Cultural Change
The next one 

Josep Burcet © 2002

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Catalan version



The coming change

Between 2010 and 2025 the conditions for a big cultural change will be met. This will happen as a result of the current communication revolution. The magnitude of cultural change is proportional to the amount of communication increase (se the quantum leap communication hypothesis) . So, a big increment in communication flows will produce big cultural changes . 

But as far as the communication revolution is unfolding very quickly, cultural impacts will happen very quickly too. In consequence, after 2010 we may expect that humankind will need to absorb a huge amount of novelty in a very short period of time. Meanwhile, the vast majority of  people may not be able to handle it. 

The ability to cope with a very large novelty intake depends on some individual characteristics, but mainly i) on the culture people use and ii) the social framework where people live in.

Cultural and economic environment may facilitate changes or, conversely, may hamper them. So we may distinguish cultures depending on their ability to facilitate change and novelty intake. On the basis of cultural changes occurred during the last 25 years, let's consider four different types of culture.

People living within these cultural regions remain using their traditional way of life. They live the same way their ancestors did 1000 years ago. 
Those cultures allow some changes but they happen very slowly. Usually, they correspond to pre-industrial societies.
Change has taken place even if some important cultural elements still evolve slowly. Generally speaking, societies in transition to industrialization have this type of cultures.
This kind of cultures have allowed notable changes during the last 25 years. They correspond to confirmed industrial societies and, mainly, the post-industrial ones.

It is important to underlay that different speed in the novelty intake produces growing distances between cultural regions. And distances generate tensions. From now on, those tensions are going to grow. 


Cultures from more dynamic societies (type 4) will substantially increase their ability to handle novelty even if novelty will raise quicker than the capacity to cope with. This may produce  i) a digital divide and ii) several forms of congestion among their populations.

Cultures belonging to regions in development (type 3), will also evolve but at a lower rate. Some privileged individuals will cope with the novelty overload, but the whole social system will not. As a  consequence, the gap between the rise of novelty and the ability of their populations to cope with it, will grow.

In the case of less dynamic cultures (type 2 and type 1) the prospect is worse. Here again, some individuals could face the rise of novelty but social systems will remain very far away from what it would be required. 

Novelty evolution
Culture 4 ability to allow novelty intake
Culture 3 ability to allow novelty intake
Culture 2 ability to allow novelty intake
Culture 1 ability to allow novelty intake
The ability to handle novelty progresses slower than the rise of novelty, regardless the type of culture.

Difficulties for facilitating change are related to the relationship that everyone maintains with its own culture (see ' The unbending process ').


The first conclusion lies on the danger of very serious tensions between different cultural areas. Until now, we have managed intercultural tensions with more or less success. Nevertheless, current tensions could only be a small scale prelude of what we are going to face in the near future. 

In the years to come, the magnitude of intercultural clash may result from:  i) unsustainable migratory pressures upon the more advanced regions, ii) quick proliferation of bitter forms of international activism and terrorism and perhaps iii) some forms of civilization confrontations. 

The second conclusion is related to the tensions within every cultural region. 

In the most advanced regions it will appear what we could call  ' the different speed citizens phenomena '.  This will be enhanced by:

  • several forms of digital divide, ( see The digital fracture )
  • the fast increase of recent arrived immigrants,
  • the quick growth of several forms of past-oriented social segments, which will be virulent and might result from novelty overload, particularly among certain types of people. 

In the case of domestic tensions in the other cultural regions (type 1, 2 and 3) they will be of the same kind of those occurred in the more advanced regions, except  those linked to immigration. The cultural shock  in the fastest type 3 developing regions will be severe. In the more slow ones, the gap with the more advanced cultures will be extremely harmful.

The combined effect of international and domestic tensions and their astonishing magnitude draws a nightmare scenario, specially by the end of the current decade and afterwards.  

All those problems appear to be related to the inability of current cultures in order to manage i) the rise of novelty and ii) the coming intercultural struggles. Populations need more effective patterns of behavior, renewed cognitive structures and better motivations in order to increase their ability to face the years to come.

The main conclusion is that we need  to make our cultures to evolve. It must be done quickly, towards any direction  able enough to enhance our ability to stimulate change and, at the same time, to assimilate it.


In this scenario, between 2002 and 2004 a debate on cultural change starts all over the World. Many persons and organizations become involved.

Between 2005 and 2010, the failure of current cultures to manage the new emergent problems becomes obvious and the time for action will have come. 

From the 2010 perspective it will become evident that the pacific cohabitation of different World populations will not be reached by the means of candid pacifistic attitudes, dualistic explanations (the good and the evil) or mere altruistic initiatives.  All these may help to deal with some superficial problems but has no helpful effect on the deepest culture layers, from where the precursors of the conflicts come. On the other hand, violence will not be considered as the indefinite solution aiming at solving problems, satisfying needs, controlling conflicts and facilitating cohabitation. 

As a result, a kind of general emergency state takes place and several large projects of culture transformation  start  everywhere.

Pages for the XXI Century:
Other Burcet's paradigms

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