3 Observations That Show We Are “Forking” And Starting A New Era

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The Orville is a science fiction comedy TV series created by Seth MacFarlane (right), that describes the journey of USS Orville, an exploratory spaceship in the 25th century. A parody of Star Trek, it brings up serious issues like: social inequality, racism, gender identity, injustice, misinformation, and violence in a utopian post-monetary universe (Source)

Connecting History, Blockchain, Timechain and Society

This long Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah weekend allowed me to binge on Seth MacFarlane’s hilarious sci-fi parody the Orville, and remind me how a 25th century utopian future might look like. A future not only free from systemic inequality, racism, gender identity, injustice, misinformation, violence and disease, but a universe that organizes itself through a post-monetary order, where people’s actions and values, not money, is the local “currency”.

And while I wonder sometimes whether capitalism is really over, and if so- what comes next, I came across UsefulCharts (that’s how they are called) that summarized human history (below), and helped me observe three important things that suggests to me what is awaiting us.

Covering 53 centuries (Y axis) from 3300 BCE to present, this chart displays all the major empires, kingdoms and civilizations throughout history in a side-by-side format (X axis), so that we can quickly see how different events in Pre-Columbian American, African, European, Middle Eastern and Asian history relate to one another (Source)

Observation #1: When things happen, they happen everywhere (X axis)

One of the strong messages of this visual is that although we describe historical events as geographically discrete, they actually are ubiquitous. I mostly studied a euro-centric history of the Greek and Roman Empires, and realize that I am equally ignorant to the chronicles of the Han Dynasty, the Gupta and Sassanid Empires, and the Aksumite, Nok and Mayan civilizations.

These global events speak to our interdependence, even before the era of travel and globalization, and suggest that there are deep, perhaps genetics and epigenetic drivers that connect our species (i.e. the human race) at large.

This idea of “shared history” is not only that two different people may share a certain part of history with each other, but also acknowledges that we are part of the same history, although we might have different backgrounds, experiences and stories to share.

Observation #2: When nothing happens, nothing happens everywhere (X axis)

We all know Mark Twain’s quote: “history doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes”. This cyclical nature of history is best described in the Strauss–Howe generational theory, suggesting recurring generation cycles in global history occurring every 80–100 years. According to the theory, historical events are associated with generational personas or archetypes (see below) that are unleashed in every new era (called a Turning), lasting for 20–25 years each, in which a new social, political, and economic climate dominates.

In their book The Fourth Turning (1997) the four personas are called: Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist. These personas not only share a similar age-location in history, but also share same attitudes towards family, risk, culture, values, and civic engagement. (Source)

This historical cyclicality allows us at some level to predict, as well as prepare for future events. For example here are the prescient words of Carl Sagan in his 1997 book The Demon Haunted World, about today:

“…Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s of grandchildren’s time- when the US is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agenda or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…” (page 25, emphasis mine)

Observation #3: Moving from one historical epoch to another is always because of one of two things, or both (Y axis)

Although history feels like a long continuous storyline of consecutive events, when we go back to our “UsefulCharts”, we see that history is actually continual, where there are definite “breaks” and world events come to a halt.

If we examine these pauses when an epoch ends (bronze to iron age, to antiquity to middle to modern ages), we note that one of two things (or both) happen:

(1) A cataclysmic climate event (think the 4.2 kiloyear drought, Little Ice Age)

(2) A catastrophic pandemic (think the Justinian plague or the Black Death)

This 1562 painting, “The Triumph of Death,” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, illustrates the devastating impact the bubonic plague had on society (Source)
I posit that while widespread social breakdown is setting in, the reason 2021 feels different is because we are experiencing BOTH extreme climate events and recurring waves of an unrelenting global pandemic.

The effects of these catastrophes have affected everyone, across all ages and all geographies. Beyond the loss of life, the impact of COVID-19's global recession (the deepest since the end of World War II) is expected to be long-lasting, especially in emerging markets and developing economies.

(A comprehensive review of the social and economic impact of COVID-19 can be found here).

However, just as historians have previously argued, pandemics and extreme climatic events also paved the way for new opportunities. Thus, we can imagine a future world full of creativity and wealth from flourishing Art, Culture and Science.

Final Thoughts: What will Society 4.0 look like and what does Blockchain and Timechain have to do with it?

I have previously written that not everything about these times are bad. The pandemic has accelerated innovation, unleashed a wave of creativity and the need for cooperation, both on personal and institutional levels.

Despite current noisy discussions on cryptocurrencies (China, SEC, Elon Musk’s YOLO, El-Salvador), the use of blockchain for Social Good is expanding, and the use of NFTs as a vehicle for Universal Creative Income, is cementing the idea that in a digital world, user rights are civil rights, and creator rights are worker rights.

This all feels like the first step into Orville’s utopian future, where a regenerative society (Society 4.0) counters the causes of extreme climate events and the Metaverse allows a new social order, that leverages crowd intelligence, and encourages enacted global experience and cooperation.

But blockchain is not just a trustless P2P network that allows new ways to transact or trade. Blockchain is also a Timechain, the original name Satoshi Nakamoto gave to Blockchain in his pre-release source code (below).

Calling Blockchain Timechain is important. It deemphasizes the fact that data is organized in blocks (there are other ways to do it), and emphasizes the importance of time (or more specifically the “authoritative chronology of events”) that allows decentralized ledgers to be incentive-based, immutable and trustless.

Timechain was the original name in the pre-release source code of Bitcoin, before referred to as blockchain (Source)
Finally, Blockchain or Satoshi’s pre-release Timechain, is like History. It has an immutable truth, a prohibitive irreversible chronology that rhymes by code, and through its decentralized network effects grows - until it forks - into a more resilient, sustainable future version of itself.

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