TED Conversations

James McGuiness

TEDCRED 10+

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

The Internet (in it's current form) is more of a pacifier for people who want to do good than a facilitator of synergistic accomplishments.

I'd rather have put that more as a question but the character limitation left me no alternative but to make that a blunt charge. But this is a debate section and opinions about the topic (not about me for making it tyvm) are encouraged.

Many people see the Internet as this wonderful "free speech" vehicle and argue it should be a right to have access to at an artificially capped price. It is not however a "broadcast medium" but instead analogous to a huge file cabinet where you can place some bit of speech but no one need read it and almost no one will even find it unless you spam the world with e-mail telling them where to look. And even then it is questionable that it can get any serious consideration even if it happened to be the key to, say, saving the world from climate change.

Do you think the Internet, as it is, is an acceptable facilitator of cooperation between like-minded people, or is it more of a "pacifier" that let's people who want to influence others or hasten change just unload and feel like they've done something when in fact they've just sent yet another flare into a day-lit sky full of smoke from other flares where little if anything influences anyone?

+2
Share:
progress indicator
  • thumb
    Jun 3 2013: For me, James, so far it has mostly been more that I get information from the Net that I then use in my daily life, apart from the Net, to make my life, or the community life, better.

    Actually, it might be hard to engage in practical projects with people on the Net because they're often distant. For instance, you and I might not be able to do a project together because you're in VA and I'm in Cali. But you might tell me about a project you have done, and I'll like the idea and try to do something similar here. I also think we should recognize that if you even influence one person and make their life better, that is good. If you only get one view on your video, but that viewer is improved by it, well, the world is a little better, isn't it?

    Maybe the real problem you're talking about is not the Net, but just people's passivity and apathy. There's always been places for people to vent without doing anything about the problem, before the Net it was newspapers, or conversation, or whatever. Personally I try to be pro-active in life, and try to encourage it in others.
    • thumb
      Jun 3 2013: I perceived two different issues in James' question, and I believe you touched on both.

      Derek Sivers in one of his talks makes the uncommon case that rather than telling people about our goals, thereby bringing peer pressure to bear on us as an extrinsic motivation, we should not share our goals. His argument is that stating a goal rewards the person prematurely, as if the goal is partly accomplished and may reduce the imperative of actually doing something.

      I think James raises the question of whether the same psychology might be at play here. That is, does stating a position, even a passionate one online, maybe even fighting the righteous fight online, reward the person prematurely in a way that removes or reduces in him the imperative actually to do something that makes a more tangible difference.

      The second issue is most often raised by people who are somewhat frustrated by having an idea they want to market and not being able to get people's attention or to attract resources to their projects. The internet can be such a powerful medium in this respect, but it kind of depends on a person's marketing savvy. Some people are ingenious at exploiting free platforms for self-promotion (even of services that are not exceptional) and some have not figured it out (even for services that are remarkable).

      One of the sometimes annoying aspects of the internet is how some people take advantage of every possible setting to try to sell their wares. This is why TED Conversations has explicit rules that participants should not be using the site to promote themselves and their products/services.
      • thumb
        Jun 3 2013: Thanks, F. Not to grind it into anyone, but I believe it worth mentioning again that the first problem is not exclusive to the Net. Before there was ever a Net, people may have expressed a desire to fight on an issue, but run out of gas, or courage, or ideas before they really fought. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions?

        Personally I think the Net is wonderful, but maybe wonderfulness is in the eye of the beholder, in other words it is somewhat up to the user to employ it, as they would any resource, consciously and skillfully. Really, though, if all someone does is just complain on the Net and they tell themselves they've "really done something," well, they have really done something, they just haven't gone all the way, but complaining is usually better than nothing. Maybe someone else will see your complaint and actually act on it, sometimes I see other people's complaints and they intrigue me enough to try to solve the problem the other person has delineated.

        I'm sorry, I see that you are speaking to his "second issue," but I can't see even how he has cogently stated a second issue, can you tell me what you think his second issue is that you have then spoken to?
        • thumb
          Jun 3 2013: I agree that the issue of talking without moving into doing preceded and takes place also alongside the internet. It is just easier with the internet.

          I see the second issue in this section: "where you can place some bit of speech but no one need read it and almost no one will even find it unless you spam the world with e-mail telling them where to look. And even then it is questionable that it can get any serious consideration even if it happened to be the key to, say, saving the world from climate change." I interpreted this as an expression of the difficulty of getting attention via the internet for an important idea.
      • Jun 3 2013: Bravo Frtizie. both of my thumbs up. At the beginning of the 90's circumstances carried me into the UN/NGO community in NY and I became an accredited UN representative. I was known as a technology wonk--having been assistant CTO for a NY bank on Wall St. I found myself on a committee to create a "teaching center" at the UN. I was 35. Everyone else had been involved in the UN/NGO sphere since WWII. So, I was looked at as this young maverick guy with technology visions but there were a lot of older folks who wanted to fulfill their dreams and do something I knew wouldn't do it. Teachers don't have the latitude to just decide to teach about the UN or come there and get "literature". It started to dawn on me that the "convergence of television and computers" that the technology press kept talking about as a coming mystery might be my fortune to realize where it could remove all the generation loss and esoterica from the sciences done and collected by the UN and put them into motion in a multimedia learning environment that would bring education into participation with the new "sustainable development movement". Suffice it to say I learned that there are politics that don't want to see that. Anyway, by '95 I was publishing a newsletter for a group and then the Internet was the big splash. Everyone seemed to buy that you just put something on the net and the entire world sees it in an instant. No matter how many times I explained how it doesn't work that way and you needed to buy into a listing service and "spam" a zillion people to get them to know where your newsletter was, the intoxication with misinformation about what the Internet was had already done its damage. If they saw it on the net, like anthropocentric and ego-centric obsessives, they believed the world was seeing their newsletter. It's been 18 years since then, so, I've kinda paid my dues in understanding people and fixations. Most want only what they conceive. It's called the "not invented here syndrome".
      • thumb
        Jun 4 2013: re "I agree that the issue" well, it might be a little easier with the Net. For me, Fritz, I don't see the Net as "revolutionary," in fact I tend to believe that there are no revolutions, that in most cases in life there is no overt revolution, and where you see something that looks like a revolution, there really have been slow, plodding, incremental steps that created that "revolution." I suppose I see the Net as an evolution, a step forward but still bound largely by whatever abilities and limitations people had before the Net. Therefore, if, for example, we see that it takes work to publicize a good idea on the Net, I would say that it always took work to publicize a good idea, and that the Net hasn't changed that too much.

