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Adapt to Experience

The Real World and Real Politics

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Scarcity of Quality Data

Many politicians have spoken with optimism about the information age and the knowledge society.  It a nice idea but it's a nonsensical one.  Sadly our information is already corrupted.  It's corrupted deliberately, by businessmen seeking advantage, by politicians trying to score political points, by husbands who are trying to cover an illicit affair.  That’s the history of the world, It's always gone on, and in daily life it's unlikely to stop.  But in the digital world, that sort of lie is likely to be exposed.  Someone knows, and in a world were everyone and anyone can publish, the truth is likely to be revealed.  If ordinary people have their rights to read and publish on the internet protected, there will be a strong force working towards less corrupted information space.  That is desirable, but it will not be to everyone’s pleasure. 

Who Controls the Agenda?

Certain old world politicians and old world media have yet to understand that with the internet the opportunity to tell a barefaced lie and to win by sticking to your story regardless of the truth will in future always be a losing strategy.  www linkPresident George W Bush and the www linkUSA media have succeeded in making themselves look totally foolish over the non-existent "weapons of mass destruction".  The truth of this matter was widely and openly discussed on the internet for the past two years.  I don't imagine the President of any other country, having seen the outcome will want to follow that example.  Mr Bush did get his way, but he and his administration will carry the cost of the attempted deception into history.  Their names will be associated with terms that demonstrate our disapproval of their actions and their subsequent loss of respect and political status. 

Faulty Success Models

How do we understand what happened for President Bush and his administration?  I think they did exactly what most of us have been told to do all our lives.  To blame is www linka very old success model that begins, "first decide what you will achieve."  Secondly, plan the steps essential to that result and keep striving until you achieve it.  I call this the "immaculate objective" theory of life.  Sadly many people believe in the process.  In the absence of good data, and seeking an objective already chosen, the Bush administration decided to create a "political truth" that they hoped would match the "revealed truth".  Like poker players they took a gamble and lost.  If you read the textbooks on how to be successful, the Bush administration simply followed the rules.  Of course the first rule is the critical one, decide what the objective is.  If we choose the objective badly, and we often do, everything that follows is likely to be counter productive. 

Ethical Leadership

I believe that both in business and politics this is unacceptable behaviour.  "You can do anything" isn't good advice for team members, it's a lie.  When we tell ourselves lies about our own world we destroy our ability to be effective.  In a modern world, we need to know our leaders can be trusted, we need to know our mainstream media do more than parrot the handouts and sound-bites of official sources.  Deliberate or uncaring falsehood pollutes the information space in which we all live and destroys trust and makes any hope for a better society look grubby and tarnished.  www linkModern democratic communities can only function effectively if the quality of community debate is relatively open and uncorrupted by theories or data that distort the perceived reality. 

Communication Challenges

Communication technology is necessary but not a sufficient thing to ensure people are able to live as full citizens in a modern world.  Today, in the more developed world about 50% of people have access to the internet, but only about 35% of all those with access use email daily.  Yet very few of those have joined list or other peer groups where the sort of information that would increase one’s knowledge base is found.  About 15% use the www most days, to search for something.  The Bryndwr Group shows that in NZ there is very little evidence of communication skills that would unlock the power of the internet for people.  Understanding the internet and the skills required to use it well are not widespread. 

Leaders of several nations have proposed extension of the internet as a means of economic development and a way to lower the cost of effective social and economic control.  That possibility exists, but there is active debate about how to unlock it to create a better future.  There are conflicts of interest.  Bringing the public on-line permits people to publish whatever they like without the filters of editors and publishers.  ( And without the high cost and delays of the printing process.)  Wide internet use will create a diversity of accessible opinions.  Many of the people publishing will have a world view that opposes the world view of the government in power.  Even in western style nations with a relatively free press, that's proving to be a challenge.  In countries where the news media have always been a channel for the official government view of the world, the prospect of open access to other people's ideas isn't welcomed. 

Leadership Challenges

If you examine the web sites of government agencies and most businesses you will see an attempt to publish information that is "approved and official".  The pages offered have no hint of the real needs and concerns of the people this information is intended for.  There is usually no way for people to respond to the information provided.  Even where that facility is provided the views offered are not made available to other readers.  Government and commercial web sites are essentially one way publication systems. 

www LinkInternet communication is most effective when It's peer to peer, like the telephone or a chat room, or a list server.  One way messages are far more effective on radio, on television or in newspapers.  There is no real understanding of how the internet works behind the design of most official internet web-sites. 

That’s not surprising perhaps.  People with lots of responsibility may know about the internet, but they don't regularly use it themselves.  There is no substitute for the first 300 hours one spends online.  It's reported from the UK that the vast majority of MP’s are uncomfortable using email.  Since email is the basic tool, that means they know almost nothing about the internet from their own experience.  It's not surprising then that laws relating to the internet are slow in preparation.  There is certainly a need to establish that certain acts are illegal because the effect of those acts is destructive of community wide access to the internet. 

Social and legal solutions are necessary where technical solutions fail.  There are severe failures of the technology to control the flow of unwanted mail and to prevent the passing on of private information.  There must also be cases of using forged addresses to misrepresent the views of individuals, (although I have no evidence of that).  Theft of credit card numbers and passing on of other means of personal identification is occurring.  Hacking systems with malice, or criminal intent is also occurring, as is the export of viruses.  The ineffective law around the world clearly reflects the inability of lawmakers to understand what is going on. 

The WSIS (World Summit for the Information Society, 2003) is turning into a circus.  Governments can't agree on most of the things on the agenda.  Where governments seem to be in agreement, the community of users think the politicians are making serious mistakes.  There is a huge gulf between official policy and what needs to happen.  Four years ago many world leaders pledged themselves to solve these problems, but today there is no resolve to carry through on that promise.  to page top

John Stephen Veitch

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