Frans van der Reep has written a long article about a theme that he has covered before i.e. The Middle Ages in the Internet-era: What is happening around us? (1995, 2001, 2010)
Curiously enough, as I was reading Frans’s article, I also came across an article in the well respected policy magazine – the national journal – called ‘In nothing we trust’ – which has similar echoes. So, frans may be on to something with his metaphor of the ‘revival of the middle ages’
Here is a summary review of the key points as I see them:
- Banks, newspapers, churches and even our governments are no longer what they used to be. Increasingly, they are run with a bias on short term results.
- There is currently a shift in the power structure. During the last century, the phrase “knowledge is power” led to a social revolution which secured access to education for everyone and transparency of government. Today, knowledge is no longer scare and hence no longer a leverage for power.
- In the middle ages, large scale organizations, with the exception of the church, did not exist yet. Even the army was often a temporary project of the highest paying nobleman. In this small world everyone knew everything about everyone – gossip was rife. Everyone was connected via one, two or maybe three steps with everyone via clear-cut social networks.
- The premise of the article is: We are entering a similar world to that of the middle ages in the age of the Internet and this will have wide ranging impacts. For instance:
The internet will reinstate respect for craftsmanship.
Ranks and positions become more obvious: some are allowed more than others.
Increased evidence of story telling in our culture
The plague has also returned.
The relationship between the citizen and the state is shifting, not being automatically looked upon as trusted advisor.
A revival of patronage
A revival of interest in spirituality has returned as well:
The medieval “fierceness of daily life” and “rough reality”, to speak in the terms coined by Johan Huizinga, appears to be making a comeback. Executions are videotaped and uploaded onto Youtube.
The article then goes on to discuss the impact of these changes
- We are still waiting for the ‘elite’ the bourgeoisie, who took over from the up-till-then reigning nobility at the end of the middle ages
- We are struggling with a sense of Identity
- We usually know what we don’t want, but we don´t know yet what we do want.
- There is a now a tendency towards self-organization in many domains – entrepreneurship,
energy, funding etc
- In many aspects connections are restored. Connections between the origin and destination of money for instance, in peer to peer banking, a connection we can also find in Islamic banks.
- The main question – is whether human beings will improve through these changes. Or not?
We need a shared vision and the risk is – in this vacuum new crusades are fought. A new fundamentalism may appear. Old instruments of control lose their influence and new ones are created. But which of these will bring us, as individuals, the most opportunities?
A golden age (renaissance) or an age of turbulence?