Last week I had two very interesting, thought provoking conversations that when put together have caused significant loss of sleep due to excitement and fear.
The first conversation was with a leading IT CEO James Quigley of the Reston based company Canvas which he co-founded. The second was with Renaud Dumesnil who reports for the Franco-German version of PBS called ARTE-TV.
Quigley and I discussed at some length the coming innovative changes to our economy. In sum, I can only draw from the lyrics of the early 70s band Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” By itself, this conversation was unsettling at how broad and deep the economic changes we will be absorbing as a society over the next generation. These changes are very exciting and frankly unavoidable – unmanned vehicles, artificial intelligence, and stunning advances in medicine. Just to name a few.
Example – 18 wheel trucks might not need drivers in the future because of the technology being created today. WOW – exciting on one hand and UH OH that’s almost 4,000,000 drivers not driving anymore for a living. 4 million.
While I “got” what Quigley saw coming and how it would impact living patterns and behaviors, I also saw, having majored in European History, conflict.
In fact, I saw conflict commensurate with the change.
Recall the Gutenberg Printing Press and the resulting societal changes.
Later in the week, Renaud Dumesnil contacted me wanting to interview me on Governor McAuliffe’s executive order restoring most civil rights for felons. During the interview he said, “you seem pretty middle of the road” to which I replied, “I’m just trying to educate your viewers on both sides of the issue.” That probably means my interview will not make the final cut due to a lack of agitated opinion being expressed, but one never knows.
After the interview, I asked why was a Franco-German TV station interested in Virginia’s policy on felon rights? Dumesnil replied that his viewers and Europeans generally, “love American political dysfunction.”
Well, that’s not good.
While those of us in the political and business communities lament the deterioration of our political discourse, it has profound impacts not only here at home but also across the globe.
If the leading economic and military power in the world is so politically dysfunctional that our “allies” openly feed that narrative with news stories about one state’s recent controversy, how will they behave towards our more active and hostile adversaries or enemies?
Granted Virginia is a swing state in this upcoming presidential election, so I asked Dumesnil why did they love American political dysfunction? The chilling answer followed, “I guess because we used to be the #1 power in the world and like that you might be getting knocked down.”
Ok, let’s forecast that out.
Massive political dysfunction, which is obvious to anyone watching the presidential election cycle, combined with enormous economic disruption equals one scary, unknown, and potentially dangerous world.
Under current political conditions, the economic change itself will create potentially devastating societal transitions.
However, given the trend line of our political discourse in our self governance, we are almost guaranteed societal and cultural upheaval on a scale that could match some of history’s darkest times.
We could of course “learn from history” as George Santayana suggested.
What would that look like in simple terms politically?
It really is that Dirt Simple – you need to show up.
Democracy is a participatory endeavor. One must show up all the time and to all events that are directly political in nature. Democracy cannot be outsourced.
Business leaders have to consistently show up politically and offer their Time, Talent, and yes, Treasure if we are going to be able to successfully manage our fast moving Innovation Economy into the future.