From the Age of Information to the Era of Sustainability

Sep 30, 2019

Do you remember life before your Smartphone?  Do you remember a time when Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn didn’t exist – at least in your life? When the internet and email didn’t even exist? And when exchanging text messages on a Nokia were regarded as high-tech?  I’m approximately mid-life and I remember that time.

I lived through the communications revolution and the dawn of the Age of Information. I feel that right now I’m living through the values revolution and the dawn of the Era of Sustainability.  Are there parallels on the journey that unfolds for the average person?

 I was a laggard when it came to the Information Age and have come on a journey that, in hindsight, I can separate into 4 distinct stages:

1) Rejection 

2) Sceptical Curiosity 

3) Acceptance

4) Wholehearted Engagement. 

I don’t know exactly when I moved from one stage to the next but as the new technologies mainstreamed themselves, I move along with them.  The Era of Sustainability is now mainstreaming and I can observe people somewhere along that same journey that I went on with smartphones and social media.  What follows is a summary of my thoughts and feelings as I slowly succumbed to my smartphone.

Rejection Phase:

I recoiled from the new technology.  I found the mobile phones and text messages impersonal.  I felt email devalued face-to-face communications. I couldn’t imagine needing to have a phone with me all the time – I just genuinely felt I didn’t have a need.  I couldn’t justify the expense for something I didn’t see a need for. All my information I needed I got from TV and newspapers and if I wanted to connect with someone I met them.  If they lived abroad, I wrote a letters. I was always meeting friends and family – why would I need to contact them in between? Everything was working just fine and I saw only disadvantages to the new way that was coming on stream.   

Sceptical Curiosity Phase:

At some point, I found that there were fewer and fewer people who shared my view that these technological changes were a bad thing, or at best, an unnecessary thing.  Lots of people around me, even people just like me, started to mobile phones and Facebook profiles. I felt I had no other option but to find out a bit more. I set up my own Facebook profile but only to watch what others were doing.  There was no chance I’d post anything myself! I’d scoff at people sharing their private photos and mundane moments of their lives. In any event, I had no idea how to do any of that myself and my scepticism stopped me from learning it.  

Acceptance Phase:

Eventually I reached a point where I no longer fought the smartphone and social media.  I invested in a decent phone. I didn’t like learning about the technology and most of the time, I struggled to stop my eyes glazing over.  But I stuck at it and I now have some degree of knowledge of terms like ios, android, GB and MB, battery life, processors, megapixels, HDR. I didn’t love it but I knew it was necessary and it was where the world was at.  I was frustrated though - every time I felt like I got a handle on one platform or how to use it, things seemed to change. I was never up to date.  

Wholehearted Engagement Phase:

In the last two years I’m really embracing my smartphone and all the new technologies.  I’ve realised that different and better solutions are being invented all the time. I’m amazed at genius brains that imagine solutions that we didn’t even know we had problems for.  I’ll never get to that point of having it all cracked and that’s fine – I’m in a process of continuous learning and evolution. I have to stay current, stay up with it if I want to remain relevant and competitive and connected.   A few years ago, I hardly used Twitter, Facebook or Linked In at all. Now I post on all 3 most days and several times a day. Now they are core elements of my working life along with Kajabi, Canva, Zoom, Trello, Google Drive, Dropbox, Snapseed, What’s App, Calendly and other technological platforms that save me time or make my communications easier.  

I can’t help but see the parallels between this journey and the different stages people are at now as the Era of Sustainability embeds itself?  

  • Many people are still in rejection mode or are sceptics.  Many don’t know they need a change and many others don’t see the need for a change.  Things seem just fine as they are.  
  • In recent years, the number of people and companies in the Sceptical Curiosity and Acceptance stage has grown.  Society’s values are changing rapidly and ‘sustainability’ in all its connotations is mainstreaming itself. 
  • Many are teetering between Acceptance and Wholehearted Engagement.  Some people find it hard to move on, saying it’s just hard to know where to start, hard to know what will really make a difference.  
  • Things are changing really, really quickly.  New technology and expectations become dated before many have a chance to get to grips with it.  For example, proclaiming to the world that your hotel now uses compostable cups and straws is a bit like announcing you’ve just bought a Nokia.  The world has moved on and what was innovative a year ago is now almost a minimum expectation.
  • It is hard for people to stay current and it requires them to apply their learning muscles to get to grips with things.  Concepts like ‘sustainable tourism’, ‘green economy’ and ‘carbon neutral’ are already making way for more advanced concepts of ‘regenerative tourism’, ‘circular economy’ and ‘carbon positive’.  People have hardly caught up before the goalposts move again.  
  • We will look back at this time and wonder what life was like before we embraced a sustainable way of living and working.
  • Things will keep changing and pushing forward and we will need to keep up with it if we’re to remain competitive and relevant and connected.
  • It will become normal to live differently to how we do today.  We will look back and wonder about the way we used to live.  

I truly believe that the Era of Sustainability is upon us and it will change the world as significantly as the Age of Information has done.    Sustainability has definitely put itself on the agenda just as mobile phones and electronic communications put themselves on the agenda in the 90s.  25 years on, the world is a completely different place because of advances in communications technology. The way we live, work and behave has changed radically.  In another 25 years, how we live, work and behave will have changed again, this time due to advances in the sustainable practices and technologies.


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