I remember reading the Cluetrain Manifesto over 10 years ago, and it is fair to say it changed my life. It made me see that technology was creating access. I believed for the first time that the proletariat (like me) could buck the system and the power brokers. The over-riding theme of the book was this:
Hyperlinks circumvent hierarchy
While I still believe this to be true, I think it is at risk. The reason I think it is at risk is that I find myself moderating my opinion now, when I never did just a few short years ago. Just thinking twice before firing off a tweet or a text just in case it could be taken out of context, or if ‘key words’ and meta data inside it could create unwanted focus on my opinion. And while I don’t think I’m particularly important, or anyone would care what I think or have to say, it says something about the world we are in. We now know that every word we type or publish in digital forums is being watched. While some might say it doesn’t matter if you are not doing anything wrong, it does matter if it changes what we believe and say because of it. It matters if it changes the shape of our thoughts and actions. We ought to be concerned.
Yesterday a piece was written in the Sydney Morning Herald about impending changes to security laws. It is worth reading …. and just yesterday we had a certain portion of Australia’s populace protest via twitter with the #heyASIO hashtag. Although it all seems somewhat futile now. Our new environment is very Stasi like – welcome to East Germany circa 1950.
It isn’t without a sense of irony that at a time when we have the most powerful communication tools in history – the web, the power is being thwarted by eavesdroppers. When strangers listen in, the conversation changes, and sometimes even stops. The thing that worries me most is what comes next? What gets encroached upon after that? If there is anything we need from entrepreneurs right now, it is startups which protect consumers from their digital footprints. It’s startups which reinvent the web in a way that ensures it can’t be controlled by authorities and it remains in the hands of humanity as a digital punk hood.