The transformation of society from the 20th to the 21st century can be really symbolised by one thing: the internet. It began a revolutionary change in the way humans live and interact, but perhaps the one word that crystalizes the effect of the internet is 'decentralisation'.
The 20th century was characterised by consolidation of power, executed in a centrally controlled - top down - way. Finance, industry, media and politics were controlled by large centrally planned organisations such as the Federal Reserve Bank, Murdoch’s News Corporation, General Electric (to name but a few). Whilst centralisation had some benefits in the 20th Century, individual human aspirations and innovations were constrained by this model.
Individuals have now become much more empowered, triggering a new wave of technological innovation that is disrupting almost everything. With the decentralisation of information, our relationship with brands and products changed, we became informed and demanded quality and ethics. Then our relationship with ‘Power’ changed, with social media empowering people around the world to overthrow corrupt governments. Peer to peer lending and crowd funding are now empowering people globally to innovate, providing access to finance that was previously controlled by third parties like banks.
Now the decentralised platform behind Bitcoin is beginning to change how we think about money. In turn, this is leading to other decentralised peer to peer platforms that are fuelling yet more digital innovation, much like the early stages of the internet itself. These new platforms will enable people to interact, trade, collaborate, and create whole new economies that are fairer, safer, more private and more inclusive than anything we have now.
As designers, developers and innovators, we must prepare for and embrace the potential of this opportunity. The internet is being reinvented, and it could be the platform for a better world.