April 4, 2009

Social Media Can Free Us All

An action by a lone decision maker may be quick and life-saving as in response to extreme fear or stress, when a person must in a split second select from the “fight or flight response.”

Given a little more time to make a decision, people have found that there is not only strength in numbers, but also wisdom. In other words, vetting a decision among a diverse group and hearing different sides to an issue, generally yields better decisions than an individual could make alone. Colloquially, we often here this referred to as “two heads are better than one.”

Now, with the power of the Internet, we are able to employ collective decision making en masse. Through Web 2.0 tools like Wiki’s, Internet forums, social networks, and other collaboration tools, we can reach out to masses of people across the social, economic, and political landscape—anywhere in the world—and even from those orbiting the planet on the International Space Station. Soon enough, we will take the power of the collective to new extremes by reaching out to those who have traveled and reside on distance worlds—I think that will probably be in Web 4.0 or 5.0.

What’s amazing is that we can get input from anyone, anywhere and in virtually limitless numbers from anyone interested in participating and providing their ideas and input.

When we open up the discussion to large groups of people like this it is called crowdsourcing, and it is essentially mass information sharing, collaboration and participation towards more sophisticated and mature ideation and decision making.

The concept of participatory thinking and intelligence, to me, is an outgrowth not just of the technologies that enables it, but also of the freedom of people to choose to participate and their human right to speak their minds freely and openly. Certainly, this is an outgrowth of democratization and human rights.

While the Internet and Social Media technologies are in a sense an outgrowth of freedoms that support our abilities to innovate. I believe that they now will be an enabler for continued democratization, freedom, and human rights around the world. Once the flood gates are opened a little for people to be free virtually (to read new ideas online, to vote online, to comment and provide feedback online, and to generally communicate and share openly online), a surge of freedom in the traditional sense must soon follow.

This is a tremendous time for human civilization—the Internet has connected us all. Diversity is no longer a dirty little word that some try to squash, but a strength that binds us. Information sharing no longer cowers behind a need to know. Collaboration no longer hides behind more authoritative forms of decision making. People and organizations recognize that the strengths of individuals are magnified by the power of the collective.

The flip side is that voices for hate, chaos, and evil can also avail themselves of the same tools of social media to spread extremism, crime, terrorism, and anarchy. So there are two camps coming together through sharing and collaboration, the same as through all time—good and evil.

The fight for truth is taking a new turn through technology. Social media enables us to use mass communication and collective intelligence to achieve a high goal.


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