Tearing ourselves apart?

I am generally an optimist. And I have believed and tried to spread the idea that we have the potential to use networks to positively transform the world.

But when I look at my networks today I feel that we are increasingly using our new-found connectedness to tear one another apart. (I could give examples, but you know and every day will see and experience your own – individual vs organisation, individual vs individual, organisation vs organisation etc etc).

And it makes me wonder which way we’ll go… We, as a species, as a global society.

Is this a necessary step on our journey towards some new kind of enlightenment where a readjustment has to happen? Perhaps all of this turmoil, challenge and stress is the energy required to fuel an important recalibration in how people and organisations relate?

This has been my hope, since reading Cluetrain, and ploughing my heart and energy into making large organisations more social and more human through the projects I involve myself in.

I do believe in lifecycles and phases. Maybe this is just the next stage, the ‘storming’ before a more harmonious ‘performing’ in the largest group setting, together, as a new global networked society.

But maybe it is not – maybe this raw networked debate is the start of a great schism, a global jigsawing of society into ever more distinct tribes who are newly mobilised in a new, networked, global context. Now the tribe isn’t just the local goths or petrolheads or city chapter of socialists or day-trading liberatarians – now these tribes are global, they are sizeable, and they can pool resources to achieve their goals. (At the extreme but certainly well within the possible, we can speculate about ‘smart crowds’ evolving towards the emergence of new communities with resources to compete with very large organisations or even nation states).

Maybe as we become more networked, we have the chance to be more polarised, to just find more people like us and more ideas that match what we already believe, rather than finding more difference or finding new perspectives, rather than compromising and blending and empathising.

Maybe we will just retreat into homogenous digital enclaves where we all think the same things, leaving only to attack – Clash of Clans-style – the opposition. Could that happen?

I still believe we have a huge opportunity. (I am an optimist!). We have this new superpower – the network. But I do wonder what we’ll do with it. The choices we’ll make. We, the people. Do we just need to learn-by-doing? To fuck up and fuck up and fuck up until we collectively appreciate the power we now have and how best to employ it to make the world better?

I wonder. I do.

One comment

  1. Scott Lawson

    If history tells us anything (which we often ignore), is that humans start with the intention of making it better, and then power and greed takes over. Think the Roman Empire, the British Empire, even America – the founding fathers would be shocked at the current state of the country. America started out to be the land of the free, not the land of the watched and paranoid. Easter Island as an example of environmental damage. There are people with good intentions, but then there are those with selfish intentions. Psychopath Night on Channel 4 recently covered this quite well. The financial crash was arguably the fault of “psychopaths”. I just re-watched Grizzly Man, and in it Werner Herzog notes that Timothy Treadwell believed he could live in harmony with bears, although Herzog then said he didn’t share his view (not necessary because he didn’t want it to be true, but that it doesn’t appear to be true). “I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder.”. That’s pretty much the scientific viewpoint, the spiritual viewpoint is the opposite though.

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