Since the dawn of human evolution, there have been leaders and there have been followers. Such a social structure is vital for any group to function efficiently and was, therefore, nature’s preferred structure when it came to human survival. This fact has stayed a constant, but what has changed are the people that are the leaders.
When the notion of religion was first formed – our mentalities underwent a drastic change. As humans adapted to living in large groups, a common belief or an imaginary goal was necessary to unite a large number of violent human beings that could leave in peace (as explained in Yuval Noah Harari’s bestselling book – Sapiens). Therefore religion was founded, and considering the majority of the people’s questions were inexplicable by science or mathematics of the day, increasingly more people turned toward religion for an answer.
This new faith shifted the paradigm for how the society worked and a natural sieve was formed: those people that could not understand this new concept looked to those who could for answers. Therefore, as it always has, some people rose to the top of society and took the role of leaders. In those points in time, these people were powerful religious figures like the sages, saints, popes, cardinals, and nobles.
Fast-forwarding a little, through the reign of the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic church had a pope at the top, whose sole authority was considerably more powerful than any political figure, including the King. In the Roman empire, the popes were the ones that anointed the King, and the church was significantly more powerful than the royal house.
Why was this? Because in the middle ages, religion played an enormous role in everybody’s lives (since we’re talking about Rome, Christianity played a major part in everyone’s lives). Due to the primary unfaltering belief in Christianity – people were led to believe (by the thought leaders of the time) that everything happens by “God’s will”, and since religious figures were the ‘closest to God’, people tended to think that by accepting and supporting their ideologies, God would help them. During this period, these figures ruled the world because of their knowledge in the religion they preached and the general belief of the public.
In that time – the power was with the informed, and as humanity moved through the years the power stayed with the well educated and intellectually superior. During the Industrial age, just after the renaissance, humans were making groundbreaking breakthroughs in math and science. During this age, people who got the best education, and were born with the highest IQ, were the thought leaders the world looked to. As belief in science grew, and people began to understand the logic behind things better, those people who had the most information were in high demand. (Since information wasn’t as readily available back then) – therefore rising to the top of the social structure.
However, today, digitalization has made everyone so much more connected. Access to information has never been this seamless and readily available.
Back then, the power was with the informed. The people who had read and re-read the bible – people who knew solid, hard facts. This was because information was relatively difficult to gather, and learning wasn’t something anyone could do.
Today, however, information is the one virtually unlimited thing. Digitalization – is a revolution that is exponentially bigger than Religion. We lived under the umbrella of religion for dozens of centuries. And we will now remain under the digital umbrella for the rest of humankind’s history.
Digitalization is a concept that has taken a few generations by shock, most people – if not everyone has been shaken by this new sensation. Unquestionably, digitalization has transformed our species into one that is redefining itself. A lot of our minds cannot wrap themselves around the whole concept of “online”. And many of us look around for a leader to follow.
Today, there is no shortage of information. The intelligent no longer have the same respect they used to have. Today anyone can be as informed or as neglective as they want. So the thought leaders of today aren’t the ones who know every element or how to make a rocket. Neither are they the people who have read the entire Quran, or the Bible.
So who are they?
Those that can synthesize information and make conjectures. The people who can do the one thing search engines and computers can’t do – form meaningful opinions and thoughts. In this world filled with facts about everything, people look for leaders who stand out from their devices. People look for leaders, who are not necessarily the most logically gifted – but rather those that are good at using the information to be creative.