A revolution is sweeping the world, transforming every aspect of our lives.
The agent of this revolution is a new family of technologies – broadband, the Internet, microchips, and software – technologies that for the first time draw the world together into a single, coextensive whole.
This revolution, like all revolutions, holds both promise and peril.
On the positive side, it undermines repression in all its forms – from abusive corporate factories in China to repressive governments across the Middle East – and unleashes powerful forces for democracy.
It empowers individuals – from the once-poor peasants of China and India who are joining the middle class at the rate of hundreds of millions per year], to the brave women and men advancing the Arab Spring.
It decouples prosperity from consumerism – enabling billions to achieve economic abundance, potentially using a fraction of the resources we consume today in the west.
It enables sustainability – holding the promise to move beyond today’s fossil fuel dependent economy, and the increasing economic, military, and environmental costs.
But we all know these ideals do not flow automatically from this emergent revolution. Whether the digital planet approaches these ideals, or advances their opposite, depends on people and institutions – and how we, individually and in our communities, choose to use these technologies.
That is because the digital planet also imposes huge new challenges:
- It unleashes democracy – but offers no guarantees that every mob will be a smart mob, a wise mob, or a virtuous mob.
- It undermines repressive institutions – but also challenges every nation, culture, and business to be more adaptive than ever.
- It links every person on the planet – but virtually eliminates personal privacy, and challenges us to self-correct our tribal instincts, and to respect one another’s differences, even those we do not understand.
- It empowers the individual – but extends this power also to the renegade hacker, the online criminal, and the suicide bomber.
- It enables sustainable low-carbon prosperity – but also entices billions of us to consume the old-fashioned way, exploiting the planet’s natural systems beyond measure.