The 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak – Alec Ross, US State Department
at Thu Jun 21 16:09:08 2012
The Senior Advisor for Innovation to the US Secretary of State told FPA members that social media were helping to redistribute geopolitical power from hierarchies and elites to citizens – and to networks of citizens.
Alec Ross, who said he personally trains every rising US Ambassador, thought social media were more useful for listening than talking; Twitter, Facebook and Google connected elites such as Ambassador and CEOs to the wider world. China was spending a huge amount of time and money – and employing large numbers of people – to censor the internet, but they still couldn’t completely contain the information environment. He would happily open an account on Chinese social media once the Chinese Government allowed free competition for Twitter and facebook. On the Arab Spring, Alec Ross said the revolutions and unrest were caused by poverty, by poor food supplies, dissatisfaction with the lack of democracy – but social media had had three major impacts. First, the pace of change and movement had been greatly accelerated; secondly, the information environment had been enriched, and thirdly social media had facilitated leaderlessness. Leadership had become part of a network, like the internet itself; the downside was the lack of big individuals. There had emerged no Mandela, no Havel, no Walesa. In the future Alec Ross thought the cyber domain would be increasingly dominated by conflict, and more and more networks would be embedded in things such as cars and fridges – in other words, “the internet of things”.