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The 2100 Pendulum — a much needed new story for our confusing times

An intentionally simple model to explain the challenges of today and predict an optimistic tomorrow.

The Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre Orrery — a mechanical model of the solar system. Photo credit: Anthony Holloway, University of Manchester.

Edit: January 13, 2017: This article is currently being re-written to make it clearer that the findings are not backed by any scientific evidence. This is purely a model to help understand the world better.

A massive shift is underway — do you feel it?

It’s not difficult to see change when it’s upon us. Identifying it ahead of time is a little bit trickier.

I have often wondered if the man in the street in the midst of the Industrial Revolution ever looked around and recognised the change that was coming.

The incredible progress the world has seen since the 1800’s is easily understood in hindsight. What is not commonly understood (mainly because we’re in the midst of it) is that today we stand on the brink of the next revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and play.

This is a model to help us understand the coming changes.

Models are useful to help us understand complexities. A map strips away detail to easily get us to our destination without overwhelming us with unnecessary information; a mechanical model of the Solar System helps us understand the movement of planets without the need to travel through space. Similarly, philosophical models are representations of ideas that help explain phenomena that cannot be experienced directly.

The 2100 Pendulum is a philosophical model which helps us understand the past 1,200 years of Western civilisation so that we can accurately predict the next 100.

“All models are wrong, but some are useful.” — George Box

Like any cognitive tool, this model helps us cut through the noise of reality and hone in on key principles. However, I’m no historian and I don’t have any special access to secrets of the future. Even if I did, I wouldn’t know what to do with them. That said, the 2100 Pendulum Model is based on extensive historical and neuroscience research, has resonated with many and proved useful to some. I’m sharing it to hopefully shift the conversation away from what’s wrong with our present to a conversation around what’s bright about our future.

“The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained.”— Daniel Kahneman

The Past

Since I’m fascinated by Brain Lateralisation (the idea that the left and right hemispheres of our brains process information differently) and history, my team and I analysed and categorised over 500 neuroscience papers, peer-reviewed medical journals and neuroscience books to see what science actually says about the differences between left and right brain thinking. We then mapped these summaries to the rise and fall of various civilisations of the past 1,200 years.

This is what we found.

A giant imaginary pendulum has been swinging from left to right and back again throughout Western civilisation — mirroring the predominant cultural focus of the time: left a focus on science; right a focus on art. Each cycle has lasted roughly 300 years, with the following peaks:

  • 900AD: right — Early Middle Ages
  • 1200AD: left — High Middle Ages
  • 1500AD: right — Renaissance
  • 1800AD: left — Industrial Revolution
  • 2100AD: right — where we’re headed

If the pattern continues, it is due to reach the next right peak in 2100, hence the name: the 2100 Pendulum Model.

Extrapolation of 1,200 years of Western civilisation to show what we can expect in future.

Background: Key Historical Periods

  • Early Middle Ages: from 400 to 1000, peaking at 900. Agriculture was the predominant activity for settled inhabitants and people lived close to the land and nature. Animals were revered and this was a period dominated by connection with nature. As an example, plots were an acre in size, measuring one “furlong” of 220 yards by one “chain” of 22 yards (about 200m by 20m). A furlong (from “furrow long”) was chosen to respect the plough oxen — this was the distance an ox could comfortably plough before requiring a rest. A period dominated by a right-brained view of the world (engaged, empathetic, receptive, intuitive, metaphorical, humorous, particular, musical, holistic).
  • High Middle Ages: from 1000 to 1300, peaking at 1200. Predominantly a scientific and educational reform period when the first universities were established. The Catholic Church reached the peak of its political power at this time and led a series of Crusades. A period dominated by a left-brained view of the world (detached, rational, acquisitive, conceptual, literal, straight-laced, abstract, verbal, analytic).
  • Renaissance Period: from 1300 to 1700, peaking at 1500. Predominantly an artistic and creative period, typically associated with right-brained people who tend to be creative, curious and intuitive.
  • Industrial Revolution Period: from 1760 to 1840, peaking at 1800. Predominantly a mechanistic period typically associated with left-brained people who tend to subscribe to scientific materialism and their raison d’être is to narrow things down to a certainty.

