No one’s in charge. I didn’t think that’d be worse than having the bozos we had in charge. But it is.
You’d think the one thing our politicians would be competent at is politics. But they couldn’t even count votes.
We knew the White House was a vacuum. Congress is a vacuum. Wall Street is lie. Detroit and the era it represents is dust. Journalism is sinking like a wet witch.
Who’s in charge? It’s falling to us, the people. We’re in charge. Problem is, we’re not ready. We’ve used the internet so far to organize some knowledge and yell at each other. We are just beginning to create the tools to organize ourselves. If only the meltdown of every authority structure could have waited a few years. Then again, necessity is the mother of organization. New structures don’t replace old structures while they’re still in place. New structures fill voids. And, boy, do we have some voids to fill.
Two paragraphs from the end of my book:
Whatever causes they take up, Generation G will be able to organize without organizations, as Clay Shirky wrote in Here Comes Everybody. That ability to coalesce will have a profound destabilizing impact on organizations. We can organize bypassing governments, borders, political parties, companies, academic institutions, religious groups, and ethnic groups, inevitably reducing their power and hold on our lives. In an essay in Foreign Affairs in 2008, Richard Haass argued that the world structure is moving from bi- and unipolarity (i.e., the Cold War and its aftermath) to nonpolarity (i.e., no one’s in charge). We are in an open marketplace of influence. Google makes it possible to broadcast our interests and find, organize, and act in concert with others. One need no longer control institutions to control agendas.
Haass chronicles the dilution of governments. Bloggers Umair Haque and Fred Wilson have written about the fall of the firm, and earlier I examined the idea that networks are becoming more efficient than corporations. In my blog, I follow the crumbling of the power of the fourth estate, the press. One could debate the stature and power of the first estate, the church. What’s left? The internet is fueling the rise of the third estate—the rise of the people. That might bode anarchy except that the internet also brings the power to organize.
Our organization is ad hoc. We can find and take action with people of like interest, need, opinion, taste, background, and worldview anywhere in the world. I hope this could lead to a new growth in individual leadership: Online, you can accomplish what you want alone and you can gather a group to collaborate. Being out of power need not be an excuse or a bar from seeking power. That may encourage more involvement in communities and nations—witness the youth armies that gathered in Facebook around Barack Obama, a powerful lesson for a generation to have learned.
But in the pinch and crunch, we still haven’t managed to elect candidates truly of the people: the first politician to emerge from the web. We haven’t created financial networks of scale; Prosper.com is cute but it’s not the next BofA. We are only beginning to organize the new infrastructure of information and news; Wikipedia and Digg are fast and big but shallow.
I’m reminded of Bob Garfield’s chaos scenario for advertising, in which he argued that the old media world would crumble before the new media world was ready for marketers and advertising dollars would fall into the crevice between. That is what is happening with our political and financial and industrial and journalistic leadership. The old is crumbling fast — and angry voters yesterday helped push it over the cliff. But what now?