Technology + influence = power – why the innovators are shaping our agenda and not our traditional institutions

Ask yourself, where does power truly lie in society today? Perhaps in global bodies like the UN or the ‘bloated’ supranational EU?  No, probably not.

Maybe the markets – in stocks, bonds and shares and institutions maybe this is where true power lies. Perhaps some of it,  but even these unregulated forces have something even more problematic to get to grips with, dissidence from disgruntled masses. 

As for governments themselves, I think we all know that they are at the mercy of whatever way the wind blows. Tedious Brexit negotiations and the power of the market have demonstrated how much little power governments have in the grander scheme of things.

So what on earth could trump (no pun intended) all of these other factors? I believe true power lies in technology. The race to be the most innovative is being championed by a small band of individuals who are leaving all of our supposed decision makers kicking dirt. All you need to do is look at the huge level of attention Space X’s  recent rocket launch received. To many, this may have looked like a fun gimmick – a Tesla car with an astronaut suit inside may have created this impression. But don’t be fooled, because Elon Musk is perhaps the most serious innovator of our age. It is expected that this rocket will get close to the surface of Mars, and if that is the case then this expedition will be truly groundbreaking. If successful, this will only accelerate plans to colonise the red planet.

Then there is cryptocurrency. This unregulated digital mechanism of creating transactions in block chains may have been around for a while, but has only recently become something widely acknowledged by the mainstream media. Market forces and governments have been taken aback by the incredible sophistication of the blockchain. Only now have there been calls for regulations amid fears of potential money laundering and other nefarious activities. The Bank of England is also attempting to ‘get in on the act’ by doing extensive research into blockchain. Even traditional bluechip companies like Microsoft and IBM are starting to incorporate this technology.

All this does is demonstrate that the so-called ‘power brokers’ are late to the party and that the true power of innovating and creating new solutions lies with the creatives who embrace new technology and all the potential it brings. Sure there are trade-offs. As these companies obtain more data on us we lose our privacy and the world becomes a little bit smaller. But come on, sometimes we all assume ‘Black Mirror’ type scenarios and forget about the enormous benefits that we are getting. It has never been easier to learn something new or discover things. There has never been access to information on this level, which is keeping us informed and aware. Is this overwhelming at times? – Of course. Does it raise questions about our privacy? To an extent it does. But ask yourself, would you prefer the alternative where our leaders, politicians and financial institutions have the ability to act as they please, without sufficient public scrutiny. We have the ability to keep high profile individuals in check. Tell me, would the exposure of Harvey Weinstein have been so potent without the power of Twitter to generate the #metoo hashtag (which became so symbolic of the movement) to eradicate such atrocious behaviour. It would not have had the reach without the medium – nor the reach to amplify the message.

Every hypothesis has flaws, and I am sure everything I have said contains many, but as society becomes more connected the power of decision-makers diminishes. As a social networking platform turns into the main hub of content so does the power of traditional media outlets start to dissipate. This isn’t hypothetical, it has already begun. This seismic power shift from elected rulers to the tech moguls is something that will only continue to happen as the latter continue to shape the global agenda and consumer interests.

 

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