How You and I Are Going to Shape the Next Century Together

A few weeks ago, my old blogging buddy Ron Davison sent me a copy of his new book The Fourth Economy: Inventing Western Civilization, which examines the pattern of progress from an agricultural economy to an industrial one, then from industrial to an information economy, and predicts what the next generation will see with the rise of an entrepreneurship economy. If you feel the same entrepreneurial rumble around you right now as I do, we’re only just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Already in the first few pages it had me absolutely spellbound, so I wanted to share. Ron’s thesis revolves around how the evolution of society has always depended upon invention… but he points out how we tend to think of invention solely as a technological act… when in fact there is another, equally important form of invention that almost invisibly shapes society: social invention.

I’ll quote extensively from Ron’s first few chapters, as he’s much more eloquent and academic about this important claim than I could ever be (emphases are mine):

“Money is only money because we agree it is money. As soon as we all agree that Confederate currency no longer has any value, it no longer has any value. When we agree that information on magnetic strips affixed to plastic has value, it has value. Whether someone is a slave, employee or part-owner of an enterprise is not inherent in any physical reality or dependent on any brute facts, but is—instead—true only as an institutional fact [i.e., a social invention –Cody].

[…] “A technological invention results in a product that can be seen independent of any agreement about it. While its use might require some instruction, instruction that might be something akin to declaration or agreement, its existence does not. A steam engine translates heat into motion and even if it requires an operator to do this, its existence falls more into the category of brute fact than institutional fact. By contrast, a home loan is a [social invention]. Without a contract specifying terms and even who owes what to whom, the loan makes no sense. Further, the loan assumes a whole other set of [social inventions], from money to banks to a real estate market to determine the value of the home for which the loan exists.”

…Ron goes on to explain the immense importance of social invention, including all the institutions that you’ve become accustomed to in your lifetime, in shaping society — nation-states, churches, banks, corporations, money, democracy. At some point in history, each of these things was invented, agreed upon, and eventually accepted as the status quo. But these things haven’t always existed, they haven’t always been the norm, as we tend to forget.

“A set of inventions defines a culture or civilization.

We recreate civilization in each child. We call it education. Look at the huge amount of time and attention we devote to ‘civilizing’ a baby to become a member of society. The gross effort it takes to recreate society in each child should be testament to the fact that a culture is not a ‘natural’ or spontaneous state; it is, instead a social invention that takes great effort—every time. Language and manners, what we question and what we accept, social roles—all of these end products represent the teaching of parents, teachers, and even the media and are essentially conventions that work to construct meaning, to create the modern life. Rather than see them as inventions, we often see social inventions as simply ‘the way things are.’ Should you want a reminder that social inventions are just made up, however, raise a child. Mothers know that the curious, rebellious, stubborn, and lazy child will challenge social inventions. My family lives close to the Mexican border and when my daughter was protesting her car seat, she would say, ‘Mexican kids don’t wear seat belts.’ She, like every child, knew that things could be different and questioned why they were not. And of course, travel, news reports, novels, and history all remind us that our social inventions are not universal or even stable. What makes you successfully fit into your neighborhood in Manhattan would make you stand out in Afghanistan. Or even Montana. What made you fashionable in 1972 makes you look silly in 2012.”

He implores the need for social progress, for us to become more conscious about social invention. And I love how he describes our opportunity to create a new social reality:

“Perhaps teachers and parents should add this to their list of admonitions and lessons: ‘Warning: contents of this society have been known to create feelings of anomie and alienation; provoke wars, homicides, and suicides; and pollute the habitat you need for survival. Most of what we tell you should be questioned and could be improved upon. This is, really, just the best we’ve been able to do up until now and it could be that improvement will actually overturn much of what we now accept and advocate. Learn about your culture and your place in it, but don’t cling too tightly to it. What we’re teaching you probably needs to change, and soon.'”

[…] “a hypnotist, in a matter of minutes, can program you to do things you don’t normally do and to believe what is not so. […] how much more powerfully can society program you during the course of your life, given that it has so much more time and so many more persuasive tools at its disposal than does a hypnotist?”

