Wiring a web for global good

Posted on: August 22, 2009

I haven’t visited the fantastic TED site for a while and I was fairly suprised on my return to see a talk from Gordon Brown featured on the home page, entitled ‘Wiring a web for global good’. I tried to put aside any prejudice and listen to his ideas – and was suprised again that his speech openly called for a march towards a global society.

He used several emotive pictures to make the point of the powerful effect media can have on us – supporting the idea that social media can build global empathy and thus common global ethics in relation to it. He offered the notion that foreign policy cannot be run by elites any more, it has to be run by listening to public opinion. Of course, social media is widely held to have played a huge part in the election of Barack Obama. Our new-found capacity to connect in virtual communities means we can get informed, connect with others and take action far quicker and more effectively than ever before.

Brown argued that the world’s problems cannot be solved by one nation alone, that: 

“You need in the long run for stability, for economic growth, for jobs, as well as for financial stability, global economic institutions that make sure that growth to be sustained has to be shared, and are built on the principle that the prosperity of this world is indivisible.”

I couldn’t help drawing similarities between his thinking and that of George Monbiot’s Age of Consent: Manifesto for a New World Order. And I couldn’t help draw some hope that I was hearing this, not from one of the usual suspects, but from a leader (be it unelected) of one of the most developed nations in the world.

Of course rhetoric is not reality, and I’m not sure how Gordon Brown’s encouragement of collective action and marching for change fits into the British Police insisting on continuing to use controversial ‘kettling’ techniques on protestors.  Nor was there any mention of how the prospect of a tiered internet might result in a replication or acceleration of elitism on our networks, and the importance of net neutrality to avoid this, if we are to have any hope of a fair, global network underpinning a fair global society. But good noises are good noises, and as Jeroen Sprangers states below the video, whatever his motives, the fact that he is making such a speech means “that public sentiment over the years has changed that much, that now talking about a global community could be considered a populist act.”

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