How The 21st Century Is Different

The 21st Century is Not The Same As The 20th Century; This Creates New Opportunities and Perils

Second graders work on Apple Inc. iPads as part of their classroom work at Park Lane Elementary school, in the Canyons School District, in Sandy, Utah, U.S. on Monday, May 20, 2013. As technology becomes more integrated in the classroom, in addition to Apple, other manufacturers including Microsoft corp., Amazon.com Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., and News Corp.ís Amplify are turning toward education. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg
Second graders work on Apple Inc. iPads as part of their classroom work at Park Lane Elementary school, in the Canyons School District, in Sandy, Utah, U.S. on Monday, May 20, 2015. As technology becomes more integrated in the classroom, in addition to Apple, other manufacturers including Microsoft corp., Amazon.com Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., and News Corp.ís Amplify are turning toward education. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg

We are more than a decade into a new century. The contours of what will distinguish this century from the last one have already taken shape. There will be new ways of doing business, of marketing, of learning, and of recreation. This article (which will continuously be updated) explores those new developments and explores the opportunities and perils that are already in front of us.

Making the Most of the 21st Century:
Getting Connected Keeping Ahead of the Game.

The 21st century is different from the 20th century, yet many people are still trying to use 20th century methods for business and learning. People as diverse as Chris Anderson, Seth Godin, Susan Blackmore, Diana Laufenberg, Michael Highland, and Richard Baraniuk appear in this article to discuss the new methods of innovation, spreading ideas, targeting niche markets, learning from mistakes, creating and distributing textbooks, and entertaining ourselves.

The discuss Long-tail marketing, crowd accelerated innovation, memes and temes, open-source learning, knowledge eco-systems, and the virtual reality games are changing us.

And we’re just getting started! I will continue to develop and add to this article. Upon completing this version of the article you will have a good feel for where we have been and where we are going in significant areas that affect your life. This article will help you to prepare for, and take advantage of, a future that is already here.

Crowd Accelerated Innovation:
Chris Anderson Explains How YouTube is Driving Innovation.

Anderson shows how the internet is now creating a global ecosystem for innovation. It provides a world-wide crowd that includes innovators (performers), clear and open visibility (multiple platforms), and desire or passion (personal gratification, social status or financial benefit from innovation). Many skills and innovations are now being web-taught because of the increased exposure provided by the Internet. It is easier for ideas to spread and for human beings to learn from each other. We are a social species; we inspire each other. The open-source movement (in learning) is part of all of this.

Living in a World of Memes:
How ideas spread in the 21st century.

430x242_cameroon_healthSusan Blackmore discusses memes and temes. We are living in an era of rapid cultural evolution. Memetics is based on the evolutionary argument: (a) If you have variation of phenomena; and (b) If most phenomena die off and only a few are “selected”; (c) and if the survivors of this process are able to pass on those qualities that enabled them to survive, then you must get design and order out of chaos.

Information is copied (replicated) from person to person by imitation. This is what the science of memetics is based on. Memes are those things that are imitated (copied or passed on) from person to person.

Why do memes spread? It’s hard to say. Not all memes are good or true.

The Fringe Dominates the Market in the 21st Century:
On targeting the “long-tail”

Seth Godin on the benefits of long-tail marketing in the digital age. It is not enough to invent or to innovate; it is equally important to figure out a way to get your ideas to spread.

The old method of getting ideas to spread was to interrupt people and try to get their attention. Today, with multiple media platforms (major network television, radio over the public airwaves, private subscriber radio, newspapers, cable television, the internet — tweeting, Facebook, google+, blogs, YouTube, etc.) people have become quite proficient at filtering information out. It is much harder to get their attention if you are targeting the center — the mass market.

Today ideas spread, not by interrupting people but by target the people on the fringes — the people whose needs are not being met and who care about what you have to say (so long as you are talking about their non-mainstream passions and interests). You focus on the people who are listening and you hope that they will tell their friends, who also have highly specialized needs or interests. The riskiest thing you can do now is to try to play it safe. “Average products for average people” no longer works. You have to focus on the fringe.

The very thing that killed the mass market, by flooding people with information — forcing people to filter most of it out — also provides the alternative: the infinite space provided by digital platforms, coupled with non-expiration dates because you can update and retailers are no longer antsy that you are taking up valuable shelf-space while you slowly find and cultivate your audience, means that it is now more profitable to target niche markets as opposed to the mainstream.

Sean Gutfield

Sean is a coauthor of Intents And Purposes and has written for several journals over the years. Sean received his bachelor's in 2014 from Southern Methodist University.

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