Business & Technology Nexus

Dave Stephens on technology and business trends

Individual Rights and the Internet

with 2 comments

I found Eric Schmidt’s vision of a Google “Political Truth-o-meter” pretty interesting. Combine it with a video clip from Technorati’s CEO defining blogging and you’d think everyone, due to the Internet, was headed for superhuman status. Or at least that our individual rights were increasing..

What I mean by that is there’s an underlying premise to these visions – one where each us has more “power” than ever before. There’s only 1 problem. It’s just not true.

The flaw in their logic is simple. They say – if “information is power,” and the Internet provides ubiquitous access to information, then people who use the Internet are more powerful. So watch out, because when we all are online (as a people) we will be supremely powerful and will be checking-up on politicians, having our voices heard, etc.

But once information is truly ubiqitous, guess what? Information is no longer powerful, at least not to the individual. The whole reason it was powerful before was because some people had it and some people didn’t. In the future, I’d argue information is the just the requisite ante for a much different poker game.

In an age of ubiquitous information access, those who manipulate information & massage it to their own benefit are the ones who will “win”. In that way, in the information age, Power is Power. Power may represent itself differently. It may be “sneaky” and hide itself behind seemingly independent sources. But it will be there nonetheless.

Do note I happily distinguish between the power of the individual, which is what I’ve talked about here, and the power of the collective. Collectively, the Internet can and is and should continue to provide greater power. Unless we are manipulated. Except in China. Except, I guess, for when it doesn’t.

I have no idea what this all means of course. After all, I’m just a start-up guy building enterprise software. But I am ready for more Internet evangelists to take off their rose-colored glasses and start analyzing what the future might bring more critically. What happens, for instance, when privacy rights trend towards 0 and machine automation becomes increasingly hard to correct? Oh no, look out, not Sandra Bullock again! (Vague and poorly worded reference to 1995 film “The Net“, apologies in advance if you’ve seen it)


Written by Dave Stephens

10/3/06 8:38 PM at 8:38 pm

Posted in Opinion

2 Responses

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  1. Good thought, I also felt this overlapped quite a bit or extended the well celbrated, quoted and debated article from HBR “IT Doesn’t Matter”


    10/6/06 12:34 PM at 12:34 pm

  2. The good news: we’ll all be MILLIONAIRES!
    The bad news: we’ll ALL be millionaires!

    So much depends on mere matters of inflection ;)

    The more people “know” about what politicians and such are up to, the more esoteric the games the insiders resort to playing. I’m sure back when TV was new, people were announcing the “end of the smoke-filled room”, and in a literal sense they were correct. But when the GOP leadership coordinate on a new counter-spin for Foley-gate (“first time in 30 years such a bad actor got a clear ultimatum of resign or be expelled”, reality being a little less Gary Cooper/High Noon-ish, with Hastert hiding under the bed being closer to the reality) what really has changed? No “cigar smoke” in a physical “room”, perhaps, but still an insider enclave conspiring to define reality for the rest of us. TV (web/YouTube/etc.) creates an illusion of getting a candid view of politicians, but that just means more of their daily lives are scripted and inauthentic.

    Think everybody has equal access to financial data “because” of the internet? Well “there is no edge to IQ in equities” has been a common put-down on Wall Street for decades. Maybe Edgar has all the 10-K’s you could possibly read, but the serious money is always off playing some newer game. Try googling “correlation trading” for an illustration.

    Congrats on the Red Herring cover!


    10/7/06 9:22 AM at 9:22 am

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