A 20 year old northern California blogger named Kristen Wolfe had one of her posts noticed by the Huffington Post, which reposted it. It was entitled “Dear Customer Who Stuck Up for His Little Brother,” and recounted an experience at her place of employment (video game sales) where an athletic elder brother stood up for his younger brother against an aggressive and mean father. The younger brother wanted to buy a video game with a female character, along with a purple controller. The father was incensed and tried to get the boy to get a game with guns and violence — something manly. Anyway, click the link and read the story, it was touching and brought a tear to my eye.
But this blog entry isn’t about that, but how the story spread. Once reposted on Huffington Post it quickly became one of their most popular stories. I came about it via Facebook. A facebook friend named Kristine posted the link. I read it, was moved by the story and shared it on my facebook page. Already a number of people have shared my link, and others have shared their links. Whether its called ‘going viral’ or spreading like wildfire, that’s how a story that 20 years ago would maybe have been told to a few friends becomes a sensation.
This is an example of what is the biggest revolution in human history so far — an information and communications revolution wider in scope and power than even the industrial revolution of Europe or the invention of the printing press. It is the reason protests arose in Egypt a year ago, why both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street rocked American politics, and why the world is about to change in profound and fundamental ways. We are living in an era of history that is blessed or perhaps cursed to be one of the most dramatic and profound. It’s only just beginning; everything is about to change.
We’ve seen the first inklings of change as protests swept the Mideast and even Russia. We’ve seen power shift from states and governments first to businesses and financial institutions and likely next to NGOs and citizen movements. This will someday spawn a fundamental political restructuring whereby the bureaucratic sovereign state will be replaced by a new political order. Civil society will be global and connected, sharing information and undercutting local corruption.
Developing countries will be able to redefine development away from the unsustainable neo-liberal dream of constant industrial growth and materialism towards a bottom up sustainable future, connected with the world not as a periphery pawn in the global economic structure but as autonomous citizens and communities. Markets and big money will be forced to democratize and become transparent, and the current economic crisis will demand a rethinking of the idea that consumption should be ones’ primary life goal even in the industrialized West.
States, companies and even intelligence agencies will find it ever harder to keep anything ‘top secret,’ or any operation truly covert. The cure to global warming and our environmental crises will be a mix of technology and a new way of thinking. Once economic growth at all costs is rejected as the primary goal in life, a sustainable future can be imagined and built.
Yes, I know. That all sounds very utopian. Historians out there might point out that every major systemic change breeds war and crisis, in part because people don’t know what change is bringing and thus try desperately to hold on to the anachronistic system they’ve inherited. I have no doubt that will happen to some extent, this is an era of both crisis and transformation – the world is in motion!
Yet a positive trend is that attitudes are changing at a scope and pace that matches technological change. I bet if you described that scene in Kristen Wolfe’s blog to a large number of people, you’d find many siding with the father and thinking the sons were out of line. I also bet that almost everyone who would think that is over 45 years old. The Facebook generation is more tolerant, open minded and willing to share ideas and information. How often do parents warn kids about posting on Facebook and decry the idea of having 300 friends and sharing life details? The fetish for privacy of the older generation is giving way to a new openness.
Whereas my generation – the older one – tends to want a stable protected home and life-space, the younger generation is wired, connected and involved. My generation had yuppies cocooning in the suburbs, the new generation can’t imagine going a full day without their smart phones. It’s a new attitude which, combined with the new technology is putting us on the precipice of major cultural, global and technological change. Enjoy the ride!