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The Power of Panic

Menno van Doorn
April 23, 2021

“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic”, Greta Thunberg

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Would you recognize a paradigm shift if it was just a passerby walking on the street? I once asked that question in a room full of executives. It was just after the economic crisis of 2008. It was obvious for me at that time that the paradigm had changed. That the economic crisis was a systemic crises, so much more than only a financial crisis. And I thought that this was now the common understanding: we all woke up one morning and looked at the world through different eyes. How wrong I was.  

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(This page is from our book “Don’t be Evil”)

We had just finished our project ‘Don’t be Evil’, a video and a book, and were ready to do a roadshow on the stuff we thought was all so obvious. One of my absolute convictions was that this was the end of neo-libaralism and the idea that free markets can solve all our problems. The whole economy had been under the spell of Thomas Friedman for decades, believing that shareholders value trumps any other kind of value, such as social value of the value of mother earth.

Nothing happened besides quick fixes of the financial system in order to get the economy back on its feet again as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, this was the picture if you would zoom out, GDP growth from -1.000 BC till the year 2000.

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The economy as we know it is a human built world. Nature, or what is left of it, is a resource. Growth is its purpose. Another cut from the book looks like this: at a moderate growth rate of the economy we are consuming two planets in a years time in 2037. 

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I panicked

I couldn’t handle the absurdity of the whole thing. Felt disconnected with world around me.

The whole idea that we might be facing one big clusterfuck wasn’t a great opening for a conversation.

I escaped. Took a sabbatical. Paused my brain. Plastered my house (bad idea) and returned. I consciously avoided any discussion on this topic after my come back. Almost ten years later we’ve opened the Box of Pandora again. Our new research project called “Utopia for beginners” caused it. Strangely enough it’s only now that it is almost finished that I’m revisiting the book and video that I had deleted from my brain. 

Am I warming up for another sabbatical? Not sure about that. 

There’s a lot more connection to the story now, than there was back then. I was naive to think there was a paradigm shift ten years ago. Maybe I’m naive to think that there’s a paradigm shift today. But that’s what I believe. Utopia for beginners is about the wish for a better society and the rise of ideologies. We experience radical ideas from the left and the right, the growth of populism, a great disconnect between old politics and new generations. 

The Power of Panic

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(A still from the video “Don’t Be Evil)

The whole world is listening to a 16 year old girl that wants us to panic. Greta Thunberg’s dystopian worldview is an inspiration for millions of people. My take on this is coming from our recent research on the post-millennial generation. Children like Greta are growing up in a world full of media manipulation and alternative facts: our ‘synthetic’ age. It’s making them crave for authenticity. Looking for reality in an ocean of absurdity and virtuality is bringing them back to mother earth. The reason why they are so engaged in the climate crisis is that it is something they can trust.

Their climate change is real, it’s happening in the non-virtual, the physical, and you can experience it with all your senses.

Trust in the old world and old institutes is in decline for almost two decades now. This generation will build its own future and will create their own institutes. Their sense of purpose will define the direction. And the planet is the mother of all purpose.

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The Power of Panic can lead a spiritual move towards green and sustainable.  I know, it’s Utopia – a non existing place – a dream. But the Power of Panic can bring people together, unite, like other wars we have been fighting. In my honest opinion, we should have panicked decades ago and take action. I panicked ten years ago and was too late, and felt disconnected. But now that we’re all panicking, we should take fully advantage of the Power of Fear. This video production “Don’t Be Evil” (that we’ve made in collaboration with Freedomlab) was done almost ten years ago. But it could have been made a week ago.

This is a page from our book. 

The beginning of understanding what the economy actually is 

About the author

Director and Trend Analyst VINT | Netherlands
Menno is Director of the Sogeti Research Institute for the Analysis of New Technology (VINT). He mixes personal life experiences with the findings of the 19 years of research done at the VINT Research Institute. Menno has co-authored many books on the impact of new technology on business and society.


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