of the workforce under 25 has dropped 13.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while that of people over 55 has risen by 7.6%.
  • Median net worth of people under 35, according to the U.S. Census, fell 37% between 2005 and 2010
  • The wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record. The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42% higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68% from a quarter century ago, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.
  • The unemployment rate for people between 18 and 29 is 12% in the U.S., nearly 50% above the national average.
  • 72% of those under 35 feel government programs appear to perpetuate dependency rather than provide a solution.
  • Our excessive number of laws, rules, and regulations are viewed as background noise. In the minds of millennials, too many rules equal no rules, so why bother.

These factors, combined with a host of other perceived injustices, have combined to create a festering cauldron of hostility waiting for the right opportunity to be unleashed. But with the ominous eyes of big brother lurking on every street corner, a new breed of revolutionary is now in its infancy.

Portrait of a New Radical

Rule breakers need the latitude to make mistakes, but transparency increases the pain threshold for making those mistakes.

As we remove people’s ability to perform open and visible forms of protest, the portrait of a new radical begins to emerge.

Future radicals will share many common characteristics:

  • Feeling trapped, trapped, trapped!
  • Ultra-paranoid, wary of social networks and visible ties to others.
  • Pervasive desire to become invisible, wanting to disappear at a moments notice.
  • Subversive, digitally destructive, able to spot vulnerabilities almost instantly.
  • Multiple identities make life easier, both online and in the physical world.
  • Very little need for money. Able to find a “free” option for almost anything they need.
  • When money is used, it’s transferred through alternative currencies, games, cash, and foreign exchanges.
  • They will fight for causes that don’t make sense, just to throw people off.
  • At their core, they are simultaneously anti-government, anti-police, anti-corporation, and anti-military.

The emerging new radical will be both highly destructive and highly creative, with an ability to orchestrate, manipulate, and influence battles that they can sit on the sideline and be entertained by.

Final Thoughts

In much the same way a magician has no act once the trick is known, or the poker player has no bluff once the cards are revealed, a hyper-transparent society becomes a devastatingly efficient playground for the true puppet masters.

People on the higher end of the food chain will have access to the master control rooms where countless “levers of oppression” can be pulled if anyone crosses them.

Our ability to abuse transparency cannot be overstated.

Those who are willing to “go to war” against this kind of person will have to play by an entirely different set of rules.

In a desynchronized society, where the brute force workers on the bottom are woefully unaware of the ultra-manipulative tools being used by those at the top, we appear to be on a collision course with destiny that seems unavoidable.

My apologies to those who perceive this as little more than an uncharacteristic personal rant. Perhaps in many ways it is.

But as a topic that has been torturing me for several days now, I’d love to have someone tell me where I’m wrong. So please take a moment to weigh in with your thoughts.

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Portrait of a New Radical: Hyper-Transparency and the Coming Radicalization of America

by | Jun 10, 2013 | Future Scenarios

I was thoroughly intrigued when I found out the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado was offering a degree in asteroid mining.

Yes, the idea of extracting water, oxygen, minerals, and metals from an asteroid sounds like science fiction to most people, but it’s not that far away.  In fact, Colorado School of Mines’ newly launched “Space Resources” program will help people get in on the ground floor.

After thinking about the proactive nature of this approach, it became abundantly clear how backward thinking most colleges have become.

When colleges decide on a new degree program, they must first recruit instructors, create a new curriculum, and attract students. As a result, the talent churned out of these newly minted programs is the product of a 6-7 year pipeline.

For this reason, anticipatory-thinking institutions really need to be setting their sights on what business and industries will need 7-10 years from now.

The Risk-Averse Nature of Education

When Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen released his best-selling book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, his core message that disruptive change is the path to success, was only partially embraced by higher education.

While many were experimenting with MOOCs and smart whiteboards, changes in the subject matter of their courses still evolved at the traditional pace of discovery.

This is not to say colleges are not innovative. Rather, the demands of today’s emerging tech environment are forcing business and industries to shift into an entirely new gear. And that most definitely includes our academic institutions.

From a management perspective, it’s far easier to oversee a contained system where all variables are constrained. But during times of change, we tend to give far more power to the “unleashers,” who are determined to test the status quo and release ideas and trial balloons to see what works.

For this reason, managers and creatives often find themselves on opposing sides, and the winners of these warring factions often determine what we as consumers see as the resulting ripples of change.

