Here Comes Everybody

We all know the world is changing. Shirky wrote Here Comes Everybody to explore one of the largest changes: organizing without organizations. But I get the feeling that this book does more that explain the various changes occurring in society because of technology. This book provides a framework of human nature that allows us to make predictions about the future.

Shirky has described, in detail, the various human motivations behind collaborative effort, rapid information sharing and solving social dilemmas, among other things. But what he doesn’t do is predict the implications of these phenomena. Or at least he hasn’t done so yet. I’d like to discuss some of these issues here.

THE MEDIA. This industry is probably facing more change than others. We’re already seeing groups using blogging and social media to attract mass media attention to issues. In the world of tomorrow will we see increased social influence over the media? At what point will it level out? Will the media more-or-less remain as it is today, or will the changes continue until mass media as we know it is completely different?

POLITICS. With increased group mobility, power in numbers becomes a reality for the political process. Group action, fostered by technology, lead to the passenger bill of rights. What’s next? I think this could be a tremendously good thing for our government. Power could be swayed back towards the masses and away from the special interests. But like all things, humans seem to figure out a way to screw it up. So, in the end, will it actually be a bad thing?

SOCIALIZATION. We know about Facebook and Twitter, but these tools are relatively new. So how will social interaction change over time? I can image a scenario where people find each other in ways that would never have been possible before (online dating, that witches group), thus leading to a happier human society. But I can also image bad ideas spreading like wildfire, leading to groups popping up with negative political agendas, leading to WWIII. So, world peace and war can be brought about by organizing without organization. I’m sure both will at some point, but the reality will probably average out to be a zero-sum game.

COMMERCE. Will group feedback kill the snake oil salesman? The shady corporation? I hope so. Collective action could make this happen.

GLOBAL POLITICS. What about groups forming in other countries? Is it possible for a huge political group in the US to find it’s soul mate in, say, a German group? These groups might have similar views about sustainability, leading to environmental policy changes. Or they can both hate on Greece and cause financial reform. Can an international human consensus be discovered through organizing without organizations?

How will the subject matter discussed by Shirky change our world in out lifetime? If the last decade is any indication, then the answer is “profoundly.” In 20 years, will Shirky’s book be a fundamental read in understanding what happened? Maybe.