Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SXSW in the 15th Century.

I'm about 99.44% sure I'll never get invited to South by South West. But if I am employed by the time it rolls around next year, I might go to my boss and propose the following as a talk.

I will call it "The Century of Change."

And it will be about, not the late 20th Century and early 21st Century, but instead about a century that doesn't very often blip across our radar screens, the 15th Century.

The 15th Century?

Here's just some of the shit that, as the kids say, went down.

Movable type was invented. You think the PC is a big deal? You think Big Data deserves lineage? Consider Gutenberg. All at once the stranglehold of ecclesiastical learning was broken. Ordinary people had access to extraordinary learning. Literacy rates soared. Ideas spread. The world was suddenly a different place.

Ships were made ocean-going. New technology meant that the average size of a merchant ship tripled or quadrupled. This is the 21st Century equivalent of jet transport or broad band.

Vasco da Gama visited India and the Spice Islands. If much of the promise of our free-flowing digital world is the unprecedented speed of commerce and trade, consider Portuguese navigational prowess. Now instead of having to caravan spices and silks through Muslim lands, da Gama found a quicker, safer, more controlled way to feed Western Europe's hunger for cloves, pepper and cinnamon.

The Muslims waxed and waned. They won in 1453 in Constantinople and lost in Spain in 1492. However, the powerful tide against the Byzantines was finally reversed, and Islam in the West went in to remission until recent times.

Columbus in America. There is no current discovery on par with Columbus' arrival in the new world. Bit Coin, Pay Pal, Russian credit card thieves had nothing on the trillions and trillions of dollars of gold and silver that Columbus and his spawn brought back to Spain and Portugal. These riches pumped enormous amounts into the European money supply making the things Marshall Plan and America's recent economic stimulus look about as big as returning a deposit bottle.

These are just a few of the things that occurred in the 15th Century, top of my head, really. I hardly touched on that century's Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace against the Turks, et al. I didn't touch on Asia, Russia or even the empires in America that were destroyed as they were discovered.

Instead I picked a few things that I think parallel our own era. The opening of new worlds. The ubiquity of new media. The spread of new technology and its influence. The rise of a new currency.

My counsel is as my counsel almost always is.

Stop breathing through your mouth and fulminating about the crazy pace of the world. It's exactly what people were barking about six centuries ago.

Instead get to the fundamentals of good communication. As Dave Trott enunciates, Impact, Communication, Persuasion.

Try to stay calm amid all the changes. Keep them in perspective. Instead of acting as if the earth is spinning off its axis, take a nice deep cleansing breath and say "I've seen this movie before."

It couldn't hurt and it may help.

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