The New Reality of Communications
[Note: This is a column reprinted from the current “Shift Age Newsletter” as it is very timely and has already received a lot of positive comment. If you are not yet a subscriber of the newsletter, please go here and click on FREE subscription]
Those of you who have either read “The Shift Age” or have heard me speak about the Shift Age, know that the accelerating global electronic connectedness is one of the three forces that has, is and will continue to reshape our world. There are now 4 billion cell phone subscribers in the world. Facebook has more that 200 million users. Twitter is approaching 20 million users and all these numbers are increasing every day.
There is no longer any time, distance or place in human communication. That both transforms reality and creates new realities and opportunities. It is as though human communication is completely fluid and like water, can flow anywhere without boundaries, channels or hierarchies. Humans can interact with other humans in ways never before experienced in history. Our connectedness is a force in and of itself.
What has occurred these past few weeks in Iran will be regarded as one of the events in the geopolitical world that is both a confirmation of this new force and a signpost to our future global orientation.
Even a month ago, it would have seemed hard for most people to imagine that Twitter tweets would be used as news sources about a major event in the New York Times, The Globe and Mail and on CNN and other news channels. This has now happened with the Iranian crisis. The autocratic theocrats of Iran sent journalists packing – and beat them if they didn’t, jammed broadcast signals, and tried to shut down web sites. They were largely successful in these efforts. However, due to twitter, facebook, cell phone videos and email the world has been kept informed of the brutality that is going on in Iran. Here the water metaphor is perfect as it always finds the cracks, the holes in the dyke, the weak spot in the levee, the porous part of the structure and flows through it.
I have several followers from Iran on Twitter. I did my part by tweeting that the world was in fact watching, that their messages were getting out and that their struggles were known and supported. It was interesting how often such tweets, both mine and others, were RT (retweeted). This is another new unique experience, people feeling participatory in a struggle half a world away through personal communications.
It is clear what lies ahead for Iran. Autocratic governmental power and centralized authority kept in place through brutality, misinformation, xenophobia and false prophets will ultimately collapse. This is particularly true when the educated, the young and the affluent are the ones in the streets being beaten. As long as the current leaders are in power in Iran there will be an exodus of the best and brightest out of the country – if they are allowed to leave. These leaders are so insular and consumed with maintaining their power that they do not realize the new reality of global electronic connectedness on a personal level.
If internal political upheaval does not bring these leaders down, the tidal waves of personal communications due to this electronic and immediate connectedness will. The nation state structure cannot defend against it anymore.