2.6 A society in transition: disruptions, our Armageddon, or…?

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    "We don’t live in an era of changes, we are living in a changing era."
    – Professor Jan Rotmans.

    The Golden Age has long since passed. Globally, Europe doesn’t play the big role we think we do. But the establishment, with its limited power for self-reflection, still thinks it’s doing a great job! This complacency, typical for the decadence in Europe, is one of the main reasons for our social and economic decline.

    According to thought leader and social economist Carlota Perez in a 2013 interview, should our governments remain stuck in old fashioned, neo-liberal thinking, which is blocking a quick transition, “it will become even more painful; all kinds of capabilities are superfluous; whole regions will be destroyed economically; unemployment rises quickly; and, in general terms, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

    We are stuck, hostages within our traditional systems. It is the transition phase, our own could-be-revolution, which creates uncertainty. The big question is, are we collaborating on our way to Society 3.0, or are we creating our temporary Armageddon, where the Old fights the New?

    I see themes like royalties and loopholes in the laws, power hungry executives, and the new generation of Internet users starting mercilessly to get in each other’s way. This is going sour very, very quickly. This is great and a pity at the same time; we only learn what our new boundaries are when we cross them.

    In the meantime – the “inter(net)bellum” period – one can really slam into these old walls. In the US, people are mercilessly prosecuted if their children have downloaded a song, which is for sale on an eight-dollar CD. The punitive claims range from $8,000 to $30,000. In The Netherlands, these amounts, so far, are limited from €250 to a mere €1,500. Who are the victims of this issue? Naïve music fans who scour the Internet. Or worse, the chronically ill who publish “copyrighted material” about their disease. Debt collectors and other obscure firms blow their own trumpet in the hopes of a quick settlement. In fact, they are playing detective, prosecutor, and judge at the same time.

    Keep the cultural differences in mind. While we are worrying about copyright in the West, a different wind is blowing through China. In China, copyright means “the right to copy,” and it is done on a large scale. It is seen as a mark of respect to “copy the masters!” It is leading to renewed business models there. The traditional Chinese music and movie industry simply gives everything away for nothing and earns money through Google ads. What is not (yet) possible in the West is being done in China. Many performances are sponsored by companies that want to reach consumers via free concert tickets. In other words, the artist lives off the sponsorship deals.

    The rise of the disruptive low cost carriers like Blue Air, Southwest Airlines, Ryanair, and EasyJet has turned the airline industry upside down. With a 40% market share on internal European flights, they have become sizable players. The entire sales system of these parties runs through the Web, leaving the traditional middlemen, such as travel agents, on the sidelines. Holding meetings at locations such as Seats2meet.com will be the deathblow for the conference rooms in hotels. In addition, hotels have formidable competition from couch surfing: staying over, free of charge, at the home of somebody you have met via the social Web. Through Couchsurfing.com, there are over 20,000 free beds available in The Netherlands alone. Couchsurfing is presently the largest hotelchain in the world without owning and/or operating one single hotel. Via the site Airbnb.com, you can even rent apartments, floors, and suites, with prices ranging from $50 to $500 per night.

    Our legislators don’t know what to make of it – are they commercial bed and breakfast and camping ventures, or aren’t they not? The establishment complains and government officials start fining expeditions. Useless. There is a complete lack of oversight, and that’s all right with me. It is an unstoppable market development. In fact, there is an ever-widening road opening up to Society30!

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