The Greater WE –
How WE all can build a more human
world and overcome
old capitalistic constraints
This is an expose for a book written in January 2023. It is now with a couple of publishing houses. Keep your fingers crossed.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking when we created them!Albert Einstein
Today we face the most severe challenges mankind ever created while at the same time we have the most advanced knowledge and understanding of the impact all our activities have on us and our planet. No economist, management board, politician, scientist, think tank – you name it – of the 20th century had this knowledge and understanding. So why would WE imagine that the theories from last century which so many of us are still practicing and praising would be up for taking on its challenges?
20th century theories have shown us that growth solemnly measured by numbers creates inequality and pollution and is plundering our resources. This growth WE measure and compare in GDP doesn’t redistribute and clean things up – as we are promised – it rather has led us in a dead end street and the time is limited to make a sharp 180-turn in order to safe our planet. We need to create more and more tools, concepts and theories that tackle this shortfall. The new concepts need to be regenerative and distributive by design and work with and within the cycles of the living world, so that resources are never used up but used again and again.
We need to include a much broader basis of the WE, the people, in this process as we go along. WE need to include and not exclude people in decision making processes and in the creation of our common way forward. There are many signs that WE have separated us from each other and US from nature and our environment. We’ve lost our sense of harmony and community and I’d go as far to say that we’ve lost our imagination. And the results of this separation and losses are disastrous, painful and dire: just look at the political radicalisation, the exploitation / destruction of the planet, the detachment of the financial markets from the economy, the way media lost its role as an investigative power, the number of refugees, the deep divisions in our communities, the increase on natural disasters – just to name a few.
This book provides insights how new tools, concepts and theories might look like and how they could be implemented. In its core they are based on the decentralised structure the Internet has given to us and the values and opportunities going along with it. I am NOT talking about tech when I say Internet. No, I am talking about its structure. It is about true democratic and change processes, grass roots movement and it’s about the power and capacities of enabling the new WE. It is based on collaboration and co-creation and it is circular – meaning whatever you take out of a WE it needs to be put back in one way or the other. The WE is always trying to achieve a complex balance between itself and the surrounding nature and the available resources. And it cherishes transparency, respect and reputation.
I envision a more cohesive WE – a WE in which people live in harmony with each other, bringing back to life community structures and our balance with nature. It is the end of the sick and dominant EGO creatures which media and capitalism has brought out of us. It’s a massive transformation process.
This transformation process and the new imagined WE requires joyful, generous, humble, calm, wise, pure and vital individuals to do so! People who are aware, meaning people who act consciously, people with imagination, who show dignity and wisdom.
This means that WE ourselves, society, companies, governments and our learning institutions have to work on strengthening the individual ME – not towards more selfish behaviour but towards an individual who is aware and acts responsible for itself AND the community/environment it is living in.
The book has three chapters:
- The first chapter are my experiences with the Internet and WE – my observations how WE, the people, separated more and more from each other and walked down this dead end road we are currently on. It’s a kind of timeline of the last 45 years of my life which presents selected events and thought processes of my perception of the WE / ME.
- In the second chapter I will lay out what WE might experience in the next 30-50 years if we don’t start turning the wheel NOW. What is next will focus on corporations, governments, society, nature/environment (= our planet) and on us, the people.
- In the third chapter I present my perception of The Greater WE – a world that is truly balancing out what WE have and what WE really need, a world of harmony between people and nature/environment, resilient and responsible governments and companies looking at the world as ONE fragile system – all carried out on the basis of the principles of the Internet.
- My Witness Statement
The first chapter is a timeline of my life. I will describe certain events/happenings which show both, our separation from each other and nature AND the manifestation of WE in myself and the world.
Our separation will be shown by indicators provided by the World Bank and other institutions. These indicators are selected with the sole purpose to show this trend of separation – I will explain the criteria in the beginning of chapter 1 and I lay out why I’ve chosen them, what their sources are and what they stand for. They will be stated as facts. There won’t be any further interpretation from my side. Furthermore I will provide indicators showing the growing knowledge WE the people are creating and our access to it.
For now I will give you two examples of how this is meant to be – it will be more detailed and connected in the book. Also the indicators might change a bit while I am writing the book.