Transition Years

While each full cycle lasts 300 years, the transition from one half to the next typically takes between 50 and 100 years and is represented by the lowest point of the pendulum’s swing. In our case, the transition started during the counterculture of the 1960’s and is likely to continue until 2025, making our transition a period of 65 years.

Why 2025? According to Ray Kurzweil in The Singularity is Near, 2025 is the year by which affordable computers will equal the power of the human brain. It is at this point that Artificial Intelligence will no longer be “artificial,” making our transition complete.

Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, page 118.

The total transition time typically consists of 2 phases and a defining low point:

  • Growing awareness of the need for change — usually 75% of the total transition period. Fault-finding is the most visible activity during this phase, in which established systems and cultures are blamed for existing problems. Our awareness period lasted from 1962 to 2012.
  • The lowest point is often represented by a defining moment which, in hindsight, confirms the turning point. The lowest point is also the point at which the pendulum swings fastest, which could explain why time appears to fly by so quickly at present. The good news is that time slows as the pendulum reaches its peak and slows its swing, in preparation of the next cycle. Our defining moment could well have been the end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012.
  • The groundwork phase — usually 25% of the total transition period — is a time during which essential preparatory work is done in readiness of replacing systems and cultures identified as causes of issues during the awareness phase. We are currently in the groundwork phase, which should last until around 2030 (another 14 years at the time of this writing).

If the model’s pattern can be safely extrapolated, we are headed towards a culture reminiscent of the Renaissance period, with the added benefit of significant technological progress.

“The current crisis, therefore, is not just a crisis of individuals, governments, or social institutions; it is a transition of planetary dimensions. As individuals, as a society, as a civilization, and as a planetary ecosystem, we are reaching the turning point.”Fritjof Capra in The Turning Point, 1982

What are the dominant cultural memes at each peak?

Left Culture Memes

(Where we’ve come from)

  • Scientific, measurable, provable
  • Rational, logical, Cartesian, analytic
  • Mechanistic, factories, mass production lines, automation
  • Focus on productivity and improving efficiency
  • Focus on individual and independence
  • Competitive, scarcity
  • Hierarchical, command and control
  • Bottom line oriented

Right Culture Memes

(Where we’re going)

  • Artistic, cultural
  • Emotional, spiritual, ecological
  • Artisanal, hand-made, unique products
  • Focus on creativity and new ideas
  • Focus on collective and inter-dependence
  • Collaborative, emergent, abundant
  • Circles or swirls
  • Stakeholder oriented

Naturally there is much more to unpack — these basic memes are provided simply to stimulate your own thinking.

How the Model Could be Useful

  • Predicting technology trends
  • Identifying successful startup business ideas
  • Making it easy for investors to identify future unicorns
  • Hiring the right skills and aptitudes for long term
  • Predicting what will happen with current structures like government, education, healthcare and religion
  • As a sanity check and confirmation that we are not about to destroy ourselves or the planet (although it’s touch-and-go)

To paraphrase Einstein:

“Problems created with left-brained thinking cannot be solved without right-brained thinking.”

The Future

What will life in the 22nd Century be like?

Using the 2100 Pendulum Model as a framework, we’ll be answering this question in great detail by covering the following themes. We’ll make specific predictions about what each theme will look like in the 22nd Century, and here’s a taster.

Discoveries in Science & Physics during a left period are made based on experimentation requiring solid proof — they rely on measurement of the known world. Discoveries during a right period are made when the glorious unknown is accepted as fact, rather than scrutinised and criticised. It is likely that currently accepted physical limitations will be completely bypassed by 2100. Early examples are:

  • driverless transport (in the first phase the driver becomes obsolete; in the second phase the vehicle becomes obsolete — physical objects, including humans, will be able to relocate anywhere at any time through teleportation)
  • dematerialization (in the first phase products are replaced by services; in the second phase all products will be created from bits and atoms, on-demand, without the need for natural resources)

Consumer Technology during a left period relegates the user to the status of product — technology more often than not serves the corporation rather than the user. During a right period, technology will become far more empathic and personal, serving the user rather than a corporation. Early developments in artificial intelligence and cloud computing indicate a move toward a benevolent global consciousness, able to be accessed by anyone at any time and at no cost.

