The Fluid Society

A plea to think differently in the digital world

The fluid society is a name for the digital society that humanity will grow towards in the coming years. Over the last ten years I have written many columns about the digital transformation of society.  A society in which borders are less important which will lead to more equal and fair living conditions for people worldwide.

This book contains a number of columns I have written about social developments in the fluid society and the need to think differently in the coming digital world. Nowadays we live in a scrambled world, in which everybody can live everywhere, can work digital wherever they want and yet keep in touch with their own culture. We mingle more than ever , but do not really live together. This leads to vulnerable and crumbled societies. We are also confronted with overpopulation and we know already that the earth is not able to provide everybody with a decent living, nor will nature be able to cope with so many people. Our way of thinking prevents the actions which are required to solve these and other global problems. As long as “we-they” thinking overrides “we-together” thinking, we wil not be able to solve the long term problems we have to solve to survive.

The present nation-state, a product from classical society, seems one of the hurdles to the future. Nation states prevent people and companies from working freely together. Instead of nation-states serving their people and companies, it seems nation-states are becoming more and more an aim in themselves or tools, toys or sidebars for old men seeking power and bonuses as CEO’s of nation states. How to bring back governments into a situation in which they support their people and companies, rather than using them? Into a modus of working together multilaterally to solve the huge global problems, to the benefit of all?

Governments should realize that over 50% of mankind has a smartphone, and thus is “connected”. These people absorb knowledge from internet to enrich and improve their lives. They might try to emigrate to better areas, but there is also the option to provide them with the right knowledge to improve their living in the places where they live today. It is a challenge for richer countries to prevent immigration by helping poorer countries. In the meantime the world is digitally threatened by cyber criminals, misbehaving governments, disinformation and tech giants seeking more and more profits. Society might be sucked into a digital black hole if we don’t take measures to prevent domination by digital entities which only seek their own wellbeing. Governments should make rules for social media and internet, to keep internet free and safe for everybody.

Furthermore the labour market is heavily affected by digitalization. Yellow vests protests in France show the problems for those in the lower ranks, while digitalization makes some others ever richer. A new social-economic contract is required for society. It is not only the labour market that is changing. Man itself is subject of digital technologies. Will robots and algorithms take over society? Will we see half man half computer beings, connected to the internet to fill their brains? There are already experiments with makeable humans at universities, so called cyborgs. Should we allow all these developments? Should we make happen all what is possible and is that good for mankind?

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Indrasish Banerjee

Worth reading 😎

If you are interested in how digitization is changing the world, this is a good book to read.

Originally published by Reedsy Discovery

In just a few decades, economy and society have been digitalized. At any time every citizen can be informed of what is happening all over the world and be “online” 24/7. All this has enormous effects on the way in which societies are functioning. The physical world of everyday life is no longer the decisive entity, but the digital world is actually the world in which the economy flourishes and decisions are made. A digital layer has impregnated the classical world, connecting everything to everything and creating “short circuits” in the classical way of life.
The above makes it clear that digitalization touches societies deeply, both for the rich and the poor, for rich and poor countries alike. Social- economics shift, labour markets change, technologies threaten people and make some people richer than rich. Should we accept everything that is going on? Can we do anything about it? What can or should governments do? Many questions, but as yet there are too few answers. But whatever the case: we need a different mindset for the digital world.

‘A plea to think differently in the digital world: reflections on digitization and society’ by Peter Hagedoorn is a collection of essays written over last 10 years about issues facing the world today – large scale migrations, changing nature of nation states, cybercrimes etc.

When I read Peter’s credentials, I was tempted to check his views on these matters, one of the reasons why I chose to review this book. Peter Hagedoorn a physics engineer has mainly worked as a CIO and on digital transformation alternately for the public and private sector. And I must admit I have mixed feelings after reading the book.

The essays don’t particularly say anything that those of us familiar with current affairs already don’t know, but where the essays differ from pieces on the same subjects we come across in media is they provide solutions to the problems instead of just whining. The solutions are based on the ideas the author seems to be passionate about.

He says the world must be a globalized place without any space for the ‘we and they’ ideas that have taken over in the last few years. However, Hagedoorn is not a big fan of people from poorer migrating to West and believes in the age of digitization, it is possible for rich countries to distribute knowhow information to people staying in poorer countries helping them to improve their lives staying wherever they are. The smartphone, which almost everyone has now, has made it possible to disseminate information like never before, he believes.