[…] “If social invention is to become more widespread [ie: and we are to harness our inherent abilities to pave our own destinies and craft our own world –Cody], the individual will have to become more aware of how his or her life is also an invention. Up until now, it is the few who have defined society and the many that have been defined by it. A few receive the divine revelation and many receive Mass. Think about a world in which the direction is increasingly reversed, a society in which the individual is less social invention than social inventor. Or, rather, imagine a world in which more people engage in acts of social invention. If social invention becomes to this century what technological invention was to the last, we’ll witness such a change. Or, rather, we’ll create such a change.

“If daily life is an invention, the question is, whose invention is it? It is hard to underestimate the importance of inertia in defining society. Yet entrepreneurs challenge this inertia and invent something new.”

[…] “an entrepreneur is a social inventor. Their work is to create a new social invention, an organization, an institution, a new market, or a new business. Social entrepreneurs might start a new non-governmental organization (NGO) or nonprofit or charter school. I’m going to include under my broad umbrella of entrepreneurs not just business entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Henry Ford but political and religious entrepreneurs like Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther.

“The next economy will popularize entrepreneurship in the same way that the Information Age popularized higher education and knowledge throughout the twentieth century. As entrepreneurship becomes more popular and diverse in its expression and application, social invention will become as normal as technological invention.”

My wish for the years ahead is to see more interesting people building interesting things — projects, businesses, organizations, art, nonprofits, social inventions…

I am excited to see this become the new norm — to see many more people wake up to the realization that they don’t have to be a wage slave or an employee, but can instead choose to be creators, artists, shapers of the world around them, entrepreneurs. If you find these ideas and trends as fascinating as I do, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Ron’s book The Fourth Economy for a much more in-depth look at the entrepreneurial revolution he predicts will sweep across the world.

I only hope we can play a small role in this huge societal shift with what we’re doing here and at inside The HERO Project, by enabling many more ambitious trailblazers to use their inherent abilities to create and shape things around them to help move the world forward.


You are the pioneers of the Fourth Economy. Here’s to creating an improved, more connected, whole, healed, better society through entrepreneurship! 

31 replies
  1. Sergio Felix
    Sergio Felix says:

    Hey Cody,

    Don’t know if you did this kind of contests for DNA before but I think it was radically amazing man.

    I’m sure that Eileen, Rodrigo and Tim will take it to the next level and hope that 2012 marks the start of a huge change for the good.

    A HUGE THANK YOU (for you and everyone on your team) and for opening the doors to mere mortals like us to get a taste of what DNA represents.

    The adrenaline rush I got from recording something for this was insanely fun and also a bit of self-discovery.

    Thanks again, all the best for your new students and looking forward to what you guys bring next, speak soon! 😉


    • Cody McKibben
      Cody McKibben says:

      Thanks Sergio, I’m really glad you were able to participate and that you seem like you got a lot out of it. I did certainly watch and enjoy your video, and I loved your blog post where you shared in even more detail about the experience. Thanks for making your application, but don’t give up… there will be more chances for scholarships and other financial “aid” here at DNA in the future.

  2. Rodrigo Flamenco
    Rodrigo Flamenco says:



    • Emelina
      Emelina says:

      Congrats Rodrigo! And Welcome to the DNA! 🙂 I’m excited for your participation & I’m excited to see you to continue to rock the world. 🙂

    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      Rodrigo, you are too cute! Congrats, man! Your post here made me crack up in my office, people are thinking “whats with crazy lady today?” =) Make the best of it and let us know how it goes!

  3. Janet
    Janet says:

    I am truly excited for this new economy and entrepreneurship becoming the new norm. this takes it in our hands and gives the power back to the people, instead of the corporations that seem to rule the world. I’m fascinated with it all and passionate about growing trends (esp. of course internet/tech as this is the big player)… it’s truly EXCITING times to be living in transitional eras and I truly believe that 2012 will be a pivotal consciousness shift.

