This Present Future

My friend Richard Thieme gives the closing keynote address at the 2011 ECOMM conference in San Francisco. In this talk, he artfully summarizes and integrates the “meta-themes” presented during the prior three days of the show.

ECOMM, a 400-person invite-only conference, explores the dissolving boundaries of Telecom, IT and media industries. The balance of power between producers and consumers is shifting and the economics of “value creation” is being transformed. These shifts are being enabled by the “communications industry” itself, accelerating myriad new forms of dynamic interaction and defining a new epoch.

The result is that new uncontested spaces for innovation are emerging. How we relate to the world around us, and the connectedness of humanity are all at stake. Richard, a former Episcopal priest, global security authority, and one of the deepest multi-disciplinary thinkers I know, masterfully summarizes a larger picture of emerging interactivity, modularity, and fluidity. His juxtaposition of techno-fascism vs. human empathy is stunning (29:15 – 33:00).

“People often describe me as a futurist. But I’m not a futurist. The future is an artificial construct local to individual cultures. What I try to do is describe the present. But so many people live in the past that, to them, I sound like a futurist.” – Richard Thieme


One thought on “This Present Future

  1. Hi John,

    Here’s an interesting quote from Emil Fackenheim’s Metaphysics and Historicity (1961 Aquinas Lectures):

    “The conclusion then, is clear. If human being is a situated self-making, then the relation between it and the situation which situates it must be dialectical. Finite self-making must be understood as limited by a situation which is other than it, and which still enters into its internal constitution; and nevertheless finite self-making must be a self-making, not the mere product of external events. But how this dialectical relation manifests itself depends on the type of situation by which self-making is situated.”

    Fackenheim noted that the natural situation was superseded by the historical, which was superseded by the human. Clearly there is a new situation on the horizon again. Thieme notes the need to have “constant feedback in and out of the system” near the end. It’s a meta-narrative made possible by innovation that mixes “the type[s] of situation by which self-making is situated” on which Fackenheim said the dialectical situation “depends.”

    Self-making has become collective and technological as well as human–all at once. Would that constitute two orders of complexity beyond the merely human?

    Thanks so much for posting this!

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