“…politics is just the latest industry to be transformed by the Internet…,” says Ben Thompson on his blog stratechery.com which is not about politics. It concerns the evolution and influence of technology.
Thompson writes, “…more than two billion people own smartphones, the entire post-World War II economic order is teetering, and populism is on the march; I don’t think these facts are independent of each other…”
Neither do I.
Thompson describes the inherently disruptive and unpredictable force of large groups that, thanks to the power of “aggregation,” can be quickly created, readily accessed and effectively activated via the internet.
The upshot? Old values, established protocols, are under fire. You see it everywhere, most noticeably in retail — whether it’s razor blades (Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club) or electoral politics (elites no longer able to marginalize wedge issues, frame larger debates, or dictate outcomes).
It’s a brave new world. Except we can’t seem to learn while we sleep, as people did in Huxley’s famous novel. Instead we often awaken to find the world’s been turned upside down…overnight. The pace of change is quickening. Meanwhile it’s getting harder to discern the difference between what’s real and what’s illusory.
Despite today’s truth-bending tweeters and kleptocrats, from left- to right-of-center, the revolution of the real world rolls along, precious little of it televised, and most of it beyond any one person’s, or any one group’s, control.
There are forces at play, in science and in the marketplace, that I believe will prove broadly beneficial…so long as we keep control of the creative process primarily in private hands, unlike in the dystopian society portrayed in Brave New World. Our challenge is to more adroitly manage the politics of transition to ease the undue pain for some that results from the transformational changes underway.
What seems to be a slight shift of power back to individuals (who can group together opportunistically) strikes me as a good thing in the abstract and in the long run, even if I don’t like current events. And I don’t. A lot of what’s happening, including much of the national conversation, seems to me off point, dispiriting in tone and sometimes quite surreal.
Even large, fast-moving, internet-driven groups are still made up of individuals. Thus it still matters what each of us chooses to do, each day. One variable is the extent to which we allow ourselves, and we allow others, to truly contemplate life, and to talk about it, and to act on it, freely. My New Years resolution is to be a better listener.
For info on new novel:
Stop, Go, Murder