June 03 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Social Media Year: General Rating: 8 Hot
Notorious VC Fred Wilson has strong opinions about the future of social media.
“I believe that we are headed to a world in which everyone will share their lives with the rest of the world via the Internet. That is social media. It’s a huge movement and we are at the start of it,” he recently proclaimed on his blog.
Over the years I’ve heard many futurists express similar sentiments about the direction of our species, arguing that the benefits of ubiquitous life-streaming, transparency, and the sharing of all information are so powerful that they will trump people’s reluctance to open up their lives to the rest of the world. While I certainly agree that we are probably at the start of a whole open information movement and that pervasive sharing is a useful trend on which to base forward-looking extrapolations, I nevertheless find it highly unlikely that ALL people will choose to participate, especially over the next 20 years.
Considering that we co-exist in a complex environment in which different people with very different personalities, cultures and behaviors each compete for resources and control, betting on such a simple future seems to leave a great many other futures out of the mix. (cont.)
Even if the carrot of an open network proves irresistible and humans make great progress ascending the hierarchy of needs en masse, the list of possible disruptions to an ideal super-positive-sum near-term future is too vast to ignore. For example, people may become very concerned about comprehensive personality profiling enabled by their public information and choose to withhold or obfuscate information about themselves; new forms of crime may deter the open sharing of information; different regions or governments may enact vastly different information legislation, and so forth.
With the pace of information, technology, and intelligence growth increasing, revolutionary announcements have now become the norm, forcing us to consider a wide variety of of structures and possibilities before meaningfully venturing any sweeping extrapolations.
As Nick O’Neill of Social Times writes, “Social media will still be subject to societal restrictions.”
Ultimately, it comes down to fundamental laws of complex life systems (which govern our social behavior) and whether or not exponential change and the super-networking that accompanies and fuels it will fundamentally alter the rules of how we interact and compete. I find the opposing arguments very similar to the Soft Takeoff / Hard Takeoff dichotomy proposed by many Singularitarian thinkers. In both instances things get crazy, but in one humans are nurtured into the Singularity by AI (which could also make possible the near-temr open society that Wilson envisages), while the other results in widespread chaos and death.
As things get faster and news-people/bloggers like Wilson, O’Neill, Arrington, etc, continue to speculate about the next logical steps in web evolution it looks as though they will converge with the more esoteric futurism already laid out by early birds such as Kurzweil, Vinge, Yudkowsky, More, Smart, and Bostrom, in which case they will either have to step up their technical futurism (no more of these overly simple one-dimensional futures please), the futurists will have to step up their general relatability, or someone else will be required to bridge the gaps between the two.
After all, the future of social media is tied into the future of everything as we know it.