        I'm thinking that the reason people may try to start toward resolving a problem but not complete it is that solving any problem, even very small ones, often takes a very high degree of sophistication that it is hard to acquire. I'm very effective at solving problems, but I believe I have a rather extraordinary set of skills and traits that help me do that that most people just don't have. I'd really have to think why I have them and most people don't, offhand I don't know. It seems to me I really care about my quality of life, maybe because I'm an atheist and feel life is short.

        How about you, F? Are there negative phenomena that impinge on your life that you want to change? What are they? Do you undertake to change them, and how, or do you "settle" and just accept them?
        • thumb
          Jun 4 2013: The most obvious negative phenomenon impinging on my life right now is a broken foot. But generally speaking I work on solving significant challenges as they arise while recognizing that I cannot work on everything.
    • Jun 3 2013: Thanks Greg for your courteous response. I replied to you on another thread and that led me to recall a realization I had that might better explain the issue. In other "revolutions" mankind has sought to achieve powers long desired, sometimes withheld by an elite or sometimes just not yet technologically practical and affordable. The "digital revolution" which many people see the Internet being at the center of is an unprecedented "revolution in reverse" where we have achieved powers most people don't yet understand the nature of. We all grew up and went through an educational model designed for the Industrial Revolution called the "factory model" where we were instantly subjected to authority without any negotiation or agreement to both yield to authority and earn autonomy or earn some authority over others. This has many consequences that society only treats reactively with punishment after the fact. The defacto answer is to throw people who have had issues with authority into a place where there is even more oppressive authority asserted over them.

      The central change from thousands of years of linear information through faulty open-ended media like scrolls to paper to film becoming now technologically able to address the politics of comprehension has not been conventionalized into a major reform from which everyone can slowly gain meaning. Thus persons like myself who have placed themselves in the right places at the right times to be the first to see social and political "solutions" that draw traditionally separate spheres of human endeavor into a "convergence" that sets a new direction can become very frustrated with casual attitudes that see new technology as just some fad way to "chat" or share photos rather than solve long-standing problems. And despite conventional wisdom, educational degree from the existing system is no license to authority over power we all get without permissions. What to do? Who to see? Where to go? TED?
      • thumb
        Jun 4 2013: It always takes the mainstream a while to catch up in terms of technology. You will always have those that lead the charge, as in the early adopters and eventually things become mainstream.
        Now in terms of the internet, given its relative newness, people are still trying it out/working out what it is capable of and interacting within it.
        Statistics abound for most popular searched things on the net and if memory serves me correctly, I think sex related is right up there at number 1!
        This says alot for most peoples priorities online huh? Facebook with 500 million members seems to have found a way to become mainstream and connect people. Now if you believe in the concept of 6 degrees of separation, which basically means everyone is 6 people removed from everyone on the planet. Then whatever message you want to relay you could do via your own friend group and they would then spread the word! :D
        • Jun 4 2013: TT, it is going to take new art to change thinking and that has to be the vision of one person. The digital revolution or whatever this phenomenon is called will only stumble forward until someone succeeds with a work of "new art" that illuminates flaw in widely held notions and provides new function to give people a choice between "lesser compromised" and the closer to "ideal". No one could continue horse-drawn thinking when the automobile was proving it gave extraordinary economic and social advantage. That has not yet emerged in the current so-called revolution. I have been fortunate enough myself to be in a position at one time to deliver such a work. But did not find willingness in others because it requires a leap of faith too far for most folks to put stock in someone's constructively radical departure. (I'm just making conversation here so please just take this in that spirit). The issue I address in my work is that this tech phenomenon has been limited by the preeminence of short-term utility in western conventional wisdom. I have conceived an "order" and philosophy to supplant the "utilitarian mind"--the mind that sees the ultimate outcome of this phenomenon as a thinking machine that does everything we do but better. That thinking makes US obsolete. I depart with a "facilitarian mind" which sees that the ultimate best outcome is technology that facilitates us, even allows us to "lead ourselves" to become more capable through neuroplastic dynamism put into practice. We are the objective--not stuff. When you get into the core thinking that establishes "conventional wisdom" you realize that there can be developments which turn conventional wisdom upside down and actually it becomes the impediment. Surely people faced this when automobile travel challenged the buggy whip lobby. Politics would favor the buggy whip folks, but after Henry Ford, politics had to turn 180 degrees the other way and no one could argue that the horse would continue to be the future.
      • thumb
        Jun 4 2013: J, I spoke to F below about my belief that there rarely are revolutions, that where you see what looks like a revolution if you delve further you will see that there are incremental steps that led to it, and that what it enables is incremental steps beyond what was before. Therefore I would tend to see the Net as an "evolution," a step forward, but still subject to the abilities and limitations people had previously. If it is hard to publicize an idea on the Net, I'm thinking it was always hard. If people don't see complaints through to resolution, I'm thinking they didn't in the past.

