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At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, I joined 2,500 global leaders in business, government, academia and the arts to discuss the state of the world. This was my 7th visit to Davos and this time as a full participant.

I participated in conversations on the future of education, learning, employment, youth employment, gender diversity, the skills gap among many other things.  I spoke at the Shaping Davos session on Rethinking Education and gave a 5 minute speech on Knowledge sharing Communities in the Congress Centre.  This was a short interview from Edie Lush at Hub Culture:

Hub Culture Interview

How the Digital Enlightenment Has Created a New Era of Talentism

Mark Twain once said, “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Let’s recognize the unique moment in history that we currently find ourselves. We are experiencing the Second Human Potential Movement, and this time it has the potential to be much more inclusive. The first Human Potential Movement started in the 1960s with places like Esalen in Big Sur and people like Aldous Huxley, Abraham Maslow, and Alan Watts. It was formed around the belief that humans have extraordinary untapped potential that can be cultivated to enable our lives to be filled with happiness, creativity, and fulfillment.

Now we are experiencing a similar Enlightenment moment. However, there is something historically unique about this moment–technology is democratizing access to it. The internet is enabling much larger numbers than ever before to benefit from this “Digital Enlightenment” period, which is giving birth to the Second Human Potential Movement.

Not all moments throughout history were equally important. We see moments that matter, moments that shaped the arc of history. When one studies those moments we notice two things in particular:

1. Location matters. All enlightenment periods happened in a geographically hyper-located place. Think Rome, Athens, Venice, Florence, London, and so on.
2. Community matters. When we look through the history of any moment that mattered, we see that every person that played a role in shaping the time somehow was friends with all the other influential people of their time. Think about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Think Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the Medicis. Think Freud and Jung. Think of Paris in the 1920’s with Hemingway, Picasso, Fitzgerald, Dali, and Stein.
Throughout history we can see these two points as a constant. This leads to the question: Why would this Enlightenment period be any different? I would argue that its not. We still have a small number of individuals that are writing the history of our time–people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk. Notice how they also all know each other, and location remains equally important. The difference is that the fruits of their creations are now accessible to billions of people. We are experiencing the most inclusive Enlightenment period in history.

What is the impact of this Enlightenment period on our lives? As we enter a Machine Age, we need to ask whether we are creating a positive, abundant world or if we are in danger of creating a negative and destructive world. Are we creating something the dystopian futurist writers warned us about—are we creating an Elysium, a Brave New World, or something like 1984? We are experiencing an era of unprecedented wealth creation, but unfortunately it is not as inclusive as it should be. The prospect of machines taking over the jobs of billions of people is a very real one, and one that we need to be extremely cognizant of.

Professor Klaus Schwab, Creator of the World Economic Forum, has argued that the leading economic ideology is shifting from Capitalism to Talentism—a new era where human capital has become more important to countries, cities, and companies than financial capital. Professor Schwab argued, “Capital is being superseded by creativity and the ability to innovate—and therefore by human talents—as the most important factors of production. If talent is becoming the decisive competitive factor, we can be confident in stating that capitalism is being replaced by “Talentism.” Just as capital replaced manual trades during the process of industrialization, capital is now giving way to human talent.”

I remain optimistic that as our primary economic ideology shifts to “Talentism,” we are in fact giving birth to a Second Human Potential Movement. But as with any other major society shift throughout history there are winners and losers. Change gives birth to opportunity, but it is important to be on the right side of change.

Humans have always made sense of the world in which we find ourselves through the communities we belong to. In many ways technology has had a destructive impact on our communities and has left people searching for the meaning behind it all. It is my hope that we will “go back to the future” and see a re-emergence of strong and supportive communities both offline and online. It is through our communities that we can provide ourselves with the context and knowledge with which to stay relevant and be on the right side of this change.

The choices society makes about how we leverage technology, artificial intelligence, and the Machine Age will shape the whether the future of our world will be a positive or a negative experience. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” The Second Human Potential Movement should provide an opportunity to create a more inclusive and abundant world.