2045 United Federation Report on the Great Transition: The Culture of Transition

cyber-radicals-003The following passages are taken from the 2045 United Federation report on the Great Transition. This report, released on the eve of the East-West Realignment and founding of the United Federation in December 2045, was the first comprehensive account of the shift in social and economic relations that swept the world between 2015 and 2040, a period known as the Great Transition. The paragraphs are taken from Part 3 of the report, which deals with the role of sharing and social innovation in the Great Transition. For the complete report, see Realignment Mandate 12337 (released by authority of UF Secretary-General Tirrab Hassan 04/04/75).

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2045 United Federation Report on the Great Transition

Part 3: The Culture of Transition

Parts 1 and 2 of this report have outlined the policy and strategic planning work that underlay the Great Transition. We have described the vision shifts in energy and carbon policy that enabled the rapid development and roll out of carbon negative infrastructure, and the social policy associated with the transition to a Totally Mobilized Agenda, including the adoption of civil agency and ‘zero unemployment’ schemes, massive federal and state investment in sustainable cities, and the expansion of the social enterprise sector as a viable hub for commercial investment. We have seen how these policy and planning shifts contributed, between 2015 and 2040, to the re-engineering of the international economy and the creation of a global carbon negative environment.

Part 3 of the report looks at the social and cultural changes associated with the Great Transition. We leave aside the oppositional and countervailing views expressed in parts of the online and corporate media in this period. These views, and the reasons why they lost purchase on the public imagination through the 20-teens, are discussed in Part 4 of the report (see also Appendix 2: Dangerous Liaisons: Big Oil Inside the Beltway). Part 3 seeks to explain the widespread and well-documented shifts in social and creative culture that gathered steam in the 20-teens and fuelled the forces of Transition. We are particularly concerned to understand the role of ‘open source culture’ in this period and how it contributed to new historical framings and existential orientations.

The Great Transition was deeply indebted to open culture. This culture, which initially developed in online software development communities at the end of the 20th century, entered mainstream consciousness in the 21st century thanks to the success of open source products such as Linux and the Mozilla internet browser. By the 20-teens, it was bleeding offline to inform new collaborative ventures. The sharing economy and the maker movement were early indications of this cultural evolution. These movements were enabled by the rich data interfaces and tools of the social web. But their success must be attributed to a complex shift in social and culture understanding, as notions of sharing, openness, and co-creation achieved new importance in the context of an urgent struggle to save the planet. More so than any technological developments, it was this shift in social and culture orientation that inspired the creative foment of the Transition. The idea of an ‘open source offensive’ on common challenges enabled diverse agents to feel personally engaged with the project of Transition. It inspired individuals to commit to diverse projects for social change and to understand their place in history in a dramatic new light.

1. Making and sharing: the meaning of transition

Prior to the Great Transition, people derived meaning from many sources, including friendship and family relations, work-life balance, and consumer goods. The dominant model was the ‘middle class dream’ of property ownership combined with corporate success. Though it was widely regarded as unsustainable for a planet of eight billion people and climbing, the model was a source of meaning for many people. It provided a yardstick by which a shrinking (yet powerful) sector of society could measure the success of their lives and focus their energies in a meaningful way.

The US SuperStorm season of 2015 popped the middle class reality bubble once and for all. In its wake, people were presented with a fateful choice: to assent to a nihilistic view of the future as a dystopian landscape of decline, or to switch frames and adopt an alternative vision of the meaningful life. At this point, the concept of co-creation came to the fore. The value of co-creation was well established by 2015, having proved its worth through successive iterations of the open source software, social media, sharing, and maker movements. Archival research from 2015 shows that 70% of Generation Z and 55% of Generation Y ‘strongly’ identified with the proposition that ‘openness and collaboration’ was pivotal to a meaningful life. This view rapidly acquired currency as the Great Transition got into gear.

The award-winning Makers campaign run by the Havas Group played a major part in accelerating this shift in perspective. This campaign, developed in 2018 to promote the IKEA home model 3D printer, resonated with a much broader audience than the target market for this particular product line. Havas’ vision of a world transformed through making and sharing was embraced by activists, social entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens alike. The Makers campaign provided a focal point for an accelerating series of policy shifts and commercial innovations through the late 20-teens, as the world moved in earnest to respond to the threat of climate change.

2. The return of history

Pre-transition society had an ahistorical perspective. In the developed nations of the North, society existed in the perpetual ‘now’ of utopia achieved. Insofar as people thought about the future, it was a vision (shaped by political sound-bites and advertising regimes) of slow but inevitable economic growth. The fact that this vision failed to square with reality rarely undercut the optimism of its adherents. The question was always: ‘when are things returning to normal’? with ‘normal’ conceived as a continuing future of high consumption and growth.

With the onset of the Great Transition, society created a new sense of history. Three factors contributed to this development:

  1. The Long Recession disrupted projections of economic growth. By 2018, it was clear that the growth paradigm was an infeasible frame of reference for thinking about the future.
  2. Climate modelling became more accurate through the teens and twenties. Research shows that by 2018, 85% of people were using climate modelling as a template for imagining the future.
  3. The making and sharing movement, through the 20 teens, inspired people to believe that a genuine social-economic revolution was under way. This sentiment came to a head in 2017, when the Eurozone Emergency Parliament announced the inception of a transitional sharing economy. This event is commonly perceived as the tipping point into the Great Transition.

Because it wasn’t invited to the party, Generation Z was ambivalent about the consumerist status quo. The present with which this generation identified was a time of cultural disruption and rapid social innovation. This vision of the present was crystallized in the Makers campaign, which underscored how making and sharing was changing the world. Unintentionally, the campaign also articulated a new understanding of history, which turned out to be tremendously influential. Where previously history was understood as something that lay in the past, which was responsible for having created the present, the new vision of history encapsulated in the Makers campaign posited that history lay in the future, and was something that each human being was responsible for creating.

This historical sensibility keyed in perfectly with the ambient ethos of making and co-creating. Generation Maker was literally tasked with making history. The fact that it rose to embrace this task testifies to the eternal value of meaning and historical purpose for the human soul.

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