Global Norms Are Disappearing, We Need To Implement New Ones Linked to Co-Existence

Over the last several years I’ve written different posts on the power of positive #ChangeAgents and how all of us can be one if we’re willing to “illuminate the way” and manage the friction of stepping outside the status quo. Anyone can be a change agent: you do not have to wait to receive formal authority to do so.

I’d submit that in the backdrop of those writings was a recognition that historical global norms are disappearing — in part due to advances in technology “catching-up” to changes in how we live, work, play, and co-exist similar to how advances in technology in the Victorian Era (1837–1901) also resulted in new norms that followed after that period. The later part of the Victoria Era saw, in the United States, sensationalist journalism with less-than-authentic reporting. The United Kingdom saw this as well with a six-part series of articles claiming life had been spotted on the Moon — only to later have it be revealed as a hoax written solely to sell newspapers.

The decade after the Victorian Era saw World War I with catastrophic trench warfare in Europe — and then the global pandemic of Spanish Influenza starting in 1918 and lasting several years. History may not repeat itself, however it does rhyme.

The long-and-short being in our new era where global norms are disappearing, we need to practice intentional forethought and action in implementing new ones linked to co-existence. Unlike the Victorian Era where the world’s population was about 1.2 billion people in 1850 and 1.6 billion people in 1900 — we’re now in a world steadily approaching 8 billion, up from 7 billion in 2011. This means humanity’s shared fates have never been more connected and intertwined on this pale blue dot we call home. As the James Webb telescope shares pictures of the universe more than 13 billion years ago, we simultaneously need to remember here at home we also are living in unprecedented times for the history of our species.

The last century has demonstrated that, despite our foibles and human setbacks, we can improve societies and civilizations. Things may feel like they’re declining or eroding only because we now have near immediate-access access to stories of what’s happening around the world — including narratives that may include unintended misinformation and intentional disinformation. That can overwhelm us, potentially even paralyze us, and fill us with anger or fear about what might come next. We’re told about challenges in the decades to come, be they natural or human-related, yet we’re rarely told about messages of hope — and when we do talk about hope, it’s usually escapist, as in scenarios about us heading into space away from these challenges or us digitizing ourselves into a metaverse of sorts.

I’d submit we can be both pragmatic about the challenges and optimistic in our abilities to turn crises into opportunities. Specifically, we can create community-centric opportunities to introduce new norms for the next decade ahead tied to co-existence. If the last century was about the global order figuring out how to avoid catastrophic consequences of another World War (this required two actual World Wars and a prolonged Cold War that included nuclear threats) — and the most recent year has reminded us that such threats never went away — then the decade ahead can be about figuring out how to co-exist as a planet of 8 billion people with different identities, languages, beliefs, philosophies, and perspectives on the world.

Back in May 2013 I was invited to give a keynote at Emory University on the importance of social institutions. Now almost a decade later, institutions that connect us as people — be it people with different beliefs residing in the same nation or region of the world — or institutions that allow groups of people with different identities to engage in diplomacy, commerce, and collaboration — are waning. This is partly due to structural problems with how those institutions were created. This also is partly due to what tech and data advances have super-empowered people to do, seek, and belief — and the need for us to either upgrade those institutions for the era ahead or find new ways of co-existing through different institutions.

Institutions themselves are “homes” to sets of norms. These can be embodied institutions or loosely affiliated, decentralized, almost “ecosystem-like” institutions. Together, we can be optimistic about the decade ahead — and not fearful, angry, or distrusting — if we use these moments of both crisis and opportunity to implement new norms in business, government, and every day communal life tied to co-existence with each other, with nature, and with our place in the universe now. Everyone’s thoughts welcomed, feel free to comment below.

We all can be positive #ChangeAgents in the steps that we do daily.

p.s. For those wanting more, here is an embedded link to a podcast I recently did with Jim “Hondo” Geurts, Lauren Bedula, and the Business Executives for National Security (BENS).

As historians look back at the last twenty to thirty years, we’ve rolled out some wonderful technologies, some exquisite technologies. We’ve also unintentionally rolled out technologies that make it easier for autocracies to be autocracies.

We’ve also inadvertently made it harder for more open societies to continue to exist. The rallying call for the private sector …is you do have impact in whether or not open societies will be able to use your technologies and thrive, or whether it will pull us apart.”

Here’s to each of us doing our part be it in business, government, or our local communities to implement norms of co-existence on this pale blue dot we all call home.

Onwards and upwards together!

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David A. Bray

David A. Bray

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Championing People-Centered Ventures & #ChangeAgents. Reflecting on How Our World Is Changing. Leadership is Passion to Improve Our World.