Technical people’s ideas about human development tend to have a technology bias making them too optimistic about the potential of technology to overcome all problems overlooking the challenges brought in by diversity of human conditions which may make it difficult to apply technological solutions in a uniform manner (or to apply at all). Given Hagedoorn’s background, it is easy to understand that there is bias for digitization.

Rich countries sharing knowhow with poorer countries to help them improve their possibilities may seem very easy to do on the surface but may run into challenges in several undemocratic countries and societies which may be skeptical about seamless flow of information from Western democracies influencing the behavior of their citizens. Also, the assumption that everyone has a smartphone may be a little far-fetched in some countries, in different parts of the developing world, where an internet connection and a smartphone may still be a luxury for certain parts of the population.

It’s not as if this disparity in human conditions can’t be worked around but telling how to overcome situations outside Western homogeneity would have made the solutions more complete.

One of his essays is about the sinister side of the information fluidity brought by digitization. According to Peter, cybercrime has made perpetrating a crime an easy thing to do. Cyber criminals are hardest to catch because cybercrime gives complete anonymity to the cybercriminal. It also involves very low investment and risks. Cybercrime portals which operate with complete impunity make this form of crime easily accessible. For example, Ransomware as a Service (RaaS), the commonest way to introduce malwares into a computer or network, is freely available on these websites.

Peter blames it on callousness of governments about data security. Thankfully this callousness is slowly ebbing – now there are strong data protection laws like GDPR. Peter’s essay, being slightly dated, doesn’t account for the current developments in the world of data protection. But that’s understandable as he sets the expectation in the prologue by saying the essays have been written over a period of a decade.  

The essays reveal the interest of the author in the issues but lack personal touch, reading like academic journals – cold and distant. The same pieces would have acquired human warmth if Peter had thrown in bits and pieces of his personal experience with these issues. I am sure coming from the professional background he does he would have plenty of them. And if he had done that, the same pieces would have been transformed into takes of a physics engineer who has worked on digital transformation for years on how digitization is changing the world.  


Jan Ochtman

Peter explains clearly why we all should ‘think differently’. He does this through presenting broad visions on a variety of subjects, ranging from overpopulation to ‘makeable humans’. The common theme running through the whole book is the impact of digitalization on our daily life.
The good news is, however, that it is not about computers or technical developments. His analyses give insight in how IT affects our institutions, like the nation state and businesses, floating from one opportunity to another, rather than remaining stuck in one country.
His concept of a “fluid society” plants a strong image of what may lay ahead of us. Essential food for thought, for politicians and society leaders as well as for those who elect these persons … 

Jeanne Kalk

Digitization touches society in all its aspects. Everyone knows and realizes that. But Peter Hagedoorn shows in his reflections a number of insights that I had never thought about. I became convinced that through digitalization the world is really fundamentally changing. An intriguing book.

Review 3

I have just read Peter Hagedoorns book with mounting interest. Not often does one stumble on a study that explores in so many compelling ways the possible consequences and possibilities of digitalisation
for the world in the not too distant future.

Riekes Lie

Peter’s first book caught my attention: a complex subject explained in an understandable and easy way. This ebook is a perfect successor with a number of new subjects. I’m glad it’s now available in English. An absolute must for people who want to understand the complex digital world.

Hendrik George

a thought-provoking compilation of fundamental challenges facing our society resulting from all-encompassing digitization. The author makes a compelling case for the need for new paradigms and approaches, very relevant, recommended!

Review 6

A great book to understand the world of tomorrow and make better choices both in your business and private life.

Darrell Tschurwald

In this book Peter raises many issues around digitalization of the world and the ways classical political leadership needs to change. I thought the book raised many legitimate questions and issues around the digitalization of society. The biggest shortcoming of the book is the lack of specific actions that should be taken by political leadership, however I’m sure Peter will address these in future books. I felt the book was especially strong in pointing out shortcomings of current classical political leadership. It did a great job raising my awareness in these areas.

Martine Bourgeois

Peter Hagedoorn’s reflexions on the vast and penetrating effects of digital technology and the impact on society at large warrant compelling attention. It provides a broad overview and intriguing perspective on this recent digital technology and communication and hence its penetration in all walks of life. Very worth while reading.

Rene d'Arnaud Gerkens

Interesting booklet about how digitalization effects our lives in almost every aspect and how digitalization can help solving many of the problems the world is currently facing. Food for thought, Recommended!

Ric Hettinga

Of course you can look in a crystal ball to discover the future, but I recommend to read this book. I think its much more realistic.