looking back

what has changed in the last 8 years?

i was trying to find an old blog post this morning, and came across this bit i wrote in 2006 (a mere 8 years ago), with thoughts about change over the next 10 years:

The world in 10 years
(a ridiculously subjective summary by Mark Oestreicher)

Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind (one of the best books I read last year) is primarily about the change in culture that will demand more right-brained thinking than the dominant left-brain thinking of the past few decades. He talks about the need for leaders to be creatives and empathizers, more than (the former) logicians and knowledge workers.

In one short chapter, Pink offers a three-part summary of the primary change we’ll experience in the next 10 years (of course, Pink’s book is written to business leaders, so keep that in mind):

ASIA

A few facts from the book:

    - Each year, universities and colleges in India produce 350,000 new engineering graduates.
    - Half of the Fortune 500 companies now outsource to India.
    - 1 out of 10 IT job will move overseas (to Asia) in the next 2 years; 1 out of 4 by 2010.

Our issue isn’t the outsourcing of jobs, of course.

But what will it mean for our affluent and resourced churches and youth ministries when our country, religiously, looks more like Europe, and the thriving, model-creating influence in the church is coming from Asia? Will be have the humility to learn and grow?

AUTOMATION

Quote from the book: “The result [of massive automation]: as the scut work gets off-loaded, engineers and programmers [think youth workers!] will have to master different aptitudes, relying more on creativity than competence, more on tacit knowledge than technical manuals, and more on fashioning the big picture than sweating the details.”

Nobody predicted that Western teenagers would so quickly skip over the already slow and tedious technology of email and so fully embrace the instant real-time social technologies of IM, texting, and MySpace.

MySpace has already replaced the mall, and is THE place for teenage social networks. But all we’re doing so far is talking about the dangers.

ABUNDANCE

A few facts from the book:

    - the U.S. has more cars than licensed drivers
    - self-storage is a $17 Billion industry in the U.S. alone
    - the U.S. spends more on trash bags annually than nearly half the nations of the world spend on ALL goods.

The impact: the search for empathy, beauty, play and meaning.

Columbia University’s Andrew Delbanco: “The most striking feature of contemporary culture is in the unslaked craving for transcendence.”

This is our story! Empathy, beauty, play, meaning and transcendence? That’s our stuff! And we know the inventor of those things!

One more thought, NOT from the book

Many sociologist and culture writers are talking about a major shift in identity, from…

An identity rooted in individual and national (I am autonomous, I am how I define myself. “I did it my way”. The Marlboro Man. Anything larger than me is a nationalistic connection.)

To…

An identity rooted in local and global, or what some emerging leaders are cutely calling “glocal” (I am defined as part of a ‘local’ community – but local isn’t geographic, it’s however I define my community; and, I see my identity more rooted in being a citizen of the world than in being a citizen of my country.)

Obviously, this has massive implications for us in church leadership and youth ministry leadership, as most of our theologies, approaches, assumptions and methods are built on individual/national identity frameworks.

looking backhonestly, those words sorta cracked me up, reading them today. and, i was struck by how much has changed in 8 short years. looking in the rearview mirror is always easier and more accurate, of course. if i were to name the variables that have shaped change the most, i would now label them differently. i would suggest a move to a culture in which these realities are primary shapers:

Information
You’ve likely read or heard these sorts of details elsewhere, but the amount of knowledge and information that exists in the world is said to double roughly every eight years. That’s insane. It’s an absurd understatement to call it “exponential” growth.

But an enormous additional dimension to this steep increase in information is the ease at which we can access all of it. No longer are these mountains of knowledge and information protected in musty libraries and hidden in corporate vaults: almost all knowledge is accessible to us with the click of a mouse, or, increasingly, the touch of a thumb on our mobile platforms. Unless you live “off the grid”, information is in your face constantly, whether you want it or not.

Immediacy
Not only is all knowledge and information available (at least more of it than we could ever use), it’s all available at this moment. It’s accessible anytime, anywhere.

When we have to wait for something these days, it automatically feels foreign or antiquated.

Disposability
The easiest place to see this is our relationships with hard goods, from contact lenses to mobile phones to car leases. Even the laptop I’m typing on right now—a very new MacBook Air—has a “planned” or “built-in obsolescence” of about 18 months (of course, Apple is brilliant at promoting and exploiting this). And what should I do with this fairly expensive and originally cutting-edge computer when I need the new version for whatever reason? Really, I might be able to get twenty or thirty bucks for it on Craigslist; but it won’t be much more than a formerly useful paperweight.

Another easy-to-grasp example for our relationship with technology: computer printers. Several years ago now, the printer industry went through a major re-orientation of change-or-die proportions. Printers became cheap and disposable when printer manufacturers realized they could make more money from ink sales if they got people to buy low priced printers that required disposable ink cartridges. I got the printer that sits on my desk for the best price possible: FREE! But I spend more money annually on the stupid ink cartridges (which are also disposable, by the way) than I spend on car tires!

Disposability, though, is way more far-reaching than the lack of permanence with respect to our technology hard goods. Disposability has become the norm for most things (unless they’re seen as a commodity with appreciating value, which is not the world most people live in). In this reality, careers are disposable, and relationships are disposable, and experiences (merely another item to be consumed for their temporary satisfaction), and beliefs.

these three culture-shaping realities–information, immediacy and disposability–are super-critical for youth workers to be aware of. all of us adults are shaped by these realities, but we’re immigrants to this culture. teenagers are natives. are you thinking about ministry responses (i.e. teaching wisdom and discernment!)?

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