Originally published on Ideas Project, 2010.
It is now over a century that we have thrived as consumers (read ‘the royalty’) driving market creation and direction; at the center of the industrial and information revolutions, happily swamped with the multitude of product, service and communication options of the era.
We have created demand and have determined the fate of industries, produce, products, services, countries, societies – and now – the planet.
So, is all this at the cusp of ‘change’? And, if so, then what form is the change going to take?
We are now entering the age of ‘contribution’ – of giving back, of participating, of producing and of sustaining as opposed to merely consuming.
Our basic resources – water, food and energy – are diminishing. In some cases our exploits and luxuries are under serious threat of disappearing. Whilst world leaders endeavor to unearth sustainable innovative solutions at a macro level – a new paradigm is bringing change at the micro level – a set of communities, networks and interest groups united by common goals of ’causes’ is emerging – catalyzing the ‘change’.
Its time for us to understand and embrace our new role as ‘producers’, …’contributors’, … ‘sustainers ‘!
The internet industry is not only a great example of this phenomenon of such ‘change’ but has also ended up being a catalyst to our efforts in creating a mutual ecosystem. The industry opened its doors to all ‘consumers’ of information, design and technology … and enabled them to ‘contribute’ & ‘collaborate’.
The emerging rock-stars of the industry (blogging, social networks, mobility et al) were judged to be ‘promising’ because of their ability to enable our natural enthusiasm to participate, share, and contribute. From microfinance (Kiva) to advertisements (Zooppa) to hand-made products (Etsy) to knowledge (Wikipedia); the internet also evolved to provide us with a number of effective platforms to transition to; to change from being consumers (of information, content, et al) to being producers.
This model of creating communities, of contributing, of participating is now clearly extending to other aspects of our life.
We will soon find ourselves growing our own food! Most food items that we are now accustomed to; travel from half way around the world. In future the logistical and environmental challenges associated will force us to look at local organic sources and eventually contribute to small scale and urban agriculture. I believe, that it is entirely possible that during the course of this decade, you may soon find yourself ‘supplying’ to your local farmers market and communities.
Analyst reports indicate a serious water crisis already in place. Many largely populated regions including California, Brazil, India are struggling with lack of resources for providing clean water to consumers. Our favorite industries are getting affected with limited water supply and are scrambling to implement water purification & conservation technologies as quickly as possible.
I believe that home-based water recycling and purification systems will become part of our lives in this decade. Recycle your own water, conserve and share it? You may soon become part of a water-’producing’ network for your community rather than a dreaded consumer!
Similarly, the ability to leverage renewable energy sources such as solar and wind is re-defining the utilities, appliances and transportation industries. Home based solar panels and wind turbines are making it easier for us to produce our own energy and conserve it. New technology in grid management will enable sharing of surplus energy with the larger network by those who generated it – and in the process, you, Mr/Ms Producer, will be eligible for ‘credits’, tax free credits, encashable credits and good human brownie points.
I believe that you may be soon find yourself tweeting and “facebooking” about surplus energy and produce available for purchase on that day!
I believe that technologies such as social networks, smart phones and mobile applications will be play a key role in bringing these changes in effect and enabling mass adaptation. I believe that Design (responsible, sustainable design) will be the inspiration for such change and influence emotional and social behavior.
I believe that consumers will soon become producers and make a positive impact to the world and society.