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Water, sand, and societal change

What do you know about fluid dynamics?

I’ll be honest, my understand is lay at best.

But what little I know is still instructive for understanding ~~SOCIETAL CHANGE~~.

Here’s the premise:

  • Like water, the threshold between society and self is imperceptible to most. Living in the moment, we don’t experience change, as much as we are the change.
  • Like sand, society is difficult to define. It takes on aspects of the individual and of the group. As sand takes on aspects of solid and liquid.

This concept has been explored in journals previously. As University of Surrey professor Mohammed Sanduk wrote in his article, Can the society be simulated as a plasma fluid?:

This fluid model may explain many social phenomena like social instability, diffusion, flow, viscosity…So the society behaves as a sort of intellectual fluid.

And in the professional press. Via Harvard Business Review:

But this stuff we call culture is shared between us. When we use an approach that’s based on social physics, rather than something that’s based on straightforward economics, we find that we can get four, eight times the efficiency at incenting correct and cooperative behavior. So it’s much more powerful when it comes to building organizations, which ought to be of great interest to a lot of the readers.

It takes a special soothsayer to hear these winds of change. And it takes some clankers to share that vision with the world. But here’s the thing – that’s part of the process! Society is itself susceptible to the observer effect. In this pattern of change, we see dedicated and vocal minorities of the population making questionable and incremental progress until that pot done boil over.

As our history demonstrates with the most violence, that greatest of American sins, slavery, followed this same course. Lincoln’s genius was living at the precipice of social change. Neither leading nor following: listening.

So what? Who cares? Well I don’t have time to FULLY explicate this vision, this predictably all flows back to news and information. Specifically advertising. Via Om:

I would love to see a US version of GDPR — a citizen data rights manifesto — to be put on the table.

The future is not yet evenly distributed, but THIS is the sentiment that will disrupt the status quo and affect American society in a way not yet fathomable. History doesn’t repeat itself, but sure as hell does it rhyme. The Progressive era in the early 20th century remains the best proxy for applying some kind of template to what we’re seeing now.

  • A powerful new industry emerges, built on genuine consumer and business value at first, but then pivoting into growth at any cost. Restrictive contracts, secret pricing, and singular monopoly power on the markets.
  • A populist movement brewed in the background, nearly taking the White House (thank god the Russians weren’t aware of William Jennings Bryan!).
  • New forms of media began to took root in the public sphere. The penny papers and the progressive magazines, notably.
  • Cities are exploding and machines & corruption are being held up to light by the journalists and columnists mentioned above.
  • A centrist politician – unelectable in any normal election – finds power by eschewing the elite (from whence he came!) and with vim and vigor takes pleasure in protecting the little guy, whether a Teddy bear or the American consumer.
  • Sensing the movement, decisive action is taken, the ramifications of which aren’t fully unwound for decades.

The irony of this whole thing is… The actors don’t know they are reading from the same script! Teddy used the term muck rake as an insult. History need not focus on the contemporary disagreements between Tarbell, McClure, Roosevelt, etc. They had their hand on different parts of the same elephant. Writ large the progressive movement was comprised of individuals

If you don’t see the change a-comin’, buckle up buddy. We are rockin’ and a rollin’ our way to a free world. #thismachinekillsfascists

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Here is a copy of my presentation and prepared remarks from WordCamp for Publishers 2019 in Columbus.

Chris Gethard & Mal Blum – Crying At The Wawa (Official Video)

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