    Thanks SO much for the opportunity for the scholarship. I had a lot of fun putting things together. I think the winners are well deserved and as far as runner up goes, I still feel like I won! Thanks for being so generous Cody! and congrats to EVERYONE!

    My email:
    byjanet at gmail dot com

    • Cody McKibben
      Cody McKibben says:

      Thanks Janet, I really loved getting your application as well, and you certainly came in VERY popular with the voters too! I agree with you on all counts and I am excited about this big consciousness shift as well.

  4. Emelina
    Emelina says:

    This is exciting, this post & what Ron Davison is talking about in his book. It’s exciting because I’m seeing it happening before me, in the DNA, in my friends, in Community Bucket List, in the Love Warrior Community, at dot429, in Kickstarter, in each community I’m involved in I’m seeing people shape and create their own lives and I see them impacting others in the process.

    I think it’s most exciting that I see it in myself. It makes it more real and it opens my eyes to what everyone else is doing around me. This is so exciting. 🙂

    I’m excited to continue with my passions, I’m excited to impact others to spread their positive energy and social inventions with the world and I’m excited to see how we change this world together, for the better. 🙂

    CONGRATS to the DNA winners, Rodrigo, Eileen & Tim! 🙂 Welcome to an amazing journey. 🙂

    CONGRATS to the finalists, Janet, Peter and Jeff. I loved watching your videos and I’m excited to see the awesome things you do in life and bring to this world.

    CONGRATS to all the contestants, Jamie, Chad, Michael, Iván, Alex, Sondra, Rick, Naomi, Berrak, Sidney, Marty, Michael, Daniel, Isabelle, Sergio, Tim, and Libor. I’m excited that you submitted applications. It takes a lot of guts to follow a different path. I hope each of you continue to follow your dreams and find and create a supportive team of people and resources to surround yourself with journey. Support exists every where when you look for it. 🙂

    • Cody McKibben
      Cody McKibben says:

      I certainly see it in you also, Emelina! I’m so happy and proud for you, I think you’ve gotten involved in all the right things and you’re doing so much to move the world forward. 🙂

      Thanks for your big welcome to our scholarship winners and your very generous, kind words for everyone!

  5. Rodrigo Flamenco
    Rodrigo Flamenco says:

    @Cody,soooooo sorry, I didn’t saw your emails until now, I just answered them, my primary email address is another one and because I was pretty sick of bronchitis all this days I wasn’t much time on the computer, people are used to burn fireworks for Christmas and for new year and all the smoke didn’t helped at all, so sorry for that D:

    Thanks a lot 😀 I’m pretty exited about this 😀

  6. John @ Married With Debt
    John @ Married With Debt says:

    Congratulations to all the winners.

    This book looks right up my alley; added to Amazon Wishlist.

    Social invention sounds a bit scary, because it could change on a whim. But I suppose a new gadget will become obsolete as well.

    If we are pushing ideas, we need to find the ones that have no expiration date.

    • Cody McKibben
      Cody McKibben says:

      Hey John, thanks for your comment! I think actually there is a high likelihood that ALL ideas have an expiration date eventually. Nothing is absolutely permanent and universal. But yes, we certainly have to be conscious about finding the most long-term sustainable ideas we have.

      I think you’ll love Ron’s book, as he gets into that as well.

  7. Tim
    Tim says:


    Man, I am humbled and grateful for this opportunity. You guys have my word that I will do everything I can to earn this honor! I am really looking forward to starting this and meeting everyone involved. This has been a tremendous experience so far and I can only imagine where we go from here. I am not so sure I will be sleeping either.

    • Cody McKibben
      Cody McKibben says:

      Tim, it is a great honor to have you join us inside the DNA! You’re a man of great discipline, resolve, and integrity, and we all agreed unanimously that you were most deserving of a 3rd wildcard scholarship. I have no doubt you will take what you learn here and go far.

      All the best to you, your wife and the boys in 2012! 🙂

  8. Eileen Campos
    Eileen Campos says:

    I third on the no sleep thing too!

