I am an advocate of hope. For me, the future is not scary, and nor is change. 137,000 escaped poverty yesterday (source). And another 137,000 will today, too.
I believe that, in the long-run, everything will be better than it is now. Dystopia, if it happens, is temporary and is always a small step back on the road towards utopia.
In our lifetimes, the internet is arguably the biggest change. My grandmother might disagree, living as she has, through the deindustrialization of most of the West, the growth of cars, the invasion of homes by electricity, and telephones. But for the vast majority of us, the internet is as disruptive as the printing press was when Gutenberg invented it.
I think the car has had less of an impact on culture than has the internet. And I am pretty sure the internet is not done changing us. The youth of today are already being affected by it and that means their influence on the future, as they mature into fully-integrated members of society, is only just beginning.
As I said, I am an advocate of hope, but I am also aware that there are opportunities for us to make small retrograde steps. I would argue that the populist politics of Trump, Erdoğan, Orbán are such retrograde steps, and that they are – at least somewhat – a product of the internet.
Where, in the 1990s, Rupert Murdoch’s terrible newspaper in the UK and media in Australia and the USA have been able to influence the voting populace to vote more right-wing than people might otherwise, the internet and Q-Anon type actors have been able to do that even more effectively. In most developed countries (where, as often the USA is the exception and not in a good way), the published media is regulated so that it cannot libel people, it cannot lie too severely, and if it shouts “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, it will be punished.
The internet is less organized and journalism has liberalized so that it is not only a career for professionals. I wrote this blog post mostly to introduce you to the work of Clay Shirky who, way back in 2005, predicted precisely the sort of turmoil we’re beginning to see:
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