        I'm thinking the reason people start a complaint and not finish it is that it takes real sophistication to solve even small problems, sophistication that most people do not have. I'm effective at solving problems, but I'm somewhat extraordinary, certifiably a genius, Stanford degree, etc.
        • Jun 4 2013: Please see my above response to TT. I ran out of characters and will try to follow up what I said there here with more. (BBTW, I have been deemed a genius too but my knowledge of how the brain really works neuroplastically tells me not to believe in "genius" and definitely don't tell other people I'm one. Haha.). You are right and insightful about the net and people. It is not a revolution but an evolution. But as I tried to say to TT, there will come "new art" that sets new direction which will illuminate flaws in existing conventional wisdom and provide a closer to "ideal" alternatives. In essence when it comes to popular understanding of media and the neglect or absence of information or knowledge policies and ethics, we are still in the horse-drawn age. Trying to pioneer technology myself since before the Internet browser set the world alight in 1995, I had grasp and vision that I staked my life on. I left a job on Wall St as assistant Chief Technology officer for a major NY bank and studied at School of Visual Arts in NYC. I became involved in the UN and found myself very quickly pulled to the forefront of massive change as the Cold War just ended and the world would meet in 1992 in Rio De Janeiro to try to hammer out a new "operating principle" to replace the MAD which had defined the world since the end of WWII. When the vacuum of destiny seems to feel like it's pulling you to be the one to step out and lead a "convergence" of the ongoing technology phenomenon with the want and need to reconcile what happened to mankind and what we should learn from what we did to damn near extinguish ourselves, you make damn sure not to get anything wrong. Fortune doesn't always smile all the way on someone though--there was no time to get funded and get connected with the people it would have taken. But you never forget that experience and you build on it. It's 23 years since then and I've made so many breakthroughs. A book just can't suffice. It has to be art yet defined.
  • thumb
    Jun 2 2013: There is little question that the internet allows some people to have a sense that they have done what they can as soon as they offer their perspectives in a place where theoretically lots of people might see their words and act on them. This sort of role in possible change-making is, I believe, a source of satisfaction for many people, even if there is no tangible evidence of even tiny effect.

    But among people who have a project to implement, be it a change-making project or a commercial one, there are definitely those who learn to use the internet to their advantage, people who have successfully fashioned a platform that gives them an audience or market of at least thousands. Of course the internet as a rapid means of communicating with distant colleagues and collaborators or as a way of gaining rapid access to information of all kinds also helps people in their collaborations.

    As with any medium, a person needs to know how to use it effectively, or it is just yelling into the wind. Further, if what one has to offer is not actually compelling or one does not know how to communicate it in a compelling way, the medium will not compensate when there is so much competition for attention.

    One blogger and TED speaker who talks and writes with great focus on this subject of the requirements to get effective attention is Seth Godin.

    Clay Shirky and Yochai Benkler also talk about the potential and actual history of the internet in facilitating such synergistic collaborations. I believe their TED talks are under the tag "collaboration."
    • Jun 2 2013: Thanks for the leads. I was once a founding member of a forum which came about after another lively forum went sort of down in flames. That forum had a theme of a sort of non-hierarchical religion but most people who signed up just socialized and joked around. So when my associate started another forum and lots of defectors followed and came on to our new forum, I thought we should develop some kind of theme. It was a "fellowship" but what I had hoped for it to be about was taking "cyberspace" more seriously and sharing a growing understanding of the power we were using and what we could do without traditional permissions. Right away the resistance became directed at me as the new tyrant wanting legions of followers. And before you knew it, half the initial group bailed. I tried to keep that as just a section and not a theme of the forum but it seems very clear that what folks wanted was just an entertainment adjunct which allowed them to dump anything, share about it until it reached its end, and just hop on the next discussion of the same junk Television was serving up as the priorities we should be concerned with. I managed to find one person who really connected with me and we worked together to develop a series of principles we called "The Articles of Cyber Citizenship". Other people threw their ideas in here and there but having that one person devoted like that brought out a synergy between us in which we created new language and political conventions for cyberspace as a secondary plane of human existence--one not for entertainments but one that acts like a "worm hole" in space--a world within a world where a lot of dysfunction and gridlock of the physical world could be circumvented. This of course push everyone away because we had advanced to an understanding that took too much orientation to get into. I have it all saved though and hope to use it to create a multimedia environment that can make esoteric sciences more humanized (far less excluding)
      • thumb
        Jun 2 2013: I have seen both the phenomena you mention in online communities. That is, I have seen situations in which someone seeks to create a community around his agenda and wants to surround himself with followers. This limits the community to people who like the role of following a leader, and if the community also has attracted more egalitarian-minded, more independent thinking types, there can be conflicts until someone leaves, because the two dispositions are inconsistent.

        In fact, I have seen leaders who actually believe they are fostering an egalitarian environment welcoming or promoting free exchange of ideas, but those with ideas different from the leaders are shunted off to the side, while those who agree are incessantly flattered. Creative, independent-thinking people would find little value in continuing to engage under those circumstances.

        Sometimes I see someone come to TED Conversations looking for followers or to lead people. That doesn't tend to last long, as most members here are not looking to follow someone. Many, I think, are happy to participate or insist in constructive collaborations.

