In the spirit of reducing everything to a quick numerical tally for its easy recall value, a conversation the other day was trying to identify the most defining-characteristics of the world in this millennium. It brought to my mind a speech by an IIM professor to the students at the school i was teaching. It was a long-standing custom at that institute to invite famous people from all walks of life to address students and provide inspiring insights into life in general. That the school counted among the premier schools in the country with a list of illustrious alumni occupying top positions in various fields also helped in keeping the tradition going. Personally one enjoyed these opportunities to listen to some eminent personalities. At times the occasion caused quite a ripple of excitement …like the time the cricketer Anil Kumble came immediately after he had taken those record breaking ten wickets in a match against Pakistan, or when we were blessed by the presence of Dalai Lama himself in our midst, besides many many more. But to return from this digression to the discourse given by that very senior and erudite Professor…as she had been asked to speak to the outgoing batch of High School students, she chose to share with them her views on how the global landscape was evolving at the end of the last millennium. She enunciated for them ‘5 Cs’ which according to her would dominate life on the planet in the coming years, issues which would influence human civilisation and which would need to be tackled by future generations at various levels. 15 years into the next century, it is a bit disconcerting to recall how prophetic those words were. Here are those ‘5 Cs’ she had so prophetically talked of way back in 1999~
Change…the first ‘C’. She had pointed out that with rapid advances in science and technology our world will progress at break neck speed and so be in a constant state of flux. To adapt and manage this change would be a major requisite for a person to stay balanced and happy. ‘Adapt, adapt, adapt!’ has to be a constant mantra in the future.
Corruption…would not just become a way of life but a ‘philosophy of life’…a fact so borne out by the dime a dozen scams we are witness to every other day. She had also spoken of corruption not just in public life, but even on a more personal level. A gradual decline in personal ethics would affect relationships and the very moral fibre of our society. So many incidents around us bear testimony to this slide in ethics around us these days.
Computers…this one’s a no brainer as computers and their applications have permeated our lives at every level and in areas we are not even aware of. ‘Ignore the computer at your own peril,’ she had warned, ‘for not having the ability to understand and work on them will otherwise become your greatest handicap.’
Consumerism…India in the 1990s had just begun to see the effects of the economy opening up and she had astutely discerned that with the growing abundance all around ‘consumerism’ would become life’s driving force. People would forever be in search of new and novel products, experiences, and even adventures and those who can create such content would laugh their way to the banks. Just take a look at the stores, the supermarkets., the eateries and diners, the movie halls and multiplexes each vying to provide more and more choices for the consumer. And dozens of gadgets from smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles, tablets and even phablets have only served to exponentially increase our tendency for passive-consuming with virtual content being streamed to us 24 by 7.
Cosmopolitanism…with air-travel bringing distant lands closer the world will become more cosmopolitan in nature had been her prognosis. Already we are seeing a large chunk of ‘multi-local’ people– born in one country or place, growing up in another and probably working somewhere else. For such people the question about where they are from is largely redundant. For them truly ‘the world is indeed flat’.
As i reflect upon those 5 Cs…i wonder what other traits could so well encapsulate and define our world in this new century…