The Opinion Age #2 #cong20


Society 3.0 is The Opinion Age. In it, tribes are coalescing around ideas. Their thinking is binary and their judgements are increasingly powerful. They are making and breaking people, often free from any recourse to the law. This is happening with the full support of corporations, universities and mainstream media.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Individuality and freedom of expression are on the wane.
  2. Feelings are more important than facts.
  3. Discourse is giving way in the face of binary ‘good’ v ‘evil’ judgements.

About Alastair Herbert

I’m the founder of Linguabrand, an insights and strategy consultancy. Our deep-listening robot, Bob, measures brand differentiation and consumer psychology. This helps our clients position their brand to difference while connecting their comms to customers’ deeper needs. We’re based in the UK but work around the world.

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By Alastair Herbert

The 1.0 agrarian world was highly localised. Most people lived in villages. These were periodically upset from the outside by tribal conflicts or marauders. Essentially the biggest force was the weather. And most effort went into the work of surviving on meagre resources. Belief systems rested on the metaphysical, both religious and superstitious. And established religious institutions were the home of intellectual pursuit.

2.0 Industrialisation made nation states. The bicycle widened localities (improving the gene pool as a result), railways connected villages to towns and towns to fast growing cities. New countries came into existence. Italy in 1861. Germany in 1871. Even older countries, like Scotland and England, only really emerged in this period by cementing their myths. And they went to war on an industrial scale. Increasing wealth, based on Empires and trade, saw an expansion in the middle classes, urban infrastructure and public health. Intellectual pursuit broadened, shifting towards science, as the educated took to explaining the world around them. The industrial age created the political and social philosophies we take as given (in the West, at least). Self-determination. The rule of law. Respect for individual rights. Freedom of speech.

Society 3.0 is global. It’s built on huge investment in digitisation, which is about dematerialisation. You can’t touch a digital transaction, music track or image, for example. Warfare and crime have moved into the digital space. China has recently cyber-attacked Australia. Russian espionage has been attempting to steal Covid vaccination details and to influence elections in other countries.

The driving force in Society 3.0 is opinions. Now people have a public presence previously impossible for all but an elite of entertainers and leaders. We can access and share opinions with remarkable speed. In 1815 it took three days for Wellington’s victory at Waterloo to reach London. Now, over 3000 miles from London, it took less than three seconds to hear that Kanye West was thinking of running for US President. Intellectual pursuit is now subject to mass opinions, with facts (such as biological gender) retreating in the face of feelings.

We’re seeing increasing tribalisation with people coalescing around issues. These issues are presented in binary terms. What’s important is to be seen to be on the ‘right’ side. Corporations and mainstream media are backing this binary approach, anxious to be seen as ‘good’. People are ‘de-platformed’ (censored) and morally-censured, even sacked, for holding ‘wrong opinions’, often with no legal recourse. Opinions are also becoming dematerialised. Industrial age movements, from the suffragettes to gay rights to racial equality, had clear leaders. But digitally-driven movements, such as Extinction Rebellion, Trans Rights and Black Lives Matter are largely faceless.

It’s often said that this world feels more vulnerable. Compared against the mass industrial slaughter of the 20th century this may be an over-statement. But what is vulnerable are the broad principles that emerged from the industrial age. The individuality and freedom that came out of the industrial age is on the wane. In a society driven by emotional judgements of the tribe, self-censorship is essential to social survival. And there’s no opt out. Why? Because ‘silence is violence’.

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