        The other thing I have seen is a couple of people here "click" on a topic or project, but it doesn't spread beyond them, and again, once a structure of thought or a program or a new vocabulary has been constructed by the two, others tend not to connect with it.
        • Jun 3 2013: I agree with your observation. And personally I also take the view that I don't want to make myself a leader. On the other hand I refuse to be a follower or even a worshiper prostrating in front of a "leader" kissing his feet and say hooray to everything he says. Particularly TED is a forum for EXCHANGE OF IDEAS. The ideas are freely given and taken, no acknowledgments are needed, unless graciously offered
          If a potential leader wants to recruit a group of crew or followers, he should go to some other internet site and clearly declare his purpose to carry on. Unfortunate (or fortunately), there are lot of such followers around, however there are also plenty of people they simply won't be interested in that.
          If anyone wants to influence other people about certain "earth shaken" important ideas, go ahead and post it. However, if there are very few harmonic responses, then he should quit graciously without trying again with " a new bottle with old wine".
          Report of some seldom noticed information is fine. In fact, I have learned quite few situations in some "remote" part of the world in TED talks just by reading some of the topics without my comment. That's propagation of information without getting under someone's skin.
  • thumb
    Jun 6 2013: As the discussion in this thread has traveled away, I think, from the initial question of pacifier versus facilitator, let me share a resource that connects specifically to the idea of exploiting the relative advantage of the internet in a variety of areas rather than using the net essentially to reproduce traditional models..

    If I had to guess where some of the breakthrough ideas in this area will bubble up, my first guess is MIT's Media Lab.

    Here is an example of a project underway http://open.media.mit.edu/#, but if you explore the site, you will find a variety of interesting endeavors on the project list.
    • Jun 7 2013: Geez, that brings me back. Activities coming out of MIT's media lab got a great amount of ink back in the day where I threw myself into all things "interactive" and "digital" ca 1989. In the year's before there was this Internet thingy it was all on paper in technology trade-press what the ideas were and who is doing what. I got to meet Nicolas Negreponte in my activities with what was called "IICS" the International Interactive Communications Society" which had a buzzing chapter in NYC. Then when the net "happened" in 1995, all eyes were on it and far far less on the other media a lot of us were seeing as the likely candidates to answer the mystery of what is going to be the "killer ap". When a friend told me it was the Internet "browser" and started using terms like "surfing" I wanted to puke, really. Millions of years until this grand moment of revelation and the idea is called a "browser"? And you do what? Get out of here, some like me thought.

      These were the times before there was even DVDs or Play Station or X-Box and MIT media lab was the place for "intel". Before the digital gaming platforms came out there was a whole different mind-set about what could bring computing and television together. There was a belief that an "edu-tainment" market would congeal and that instead of Play Station, you'd have had a box in which you played "titles" of interest. I saw an opportunity then to ask why can't journalism be the key to this market? And I was carried by circumstances into the UN/NGO community in NY which was prepping for the Earth Summit. There was a narrow window to produce an "interactive documentary" that might illuminate a market context for the CD-I box that SONY was planning but they played it safe, funding titles that would become known as "shovel ware". Then they went to shoot 'em ups for $ and the rest is history. Thanks for the link--it's informative and very relevant Fritzie.
      • thumb
        Jun 7 2013: I am glad its useful, James. I try to steer people to resources, to like-minded people, and even to noteworthy counter-views that seem to me relevant to their interests and projects. Its a big part of being an educator.
        • Jun 7 2013: You're worth your "cred". *smile* It was good seeing where the thinking is on educational evolution is. I now know what a MOOC is. Ha. When all is said and done though everything will meet at the ultimate ideal. So, my thinking has always been why not go there immediately? It turns out that there is a need to establish at least two views of the ideal as interpreted through two opposing minds. This has led me to the development of a philosophy I have been working on. What I could really use is collaboration with someone who might be interested in how to express this theory--"theory of facility" versus (shorter-term) "utility" in equation forms. I can explain it in text but I don't have the bonifides to put it into the mathematical equations. But I really think that inside that exact bit of thinking are trillion dollar issues where the opportunity to innovators of all kinds lie. There has to be a formal theory that shapes new conventional thinking which exposes where and how existing conventional wisdom is faulty. We are not just "users" of technology--as if "tools" are still as simple and obvious as the hammer or hoe. We are always changed by acclimating to the demands and shortfalls of "virtual tools" that are non-obvious and Omni-purposeful. How to think of it will come down to an E= MC2 moment and coincidentally, information policy that address facility over utility equals informed guidance on energy (and climate change) theory. IMO this must "out" at some point to make the debate about reforms academic. When things become a "no-brainer win-win" there will be a new stampede--one that will define the 21st Century and beyond. It needs to be expressed in more than text. Mathematic symbology is the place and my Achilles heel. (I hope that makes sense. I got some rather unsettling criticism when I assumed too much of an audience and it's kinda making me nervous that I'm not sounding logical. Oh to overcome that equation problem).
      • thumb
        Jun 7 2013: I am personally not at all intimidated by equations, but I think you have to do a better job of explaining clearly whatever it is you are trying to say. This includes defining your terms and so forth.I wouldn't think from what you are saying that equations would add anything.

        My suggestion to you is that as a former journalist you try writing what you have to say without jargon, succinctly, and as if your paper or magazine will accept it only if your story is plain to a moderately informed reader. Have you tried this?

        You cannot simply be saying that we not only use technology but technology shapes us, as that is well understood. If you read your post to which I am responding, can you see that you convey how important you believe your idea is but not really WHAT the idea is?

        In other posts you have talked about the bottom -up potential of the internet as a pathway in education, but that too is not new or hard to describe. For example, this year's TED Prize to Sugata Mitra was exactly about that.