World population: 5.1 billion
Remaining wilderness: 49 per cent
Carbon in atmosphere: 349.31 parts per million
Number of storms worldwide:
The richest 1 per cent of the people own 16 per cent of the global wealth share
The poorest 50 per cent the people own 9 per cent of the global wealth share
Number of people living in cities: 42 per cent
Number of people living in slums in the cities: no data
Number of of patent applications worldwide: 712.400
School enrollment, tertiary, worldwide: 13 per cent
People with access to the Internet worldwide: 0 per cent
I got my first email account in 1987 at The Well. This was seven years before the Internet would display pictures and 11 years before Google was founded. The road down to what today is Silicon Valley was widely open and trees lined the road. No traffic jams down to San Jose and living costs were still affordable for most of the American middle class. San Francisco was hipp without the hipsters who would flood the city later on.
I was living in Sausalito, California, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Well was home to a community of maybe 150 people with very diverse backgrounds: scientists, writers, artists, educators, musicians, human rights activists – hardly any business people were among the first adapters.
For the first time it was within reach that people could connect with each other at low/no costs and share their ideas and thoughts. The infrastructure was ready to use. New WE’s could be formed easily.
For us at The Well a ‘horizontal revolution’ was expected. We all shared great hope that these low cost networks would disrupt the way politicians were running our countries, we envisioned far more transparency within corporations, we expected middlemen to be cut out of the delivery lanes and we saw the rise of the many who would get a voice and interfere in decision making and creation processes. It looked like more plurality and democracy. We were looking forward to ‘platforms’ as opposed to old top-down bureaucratic structures.
We all were waiting for a better check for those in power and more participation for those who were at the receiving end. Our discussions circled around what these changes might look like in education, policy making, human rights, migration and so on and what laws would need to be changed. I spoke with many of The Well’s member to better understand this new network power. I learned how radical this transformation could well be and envisioned its positive impacts on our daily lives.
These very early Internet days were promising.
World population: 7 billion
Remaining wilderness: 39 per cent
Carbon in atmosphere: 391.85 parts per million
Number of storms worldwide:
The richest 1 per cent of the people own 45 per cent of the global wealth share
The poorest 50 per cent the people own 9 per cent of the global wealth share
Number of people living in cities: 52 per cent
Number of people living in slums in the cities: 22 per cent
Number of of patent applications worldwide: 1.365.300
School enrollment, tertiary, worldwide:: 31 per cent
People with access to the Internet worldwide: 31.2 per cent
Obama was two years in power and NATO was one of his top priorities. The upcoming NATO summit would take place in Chicago, his home town. This was considered a major event with far reaching outcome. NATO was in a desperate state, it had lost its identity with the fall of the Berlin Wall and was trying to figure out what is its reason to exist. NATO was in a crisis.
Stefanie Babst, then head of public diplomacy and highest ranking woman at NATO in Brussels, was in charge to prepare this summit. I’d met Stefanie at the DLD Conference in Munich, which brings together high-potentials from around the (mostly western) world. After the conference closes its doors, every year the caravan moves on to the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Stefanie and I found out that we were at the same time in Afghanistan in 2011 – even though in completely different missions. She in her official role as NATO spokesperson, I as an observer and mentor for NGOs on how to implement mobile learning in rural areas and I helped an UK entrepreneur with the One_Laptop_Per_Child program. So I had access to the rural areas where she wasn’t allowed to go and I had contacts which were simply out of her reach. Afghanistan was one of the four main topic of the summit.
Stefanie asked me, to explore online opportunities to bring together NATO officials / ambassadors / leadership with Internet activists around the globe. We called this platform WE_Nato and it was meant to be used for various activities in the up-run to the NATO Summit and during the summit itself. WE_Nato matched the idea of Obama’s ‘Yes, WE can!’ which was still very popular then.
By this time the Internet had established its place in the (business) world and we all knew that the PC was actually a stupid thing – instead of building more and more powerful computers we could have gone directly to networks. The technology was there yet the industry decided to take another route leaving us with all the electronic waste. It was also clear by now that the huge corporations and some governments had no interest in ‘democratic’ platforms and they were trying hard to push their business models into these new structures – they had no intention to give up control.
