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Something amazing happened.  Maybe you missed it.  After technology incrementally changed the world from the horse and buggy to the [[Space Shuttle]], we missed something far more incredible.  It isn’t about some under-reported discovery (think mapping the Human Genome) or an over-hyped invention (think [[Segway Inc.|Segway]]).  No single invention from fire to electricity to the airplane to the Internet comes close, though that last one may have been the final catalyst.  What is this metaphorical “bomb” to end all bombs?

We changed society’s relationship TO technology.  The center of gravity for how spend our money, find the truth, or even influence and shape our own society, has shifted from the few to everyone.

Movable type laid the foundation for literacy among the untitled through greater availability of text and the ability for people outside the intelligentcia to publish (to a small extent), but in the end the classes remained divided.  When the ability to read finally spilled out of the blue-blooded world into the unpaved streets, all sorts of mass-scale revolutions were possible, tempered only by book burnings and government regulation of the printed word.

In modern times, many inventions improved the lot of the common man, and through the growing pains (and injustices) of the industrial revolution and subsequent automations, manufactured goods otherwise only for the rich or lucky became available to all, with the magic of electric lighting and the horseless carriage dominating what are now typically paved streets.

But technology was still in the hand of the haves, dished out and sold according to strict rules to the have-nots, and the best of it is kept under lock and key by the militaries of the First-World.  Technological advantage is military advantage, but also determines greatly a nations quality of life and luxury.  Often, poorer nations do not even have access to the technology required to harness their own natural resources on their own terms.  I may posit that the Free Market comes to the rescue, plying innovation from labs with the resources of “haves” (investors) to meet the ever-growing demand for equal access to the latest goods among the masses of all classes.  Others may not see this mechanism so optimistically.


Whatever belief you choose as to the role of Capitalism is irrelevant, however.  What we are experiencing in the market place — with no small thanks to recent technology — is a total shift of power from suppliers to demanders.  The following are quite recent phenomenon, coming into focus only in the last decade:

(1) E-Commerce has created the expectation of customers to have a shopping experience unique to them, with input or even control over every condition of the transaction.  Constant immediate access to goods and services — or at least information on them — results in educated consumerism limited only by the consumer’s desire to know.  The most successful platforms are the ones where consumers dictate the price, not just eBay fashion, but name-your-own price deals such as Priceline.Com for travel and Progressive.Com for insurance.

(2) Automated resale technology means anyone can start their own business with little or no techniocal knowledge or capital.  There are thousands of examples to choose from.  Cafe Press comes to mind, but you could include starting your own blog  and letting Google serve ads to it, paying you for the traffic you can muster by the sweat of your brow … or on your keyboard rather.  This not only turns the keys over to consumers to become sellers themselves, but the resultant vastness of choice only increases a consumer’s economic freedom.

(3) The control of brands has completely shifted from the owner to the public.  It is no longer centered on a logo, slogan, jingle, or name.  It is the sum of what people think and feel aboutthe name.  One could argue this was always the case, but public sentiment wasn’t cohesive until mass media, at which time it was spoon fed to us via the reviews of journalists and praises of people like Tom Sellek or Paul Harvey.  In some strange Madison Avenue styled existentialism, if the papers didn’t tell us about sweatshops or lawsuits, the brand was always as good as their air time.  Thanks to the Internet, those days are gone.  Social media, where people casually share their experiences, is now the preferred choice of trusted information about a brand.

(4) Customer support is often best found among the customer’s themselves.  This doesn’t just apply to the empowerment of open source computing, where anyone can expand on the work of others for everyone’s benefit.  This means every product out there has consumers troubleshooting it in broad daylight.  Bulletin boards filled with people of like interest will pick apart every new model that comes off the assembly line, in any industry, and the result is unfiltered, real-time information.  If something you bought is broken and needs to be fixed, chances are someone else has already been there, done that, wrote about it online somewhere.  In fact, many companies host forums where consumers can help each other in this way, cutting down technical support calls as well as participate in the brand where it REALLY is taking place — among their customers.

Collectively these represent the most significant shift in the psychology and practice of trade in history.


Libraries are filled with books, sometimes controversial, but more often representative of the status quo of knowledge, determined by relatively closed guilds of scientists, historians, and politicians.  Supply and demand has also weeded out the uninteresting or less palatable viewpoints and data.  Remove the filters and you get the Internet.  Bring it back to research standards and you get Wikipedia.  The ability for anyone to publish anything certainly does not entitle or guarantee an audience to anyone, but it does provide a stage.  Here are the largest ramifications:

(1) You can easily find dissenting opinions and judge them for yourself.  It doesn’t matter how many incorrect facts are out there.  The fact is that ALL facts are out there, not based on what is accepted, which is not alweays what is true.  It shifts the power of choice (and burden of responsibility) to the individual, not the teacher, doctor, or author upon which you previously would decide to trust (or not) in a near vaccuum.  And documentation of credentials by third parties are a click away.

