Davos and the Importance of Social Media
The World Economic Forum is being held in Davos, Switzerland. Until Sunday, 31 January, the economic powers-that-be are meeting in the secluded ski resort town.
The Growing Influence of Social Networks is one of the themes to be discussed in Davos this year. Public input was invited, but the request was somewhat hidden in a brand new Ning group with little more than a hundred members, and it reads as follows:
Given the topic of the workshop it was natural to open it to input from the different social networks. We want to hear from you:
1. "How are social networks changing society?"
2. "What are the most important implications and risks for society?"
3. "What should individuals and institutions do to leverage the power of social networks and improve society?"
Are social media going to change the world?
A big question to be hidden away in a group with very few members. Still, some great comments and suggestions were made. To get the whole conversation, see the posting
And indeed, how do social media influence and change society? I tried to answer those questions, and was surprised at my answers. Social media are more important than we might believe. We are having conversations, mostly for fun, and sometimes with the intention of changing things we perceive to be going in the wrong direction. Yet, the implications of what we are doing are profound, indeed world changing....
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Here is what I said.
I would like to add my voice to this string and bring a slightly different perspective to the discussion around three questions that have been asked:
1) How are social networks changing society?
Humans are intelligent (to a degree). Social networks are growing the neuronal connections that will make humanity intelligent.
2) What are the most important implications and risks for society?
Some of those implications are:
Once we have acquired intelligence as a species as opposed to intelligence as a mass of largely disconnected individuals, we will be able to perceive our planetary environment as something that is an intimate part of us (the species) and we will be able to adjust our actions to fit in with the environment instead of merely exploiting it in a very impersonal way as we are doing now.
We will also be able to better perceive our off-planet environment and we are likely to discover that we are not alone, that there are other civilizations out there that we will have to intelligently interact with. We will be able to do so because of our intelligence as humanity, acquired through the use of social networks.
And some of the risks:
The greatest risk I see is that governments may not get with it and will therefore act to waste, or worse, oppose this great resource that is developing by the interconnection of our individual minds into a planetary intelligence.
A lesser, but connected risk is that governments will, in the name of "national security", continue to conduct much of their business behind walls of secrecy. This will prevent them from accessing the fruits of our connected intelligence, but it will also unbalance the relation between the governing and the governed.
Consider that we are becoming more and more transparent just by the fact that our on-line identities and actions and public thoughts are preserved, while no such thing is happening in government. It appears therefore of great importance for governments to adopt policies of transparency and of participation. The conversation today is happening largely without them and at times even despite them. Privacy is not the solution to this dilemma. Only increased openness in government can heal the rift that is being opened.
3. What should individuals and institutions do to leverage the power of social networks and improve society?
Individuals should, and I believe they will, continue to link up and construct the global mind of humanity. Governments should open their files to the public, giving the global mind a memory and they should find ways to allow those contributions of knowledge and intelligence, that are being freely offered, to flow into public decision making. This would give real meaning to the word democracy, something that many of us have almost lost hope of achieving.
The actual conversation was interesting to watch. It is up on YouTube for you to see.