Posts Tagged ‘Digital Age’



June 20, 2013

The debate rages on seemingly without any end in sight. Of course, it is particularly emotionally charged because we are not talking about just any kind of privacy; we are talking about how much the Government is entitled to know about us.

Unfortunately the current debate is fueled by an already raging distrust of this particular government – fed by irresponsible Congressional members who put “winning” over governing and irresponsible Press who put “ratings” over truth. How having a young African American President who thinks differently than the old “ruling class” of Traditionalists and Boomers helped to ignite this never-ending debate is up for review and discussion-as is whether or not he is doing a good or bad job in view of fact that one of our two political parties- is in a downward spiral internally. 

So it should be no surprise, then, that something we have debated for almost 250 years has surfaced…one more time.

We each have a point of view; we each are sharing our opinions and fears; we each are guilty of being distracted by the talking and shouting because we each are doing very little listening.

And surely, I am not asking you to trust and listen to me.

However, I am going to share an experience unfolding as time permits when I curl up- book in hand-in my comfy old wingback to read a new book I just stumbled upon. This is the book entitled THE NEW DIGITAL AGE – Reshaping the Future of People, Nations, and Business by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen.

The authors are not ordinary people like most of us; Eric Schmidt took Google from a small start up to one of the world’s most influential companies and Jared Cohen was a former advisor to secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, and is now the director of Google Ideas.  The sell copy on the book jacket convinced me their experience in technology and foreign affairs made them qualified to talk about how the technology world of the near future will look.

So I bought the book, went home, settled in, and started reading.  The Introduction was so jarring, I was not sure I could go further.  Chapter One was mind-boggling and Chapter Two scared me to death – and I am only on page 57! 

One thing I have already realized, however, is that today’s discussions regarding Snowden and the leaks; the IRS scandal; the AP scandal; the Benghazi Scandal, whatever the newly emerging Hillary and Obama scandals are being thought up are all simply irrelevant.  We continue to hear as scandals shrink to incidents, or accidents that we need to stop, discuss and set new guidelines about the things we are concerned about in terms of the security vs. privacy issues.

That would be wasting time, folks.  Not because we should NOT do it, but because we would be  talking about them, and addressing them with 20th century- pre-internet and the digital world-capabilities, dangers and outdated benchmarks of what is good and what is not.  So surely, we will end up with some 20th century irrelevant solution to reality.…it’s a bit like having Congressional discussions before WWII on how to care for all the troops’ horses when the war starts.  We need to understand where we are, and where we are going, before we invest time and effort in trying to use old thinking to establish rules to control that new world.

The Introduction to this book should be enough to shock us into letting go of our ways of thinking and opening our minds to what is before us.  A few comments taken from the Introduction:

The Internet…has transformed into an omnipresent and endlessly multifaceted outlet….a source for tremendous good and potentially dreadful evil.

This new capacity for free expression and free movement of information has generated the rich virtual landscape we know today…(but) consider too what the lack of top-down control allows: the online scams, the bullying campaigns, the hate-group websites and the terrorist chat rooms. This is the Internet, the world’s largest ungoverned space.

We’ll be more efficient more productive and more creative….a computer in 2025 will be sixty-four times faster than it is in 2013. Popular science fiction concepts…(will) turn into science facts. Fully integrated augmented reality…promises a visual overlay of digital information onto our physical environment. Communication technologies represent opportunities for cultural breakthroughs as well as technical ones.  How we interact with others and how we view ourselves will continue to be influenced and driven by the online world around us.

The vast majority of us will increasingly find ourselves living, working, and being governed in two worlds at once.  Sometimes these worlds (virtual and physical) will constrain each other; sometimes they will clash; sometimes they will intensify, accelerate and exacerbate phenomena in the other world so that a difference in degree will become a difference in kind.

The most significant impact of spread of communication technologies will be the way they help reallocate the concentration of power away from states and institutions and transfer it to individuals.

So, will this transfer of power to individuals ultimately result in a safer world, or a more dangerous one?  We can only wait and see…the future will be shaped by how states, citizens, companies, and institutions handle their new responsibilities.

For citizens…In many ways, their virtual identities will come to supersede all others, as the trails they leave remain engraved online into perpetuity.

There is a canyon dividing people who understand technology and people charged with addressing the world’s toughest geopolitical issues, and no one has built a bridge.  Yet the potential for collaboration between the tech industry, the public sector and civil economy is enormous.

Who will be more powerful in the future, the citizen or the state?  Will technology make terrorism easier or harder to carry out? What is the relationship between privacy and security, and how much will we have to give up to be part of the new digital age?  How will war, diplomacy and revolution change when everyone is connected and how can we tip the balance in a beneficial way?

To understand the future of politics, business, diplomacy and other important sectors, one must understand how technology is driving major changes in those areas.

This is a book about the importance of a guiding human hand in the new digital age.  For all the possibilities that communication technologies represent, their use for good or ill depends solely on people…..What happens in the future is up to us.

And with that, the book’s Introduction came to an end.  So far, so good…I was tracking with the vision and just a little uneasy with what I read.    Chapter One was devoted to Our Future Selves in this world of connectivity and most was pretty positive to me:  Increased Efficiency; More Innovation, More Opportunity, a Better Quality of Life…but I was beginning to have a hard time keeping the virtual and physical world separated in my mind – and not having or losing control is not an easy state for me!  Especially as I turned the page to Chapter Two  on the Future of Identity, Citizenship and Reporting  and immediately learned that to pull back – even from Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Google+, etc. to try to maintain some anonymity  may mean I become irrelevant.

As I mentioned above, Chapter Two is scary….but  I will push through the remaining chapters –  Future of States; Future of Revolution, Future of Terrorism, Future of Conflict, Combat and Intervention, the Future of Reconstruction  and finally a Conclusion  – just so I can get to and understand the “happy ending” that I hopefully can embrace.

After all, the whole point is, we have debated the same issues for 250 years with no resolution; maybe in this new digital world we are already in, we can find a better way to approach and reconcile that age-old of debate about the Relationship of Privacy and Security.