Offering Pilot Programs

When Facebook bought Oculus Rift in March 2014 for $2 billion, the job boards went crazy, as there was an instant uptick in the demand for VR designers, engineers, and experience creators. But no one was teaching VR, and certainly not the Oculus Rift version of it.

Colleges have a long history of being blindsided by new technologies:

  • When eBay launched, no one was teaching ecommerce strategies
  • When Myspace launched, no one was teaching social networking
  • When Google launched, no one was teaching online search engine strategies
  • When Uber launched, no one was teaching sharing economy business models
  • When Apple first opened their App Store, no one was teaching smart phone app design
  • When Amazon first allowed online storefronts, no one was teaching the Amazon business model
  • When YouTube first offered ways to monetize videos, no one was teaching it

Since most academic institutions are only willing to put their name on programs with long-term viability, the endorsement of half-baked agendas does not come easy. However, that is exactly what needs to be done.

Colleges can no longer afford to remain comfortably behind the curve.

52 Future College Degrees

As a way of priming your thinking on this matter, here are 52 future degrees that forward-thinking colleges could start offering today:

  1. Space Exploration – space tourism planning and management
  2. Space Exploration – planetary colony design and operation
  3.  Space Exploration – next generation space infrastructure
  4. Space Exploration – advanced cosmology and non-earth human habitats
  5. Bioengineering with CRISPR – policy and procedural strategies
  6. Bioengineering with CRISPR – advanced genetic engineering systems
  7. Bioengineering with CRISPR – operational implementations and system engineering
  8. Bioengineering with CRISPR – ethical regulation and oversight
  9. Smart City – autonomous traffic integration
  10. Smart City – mixed reality modeling
  11. Smart City – autonomous construction integration
  12. Smart City – next generation municipal planning and strategy
  13. Autonomous Agriculture – robotic systems
  14. Autonomous Agriculture – drone systems
  15. Autonomous Agriculture – supply chain management
  16. Autonomous Agriculture – systems theory and integration
  17. Swarmbot – design, theory, and management
  18. Swarmbot – system engineering and oversight
  19. Swarmbot – municipal system design
  20. Swarmbot – law enforcement and advanced criminology systems
  21. Cryptocurrency – digital coin economics
  22. Cryptocurrency – crypto-banking system design
  23. Cryptocurrency – regulatory systems and oversight
  24. Cryptocurrency – forensic accounting strategies
  25. Blockchain – design, systems, and applications
  26. Blockchain – blockchain for biological systems
  27. Blockchain – large-scale integration structures
  28. Blockchain – municipal system design strategies
  29. Global Systems – system planning, architecture, and design
  30. Global Systems – large-scale integration strategies
  31. Global Systems – operational systems checks and balance
  32. Global Systems – governmental systems in a borderless digital world
  33. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - drone film making
  34. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – command center operations
  35. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – municipal modeling and planning systems
  36. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – emergency response systems
  37. Mixed Reality - experiential retail
  38. Mixed Reality – three-dimensional storytelling
  39. Mixed Reality – game design
  40. Mixed Reality – therapeutic systems and design
  41. Advanced Reproductive Systems – designer baby strategies, planning, and ethics
  42. Advanced Reproductive Systems – surrogate parenting policy and approaches
  43. Advanced Reproductive Systems – organic nano structures
  44. Advanced Reproductive Systems – clone engineering and advanced processes
  45. Artificial Intelligence – data management in an AI environment
  46. Artificial Intelligence – advanced human-AI integration
  47. Artificial Intelligence – streaming AI data services
  48. Artificial Intelligence – advanced marketing with AI
  49. Quantum Computing – data strategies in a quantum-connected world
  50. Quantum Computing – quantum-level encryption and security
  51. Quantum Computing – quantum computing implementation strategies
  52. Quantum Computing – AI-quantum system integration

Final Thought

More so than any time in history, we have a clear view of next generation technologies. Naturally, we’re still a long way from 100% clarity, but for most of the technologies listed above, the shifting tectonic plates of change can be felt around the world.

Without taking decisive action, colleges run the risk of being circumvented by new types of training systems that can meet market demands in a fraction of the time it takes traditional academia to react.

The ideas I’ve listed are a tiny fraction of what’s possible when it comes to emerging tech degrees. Should colleges stick their neck out like Colorado School of Mines and offer degrees that may not be immediately useful? Adding to that question, how many college degrees are immediately useful today?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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