Rise of the Beta-tect
"My life is a prototype, I am a prototype, my room is a prototype, everything in the world is a prototype." -Jay Cousins, Beta-vangelist
We are living in a beta world.
The second letter of the Greek alphabet is all around us. In finance, beta refers to a value of volatility. In technology, development beta testing is the phase that involves potential users providing feedback. In natural selection, the beta male takes a back seat to the leader of the pack.
But in culture, beta has come to represent a new level of interaction based on transparency and open innovation. Beta culture is the culture of the now. And it is changing everything.
Economic instability, political upheaval and environmental corruption, combined with an unprecedented access to information, technology and resources, have created a new class of citizen; architects of a new reality. We call them the beta-tects.
To beta-tects, there is no final product that is beyond recalibration and no system closed off to further evolution. They see their culture, their world, and even their own lives as an ongoing project; an organism that is ever evolving. Never-ceasing change is not just an option, it's the new ideal.
Everything is a Prototype
"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world." -Archimedes, Beta Philosopher
Beta-tects are adept at both changing the world around them and creating new parts of it from scratch. The advent of maker technology like 3D printers, the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino has enabled multitudes of creative thinkers to translate their imaginations into reality.
All over the world, communities are springing up to embrace this new culture of change. Brooklyn's 3rd Ward, Berlin's Betahaus and the international Free Art and Technology (F.A.T.) Lab are just a few of the organizations challenging the status quo and reworking the world as they see fit.
Beta culture allows its disciples the ability to shape their world, not just physically but spiritually as well. Brooklyn's 3rd Ward offers a class called "Start a New Religion" in which "students will each write, design and craft a new spiritual path (as far out or traditional as desired)."
"How much can I consciously evolve the human body -- to do it more, do it better, do it faster, do it stronger?" -Shawn Sarver, Body Hacker
Beta-culture is not only changing our world. It is changing us as a species.
Much has been made of the Millennial generation's failure to acclimate to the world former generations have passed on to them. But rather than see this as some sort of generational failing, it is important to realize we are watching the unfurling of a new epoch of human evolution.
The rise of ADHD has been disruptive and controversial. Some regard ADHD as just a societal overreaction to regular child hood behavior, while others see it as a tragic epidemic sweeping through schools like a black plague attacking attention spans. The reality is that ADHD is an important evolutionary advantage.
The "hunter vs. farmer" mental model was developed by Thom Hartman, a social scientist whose son was diagnosed with ADHD. Hartman's theory attributed the rise of ADHD to the retention of primitive hunter characteristics that persisted even as humans moved into agricultural communities. Modern ADHD sufferers face a similar dilemma.
In beta-culture, the beta-tect is forced back into the hunter role. The ADHD epidemic has produced a generation that vibrates at the same high frequency as the Internet, ever adapting, able to see the myriad of moving parts that make up the whole.
Body-hacking is the art of adding new sensory equipment to the body, giving the self-improved seeker legitimate superhuman powers. A growingly popular modification is the insertion of small magnetized material into the fingertips allowing the enhanced individual to actually feel electromagnetic energy. It is being referred to as the sixth sense.
In a recent talk at the TEDx convention, professor of cybernetics Kevin Warwick spoke to those who "were quite bored with being a human" about Class II Implants. His predictions for the future of cybernetic implants range from inter-cranial communication devices to digital inputs that would allow us to directly plug into computers. He himself has implanted a neuro-surgical chip in his left arm that allows him to control a robotic appendage or virtually hold hands with his wife, who also has a chip.
The Liquid Brand
For brands and companies to immerse themselves in this new culture, they must let down their guards and invite beta-tects beneath the surface. They must become as capricious as their consumers. Their brand equity must become malleable and allowed to fluctuate with the culture. In short, rigid brands must become liquid -- penetrable, responsive and quick to move into new areas.
Brands must also reevaluate their success metrics, making sure that they are looking to exemplify the same values of their customers. Gone are the days when the bottom line was the only consideration a company needed to take into account. Sustainability, civic virtue and human evolution need to find their way onto the ledgers.
If you are able to find a way to open your product to the beta-tects, you will encounter no limit to the possibilities. Because when the beta-generation puts their ADHD-addled, bio-enhanced minds to something, forget the sky; the solar system's the limit.