I’ve been thinking about the commonalities of a lot of patterns I’m seeing in the world lately:
- The “Arab Spring” and its coordination via social media
- The “Great Firewall of China”, China’s (failing) attempt to keep things like Twitter at bay
- Iran wants to create its own Internet (a contradiction in terms) to prevent stuff like Stuxnet and (more importantly) social media-based revolts from happening there
- Artificial borders and internecine conflicts everywhere are becoming permeable on all levels: from nation-state policy to transnational corporate hegemony all the way down to city council meetings and managerial turf wars.
- How long can places like the NSA keep employees from bringing cell phones into the work place? How about when the “cell phones” are built in to our heads and we can’t really function without them? Are we heading toward a world where there’s going to be a policy filter at the door of the NSA that shuts off or limits the capabilities of neural prostheses?
- The kids don’t care about privacy or policy – they use whatever works to communicate and share, the tools are getting better every day, and the tools and the kids don’t care about any of the above limits. They definitely don’t care about your BYOD policy.
Let me say that I’m not an anarchist. I’m not even a libertarian. You could call me a social liberal and economic conservative, with some libertarian tendencies thrown in on stuff that’s about personal freedom, not infrastructure and the commons.
So what’s the unifying factor among all the items in my list?
I think it’s self interest and control. More accurately, it’s that the structures, frameworks and artifices of control, working on behalf of selfish individuals (everyone is selfish), are starting to crumble under the weight of the network effect inherent in social media. We are becoming less about the individual and more about the set of all humans. This is just one more step in the long history of technology overcoming evolutionary forces.
Everyone sees and deplores the recent killings in Syria, and the governments of the world have no choice but to condemn them. The George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case probably never would have gone to trial if it weren’t for social media-reinforced pressure.
So what happens? Of course it looks like the control structures and the individuals they serve are pushing back. I think they are going to fail as humanity becomes increasingly interconnected. Let’s face it: if evolution can’t win, how is power going to?
What does the singularity look like? Maybe it’s a bunch of angry kids flashmobbing a tyranny they can’t take any more. What’s the path of least resistance? Tear down the walls faster.