(2) You, and others like you, act as researchers for any and every subject under the sun.  Credibility is often precarious, but collective anecdotal experience is far more vast than “expert” information (which may be provided with much conflict of interest).  In some fields, it is this sort of “field research” that is a boon for serious researchers, and when handled well, actually supplants accepted armchair, encyclopedic knowledge or wisdom.

(3) News is no longer limited to journalists.  Anyone can report an incident.  Rare bird sightings posted on a forum for ornothology.  Police brutality caught on a cell phone put on YouTube.  Even the CDC could — if they aren’t already — monitor the whole Twitter network to track the seasonal outbreak of the flu.  We are the reporters and we’re using that to bring unfiltered facts, sound clips, and footage to the masses when the mass media giants (or local news people) won’t.

This empowerment of any man to meaninfully particpate in the collection and dissemination of information brings us to the ultimate destiny of society itself.


At the start of 2008, [[Project Chanology]] became the first coordinated worldwide protests of any kind, organized quickly with no absolutely central authority or leadership, using bulletin boards and chat rooms.  With almost no media coverage, it expanded into many thousands of people educating the public in matters journalists were too afraid up to that point to take on.  Last year, Iranian protests were organized using Twitter.  Recently, the government of Tunisia was overthrown after public outrage over protester killings was available on YouTube, but not on government-controlled media.

What may be the first of many dominoes has hit Egypt hard.  In true book-burning and printing press smashing fashion, the dictatorial regime has turned off the Internet, an unprecedented move that President Obama quickly condemned — in a tweet from his Twitter account.  But like the Iranian virtual veils blocking much of the ‘Net, the people are too empowered.  There are always ways around the filters, and the goods and services are so pervasive that anyone has the tools to do so.  The implications?

(1) It is impossible to keep citizens from being exposed to the culture and values of free societies, and that includes information about their own country not filtered by those in power.

(2) It is impossible for oppression to go unnoticed, thanks to citizen reporters. 

(3) The press no longer has a stranglehold or monopoly on world events.  For example, reading the blogs of real people in Iraq tell a very different story of the “occupation” than the medias snippets that are simplified to the point of ridiculously skewed perspective.

(4) Governments can’t keep secrets in general like they used to.  This one is a worldwide show-stopper with the recent release of “private” diplomatic correspondence by WikiLeaks.Org.

Jeff Jarvis, journalism professor at the City University of New York, states that “It used to be that he or she who held secrets held power,” Jarvis told The Associated Press. “Now he or she who creates transparency holds power.”  His assertion is that the growing use of WikiLeaks (and now OpenLeaks) indicates a shift in control over information. {Source}  These “whistleblowing platforms” provide a means of exposing the unknown and unreported activities of corporations and governments. 

It is presumed by many that governments should keep secrets, but why not question that presumption?  If it is a government of a free society, it begs the question of who decides what the governed should know or not know.  This is a contradiction to a government by consent, or at least implies a trust of elected officials (and one that is unrealistic based on human nature and consistent historical precedent).  If governments operated transparently, would there really be any ace up the sleeve so important to justify a cloak that could be used indiscriminately for things that ought not to be outside the ken of the voter?

Yes, the power is shifting, and quickly.  But there are people trying to put on the breaks, if such a thing is even possible any more.  The owner of Wikileaks is skirting imprisonment (or perhaps even assassination) from any number of countries.  In the American arena, Senator [[Joe Lieberman]] is pushing for an “[[Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act|Internet Kill Switch]]”.  However, the people of the world have already decided — because they now can — that even the negative ramifications of anonymity are outweighed by the basic right of free speech protected by any means necessary.  Things like the [[Tor Network]] are here to stay, usable for criminal activity perhaps, but in the process enabling the safety of countless humanitarian workers across the globe, and fighters of freedom in places like China, where the wrong word might make you disappear in the middle of the night.

People individually and collectively aren’t perfect, but those people and groups in power certainly aren’t either, and never can be.  We may as well be free with all the trimmings, and the direction of technology empowering everyone in terms of economy, information, and politics is perhaps the most important transformation in human history.

And if goes unreported in the mass media, you’ll at least find it here and on a million other blogs by people like you and me.