Engineering & Architecture during a left period serve form before function and focusses on celebrating the skill of man and the conquest of physical limitations (bigger is always better). In a right period, engineering and architecture is replaced by biomimetics — the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.

Left period con(ned)sumers will be replaced by highly informed and skeptical individuals in a right period, fully aware of the implications and consequences of their use and consumption of every item. Business & Advertising will primarily serve, rather than sell. Here are my Advertising and Marketing Predictions.

Education in a left period is concerned with increasing head knowledge. In a right period, all knowledge is immediately accessible by tapping into global consciousness. Education in a right period is concerned about increasing heart feeling: intuition, wisdom, empathy (mostly referred to as soft skills during a left period).

Decisions about Personal Health during a left period are abdicated to a trained professional. In a right period, the individual has full access to their own health information and can compare it to that of every other inhabitant on our planet. Decisions are often proactively made by a monitoring system, without the individual having to consult either a professional or technology.

The dominant belief about Wealth & Income during a left period is scarcity, whereas in a right period it is abundance. During a left period, workers slave away on behalf of a select few; during a right period, work is replaced with creative pursuits and minimum needs are met for everyone.

We will discuss many more themes in due course. If the model so far resonates with you and you’d like to test our predictions, why not follow the Twenty One Hundred publication on Medium:

Good or Bad, Right or Wrong?

It’s important to point out that there is no good or bad — one system is no better than the other. The Nei Ching states that “The entire universe is an oscillation of the forces Yin and Yang.” We will never achieve balance between left and right — it’s the creative tension between both that produces progress.

As the authors of The Good Economy assert, the Industrial Revolution produced the factory system, a multi-decade process of adaptation to the efficiencies of manufacturing, distribution, logistics, and everything that came with it. It required the notion of “the job,” a new educational system (the high school movement), new policy structures (the welfare state), and new political responses. In one sense, decades of public and private investment can be seen as building out the full platform of the factory system. This business system endured for a century. It involved disruption and change, which was the object of much criticism and brow furrowing, just as is today’s disruption and change. But it yielded vast improvements in standards of living, in health, and in life expectancy. It was a marvel, but we tend now to think that this must be the system rather than a system.

This is all happening again. This time the new thing, the new technological change driving us, is information technology. These technologies began to be important in the 1960s. They evolved quickly through the 1970s and 1980s. The more recent convergence of enormous increases in computing power, the Internet and then the Internet of Things and cloud computing represent changes every bit as substantial as and even more pervasive than the Industrial Revolution.

The rapid progress in information technology converging with an equally rapid rise in consciousness and the resulting shift from competition to collaboration are leading to the birth of an entirely new system. This new system will force change as broadly as did the emergence of the factory system. It is leading to social changes as substantial and pervasive as that system, but this time with more positive impact on individuals, humanity as a collective and our planet.

And that is surely a good thing for us all.

License

The 2100 Pendulum Model is licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike License, which basically means you are encouraged to:

  • Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
  • for any purpose, even commercially,
  • provided you give appropriate credit and indicate if changes were made.

References

Project 2030

You made it to the end! If you’re interested in helping us solve some of the planet’s grand challenges with our ambitious Project 2030, please check out the overview, and invite others to do the same.

Postcards from 2035

Have you come across Postcards from 2035? It’s a series of profoundly simple interlinking ideas describing life in a highly desirable society, where everything and everyone is advanced, happy, intelligent and problem-free. It’s a blueprint of the world we need to co-create. Here’s what that world could look like.

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Michael Haupt

Michael Haupt

18K Followers

I cut through (and expose) ESG & sustainability greenwashing. Speaker | Writer | Social Artist | Architect of Transformation