WE_NATO revolutionised the way NATO was communicating with the outside world. Not only agreed Stefanie Babst to use new formats such as livestreams, online sessions etc., she also agreed to reach out to NATO-critical Internet activists and we connected both worlds. New interactions and conversations started and heavily disrupted the traditional NATO way of communication.
But only for a short time before the the ‘old’, very strong NATO culture and structure set back in and completely overran the new set-up. We were naive.
2. What’s next?
In this chapter I will describe what I expect to happen in the next 30-50 years in
– Nature / Environment
– with US, the people and our human consciousness.
I do expect that in many areas the current state of our planet and souls will get worse while at the same time we will see more and more ‘island’ projects with the power to transform.
We will see a shift within the GDP ranking of the richest nations – and the newcomers (actually they are not so new any more) show no sign that they will move away from measuring wealth in sheer numbers. They will stick to their quarterly growth numbers and exploit nature and our resources while at the same time generating tremendous pollution. No longterm evaluation of the impact of all the commercial activities on our planet earth are considered in a way that they turn around the wheels of mass destruction. Companies will produce more and more food on the ever growing areas of farmland and remove more and more life-saving natural habitat – and they keep telling us: Stay away from regulations and restrictions, the markets will fix it! But they won’t. We are on a dead end street.
The links between money, power and politics will become more transparent and obvious. The political class will be completely detached from the people’s real needs and what people are voting for. The political class will become less and lesser a representation of what we, the people, want. This will create civil disobedience and unrests – we will see more extreme protests against the political class and their decisions.
The way political parties are set up and organised will face severe challenges and we will see – besides this radicalisation – new ideas and models popping up; these will be “island” solutions and will be downtrodden by the establishment.
Within this world of politics and economy the media plays an important role. We need to examine the role of media in the 21th century and capitalism and its politics to reduce the current sick focus on the ‘ME’ and US and THEM. Media has to play an investigative role which serves ALL of us.
The deep divide among the citizens we see in so many countries will continue to deepen. More smaller WE’s are being created because of separation – we are basically making ourselves less powerful by making us smaller. We separate us from each other and while migrating to the cities we separate us from nature.
Rich people will become even richer and the poor people will remain poor; the middle class will decrease. The gap between radicals and liberals will become wider and all of this will lead to civil unrests. The danger of “civil wars” will increase. We will see an increase in wealth health issues while at the same time medical welfare of the states will decrease. More and more people are looking for places at schools/universities while at the same time the numbers of teachers and the quality of education is decreasing. The richer nations on this planet will have to give up some of their conveniences in order to create space for the uprising nations. The “mix” of the world population will further change – the share of the white (christian) population who used to have the say will become smaller and smaller.
WE need to learn anew how to navigate in these scattered societies and find our common ground. The new WE can pull learnings form age-old community structures which worked well and existed long ago, communities where the word “me’ did not even exist in their vocabulary. Why did these communities NOT survive but were destroyed? What can the current renaissance of psychedelics contribute to help people experience loss of ego and experience the true non duality of nature?
Nature / Environment
Johan Rockström et al. described in their work “A safe operating space for humanity” nine areas in which they’ve visualised where we the people of the early 21st century stand. The red marked areas show the areas where we passed already the point of “no repair” and the green area marks our safe zone, the zone in which we all should act and operate in order to safe us and to keep the planet somehow in balance.
This graphic visualises the status quo.
We the People of the early 21st century.
This is our selfie.
WE are the first one to see and know this – and we are probably the last ones to change it. Sadly enough most of the predictions for the near future point rather towards the red zones than the safe green – this means we are heading towards the destruction of the planet. All of us are in the same boat! There is no escape, for no one.
Human Mind – Consciousness
Just like corporations each and every single human being needs to ask themselves what do I, personally, need, to live a decent life and on what can I give up? Am I ready to give up? How can I move from being aware to actually take action and contribute with my own behaviour towards a cleaner economy, city, planet and more balanced and happier society.
Human Consciousness starts with yourself.
You can start now.
Work on yourself!
Make the ME in you stronger so that it better will serve the WE.