    I am close to tears at this wonderful wonderful news at the crack-o-dawn. I am currently having a private Sally-Field-at-the-Oscars moment thinking about everyone who voted and I am just floored by all the love.

    Congratulations to Rodrigo and Tim! You guys are awesome and I know we will all not let the opportunity to waste and will suck the marrow of every waking moment of it. Thanks to everyone who voted and sent in extra special pixie dust for this to happen.

    Thank you Cody, for everything — for DNA, for the scholarship and being such an inspiration. From that bored moment one afternoon way back that I clicked on the theme link at the bottom of my then-Thrilling Theme powered blog and discovered Thrilling Heroics, I will forever be thankful for opening up my eyes to a whole new world (shining, shimmering, splendid! lol)

    And a special holler to Janet – she’s awesome. the moment I saw her name as an applicant, let alone finalist – I knew we were all going to be in trouble. Here’s to an awesome awesome chick that can literally rule the world!

    I’m very excited and again thank you thank you thank you!!!!

    • Cody McKibben
      Cody McKibben says:

      Eileen! I’m so glad for you, your presentation was SO incredibly impressive, you put so much thought and effort into it and it blew our socks off! I’m very excited that everyone else loved it as much as we did and sent so much vote love for you! Really happy to have you join us.

      I’m glad you did click on that footer link one day! 🙂

      But yes, you’re also right on about Janet, look out world! We’ll have to do our best to get her inside the Academy one of these days one way or another as well… 🙂

  9. Peter Griffin
    Peter Griffin says:

    Congratulations you 3!!!! You all really deserve this opportunity and you’re going to rock its socks off. I’m so happy for you. I’m going to be keeping my eyes and ears for signs of you in the DNA community. Can’t wait to see you put your learning into action.

    Thanks so much to Cody for putting this all together. It’s been so fun just being involved in this event, and I’m super excited about my class with Maneesh!!

    • Cody McKibben
      Cody McKibben says:

      Awesome Peter, thanks for the comments and your good sportsmanship! I loved getting your application, look forward to hearing more from you (stay tuned for the next opportunity for scholarships at DNA), but I know you’ll enjoy Maneesh’s minicourse as well—he’s a hugely intelligent, awesome guy with an impressive business.

  10. Sean Stone
    Sean Stone says:

    Hey Cody, or anyone that can answer this

    I’m in the US right now but gettin ready to head for India then Thailand and so on. When I get to Thailand will I be able to get visas for Vietnam, China there? (I cannot get visas for these 2 places on arrival I have to get them prior and I’m wondering if I can get them while in Thailand.

    Does anyone have experience as an American getting Visas for China and/or Vietnam while in Thailand?

    Also, If you have any thoughts on getting visas for Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia as an American while in Thailand as well please share(I know I can get these on arrival but should I/can I get them in advance while in Thailand??)

    • Cody McKibben
      Cody McKibben says:

      Hi Sean, this particular article isn’t really the right place for a discussion of visas or travel… but I believe the answer to your questions is yes. I know you can get Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laos, Indonesian visas in Bangkok… although you don’t really need them for the bordering countries Laos and Cambodia.

      And as for China, I believe it’s the same situation, yes you can get a visa in BKK, but you can do a simple Google search for something like “Chinese embassy in Thailand”, but here’s what I came up with:

      • Sean stone
        Sean stone says:

        Cody, thanks for the response. I did some research after posting and also found out yes i can get vietnamese visa in bkk and i can get the chinese visa in hong kong when i head that way in May. PS maybe I’ll see you in ur neck of the woods approx 2nd or 3rd week in feb after India. Im gettin excited as i get ready to blast off on this insane 1 yr trip around the world leavin in 7 days!

        I’ll be launchin a site to document the whole thing and also share with others things I’ve used to free myself and help and inspire others to free themselves too.

        I may even hit you up for some help optimizing the site, you’ve got a great site brotha. It flows like butter…

  11. Jacko
    Jacko says:

    This is very inspiring. You guys are really setting an excellent example doing what you are with this website. I am sharing with my internet peeps.

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