Global reach reserved for kings

This is the follow up to my first post about the book “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now” by Douglas Rushkoff. Let’s dive into some awesome quotes from the book since I’ve finished it long long ago yet still find myself thinking about it daily 🙂

“We can produce more effects in more than one place a time, each of us now having the global reach formerly reserved for kings, presidents, and movie stars” (page 72).

This quote in particular jumped out at me. I took a sociology class on population problems and remember learning how life expectancy has dramatically increased in such a short period of time (check out this wikipedia chart). This change in life expectancy changed marriage rates, causes of death, childbirth rates, along with a whole host of other aspects of our lives. Reading this part of the book reminded me of that because it is showing how we truly are in unknown territory. At the M1 Summit I went to, I sat in on a discussion between Russell Simmons and Kara Swisher of Re/code. During this discussion/interview, there was talk of how people like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber are tweeting petitions that result in true action being taken purely based on the social capital these two example icons possess. It’s incredible. The concept of power and reach is changing rapidly as a result. On a personal level, I have almost 5,000 followers on Trove for a trove called uplift that I manage. I don’t think I truly know half the number of people but, nonetheless, I still have those followers. With great power comes great responsibility…

“Technology gives us more choice over how and when we do things. What we often forget is that our bodies are not quite as programmable as our schedules. Where our technologies may be evolving as fast as we can imagine new ones, our bodies evolved over millennia, and in concert with forces and phenomena we barely understand” (page 93).

I’ve watched all of the debates for both sides thus far in this election cycle. It’s Saturday morning and I’m currently wrapping up watching the debate from this week. I do it because it matters. What I’m seeing scares me though as vague proposals are thrown out to fix complex problems. Continually, very complex issues are boiled down to simplistic 140 character one liners. The tools we have to communicate are affecting what we communicate in a way that threatens truth coming to light. If the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence came out today, I don’t think most people would read it. Instead we’d see posts like “5 things you need to know about the Constitution” – would we even read those?

I went to a holiday party at Sea World a couple of weeks ago. Since it was part of a separate organization, we each had name badges. I was stopped SO many times and asked questions by visitors to the park. I was baffled as to why until I saw someone who worked there with a name badge and realized visitors thought I worked there. A very simple addition to what I was wearing drastically changed my interaction with people. This is a well documented social psychology phenomenon that involves obeying authority and recognizing authority even if that authority doesn’t even truly exist. The Milgram Experiment is a famous example of this. The show “What would you do?” even demonstrated this:

What’s scary is that in today’s world it’s hard to tell fact from fiction. With beautiful websites and clever marketing campaigns, we can fall prey to false information. The Onion  is  a great example of this. Just read this piece on the kinds of misinformation that’s been spread.

This “global reach formerly reserved for kings, presidents, and movie stars” now is available for each of us to grab. As a result, faking authority over a subject matter, event, etc. has become too easy. Things like WordPress can make this even easier with the famous 5 min install. This is great if used for good. This is dangerous if used differently. It doesn’t mean that “back in the day” false information was spread through those same avenues (kings, presidents, movie stars) – it just  means more people have access to the same funnel. You and I have access to this! Take this responsibility seriously.

A recent example: I’ve been toying with the idea of going to the Olympics to watch rugby and soccer. I haven’t had much luck with tickets though. Recently, someone sent me a link saying they thought we could buy tickets:

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 1.22.14 PM

Here’s the link they sent: DON’T BUY TICKETS FROM THERE. I immediately recognized this was a scam partially because I had tried purchasing tickets before and had done research. Otherwise though, I spent a good portion of my day looking at websites and, frankly, this website wasn’t of high enough quality to be an Olympic website (here’s the real one). You can see even the logos are different.

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 1.23.14 PM.png

Yup, folks, that’s how easy it is to stumble on the wrong thing and think you’ve found an authoritative organization.

In today’s world, we don’t have name badges and white coats to demonstrate authority – we have beautiful websites, clever advertisements, and robust marketing campaigns over social media. We must be careful. We must be aware. We must read multiple sources – it’s no longer enough to read one source about the same issue. We must read and keep track over time as issues change and so should our approach to them. We must not only focus on the most retweetable or liked moment as it doesn’t make it an authoritative or accurate assessment.


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