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SNS: SHIFTING GEARS: The Emerging Patterns That Will Drive Our World

SNS: SHIFTING GEARS: The Emerging Patterns That Will Drive Our World


In This Issue
Vol. 27 Issue 23

SHIFTING GEARS: The Emerging Patterns That Will Drive Our World


Last week, Berit Anderson and I attended the Aspen Ideas Festival at the Aspen Institute. (For those of you wondering what the author of “The Viral Economy” would do at a conference to avoid Covid: socialize only outdoors, wear an N95 indoors, and always travel with an N95 solidly strapped to your mug. I remain Covid- free.) The event was filled with top experts covering a fascinating range of topics, from climate to tech policy to geopolitics to journalism.

The fact that the event was well-run and mostly outdoors was a pleasure. Most interesting, however, was the common threads that emerged throughout the week. Among the many topics covered, three key patterns stood out that will have the greatest effect on our world in the coming years:

  1. The way we talk about the climate emergency is rapidly changing.
  2. We are in the midst of a critical fight for democratic ideals, both at home and abroad.
  3. The way we make and use new technologies is undergoing a massive shift, and *US* policy in particular is falling quickly behind.

This effectively paints two clear potential futures for the US and the world at large. In one, “business as usual” wins out, and the challenges to climate health, democracy, and various forms of infrastructure development prove too great. As a result, we find ourselves in a world characterized by never-ending escalation of carbon emissions, increasingly brutal authoritarianism, and the stymieing of progress as new efforts drown in bureaucracy, squabbling, and misguided policy.

Yuck. This is not a future we want.

The second is much brighter. If the emerging patterns we identify in this week’s issue can be ushered along, we will see a world that’s increasingly effective at responding to these crises. In such a world, we become extremely action-oriented around climate; reaffirm support for, and strengthen, democracy globally; and see free and democratic nations continue to lead in top technologies critical to a healthy technology ecosystem capable of addressing the key issues of our era.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

You don’t have to take my word for it. Below I’ll describe why these three trends stood out amid the plethora of panels and speakers we saw over the week, what these folks said, and what we might do about it.

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