The big picture: waving goodbye to Kondratieff, plausible futures etc…

Big Picture Thinking (BPT) is endlessly seductive, isn’t it?  What’s the old saying? “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

(see here for more on this).

Well, some mediocre minds can discuss ideas, especially the big sweepy-generalisation-y stuff.  Then again, some super-bright folks have a go too.

BPT comes in multiple forms. We have

  • three revolutions- agricultural, industrial and informational from the Tofflers of this world.
  • There’s Marx of course (Primitive Communism, Slavery, Feudalism, Capitalism, Socialism and Full Communism.  These last two under control of the Infallible Party, natch).
  • Then we have the Kondratieff Wave stuff about waves of technological innovation since the industrial revolution.

But there are many  critiques of the whole K-wave thing, and the problem of pattern “recognition”  (i.e. seeing them when they ain’t necessarily there;  We’re the easiest people to fool).

One BPT effort that I quite like is the Boyden ‘biohistory’ thing.  Boyden, who’s been at the Australian National University since 1960, explains here that you can divvy up the last few tens of thousands of years in five phases

fifthwave bodyen.PNG

What the Kondratieff Wave stuff (I almost typed ‘guff’!) and the Boyden stuff have in common is the hope/assumption/prediction/whatevs that we are going to come into a wondrous new age of “long waves of prosperity” (cleantech and ecological modernisation and the uber-fication of everything) and ‘biorenaissance.’

Maybe the BPTers actually believe it, or believing it pays the bills, or maybe they’re hoping it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, or maybe again they just can’t get out of bed in the morning without sucking on a Hopium pipe marked Paris Agreement.

We SHOULD be able to reach such a state.  As a species we have (had) the capacity, in theory at least….

But me, I have a different BP”T” thing going on. I have long been convinced that the second half of the twenty-first century is going to make the first half of the twentieth look like a golden age of peace, love and understanding.  I am great fun at parties.  I think: I never get invited. Go figure.

2 thoughts on “The big picture: waving goodbye to Kondratieff, plausible futures etc…

Add yours

  1. Your conclusion about the tone of the rest of the century seems, unfortunately, entirely consistent with what we know of humanity’s shadow and tendency to turn away, from Sam Power’s Problem from Hell, to Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine to Robert Fisk’s, well his everything, not to mention Russia and China … all of human history really. Unless we collectively somehow, do what? …

    1. Hi Jodie, the collectively somehow do something is gonna be the subject of the next post, more in general principles than specifics….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: