What if you bought one thing and the merchant delivered something else?
What if you told someone a secret and then they turned around and told everyone you know?
What if you gave someone something precious to keep for you and they just walked off and disappeared?
You realize that in everything we are and do… only one thing matters.That one thing, whether you think of it on a daily basis or not, whether you can define it and name it, or not; whether you think it’s ‘the thing’, or not…that one thing, once lost, can almost NEVER be regained; almost NEVER be recovered or reconstituted; never be revived. More than friendship, more than love, more than desire…TRUST is the foundation of everything and the building block of our existence as social beings. And yet, we live in an era when trust has been severely eroded on almost EVERY level. So much so that there is almost none left. And this is not a political, cultural or moral statement, it’s a profoundly existential one.
Losing trust in our institutions, in ‘trusted brands’ we love, in companies’ whose products we buy and use, in elected officials, in the banks, in the media, even in the definition of truth itself means we are in a constant state of questioning and instability.
It basically engenders a constant state of paranoia and fear.
When you look at the historical impact of the great technological revolutions – you see that each brought with it major tremors in societal structures. The wheel, the printing press, the cotton gin, the industrial revolution overall, the transportation revolution (land, sea, and air), the communications revolution…each had a very profound effect on the way humanity lived at that time with an incredible impact on the economic and societal structures of the day. And each of these took years, sometimes decades to play out. And though each of the great tech revolutions of the day was a harbinger of enormous change – the impact of the internet and the mobile internet, are unparalleled. The ability for people to do everything from the most mundane to the most complex activities (knowledge, communications, and transaction-based) in connectivity with every part of the planet and potentially with every human is such a vast change in the way we live that it has overturned (and sometimes demolished) many industries and companies (look no further than GE) to build new giants (Google, Amazon, Apple, etc) and impacted everything we do.
The early stages of this revolution – like many before it brought about a deep sense of optimism based on the premise that the democratization of access and communications would lead to a more justly competitive and connected world, catalyzing a deep sense of utopian possibility for bridging cultures, languages, distance, even overcoming oppression (both economic and political). The internet brought with it new forms of businesses and the liberation of many people from the need to be shackled to the daily grind. Suddenly there were infinite new paths to penetrate both the minds, hearts and pockets of people anywhere in the world. It already is the greatest wealth creation platform in history. People’s physical location or societal status was no longer a hindrance to getting information and attaining economic success. So much optimism and idealism were attached to it that on some level—disappointment was bound to follow—that’s almost a given.
But just as open as this platform was to innovation – the forces of greed and the lust for power quickly adopted it to exploit it for their own evil purposes.
The fact that not only was it a platform that connects everyone but that it was operating without any real supervision, some kind of moral force, responsible oversight or (gasp) regulation, helped make it a golden territory for the lawless, like a new Wild West. The reason we have governments and police departments is exactly that the notion of ‘self-policing’ is oxymoronic. People are inclined to self-police as much as a 4-year-old can discipline themselves to not take candy from the candy jar even if told not to. The temptation to exploit the vast opportunity created by an open global network like the internet is just too big. And so the utopian dreams of the democratized communication platform have quickly faded.
Take Facebook. Which has been the poster child for that democratization and then quickly the greatest liability. Like the greatest of social experiments, Facebook began as a utopian dream (albeit it a capitalist utopian dream come true) and ended up tripping on every wire and stumbling into every trap that the forces of exploitation had set. And now they want to exchange that ‘trust’ and build us a global currency…somehow believing that they can recover the naive trust that people had when they were sharing their ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’. Now of course we KNOW that every one of these might lead a dark presence to our doors? For a moment in time, Facebook was talked about as the biggest ‘country’ in the world and Mark Zuckerberg as its leader – an unelected leader that is – AND with total voting control, i.e. with no accountability. In government, we expect serious responsibility and serious accountability – not just PR, and that means protecting citizens from harm, as much as humanly possible. So if Facebook is a government overseeing the Facebook “country” and now considering putting out a Facebook currency (more on that in the next blog) – it totally shirked its responsibility and abandoned its citizens to the indignities and exposure of dark, dangerous and destructive forces that had every intention of doing bad things. And now we all know…
So can Facebook recover that wild and wonderful trusting naiveté it had at ‘the beginning with Libra? It would be an astonishing feat if it does.
Can any information-based technological revolutionary company ever really resist the temptation to take success and the information that comes with it – the control and power once the access to the information is apparent? I doubt it. So for that reason, companies founded and built in the first and second eras of the internet can never be trusted to withstand the economic pressures of having but not using their access to the information. So complicit in SOME way are all of the giants of Big Tech that they basically can no longer, actually never, be trusted. So now what? Stay tuned.