The Final Stages Of The Fourth Turning

It was 2019 when I finished a book titled The Fourth Turning. I found myself referring to it a couple of weeks ago during a conversation about the cycles of history. I went back to the book after our discussion given the many changes the world experienced since I added it to my library. The repeated cycles of history described by the book remain both fascinating and ominous.

First comes a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order takes root after the old has been swept away. Next comes an Awakening, a time of spiritual exploration and rebellion against the now-established order. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era in which individualism triumphs over crumbling institutions. Last comes a Crisis—the Fourth Turning—when society passes through a great and perilous gate in history. Together, the four turnings comprise history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and rebirth.

Frank Diana – adapted from the book “The Fourth Turning”

Read that description of the historical cycles carefully. Turnings come in cycles of four. Each cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly eighty to one hundred years. Now, let’s trace the current cycle back in time – quoted right from the book – keeping in mind that the book was written in 1997.

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Why Ecosystems? Why Now?

For at least seven years, the concept of ecosystems has been discussed and defined in various ways, while sometimes applied in a context that dilutes its eventual impact. At the highest level, an ecosystem is a network of connected stakeholders interacting in ways that create and capture value for all participants. Why has this ecosystem phenomenon emerged now and why do people expect it to drive structural change? Once again, history may provide an answer.

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What Role Did Geography Play In The Past – And What Does It Mean For The Future?

Another recent article explores the factors that drove civilization success. The article – along with a number of recent books – looks for historical signals that aid in our understanding of the future. In this case, the focus is geography, which the article positions as the reason both individuals and civilizations are the way they are today. If history informs our views of possible futures, then according to the article, geography has influenced history more than any other factor. The author uses Japan as an example.

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A Reimagining The Future Presentation

I have the pleasure of speaking in various forums about the future. It is a fascinating time to be focused on illuminating the path forward, as the pace, uncertainty, and complexity of our times makes it very challenging. This short three-minute video describes my reimagining the future presentation.

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The Journey Of Humanity

Since the dawn of the nineteenth century, a split second compared to the span of human existence, life expectancy has more than doubled, and per capita incomes have soared twenty-fold in the most developed regions of the world, and fourteen-fold on Planet Earth as a whole

Oded Galor – The Journey of Humanity

That quote comes from a book I just finished titled The Journey of Humanity. Author Oded Galor explores the origins of wealth and inequality. He takes a fascinating journey from our migration out of Africa, through the Neolithic and Industrial Revolutions, to modern day. Along the way, he describes how technological advancements and higher land productivity led to larger but not richer populations. The fact that standard of living improvement only occurred during a tiny stretch of recent human history – and the reasons why – are explored in detail. A somewhat perplexing fact that hunter-gatherers evidently lived longer, consumed a richer diet, worked less intensively, and suffered fewer infectious diseases, is echoed in the book titled Work by James Suzman.

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The Journey: Living In Times Of Transition

In the wrap-up to my series titled “A Journey through the Looking Glass”, I will cover why this story is so important to me personally. As was described throughout the series, we live in a time of considerable change. A period that in my view only has a few historical precedents. I could be completely wrong, as I am not a believer in prediction – but the risk is too high to ignore. Through the years, as I have told versions of this story, I sensed that my audience felt no compelling reason to act. They had low levels of urgency when compared to challenges they faced day-to-day. It was that lack of urgency that pushed me towards more effective storytelling to change perception.

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The Journey: Dual Paths Of Innovation

In a continuation of my series titled “A Journey through the Looking Glass”, I will touch on two historical paths of innovation. The post picks up from the last one where I explored the building blocks of the future.

THE DUAL PATHS OF INNOVATION

Two major forces are likely to converge in very unpredictable ways. First, the road to abundance described by Peter Diamandis promises to advance our human development in ways not previously thought possible. At the same time, our journey will face several unintended consequences. The intersection of these two forces underscores the importance of focusing on emerging scenarios now, thus enabling human development and mitigating the risk of these unintended consequences.

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The Journey: Our Complex, Uncertain, And Volatile Future

My previous posts launched a series that will tell the full story of a reimagined future. Described as a journey through the looking glass, the story began with a series description and a look back in time. The series continues, with each post featuring a piece of our journey. We explored the potential for a phase transition in the last post. In this post, I will now explore the complexity, volatility, and uncertainty that inhibits our ability to envision the future.

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The Journey: Our Current World Order

My previous posts launched a series that will tell the full story of my reimagined future. Described as a journey through the looking glass, the story began with a description of the series title and a look backward in time. The series continues, with each post featuring a piece of our journey. We explored the growth of knowledge in the last post. In this post, I will return to history to explore the role that historical cycles have played in shaping our recent history.

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The Journey: An Historical Perspective

My previous post launched a series that will tell the full story of my reimagined future. Described as a journey through the looking glass, the story began with a description of the series title and a look backward in time. This second post in the series will add to that historical perspective. Each subsequent post will feature a piece of our journey.  