Yoga, meditation, awareness courses, Ayuveda breaks have certainly increased over the last years – so people are using the tools and practice on their ME. Yet, too fast these people fall back in their old pace when they go back to their normal environment and work. We have a long way to go.
Burnout Syndroms followed by fatal heart attacks because of stress and dissatisfaction are still increasing numbers. It’s a steep increase. People are not ready to stop and to listen to their bodies and minds. They keep on running and become less and less focus and perform worse and worse – in business and in their private lives.
WE need to learn that WE can do both: WE can slow down AND be more productive!
3. My Vision for the Greater WE
We need to build systems, corporations, institutions, governments and ways of thinking that are resilient to this kind of destructive change that is going on. It’s a kind of change that is really hard to predict and even harder to control. So how do WE not only survive in this chaotic, unpredictable system where planning is almost impossible but thrive? In this chapter I will lay out how WE can do this, how WE can achieve a balance on multiple levels and create decent living conditions for a world of 8 billion people in a functional environment and nature.
I am confident that this is possible, WE just need to do it. And WE need to start now. Over the years I’ve been working with Joi Ito’s nine principles and adapted them to my needs. These principles strongly support distributed systems and neglect centralisation. They support cooperation, collaboration and co-creation and leave behind top-down decision making processes. They are based on transparency and empathy rather than cover-up and ignorance. They stand for organic growth within given boundaries and not maximising profits and share holder values.
Within this framework it is possible to turn the wheel and restore a future our children can happily live in.
systems over objects
WE need a holistic approach which includes and balances planet, people and profit. We require a constant focus on the overall impact of new structures, technologies, products, processes and an understanding of the connections between people, their communities and their environments. We need to consider ecological, social, and network effects. The focus on a single object without considering its implications in its environment is no longer acceptable. WE are embedded in something bigger and WE finally need to act within this overarching system.
resilience over strength
Strength is mostly equivalent with making NO mistakes. We cherish to make no mistakes. Resilience means you want to yield and allow failure. You bounce back instead of trying to resist failure. This provides you a space in which you can operate. If you resist you close down. There is no space. If you are resilient you OWN this space between stimulus and response – and it is up to you to fill it with meaning! It is YOUR choice what you do in this space. If you choose resilience, life will show up as it is and you can create with it (according to Ronan Harrington) – this understanding of resilience gives leadership and decision making a truly spiritual meaning and moves away from traditional business doctrines.
practice over theory
It turns out when you do things you get facts, when you plan things you get a theory. When you practice you learn as you go and you can include what you learn in your way forward. You rather move in small steps and you will be able to make these steps wisely because you include your learnings as you go. The costs of failure – let it be money, environmental damage you name it – will be reduced.
emergence over authorities
We want systems in which authority emerges and not where authority is set by title or income. These systems are based on reputation and respect not nomination. The ‘leaders’ who emerge are often people with a high EQ, they are respected team members and very often don’t grasp power. They are connected within the system. It is the opposite of top-down management.
disobedience over compliance
You don’t win a Nobel Prize by doing what you’ve been told. You win a Nobel Prize by questioning the authority and thinking by yourself. We want questions to be asked, we don’t want to repeat doing the same things over and over again. WE need stronger ME’s who are not afraid to not comply and who are confident enough to ask and question.
compasses over maps
With a compass you can easily get your direction. You know wehre you want to go. A compass doesn’t necessarily lay out the way you reach there. If you have a goal, if you know what you want to achieve, use a compass and map it out as you go – you can much easier adjust and react in this complex and unpredictable world. And you can safe costs and resources.
pull over push
You pull from your network, from your WE, as you need it rather than stocking and centrally controlling it. Pull is in many cases more cost effective and you become more agile. You also receive ideas and thoughts which aren’t yours. Assets such as machinery, IP, fixed partners, they actually turn out to be liabilities. They make you slow and resistent to change.
learning over education
Education is what people do to you. Schools, universities, institutions give you a certificate and you are done! No! WE need more. Learning is what you do to yourself. It is a ME-thing and just like you yourself, learning is an ongoing process. In an ever-changing world learning is your possibility to survive well. Learning is the best if you are able to admit that you don’t know everything and when you are open for new experiences without any filter.
we over me
If we apply all these principles then automatically the greater more balanced WE will emerge. A WE that puts commercial interests behind a clean planet and the common good. A WE that includes and not excludes people. A WE that is respected and created by the many and not financed by the few. A WE that gives space and food for 10 billion people which we will be by the end of this century.
