Sharp changes are afoot throughout the globe. Demographics are shifting, technology is advancing at unprecedented rates, and these changes are being felt everywhere. How should we develop strategies to deal with this emerging new world? We can begin by understanding it.
The information and communications revolution has complicated governance everywhere. It has broken down traditional borders: people can communicate, organize, and act both with their fellow citizens and across country boundaries. The age-old challenge of governing over diversity grows more difficult by the day.
Once upon a time, only the elite could network globally. David Rockefeller—the grandson of the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller—was a pioneer networker. According to a recent report, “He recorded contact information along with every meeting he had with about 100,000 people world-wide on white 3-by-5-inch index cards. He amassed about 200,000 of the cards, which filled a custom-built Rolodex machine, a 5-foot high electronic device.”
The early years of the Internet were marked by a libertarian optimism about its decentralizing and democratizing effects.1 Information would be widely available and undercut the monopolies of authoritarian governments. Big Brother would be defeated. President Clinton believed that China would liberalize and that Communist Party efforts to control the Internet were like trying to “nail jello to the wall.”2 The Bush and Obama administrations shared this optimism and promoted an Internet Freedom Agenda that included subsidies and technologies to assist dissidents in authoritarian states to communicate.