        Part of the problem in reaching an audience, as you know, is that they typically have only so much patience to wade through stuff that kind of beats around the bush or describes an idea in vague terms. After people try and can't see through to the underlying meaning (which is an effort many a TED reader will make for you), you lose their attention and may have a hard time getting it back.
  • thumb
    Jun 6 2013: I noticed in some posts here, mention of education and so I will now divulge some information that a CEO of a major training institution told me way back in the 90's re the net and education.
    It runs along the lines of 1-1 communication. As such the following educational outcome was told to me. With the advent of the internet, it is reasonably assumable that for example, the best law, engineering, medical,architecture & every other university degree course lecturer who is the best in the world & resident perhaps at Harvard or any other prestigious establishment would tutor via computer 1on 1 to students from around the world!
    In the real world, students sit in a lecture room on campus, in the virtual world you sit wherever you like and watch a web/podcast of the lecture!
    Taking some of this a stretch further, while I was undertaking a Law Degree, which circumstances prevented me from completing, I concluded the following. If every common law legal case and outcome of that case inclusive of all the facts and circumstances surrounding it, plus what punitive measures were applied. And if all the governmental legislation and precedents of cases were put into an internet database, then whenever a new case came up, all of it's facts would be put into this data base, which would then key word cross reference everything in it's data base and come up with an outcome that would then, effectively nullify the entire legal fraternity! IMO.
    In terms of medicine, the internet and webcam technology are already connecting experts with lesser qualified surgeons in real time to perform complicated procedures!
    Now in consideration that the topic here is in the form of a debate, I guess I am on the synergistic accomplishment side! : D
    • Jun 6 2013: Yes, you are. *smile* That CEO was right on it. This is how I see it: there are functional and dysfunctional ways of doing things, and there are IDEAL ways of doing things. If we all agree to be idealists, we will find ourselves arriving at pretty close to the same ultimate realizations where you've touched every base, hit every note and defined if not achieved an ideal. Where does one fit in the story of the "Tortoise and the Hare"? Idealists must decide to move only like the tortoise toward absolute ideals in every step. What has s often happened in technology has been the "hare" approach of the "opportunist"--someone who says I don't care about anything, I just know I can make this work for me. And thus you get Mark Zuckerberg--very successful but the establishment in revolutionary clothing who provides a mish-mosh of seemingly free technology for social illiterates by social illiterates and calls it "Social Media". Many are fooled that success implies "correctness". This is admittedly an opinion but I don't think it does.

      Microsoft for instance has been fantastically successful but have they ever sought to deliver "ideals"? No. They realized early on that they can benefit greatly by offering incremental advancements in versions rather than focus on changing anything about the society that uses its products. It is steeped in the mind-set of conventional office-automation utility and does not care if its products are used to automate away every support position in every company. Steve Jobs and Apple have wanted to do more and arguably have but they too stayed very much within offering functionality without any idealism and real change. They are all wildly successful and you can say together MS and Apple "changed the world" but if you ask how so? you'd have a hard time saying anything historically significant. We still live at the pace of the politics of paper. I think IDEALISM must guide new direction. 1 to 1, what are its ideals? OOC
  • thumb
    Jun 5 2013: James, you are raising excellent issues, and I don't have a simple, pat answer for them. I believe I'm going to submit a conversation about them. I tend to think that most people are somewhat passive about their lives, that they try to achieve some quality of life but often, in many circumstances, settle for less quality of life than they would like, and, I think, could achieve. Why, I don't know. I probably don't think it's the Internet's fault. I probably believe that where there is a will there is a way, that if a person comes along who wants a certain quality of life they will find a way to achieve it, regardless of the tools available. If the tools available aren't good enough, they will make new tools. But you know, now that I think about it, maybe I can slightly answer your question. Personally, I don't think the Net is any one thing, I think it's different things for different people. For the pro-active person, it is a tool for accomplishment. For the more passive person, it might be, as you say, a "pacifier." What I'm thinking is that since almost noone else has raised the issue you are raising, I've never even heard this idea before, it tells me most people are satisfied with the Net as it is, that for the pro-active people they're getting what they need, and the passives are getting what they need.

    I'm thinking that instead of trying to make the whole Net better for a huge group of people who maybe aren't that unhappy, you should pick an issue where you really want to improve that issue. What more limited issues interest you, global warming?
    • Jun 5 2013: Thanks Greg. I am glad to get some perspective on how unusual my question is. I had developed a vision for the so-called "digital revolution" about eight years before the first Internet browser came out and the stampede started in 1995. I don't presume that I can change what has happened. But I staked my life on being right about what the fundamental implications are of "non-linearity" versus the linear modalities people used to communicate for eons before this time. And nothing has happened to make me think I was errant in my analysis. To me the "belief" that the Internet is the be-all end-all destination of the Information Technology Revolution is misguided. There is no real "revolution" until human beings focus and channel their efforts into VALUE. IMO there has been a basic EROSION of value because of the commercialism has been dragged in where it really doesn't fit and has given many people errant impressions.

      For instance, before the net there were way more individual and social business channels for "consultants" and people who gave seminars. Today people just turn to YouTube and get seemingly free demonstrations of whatever they are trying to find out about. Lost has been the a cultural faith that consultants are worth their salt. I know because I am one. That is not to say that people haven't benefitted from net content or that business hasn't just changed to favor those who jump on the Internet band-wagon. But there is a fundamental shift that demands interpretation at some point as to whether people are really getting "GOOD VALUE" from "free stuff" that is actually not free--it's paid for by advertisers and it is paid for with questionable productivity change in the user community.

      Doing what I wanted to do before the net shaped things the way they are is harder now because of uncertainty about value. We have lost economic perspective and need a renaissance of value. That is what I put my mind to--raising questions about value. You can't fake it. OOC
      • thumb
        Jun 6 2013: In theory, James, I should take some time to reflect on what you're saying. But I usually like to reply fast because as much as I like the ideas on TED, I also just like the feeling of communicating with another human being. Mind you, I also tend to be a very critical person, I'm always playing devil's advocate, etc.

