Andreas Herteux
Andreas Herteux

The world in the 21st century: How we will live

An analysis by Andreas Herteux, head of the Erich von Werner Society.

First published in AM: Analysis Magazin

Let’s talk, even in difficult times, when people often only drive by sight, and completely without circumlocution as well as halting introduction, about the future and how our everyday life could be shaped in just a few years or decades. In doing so, we want to devote ourselves to a specific aspect and therefore focus on technological, social and above all economic developments and their significance for the individual. What will therefore confront or dominate us? Which decisions have to be made? What will be real in the future and what will not?

Spontaneously, some may now, the press occasionally mentions it at one point or another, think of the emergence of a metaverse, as it was recently outlined by Meta-CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Although we actually want to look at the time after this, it should be briefly explained. The metaverse, a fusion between appearance and being, is supposed to expand one’s reality and thus create a new larger reality for the individual, which will ultimately consist of many levels as soon as there are appropriate standards. In the end, only being remains. Or just appearance. It depends on how you look at it. Complex? Just imagine your TV remote control, only then you don’t switch back and forth between different channels, but choose from self-constructed worlds or experiences that all belong to your reality.¬† You then dive deeper into these and can also shape them. At some point they can also choose what their main reality should be, because even, to use the example again, the place in front of the imaginary television will ultimately be just a button on the remote control.

And yes, there is a long way to go until then. At first it will all be terribly staid and linear, but later it will also be possible to revise consequences. You don’t like a decision? Then just switch to the other program, rewind your reality and everything remains real. But that would be the metaverse for advanced people. Let’s talk about it in about 10 – 15 years. Just like, you would no longer be a passive consumer in this thought building, but would be involved everywhere with full mental and physical commitment. A fusion whose consequences cannot even be fully considered today. Behavioral capitalism has opened the door, the stimulus society has prepared the way; now it is time to enter.

However, this article does not want to talk about this metaverse, but about what will become of it, because it is ultimately only a phase in the age of collective individualism of the 21st century. What is much more interesting is the further development and what might come afterwards and at the very end. No, what will come.

What exactly? Let’s be bold and claim that the answer would be quite simple: At the very end, a reality is waiting that no longer needs causality and in which the satisfaction of needs can be immediate and independent of a cause. Sound very abstract or even crazy? Perhaps as strange as the behavior of entire milieus whose pleasure in freedom consists in watching one short video after the next for hours on end and then not even knowing which one was played just a few minutes earlier? The seed has therefore long since been sown, as our own research shows. With the help of the Erich von Werner Society, a study was recently carried out, the results of which have not yet been published. According to this, all of the respondents, who are incidentally active in the care sector throughout, use their smartphone for at least 2 – 3 hours a day. 50% even use it for 4 – 5 hours. The absolute favorites are formats with short and fast stimuli such as, to name just two examples, YouTube or TikTok videos.

However, the most important prerequisite for this causally liberated end point would be that artificial stimuli, which until now have acted on people from the outside and are supposed to cause them to react, would in future act from within. Of course, at this point we are talking about gradual development.¬† This is not a technological impossibility, because it is only a matter of time before appropriate, behavioral capitalist-driven, stimuli can intervene directly in the human physique and psyche. To clarify again, and just so I’m not misunderstood. It is a matter of replacing or supplementing external stimuli, such as the impulse to buy through advertising, which must first be perceived and processed, with internal ones that act directly on individual organs or nerves and thus on well-being.

Maybe implanted in the body, maybe stimulated by devices, maybe introduced by pills or cannulas. The word “maybe” is often used here because we do not yet know the standards of the future. But think here, for example, of deep brain stimulation, directly influencing the central control element of the body, which at a certain point could be used not only to treat disease but also to satisfy individual needs. But that would be only one example. The path will therefore lead from the mere therapy of a deficiency to the optimization of the individual. Piece by piece. A logical development, isn’t it?

