#13NTC Ignite Talk - A Brief History of Change


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My first Ignite talk presented during the 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference Ignite Reception hosted by Change.org and yours truly. The history of change, from the Big Bang to right here and beyond.

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  • I'm going to try something pretty ambitious right now. I'd like to walk you through A Brief History of Change. The big moments that changed the way that we are all working to make a better world. In the beginning there was the void.
  • Then, 13.7 billion years ago,out of nowhere came the world’s first direct action: the Big Bang!. Quadjillions of wavelengths of energy simultaneously protested their cramped living conditions and broke free. Slowly all that energy began to dissipate…
  • coalescing into particles, then macro molecules, and eventually 4.5 billion years ago our solar system formed. Slow but steady was the march of progress as early forms of life emerged on planet Earth.
  • About a billion years ago plants and then animals appeared. According to science, it looked something like this. Just kidding! Lasers are like my 15th or 16th slide. They changed everything.
  • Some animals began to evolve more quickly, prime among them was Homo sapiens, distinguished by a large frontal lobe which became the seat of language 100,000 years ago. The newfound ability to bitch to other people may well be the roots of organizing.
  • Another turning point only 40,000 years ago was the first abstract drawings or “art”. These are the cave paintings at Lascaux, France. I also believe this was PETA’s first anti-fur campaign.
  • 5,500 years ago was the first written language, developed by the Sumerians. Associating words with symbols allowed us to develop abstract concepts like “Mission statements” and “social media strategies.”
  • 2,500 years ago, direct democracy was adopted in Ancient Greece. Big development, now everyone was able to disagree publicly by following strict rules of decorum and protocol. Of course, the definition of “everyone” continues to evolve…
  • Now we’re moving quickly. 540 years ago the printing press was invented. HUGE. The written word was no longer held back by transcriptions and the limits of biology, gracing the world with countless copies of such delights as The Joy of Cooking & The Anarchist's Cookbook.
  • 180 years ago, the first photograph was taken by NicéphoreNiépce out of his back window. This is also the world’s first #latergram. Is that lo-fi or Valencia? Really cool. Pictures certainly have helped us to capture the world around us to tell better stories.
  • 130 years ago Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Instantaneous, realtime communication had arrived with the words: ”Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you” followed closely by the words “Can you hear me now?”
  • 35 years ago the first successful personal computers hit the shelves like the Commodore PET, Apple II and the TRS-80, bringing the power of processing to homes everywhere. Also, video games.
  • 25 years ago two internet protocols changed everything on the web…TCP/IP allowed computers to connect to a network with modems like this and SMTP enabled mail servers to send and receive electronic mail messages across IP networks.
  • The modern Internet was born and the floodgates opened. In 1993, Mosaic web browser is launched, a graphical web browser that many credit with popularizing the WWW. Information became more accessible and the dawn of the lolcat era loomed nigh.
  • The year: 1999. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this, the first online petition website…petitiononline.com. Petitions have come a long way. Full transparency, I’m Lawrence Grodeska, I work at Change.org, and I approve this message.
  • By 2000, SMS was well on it's way, turning every mobile phone into a digital communications device and freeing us from the need to actually listen to each other to get stuff done! Also, “can you hear me now?”
  • In 1992, Friendster and then Myspace herald the dawn of the social web, connecting individuals to individuals and introducing the idea of the “personal profiles” that now underlies much of our interaction with other individuals and causes online.
  • In 2010, big data met activism in the form of Wikileaks, an anonymous publishing platform for news leaks, and classified information. Bradley Manning here is the patron saint of this “data activism.” He’s still being held on charges of "aiding the enemy.”
  • Which all brings us to the present, and the future. What’s next? Are we headed to another big bang of information? Will we all break out of this current three dimensional time space void and become beings of light?
  • Whatever does come next, I want to be a part of building it. That’s why I’m at Change.org. We’re building the future of online campaigning day in, day out. And that’s why I’m here at NTC with all of you, because you’re building it, too. Let’s do this.
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