        Offhand, I don't see why the Internet would shatter the consulting business. There have always been means available for people to DIY whatever they want to do. If someone had a legal case, for example, they could hire a lawyer, or they could go to a law library and do it themselves. Do the research necessary so they could defend themselves. And there's always been the awareness that some things were too complex to do yourself, you could get involved in a legal case where you really have to have a lawyer, I don't think either of these things have changed with the Net. I don't think there's anyone around who believes that because of the Internet, there's no case where they're not going to need a lawyer, that now they have access to all the info they need to represent themselves effectively in whatever case may arise.

        What sort of consulting do you do? If the kind of consulting you do is so threatened by the Net, then that suggests it might be non-essential consulting.

        Do you concur that people have different levels of ambition in life, different aims, are satisfied with different levels of info. A discerning person with a large ambition might in many cases be able to find what they want on the net, in some cases they may have to hire an expert, okay, it was always that way. A less discerning, less ambitious person might fail to find what they need on the Net, might not realize they should get an expert, and they lose at whatever they're trying to do. I tend to think this is not the Net's fault, it's back to my previous question, why are there people who want higher quality and a winning life, and others settle for losing?
        • Jun 6 2013: I'm sorry but when one jumps the tracks into arguing what they "believe", the conversation gets contentious. I don't go on "beliefs". I don't believe in believing. It's not a belief or opinion that the 18 years of the Internet being an any-person phenomenon has made impact on many kinds of businesses and endeavors. I don't just believe what I want and then contend with it. I ask the questions. And if the answers aren't readily available I see that as an as-yet done job for someone to to explore and something to knock around with open-minded people not given to snap dismissive judgments based on 20th Century short-term utility or who use themselves as the standard for how everyone else should approach the world. Ever hear of "not invented here syndrome"? It very typical--especially of people who spend most of their life on the east coast where I am from where there is only a few time zones of water to the east before you hit Europe--that if they haven't thought it up or experienced it themselves it must be wrong. I have experienced that all my life as a person who tries to understand thinking and motivation and not just technology. My consulting work is to offer essentially a part-time CIO. Thousands of businesses have thrown themselves into technology ventures without fist having an "information policy" to drive what they do in a comprehensive direction. They assume they can hire an "IT guy or gal" and throw some CAD or Internet at some aspect of there business and it makes its own sauce. Well little can be further than thee truth. How much do you know about "information ownership" or "software capitalization"? When does a software purchase become a "system" that can be ledgered as an asset? What is the percentage of value that employees achieve from the technology they have bought? What only 5%. Why not 95%. It's because there is a certain place from which one must see things in this the information age and most don't. A CIO is IMO more relevant than a CTO. OOC
      • thumb
        Jun 6 2013: But I'm sorry, James, haven't there always been many businesses and ventures that failed, before the Internet there were, too, weren't there? Possibly it was poor planning on the part of the entrepreneur, they didn't think through correctly what they needed, but the fact is it was there. I find it hard to blame it on the Net. I mean what about the Great Depression, failed businesses aplenty, but no Internet.
        • Jun 6 2013: I am not seeking to lay blame on anything--only ask questions that make sense to ask, at least at some point. I don't really understand what you're thinking--what you're responding to. I did however try to answer your question about what consulting business I'm in. That pays the bills and it's something that there is need for. Companies skimp on the stupidest things--like a CIO. They assume expertise they don't have. So my idea was to say, ok, you don't believe in or want to pay for a full time CIO, a consulting practice that lets me off CIO services is good business. And I don't have to worry about it not going away. I just have things I'd like to see happen that keep pulling on me. I didn't have children and wound up single and have none of the restraints most married folk with kids do. So it lets me think outside of boxes to conclusion. But sometimes expressing that can lose other people. I'm not looking for an answer--just sharing.

          I became an assistant CTO for a NY bank and realized back then that it was clear that too many people were skimping on "information policy" and were great guns on technology. At some point you have to get out front of things and sort it all out and it leads to some startling realizations. Information policy is intrinsically linked to energy needs and issues. One wonders how anyone can presume to understand and deal with climate change if they are viewing the world as unchained or unchanging from an Industrial Age to an Information Age. It spills out clearly to me that if we really are at peril and need to "save ourselves" that reforms should be driven by information policy ideals which optimize industry energy use. This realization I think is really a trillion dollar issue. Who decides when it's time to reform anything? No one has that power scope really. And that leaves one outside pondering alone sitting on a volcano of potential where people only want little bits of utility to them. I enjoy knocking it around here fwiw. OOC
      • thumb
        Jun 9 2013: re "I am not seeking to lay blame on ..." Thanks for replying, James. Well, I thought what you were claiming is that people would not hire a CIO because they thought all the information about what a CIO does would be available to them on the Net, and they could be their own CIO, but in fact you were asserting that this is not true, that people cannot be their own CIO just from simple things they learn on the Net. But I thought you were saying that people's businesses could fail because of this mistaken trust. Thus my tentative assertion that even before the Net, businesses failed because people didn't think through all the issues associated with starting and successfully continuing a business, so that you could not blame the Net. Was I misunderstanding?

        If you're kind enough to continue talking with me, please recognize that my understanding of computers may not be so deep that I'll be a great conversationalist. At age 53, I got my education before computers, and what I know about them now is just what I've picked up piecemeal, talking to people here and there, reading, surfing the Net, using them in libraries.
  • thumb
    Jun 5 2013: continued:

    As far as getting traction to our relevant projects, there is something to be recognized when we run into this issue. We may be ahead of the curve, we may be touching on something that we do not yet realize is just the beginning of something much bigger.. in our own development and in global relevance.