I will give examples where these principles are (partially) applied in politics, corporations, societies/communities and in media and I will show how they function – with all their ups and downs. I will also share my experiences on how you can create a stronger version of yourself and contribute to the GREATER WE. I will put the learnings from these example in the bigger picture and show if WE apply these principles in all fields, WE will not only survive but truly thrive in a lovable world with 10 billion people.
Why is this BOOK so important NOW ?
Simply because it is almost too late.
No economist, management board, politician, scientist, think tank – you name it – before the 21st century knew what we know today. So why would WE imagine that their theories would be up for taking on its challenges?
If we continue to measure OUR health and wealth only in economic growth numbers and not in clean resources, community well-being and equal distribution we risk our planet and leave our children in despair. The big promise of the 20th century that growth and non-regulations for businesses are the one-size-fits-all recipe to create global wealth and health simply does NOT hold true. And it won’t.
We need to create processes / policies / laws / international agreements that tackle this shortfall and overshoot together by design.
We need to create economies / policies / success stories that work with and within the cycles of the living world, so that resources are never used up but it used again and again. This means regenerative – and this kind of regenerative design is popping up everywhere, there are already many promising examples.
But as well as being regenerative by design, we must be distributive by design. We need to move from centralised systems to decentralised or distributive systems, networks. 200 years of corporate / money control of intellectual property and hierarchy of distribution is being upended by the bottom up open source peer to peer knowledge and the commons. Distributed system generate multiple forms of value and share it with those throughout their networks.
We have all the technology and knowledge to do so, we just need to do it!
Why I Can Write This Book
When I step aside and let my thoughts, ideas, experiences and actions pass in front me, I – the observer – see that the WE is the common thread in my life. And that I am a pretty strong ME.
The first WE I experienced was my family, in Heidelberg, Germany. The city back then was still ‘colonised’ by the American GI’s – they had chosen this old university town as their headquarters after World War 2. I remember vividly my days in kindergarten and at school – my teachers had quite a hard time ‘taming’ me. I was ‘labeled’ student at the Mannheim University of Economics (Marketing and Human Resources). Besides my studies I practiced ‘hands-on’ work at the German Television stations ZDF and ARD – they were partially financing my studies and thesis.
My travels led me to more than 120 countries and I’ve spoken with even more Nobel prize laureates, leading scientists, company executives, activists and ‘normal’ people on the ground. I visited war zones, some of the most remote areas on this planet, I’ve seen the wilderness and the mega cities and I slept under the stars, in cars, private homes, and countless hotels – all this opened new horizons and perspectives for me. A vast and rich pool of experiences and observations. I felt that we were not always told what I experienced by myself and I started to question why is this so? The only answer I could come up with so far is – it is interest driven what people / organisations would show and tell you. Which is a fair deal, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.
I opted to observe and experience the ‘unfiltered’ version, the version which is not influenced by media, government, people or corporate interests. Therefore I was never employed at any company – companies require ‘filtered’ perspectives. I always worked as a freelance consultant and interestingly enough media, governments and corporations would hire and pay me for my ’unfiltered’ views. My clients include Bertelsmann Foundation, NATO, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, ZDF, CoreMedia, next practice, Synaxon AG, Google (think quarterly), Facebook – just to name a few. I shared my observations, views and experiences on seven TEDx stages and discussed them at multiple MIT / Havard University / United Nation workshops with students around the world and I published more than 50 books and magazine with the focus on the Internet and its capacity to ‘unfilter’ and create all kind of WE’s.
In 2012 I touched ground in India for the first time. Not even in my most lucid dreams I saw myself in India for 10 years. But this is what happened. I got the chance to start a social experiment in a remote area in Madhya Pradesh and I was drawn into it. I’ve built a skatepark in a small village called Janwaar. My vision was that this skatepark would disrupt the local community to an extend that it would break down old caste-dominated structures and create better living conditions for all the villagers. The skatepark gave the village a new identity all villagers were proud of and it created a greater WE among two former separated castes. The project became well-known as Janwaar Castle and it was multiple times named as one of the biggest transformation processes in rural India.
