I wrote this for a book back in Feb 2005 - I think what I said then is even more relevant today than then - do you too?
Back to the Future - Going Home!
We are going back to the end of the Middle Ages. We journey back to the beginning of the time that gave birth to our own culture. We go back to Europe of the early 16th century. We go back to the beginning of our own pattern. A great cultural system is in terminal decay and a new cultural system is being born.
Like now, this is a turbulent time. War has been constant. Plague has killed 25% of the people. A new world had just been discovered that is going to pump money into Europe and will pull adventurers away. Islam has just been driven out of Europe. There has been a tidal wave of social and religious unrest that has been crushed utterly by an invincible combination of a universal church and by Kings that are gaining in power.
More powerful than the sword of the King is the power of the media.
The pulpit is the mass media. It is the only source of information for the mass of people. Literacy is confined to the Church. Books are rare and very expensive. They are written in Latin or Greek. Knowledge is locked up. Not only does the church control the processes of communication but it has a tight control on message as well. Its two main messages are that salvation is only possible if you give the church your total obedience and much of your worldly wealth. The other message is that God himself has appointed the temporal rulers over you.
Then on October 31st 1517 Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. At the heart of these theses was a big idea. That people did not need an institution between them and God.
A hundred years later, in 1633, the Inquisition convicts Galileo of heresy. His crime was to use evidence to refute the dogma that the earth was the centre of the universe.
These are powerful ideas. But when faced with all this power against them, to spread they needed a viral vector. With all this power lined up behind the establishment, open war would have been suicide. Only a virus could get though the immune system of the time.
The viral vector began humbly in Frankfurt, in 1455 at the Frankfurt Book Fair,
In that year, Johann Gutenberg sells the first copies of his mass-produced German Language Bible. He sells them for 300 florins each. This was the equivalent of approximately three years' wages for an average clerk. However it was significantly cheaper compared to a handwritten Bible, which could take a single monk 20 years to transcribe. The viral vector was out and the ideas that it carried could not be stopped! The lock on communications was broken.
Who would have known then that a priest with a big idea, a man with a telescope and a man with a new communication tool would come together to shake the world?
Who would have known then that the vast power of the universal church and of the divinely empowered monarchs would be soon challenged and be overthrown? Who would have known then that science would be born? Who would have known then that the individual would soon have greater power to communicate than the church or the King?
Can we see our own predicament in this light today? Is this not our pattern too?
Is not our great problem that the great institutions of our time, government, healthcare, education, arts and entertainment, even business, no longer serve us but only themselves?
Is not their organizational doctrine based on a dogma of control? Have they not divorced their world-view from observable reality? Is not this split from the laws of nature their dogma? Are they not prepared to fight to the death to preserve this dogma? Do we not see the entertainment industry as an Inquisition? Do we not see the IP industry as the agent of the controllers and not of the creative?
Is not the new “big idea” of our time to disintermediate the institutional middleman and to enable direct relationships? Are supermarkets eternal? Do we need factory universities to learn? Is our health dependent on a doctor? Is the news what we see on TV?
Is this idea of going direct, the same for us as Luther’s big idea that man could talk directly to God? Is not the new doctrine for organizations based on the observable working laws and designs of nature the same as Galileo’s observations?
Is not the enabling vector, a new type of communication device that is so simple and so inexpensive that it will give voice and hence power back to individuals and to their communities? Did not the printing press give men back their voice in the 16th century? Was not pamphletting the blogging of their time? Was not a consequence of printing, mass literacy? Did the use of this new media topple the power of the old media system? Did it not change politics? Did it not push Alchemy aside and give birth to science? Why would we expect less of Social Software?
Are we not standing at the beginning of a new reformation? Has the wheel of history turned full circle?