    When people do great things, they often find themselves suspended on a bridge.. behind is the common reality and the masses and ahead is the foggy unknown. It is the greatest of us who stand alone on that bridge, looking back toward the security and the logic of where we just came from - but have a feeling or a knowing that there is something on the other side that requires courage to get to. It is the greatest IN us that leads us across and into the fog..
    Recognition may or may not come but I postulate that in this internal act of brave inquiry- we cannot lose.
    • Jun 5 2013: Yes. And that assertion that you ended with is the kind of reasoning that must guide "one to one", "some to some" or "one to some" rather than the "one to many" defaults of the "analog age". People must be culturally led to place a higher value on each other. I have been around educational reform discussions since the 80's and what I see can be characterized thusly: "we made class sizes smaller, we've hired better teachers, we've updated our curricula and put computers in the classroom, what more can we possibly do? where is the beef?" And never is it looked at that the beef is in the students doing the designing and leading or anything. They completely miss that because they are products of an authoritarian model which is COMMAND AND CONTROL all the way. Some now have caught up to the idea of "autonomy" as being important in educational system design. Duh? It's authority that has to be rethought entirely and we have to take a leap of faith in our own kids. We just have to show them that we are in THEIR HANDS and not the other way around. That is very upsetting to people who have never been shown anything but the expectation that if students aren't disciplined by authority it will be nothing but chaos. We have to put technology to facilitating SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT--interaction of young people through every modality there is and exceed the bounds of "class rooms" and "computers" and "teachers". A "progress culture" must exist in which students don't leave each other behind.

      more to discuss, I have to end here for the moment. Glad to have you engaged. Jim
  • thumb
    Jun 5 2013: Wow. Great content here.

    Its pleasantly surprising to find others examining like this.

    To contribute a bit to all the responses-

    I think it is critical inquiry, as seen in these posts, that is necessary to move to our personal and logical next step. One thing I would offer is that the web, as a platform, is evolving a bit more predictably than it may seem. Ecommerce and self promo is maturing and dominating at the moment. It mirrors the pre-net world and mimicks the issues mentioned in TT's post in that, as in a competitive business world, success equates to adapting to and mastering a system. Once success is realized it is difficult for someone to ignore their methods and risk investing in anything outside of the working system that got them to the top of that system.

    The Seth Godins of the world simply saw the system, its problems, its function, the mass' reaction to the system, and worked toward mastery of that existing system. Not very different than what any successful businessman has done, 100 years pre-net or yesterday.

    As far as the idea that this is not a revolution that we are seeing and the notion that something gamechanging must happen- Absolutely. We havent yet seen the revolution but we probably feel something coming. It is predictable that after a gold-rush or honeymoon phase, there will be revolutionary events/people/concepts that shake out of the cashgrabbing-SEO-promotional-visibility oriented cloud. Becoming a master of surfing algorithms is the present key to success, presence and visibility.

    Soon enough true innovators will emerge just when the netizens are choked with every friendface spamming them and adsensing, amazoning, googling algorithms directing their experience. The funneling of traffic cant help but cause discontent with the people behind the keyboards. Someone will start from a boutique type of presence/idea and it will bloom into a refreshing example of quality, authenticity and innovation.

    to be continued--
    • Jun 5 2013: Ah, now that's the spirit! Welcome to the conversation. You're right on it. The core issue is that previous media of the "analog age" were "one to many"--i.e. Broadcast. The Internet is not broadcast--it is just filled with broadcast conventions being dragged in and misapplied. The result is "some" value and new functionality to most people whom have grown up through "one to many" education models and media paradigms. The digital revolution means coming to grips with "one to one" or "some to some" or "one to some". If society has basically "sat through" linear streams it has had little control over (except to change channels), it is showing it's unreadiness to seize the power the revolution already grants and realize there is no one who can grant permission. The very core of politics as we know it is about the limits of paper, the inability of everyone to participate in democracy--and the people whom have achieved power through that discourse lose everything if they were to face the reforms that technology makes possible all at once. So, it will take an entrepreneurial and possibly "boutique" bit of "idealism" that starts small but chips away at vastly-held core notions which now demand re-thinking.

      I have worked with a few people tirelessly with no remuneration to conceptualize "cyberspace" as a secondary plane of human discourse with its own politics and "space/time continuum". I have creative ideas for "micro theater" vignettes that target critical weaknesses in conventional thinking and lead right to working new models which offer idealistic circumventions. Time has caught up with me though and I fear I will not live to see any of it fulfilled. Someone has to "deliver the goods" of helping society acclimate to a new kind of literacy that addresses life beyond "utility". We are not just "users". "Facility" must supplant "utility". more to come (out of characters will be OOC, ok?)
  • Jun 3 2013: Hasn't it been both.
  • thumb
    Jun 5 2013: A few years back, I had tried to get some really great and well thought thru concepts implemented. Everything was calculated and was achievable. I couldn't get any traction, which frankly surprised and shocked me as it also did others who I had either told or incorporated as part of the plan.
    It wasn't until, someone I knew, gave me their reasons for why it didn't happen and dare I say, these reasons are played out on numerous occasions in so many areas.
    Essentially, people who are the key decision makers and at the top of larger organisations, have invariably, spent many years working their way to the top. As such, if an idea comes along that is somewhat left of centre, rocks the boat in some way or deviates from the status quo, they are very reluctant to support it as they have a lot to lose by (theoretically) putting themselves out there, so to speak.
    In a nutshell, that is part of the problem to implement any change. That said, I still look for opportunities to realise personal aspirations, which is part of my motivation to be involved in topics posted here, as well as for topics that I also find interesting.
    The internet, however, I believe provides a conduit for intellectual stimulation and ideas development amongst relative peers (in so far as are conversing in the same circle) and thru this exchange of ideas and knowledge, better ideas, outcomes and means and ways to develop them can be discussed and implemented! :D
    • Jun 5 2013: It has kept me sharp. But I wish it were for more productive reasons than just floating perspectives. Elsewhere in this thread I politely tried to explain to someone that the Internet is not a broadcast medium and what the nature of broadcast is and how this digital file packet network modality funbdamentally departs. I tried to politiely say that is not an "opinion" or a "belief" of "mine", it is just how it is. Well, the hostility that came back that it is a broadcast medium and it IS MY OPION was quite typical. You wonder, do you have to say it is my job and has been for 30 years to interpret technology and teach corporate leaders what it's directions mean? This could be looked up on Wikipedia or any search engine for information to see whther or not this guy had been running on some wrong assumptions. But that apparently didn't occur. It was more important to dismiss and alienate me by being tempermental than engaging me for why or how we differ or him going to easily available sources to get existing consensus. It is unfortunately not a place where "relatibe peers" interact but people often of entirely different ages and backgrounds do territorial battle. That is just one of the reasons in my work I define and call for a new kind of "literacy" which should guide technological design. You can see my discussion of this breakdown of three types of literacy on the thread where the young person asks How would you change education" under the "questions" section.

