Things are getting crazier? Here is the reason why

Understanding the underlying driver of change in a world, that makes many people scratch their heads, and what you should do about it.

The Brexit vote surprised many when they woke up the day after.
Donald Trump surprised many when he won the presidential election in 2016.

Let’s take a step back. Two years ago, did you imagine that Donald Trump would be the next President of the United States of America? How about Brexit? Did you believe that the United Kingdom would decide to leave the European Union? And how about the Russian influence on an U.S. American election or the role of Twitter in today’s society?

Most people would have rated the above predictions as pure delusion if not craziness. Nonetheless, this is the reality we live in, and that is — contrary to conventional thought — not an accident. The perceived “craziness” is a direct consequence of massive networking.

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web around Christmas 1990. Now, 9600+ days later, digital networking has transformed the whole world. And make no mistake, today’s world is a very different world than the one 26 years ago. On the surface, it might look very similar. It is not.

The defining quality of today’s world is the existence of massive global networking. We are increasing the scale and density of the global digital network every day. We connect everything to the Internet and — by doing that — to everything else.

The bigger and denser a network the fast change is happening.

Increased network density and size lead to an increasing dynamic. Change happens faster and faster. It took the telephone 75 years to reach 100 million users. The web reached that goal in 7 years, Facebook 4 years, Instagram 2 years and PokemonGo 1 month. Instant change and disruption is inevitable.

C0mplexity of networks explode with size and desity.

When we increase the size and density of networks, we also increase their complexity. Everything can influence everything else like the proverbial butterfly and the hurricane.

At the same time, we speed up the rate of change. Bigger and denser networks are more dynamic. They show higher amplitudes and completely new patterns. We see massive network effects and signs of global synchronisation of culture.

As a consequence, the world we live in is much harder to understand and predict than ever before. The improbable becomes probable. The unthinkable becomes reality.

It is getting harder to keep secrets.

And there is more. Denser networks create a new level of transparency. The leaks before and after the last presidential election are a case in point. Keeping secrets becomes harder and harder while the wish for privacy explodes.

Bigger networks produce an abundancy of options and at the same time a scarcity of attention. This led to new patterns like the fear of missing out (FOMO) as a powerful driver for repeated attention.

Exponential growth is hard to grasp for us humans.

Networks have another key quality that shape our world. They support exponential growth. Exponential growth is hard to understand for us humans. We have a good sense for linear processes. A little more here produces a little more there. Exponential processes are different. After a few cycles the results shatter human imagination.

Thought experiment: Fold a newspaper 100 times.

A prominent thought experiment may prove this point: Imagine a newspaper with a thickness of 1 cm. Fold this newspaper in your imagination 100 times. How high would the resulting stack be?

Prominent answers are 1 m, 1 kilometer or from here to the moon. The correct answer is 1.3 trillion light years or 14.4 times our known universe.

Exponential processes create surprising outcomes.

Exponential processes have a direct relevance for our own lives. The amount of information that our global society produces grows every year. The growth rate seems to be constant and around 60% per year. That seems manageable at first, but in 5 years the amount of information is 10 times as large as before. In 15 years, we have to handle 1,000 times the amount of information we handle today.

Genetically, the brain of a mouse is more than 90% similar to a human brain.
Humans do not act like big mice.

1,000 times is more than a quantitative difference. It is a different quality. A useful analogy might be the difference between the brain of a mouse and the brain of a human being. The genetics are more than 90% the same. Nonetheless, humans don’t behave like bigger, smarter mice. Human brains enabled new patterns through more communication in denser networks.

The human brain led to the invention of languages, the written word, the printed word, radio and movies. We invented the scientific method, democracy, culture, war, ethics and the Internet. And we mastered global communication and space travel, quantum theory and artificial intelligence.

All these concepts are new patterns not even imaginable if you are a mouse. These patterns only show up in a bigger and denser network as possible for mice. They brought fundamental change.

Bigger an denser networks trigger fundamental change. The written word shaped our society, and so did movable type and the Internet.

It is very likely that the we will discover new patterns in the future. We should expect another fundamental change. A pattern we see clearly today is the explosive power of iconic symbols.

Iconic symbols have proven to be more powerful in large and dense networks. Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on 17 December 2010. His desperate act became the catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution. It led to the Arab Spring.

Confederate Battle Flag

Another iconic symbol triggering change was the Charleston church shooting. Dylan Roof killed nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. His brutal act and hate crime triggered a debate about white supremacy. Within weeks the Confederate battle flag disappeared from State Capitol grounds.

The power of presidential tweets might be another one of these new patterns. Donald Trump has been able to capture the global attention at his own discretion with a single tweet. Newspapers and news channel around the world make his tweets their prime topic.

SpaceX masted to land and reuse rockets with the goal of flying to Mars.
Amazon disrupts the retail industry in an unprecedented pace.
Tesla gains competitive advantage by gathering more data than any car company.

It would be foolish to expect this “craziness” to be over soon. We are building an ever denser network. So we should expect even more surprising results in the future.

How about Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom? Or California and Texas leaving the United States? Bernie Sanders becoming the next President of the United States of America? Or Mark Zuckerberg? Can you imagine a global financial meltdown? A cryptocurrency like Bitcoin replacing U.S. Dollar? Guaranteed basic income for all? A revolution? SpaceX flying to Mars? Amazon killing Walmart, Sears, Target and Kmart? Tesla killing BMW, Mercedes, GM and Ford? Free renewable energy? But how about total surveillance and censorship? Can you imagine the end of democracy as we know it?

We don’t and can’t know what exactly the future brings. We can identify basic patterns though. Here are a few:

• Bigger and denser digital networks will shape and reshape our world.

• Powerful symbols will play a central role.

• Symbols enable us to create and communicate meaning.

• Meaning will be driving much of the value of things.

These patterns will determine the success of ideas, organisations and even individuals. Everyone is a publisher now. And every publisher knows that “content is king”.

Whatever you try to achieve, content matters.

What does this all mean for organisations?

Organisations will have to be able to create and communicate meaning. They have to do “the right thing” and they also have to find ways communicating the essence of it. This is true for companies, stores, brands but also for every single product and service.

An idea or product that people don’t find on Google or Amazon hardly exist. An idea that doesn’t connect with the audience won’t spread. A product that doesn’t tell its story won’t create meaning. It won’t capture attention and it won’t create desires.

To have an impact, generate attention, convince people or sell products content is key. Better and more content will help organisations succeed. Better content will help stores sell. Better content will help brands win market share.

Better content will capture meaning.

Better content will spread further on social media.

Better content will connect better with the audience.

Better content will answer more questions.

Better content will create better understanding.

Better content will convince more people.

Better content will connect deeper on an emotional level.

Better content will reduce friction and make lives easier for people.

Better content will increase your relevance.

Better content will enable you to succeed.

Better content will be strategic.

Content matters.

Networks will shape our future. Content spreads in networks. Content matter.

We at CoreMedia believe that content matters. We strive to empower organisations to succeed with better content. Our passion, tools and services will help you to get content right in a hyper connected world.