Sydney-based futurist Mark Pesce offers a mind-spinning take on mobile networks in this presentation at the Personal Democracy Forum in NYC. The upshot: social media is not tech toys and texting phones, but instead a revolution in human consciousness.
1. There is always a lag between the emergence of technology and humans discovering how to use it. The printing press was invented in the 1400s, centuries before it led to liberty. The internet emerged in the mid-1990s and we are just now leveraging its network and platform. Our human bodies themselves have had the technology — muscles, big brains and opposable thumbs — to build cities for 3,000 generations, but it took a while for our mental software to know what to do. When technology arrives, the outcome is always delayed and usually unexpected.
2. The next big wave is the mobile phone, and this new tool will once again shift human culture. Half the world’s population now has cell phones, and by 2011, 5 billion people will be able to communicate anywhere by voice, video or text. This doesn’t mean people will play with iPhones. It means human minds will finally have a group connectivity to act as giant, viral pieces of software.
3. The new hyper-connected human software leads to a world where groups, not individuals, are empowered. And this is where the futurism gets trippy. Most Westerners view democracy, or at least liberty, as the highest plane of social existence, where capital, labor and people can move at will. But Mark suggests the new networked world of humanity will make groups rise up with their own collective incentives and consciousness, even if those are at odds with individuals or the governments individuals have voted for.
Mobile communications will become the ultimate lever for small groups to move the world. The question is whether that will be for good or evil, and how in the world anyone can stop this genie now that it is out of the bottle.