My laptop and smart phone are my only constant travel companions. Over the years I minimalized my life to the extend that I don’t have a physical home anymore – I travel light, I am a nomad. I have my suitcase and an open mind. And I go where my heart and mind are leading me. No plans. ‘Life is happening while you are busy making other plans’ – John Lennon once famously said. Imagine! I immerse myself in the moment – no matter where I am.
Others on Ulrike Reinhard
Peter Kruse on Ulrike Reinhard (2015):
“There are some people whose lives followed the logic of dynamic networks long before the internet appeared on the scene. In my time I’ve met a handful of individuals who were digital natives in a much more radical sense than their date of birth might lead you to suppose. Ulrike Reinhard is one of them. She has the genius to be able to think and act in terms of interaction. In conversation with her, it’s easy to be carried away by her enthusiasm for open processes. Ulrike Reinhard is a catalyst for collective intelligence and network nodes, an enabler who forges direct links that bring people together. She’s a virtuoso across the whole repertoire of modern technologies, but she would still be adding more reality to the We in this world if she had to use smoke signals and pigeon post to do so. Ulrike Reinhard is an impassioned explorer of frontiers with an astonishing faith in her ability to find her way even in new and uncharted territory. She seldom follows a steady straight line but always shows an unflappable sense of direction. Like the path she’s carved through life, Ulrike Reinhard is never boring and always good for a few surprises!”
(Peter Kruse (30 January 1955 – 1 June 2015) was honorary professor of organizational psychology at the University of Bremen and professional consultant for collective intelligence. His main field of research was processing of complexity and autonomous order formation in intelligent networks. His interdisciplinary work focused on the application of collective intelligence to economic and social developments. )
Paul Morland (native English, studied English Literature at Oxford University; his nickname is “Shakespeare”) on Ulrike Reinhard (2014)
Paying my rent by helping people improve their English, over the years I’ve realised that there are two classes of clients: those who know little but think they know it all and those who know a great deal but think they know little. Ulrike Reinhard comes in the second category. But her love affair with the English language began long before I met her on the beaches and in smoke filled rooms of San Francisco in the halcyon days of the infant internet. And from the very beginning one of things that impressed me about her was her willingness to collaborate – not just to receive work done as a ready-made given but to ask why this or that word or expression and to wonder about possible alternatives. On some memorable occasions we’ve spent hours on the phone always at long distance from some remote part of the world, stabbing in the dark until we finally, thankfully skewered the right word.
Given her line of work too it was inevitable that Ulrike was familiar with corporate jargon – but she’s always had a distaste for it and has now practically eliminated it from her writing. The metrics of NGOs, the business speak of corporations are closed systems and Ulrike has increasingly come to embrace open outcomes of which her present project in Janwaar Castle is such a prime example. Similarly, her writings avoid the haranguing doctrinal tone of leading the sheep to light and in their short paragraphs and easy conversation tone engage the reader and the reader’s sympathy.
Another quality I’ve come to admire in her over the years is her courage which others might call foolhardiness. This needs to be said because it’s not something she is willing to talk about herself, out of modesty and because she probably regards it as so self-evident that it’s not worth mentioning. It’s not just that as a pioneering digital nomad she refuses the social safety net a job in a large organisation or company brings in terms of steady income, pensions and health insurance nor that as a lone woman she travels in remote and dangerous parts of the world like a latter day Gertrude Bell. No, what has impressed me – after first horrifying me – was to read in some of the texts she sent me incidents of extreme violence like an assassination attempt at Tunis airport dismissed in a single line. And believe me, she needed quite some urging on my part to give them in greater detail.
Perhaps one of the reasons for such reluctance is her modesty – only modesty would be the wrong word here because Ulrike is never afraid to put forward her own viewpoint sometimes in pretty plain speaking. What it is I think is her refusal in everything she does to put the spotlight on herself. She sees the people she works with not as underlings but as equal partners in the venture whose contributions as just as valuable to its success as her own. Teamwork and networking are now common places but are very rarely enacted with such deeply held conviction as with Ulrike.