It may be that some of this will still take years, but who would have foreseen in the year 2000 the dominance of behavioral capitalism, or just the smartphone, ultimately one of the central gateways for behavioral capitalist stimuli to penetrate deep into the private and innermost? Homo stimulus, that new form of human being that has been conditioned to rapid high-frequency as well as artificial stimuli and often even willingly integrates them into his life, already exists. It is already the dominant form of human existence.

Right now, the big behavioral capitalists like Meta, Google, Tencent & Co. , who don’t have to be the big players of the future, have to siphon off the most important resource of the 21st century, human behavior, transform it, offer products of all kinds and thus embed the individual step by step. A process that has been automated, but could also be optimized. Nevertheless, so far the greatest opportunity for influence in the history of the world say some. Finally a way to work out, expose and satisfy hidden needs, the others. Yet it remains an external process outside the human body. Would it be so inconceivable that a next step might be to shorten the “transport routes” of stimuli, thus “optimizing” the supply and, with it, the satisfaction of needs?¬† Wouldn’t that be cold free-market logic, regardless of whether we are talking about Western or Eastern-style behavioral capitalism?

The homo stimulus will therefore evolve and external stimuli will be joined by internal ones. So if you are wondering where these great behavioral capitalists of the end goal will see their markets at some point in the future; at the very points described. I wonder if you know that already? Probably not, but once the path is set, then the realization is inevitable. It is a structural development, not one that requires the spark of the individual.

But is this the perfection of collective individualism? No, it is not. It takes shape in a somewhat different way, but I would like to elaborate a little on this. As a very young person, I liked metaphysical speculations, and with a childlike mind, I put some theses together myself, wrote them down, and about 15 years later, after they had been in deep sleep in the famous drawer, they were published by a publisher in book form. In the meantime, that was also years ago, the book is out of print, which is why a self-promotion now would not be worthwhile at all. A small speculation in it was a multilevel model of man. My hobbies are not supposed to play a big role here, but there is one level of this model that is quite relevant to the topic. One of the four levels of perception, which at that time I called world- or indeterministic-ego, or more simply a form of manifold human being without any causality, describes this possible future quite well. At that time, and I admit this, I had difficulties to transform this youthful thought construct into vivid and handy examples, because at the beginning of the 2000s this was simply too abstract. That has changed.

In the meantime, there is a part of it in which striving and satisfying is done, without in any way caring about what was even a moment before or what can be imagined and represented afterwards. Recall but a few lines back in which the example of the instantly forgotten videos was given. What clip there was before doesn’t matter. Neither does the one after. Only what that exact one does at that moment. Need? Impulse? Need? So see the signs. Immediately satisfied in the future not by an external stimulus but by an internal one.

Whether one needs the momentary reality, in which one is a part of an order, a piece of the whole, once called protagonist ego or also “classic” by me, then as a middle thing at all? Does one no longer need to eat? Can everyone lead a life of constant satisfaction at all, or would not rather a mixed form be conceivable? Is this the only way to spend one’s leisure time? Do the distribution and milieu struggles have to be over for that? Who knows? Today’s perspective is just as unsuitable for such questions as it was for my considerations at the beginning of the 2000s, because the framework conditions and developments are not yet in place.

Undoubtedly, all this raises many questions, and the most important will be: What is reality and what is a good human life? For many people, especially in societies with a minimum level of prosperity, everything is already blurred. On the one hand a cog in society, on the other hand the star in the web around whom everything revolves. The king in his own world. A possible conflict that could become bigger and bigger? Modern identification dissonance, you call it; right. What exactly will this new world look like in the end? It remains uncertain. The only certainty is that it will be found beyond causality.

But let’s be reassured, because we’re not talking about years with this end point, which in truth will again only be the starting line of a new run in the history of mankind, but about a development that will probably last the entire 21st century and beyond. And, let’s face it, if you’re already reading this post, you wanted to know about the vision of a possible future, right?

 

 

About the Author
Andreas Herteux studied business administration and law. After successfully completing his studies, he worked for Allianz SE. In parallel, he has published books and scientific publications since 2013. Parts of his books have been translated into several languages. In 2018, he founded the Erich von Werner Society. Since 2019, he has focused on the publication and dissemination of research results as well as proposed solutions for global challenges.
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