The Transformation of Techno-Socio Systems

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them
— Albert Einstein

The complex interplay of multiple technologies and cultures is one of the defining features of modern civilizations. This synergistic relationship began with the invention of simple tools that set us apart from our ancestors, and has continued through to modern technologies such as the printing press to the smartphone. Technology is now inseparable from the human experience - without it, we are birds without nests, beavers without dams. We cannot live without it. We never have. If we stop creating, we stop existing. Technology is the key to our evolution and determines the geography, interconnectedness, fairness and abundance of the civilization we live in.

The thing about 'techno-socio' systems though, is that we tend to get locked into social structures by the underlying nature of the technology we employ. For example, much of the day to day functioning of the modern economy relies on the hoovering up of information into huge centralised databases owned by large corporate or government organisations. The natural tendency of those organisations is to hoard their data - a cultural hangover from an era where wealth was tied to physical property - and so they're often very unwilling to share it. Even worse, the information that gets held in most databases becomes an institutional reality and all other information gets treated as informal at best.

That's a problem, because in any given sphere of activity most of the pertinent knowledge will reside outside the boundaries of any one organization, and the central challenge is to find ways to access that knowledge. That's not possible in a system defined by the balkanisation of massive monoliths that generally speaking don’t play very nicely in the sandbox together. It makes collaboration and progress slow, indirect, bureaucratic and difficult. It isn't good for economic equality, it's not good for environmental sustainability, and it leads to some pretty perverse political behaviours too. 

Fortunately, it is possible to break free from the old paradigms we find ourselves stuck in. And new technologies can help us do that. New decentralized, distributed database systems are reimagining how we use and store data, exchange value and cooperate between individuals and organisations. We are in the process of building a global, public computer that can not only handle these types of data transactions, but also eventually emulate many of the functions of monolithic organisations in more secure and transparent way without inefficient bureaucracies and fewer intermediaries who take a slice of the pie. 

These are technologies that are designed to tackle 21st century problems. They're designed for a world in which flows of data and information generate more economic value than trade in physical goods. They're being built by people who understand that data is the new oil, and that means we need better ways of managing and sharing it. They are going to reshape the economic landscape because they lead to better resource distribution and greater access to goods and services. We don't really know what that's going to look like - it's like predicting where molecules of water in a river will end up. But we know that rivers flow downhill along the path of least resistance. New rivers are springing up all the time, spurring socio-political change. And the landscape is starting to look like a place you’d want to visit.