The year has passed and leaves us asking the question “what did we take away from 2016” ?
I want to introduce the term “discontinuity” and show what it means for us humans.
Firstly, what does it mean for ourselves?
Because we live very comfortable and stable lives, we have become used to seeing the world of the future as somewhat similar to the world of today, only a little better. I think that 2016 marked a year where this assumption is no longer valid and things might not continue as they were, leading us to adapt to a world of discontinuities.
The US election showed us that the classsical election process of using the media did not work out for one candidate and that the other, who chose to use a disrupting approach with social media datamining, was successful.
From that we learn that people in broader terms are no longer stable entities that have a stable world view but that they might be susceptible to subtle manipulation via social media where they do not have a clue why they receive any particular message on their timeline
. Linked to the US election process is people‘s fatigue with both globalisation (exporting labour to cheap countries and evading taxes at home) and using the military as a means to control other countries.
This brings in two new aspects:
First the world will become increasingly unstable as local conflicts might heat up when they are no longer contained by a mighty foreign military; but on the other hand, some conflicts might also go away, as the parties involved no longer have the support of a mighty military
. We can (even as the new president has not yet been elected into office) anticipate that the role of the US as a “global police force” will be discontinued and that the future will bring more in terms of “make money, not war”.
This will in turn be a problem for the world’s resources as we can anticipate a more fierce struggle about what is left in the future. These struggles can only be mitigated when the people in the rich countries consume much less and their use of resources goes down.
This is a process which ideally undertaken now and voluntarily, but it might only come about through some kind of discontinuity. We will be better off if we wind down our affluent life style now.
In my view, the most disturbing discontinuity that we faced in 2016 was the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and many other coral sites. Increasing atmospheric CO2 forms more carbonic acid in sea water and this acidic solution dissolves the corals‘ basic lime structure.
Another aspect was the global higher water temperature. Although we did not have an El Niño event in 2016, the water temperature is now simply too high for coral reefs. Most maritime species live in coral reefs during their childhood and we might see some more discontinuities in these species as their food chain is broken. If you Google “global warming oceanic heat intake” you will find sources showing that the largest impact of climate change is in the oceans where no city dweller of the OSCE normally looks.
The last frightening aspect is that the low Arctic and Antarctic sea ice cover did not really grow significantly in the current 2016/2017 winter period and that this is not “a little variation” but a complete situational paradigm shift
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. Currently we do not yet know if that trend is a one time anomaly or if it will persist. If it persists, which is not a far-fetched fantasy, we can really speak of a global discontinuity
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Checkout this hashtag for latest news on global #seaice
Let’s hope that more discontinuities will not harm us too much this year, and all the best for you in 2017