      There is just far too much waste of human potential not to stop at some point and at least ask some serious questions about how we are being changed by technology and how much we could benefit if there is something more than just a "book" by some theorist that covers "some" or one aspect of function or dysfunction new to society because of technology. At what level does one target new art that calls for reason which makes for an inescapable culture challenge and change? how do you say out of characters? ha
      • thumb
        Jun 6 2013: The internet domain, invariably is representative of a society at large and as such it should not be too unexpected to find a wide variety of socio economic, ages and demographics. This also then follows that one would expect to have a sliding scale so to speak of peers, ranging from not so good to exceptional.
        I tend to seek out the ones that add something positive to my experience. There will always, it seems, to be those that are quick to voice their opinions without having them grounded in either fact or reality. In this regard, you don't necessarily have to stoop to their level to justify yourself because of their ignorance or lack of understanding. Dare I say there will be those that are not too proud to stand corrected, this is called, constructive critisism and is something I myself am always open to. I don't pretend to have all the answers and adapt my knowledge according to relevant inputs.
        I know in our modern society, there is a very much, I want it now kind of approach to many things. Some things, however need time to mature, grow and develop. This is the stage I believe we are at with a lot of our technologies. The problem for most early adopters, is the waiting around for everyone and everything else to catch up. Being ahead of the curve, makes the saying, "It's lonely at the top" ring true! :D
  • thumb
    Jun 3 2013: The internet, in my view, is so many things. Certainly, to coin your phrase James, there are plenty of smoke filled flares in the internet sky. And I am sure that there are truckloads of unimportant chitter chatter, tho that said, it really comes down to interpretation.
    Now pacifier or facilitator, that to me, is almost rhetorical. What I mean by this is that, a person would feel pacified once they have said their piece and got something off their chest. Generally conversations are two way, which in turn now plays to the synergistic accomplishment as now the replier is pacified and dually/combined there is a synergy created between the two respondents.
    The leader/follower concept, to me is a bit different. I don't think true leaders create followers, they create more leaders. Further in the context of the TED environment, I think that people recognise the regular contributors and will check out those that they have enjoyed corresponding/reading/debating in the past.
    In this way, the internet in it's current form is providing a platform for synergestic accomplishments as people become more familiar with others via the medium and better understand their points of view, language/style, points of interest and other personal attributes.
    Over time, there is a history of posts that then start to give a more detailed understanding of individuals and it is then in this context that it can be observed how others opinions/ post/ points of view have affected and changed others points of views/language/style etc.
    The thing about the internet is that it is forever. The flares and posts on it are tattooed into the DNA fabric of this digital medium. I read some time back about a postulated big picture view of how this whole internet thing plays out.
    Every aspect practically of humanity is contained within the information superhighway, eventually machines with artificial intelligence will utilise this and know us better than we do. They will then change our world & improve it!
  • Comment deleted

    • Jun 3 2013: I'm sorry sir, but the Internet is NOT a broadcast medium. It just isn't. It's not a matter of opinion or belief. One can take issue with my characterization of it as a huge file cabinet, but that was just a metaphor for how it differs from true "broadcast". Broadcast networks buy licenses to use the "air waves". Then cable came along and broadcast networks had to buy "channels" that give them "bandwidth". But the model between broadcast by air wave and by cable and by satellite is all of a "one-to-many" linear streaming modality where audiences traditionally don't get to do anything but passively watch, listen or read. The Internet fundamentally differs. It is not a "one to many" model. Just because there are YouTube videos does not mean the one's I watch or even make will ever be seen by anyone else. I can only upload a "file". The Internet works with digital "files" and thus it is not unreasonable to draw analogy to a "file cabinet". What you put in only you know where it is. What I put in only I know where it is. Instead of paper files, they are digital files. Search engines can only use alpha-numeric strings to search for "FILES" that exist on servers with a variety of file extension types which determine what type they are--be they a .txt file or and.html or .xml or thousands of other FILES.

      If you look at my qualifying post, I said I didn't want to put it quite the way I did but character limitations forced me to try to make a debate by making a blunter, more judgmental sounding statement than I would have liked. I would have like to word it as a question and not a biased statement. But this is a debate. The question is are you fine with the NET the way it is and think people--regular people of all walks who may want to engage each other in new economy or some kind of new sociology achieve sufficient value, or it is more of an illusion where they just get stuff off their chest and go back to being unfulfilled until there's need for the next catharsis?