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A Journey Through The Looking Glass

In the last ten years, as my focus expanded, a story about the future emerged. If I were to write a book to capture that story, I would call it A Journey through the Looking Glass (like the name of the leadership course I developed in 2017). My presentations are the vehicle for this type of storytelling, while my Blog captures the story in pieces. Now, as we find ourselves in the early stages of a transformative decade, I feel compelled to pull the pieces together through the written word as well. My next several posts will be dedicated to telling this story. Here are the other posts in the series to date:

Second Post: An Historical Perspective

Third Post : A Growth Of Knowledge

Fourth Post: Our Current World Order

Fifth Post: Convergence Drives Human Advancement

Sixth Post: Catalysts Of The Past And Those On The Horizon

Seventh Post: A Phase Transition

Eight Post: Our Complex, Uncertain, And Volatile Future

Ninth Post: The Building Blocks Of The Future

Tenth Post: Dual Paths Of Innovation

Eleventh Post: The Next Phase Of Human Development

Twelfth Post: The Journey: A World Of Ecosystems

Thirteenth Post: A Great Reset

Conclusion: Living In Times Of Transition

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Signals From The Past

When I finished a recent book by Alec Ross titled The Raging 2020s, I spent time reflecting on the various signals captured in the book and what they might mean for the future. I wrote about both the book and the signals in early January. My team at TCS then produced this short video to capture the message. I have long believed that history can be very instructive – and these 19 signals could be just that. A special thank you to Kevin Mulcahy, April Harris, and Adam Boostrom for their efforts on the video.

The Changing World Order

Ray Dalio is the Co-Chief Investment Officer & Chairman of Bridgewater Associates, In making decisions, he has found history to be very instructive. This is a recurring theme that I write about often, as I view history as a key source of signals. I’ve included links that explore these signals below. In exploring possible futures, it is helpful to understand the patterns of history – and they really do rhyme. In the book The Fourth Turning, the authors describe what the cycles of history tells us about our next rendezvous with destiny. What intrigued me as a Futurist is the claim by the books authors that our past can indeed predict our future – it’s a compelling argument when viewed through the lens of these historical cycles.

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The Changing World Order

I believe that the times ahead will be radically different from the times we have experienced so far in our lifetimes, though similar to many other times in history.

Ray Dalio – The Changing World Order

The cycles of history tell an interesting story. That story was told brilliantly in a book titled The Fourth Turning. The authors equate the cycles of our history with the length of a long human life. What intrigued me as a Futurist is the claim by the books authors that our past can indeed predict our future – it’s a compelling argument when viewed through the lens of these historical cycles. That brings me to the quote above. Ray Dalio is the Co-Chief Investment Officer & Co-Chairman of Bridgewater Associates. In a LinkedIn Post from 2020, he describes the importance of understanding history and the cycles that repeat throughout it. Each cycle had swings between happy and prosperous times, and miserable periods that followed. He mentions the most recent analogous time was the period from 1930 to 1945, he follows that with: “This was very concerning to me.”

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Animating History

What if you could bring your ancestors back to life? Creepy, or fascinating to see what it would have been like to interact with them? MyHeritage is a company focused on DNA testing and helping discover their family history. They recently developed what they call Deep Nostalgia, which uses AI to animate photos of people from the past. The company encourages you to decide for yourself by creating a video and sharing it with your family and friends. This Article describes how it works, shows some amazing examples from Twitter, and encourages people to try it. Those interested can do so on the MyHeritage Website. Look at the video below to watch the animation of history.

Can History Point to Possible Futures?

A view into history helps us better understand the future. A recent Article describes this phenomenon in detail, exploring how to apply historical reasoning to the future. I have invested considerable time in understanding the Cycles of History and how they help us better understand the future. As Future Thinking becomes an increasingly bigger part of a leaders agenda, a historical perspective provides valuable input. As described in the article, the goal is to reason well, using an understanding of history to think more clearly about a range of possible futures and how probable a given outcome might be.

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The Fourth Turning

I just finished a book titled The Fourth Turning. I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest the cycles, but given my year-long focus on the past, I thought I’d give it a go – The Fourth Turningand I’m glad I did. In my continued efforts to reimagine the future, books such as this provide a richness of historical perspective. Although history was a key aspect of the book, I was more intrigued by the focus on generations, archetypes, and the cycles of our history (which last the length of a long human life). What intrigued me as a Futurist is the claim by the books authors that our past can indeed predict our future – it’s a compelling argument when viewed through the lens of these historical cycles.

So add another book to my Book Library. It was written in 1997 and accurately predicted some of the events that occurred in what the book refers to as a period of unraveling. If the cycle which has repeated itself six times was to do so again, we would have entered a crisis period somewhere prior to 2010 (great recession anyone). The crisis period would last one generation – moving towards a resolution that dramatically alters the social order by the late 2020s. Here is how the cycle is described by the book abstract.

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Technology Trap

I recently added a fascinating book titled Technology Trap to my Book Library. Author Carl Benedikt Frey has done some important work in partnership with Michael A. Osborne evaluating the impact of automation on the Future of Work. In this new work of applied history, Frey draws on past revolutions to look at possible corollaries. It was Winston Churchill that said: The further Backward you Look, the Further Forward you can See. That quote has stuck with me, prompting my Looking back to see Ahead. Here is the book abstract:

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Reimagining the Future

Future thinking has often focused on a three-horizon framework that allows for the continued advancement of  core business, while planning for emerging opportunities. I believe the challenge these days is time compression associated with rapid advancement. When someone says to me: “I’m not worried about five years from now”, my reaction is always the same. What looks to be five years out is likely only 18 months away: A phenomenon I describe in this piece on Acceleration.

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Learning from History

When presenting a story of possible futures, I always start with a short journey through the past. The past represents a possible window to the future. Major events throughout history have brought out the best and the worst of humanity. Leaders have emerged in the most difficult of times – and tyrants have as well. A recent book by Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge explores the history of Capitalism in America. Robert J. Gordon took a similar journey in his highly acclaimed book titled The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Whereas the authors of Capitalism in America explore the full American journey, Mr. Gordon focuses on what he considers a special century: 1870-1970. Both books highlight the astounding innovation that occurred in the late part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. These innovations improved our standard of living, while the major societal forces of that era (World War One, The Great Depression, and World War Two) presented many challenges.   Continue reading