Socialstructing the Future

Marina Gorbis, executive director of the non-profit research organization Institute For The Future (IFTF) has just released a new book, The Nature of the Future, which hopes to delineate the massive changes going on in business and social systems in the 21st century. In particular, she focuses on the concept she calls “socialstructing”, which she defines, in an excerpt of the book available on Boingboing, as “moving away from the dominance of the depersonalized world of institutional production and creating a new economy around social connections and social rewards”. Here she is in an interview with David Pescovitz, a research director at IFTF and Boingboing cofounder, discussing the new book and the possibilities opened by socialstructing.

I haven’t read the book yet, but the patterns that Gorbis discusses both in this interview and the excerpt on Boingboing are easily recognized using her schema. She talks about how technological innovation—particularly from communications technology and computing—is enabling people to work not in top-down organizational structures but rather through interest and passion-driven communities. In particular, she focuses on “amplified individuals—individuals empowered with technologies and the collective intelligence of others in their social network—[who] can take on many functions that previously only large organizations could perform, often more efficiently, at lower cost or no cost at all, and with much greater ease.”

These amplified individuals, through easily deployed social networks and passion driven organizations, are changing the way that innovation occurs. Whether its an artist funding their next work through kickstarter or a group of hackers designing open-source biotechnology, socialstructed programs, businesses and movements are happening all the time, and in increasing number. Communities built around passionate shared interests are reshaping the way that art and technology are created.

What is of particular interest to Gorbis, it seems, is the way that these changes are producing a major transformation in society as a whole. The ITFT, which Gorbis heads, uses their research to help organizations prepare for institutional disruption and future shifts in their industries. Her book hopes to outline these shifts, gleamed through her work at the IFTF, and show the way that the future is in socialstructed change.