Saturday, June 20, 2009

A World Joined by Communication

One world, speaking with one voice: it’s the only way we could be a productive and respected member of a larger universe. If there are other civilizations out there we will be expected, after First Contact, to interact as one world. With the weak state of the United Nations, and the usual clashing of nations in both words and violence, it often seems unlikely that we will ever reach the point of having a unified world voice. However, technology may be creating such a world in organic ways.

A profound battle between old world government and new world communication is occurring in Iran. Civil unrest over recent election results has been growing. The government has moved to shut down foreign reporting, and stop video of the protests from leaving the country. State run television shows art classes and other mundane fare, while the streets roil in protest. Iran has a powerful, organized government with years of repressive experience. 20 years ago protests may have been quelled quickly by force. The current Iranian regime may attempt to use more force to do the same. They have a very real enemy though and that enemy is literally everywhere. It’s the cell phones, capturing pictures and video and spreading them around the country. It’s the blogs recounting protests and attacks on dissenters. It’s a mobile, communication revolution that is leading the way in Iran. If you want to organize a march you simply tweet the details on Twitter. The government is moving to shut down some of these services, but one thing is clear: there will be too many sources for a complete clampdown. That means the movement can continue to grow. The technology is so democratic that even when the government attempts to use the same technology to spread propaganda, it’s quickly spotted by dissenters and shouted down. This happened when government supporters put up fake tweets allegedly from an ABC reporter. It was spotted and debunked. In the end, technology rules, perhaps because so many people are involved. It’s the same phenomena that helps Wikipedia self-edit.

Compare the situation in Iran to dissenters in the former Soviet Union. In the 1950’s and 1960’s people had little access to communication. It was controlled by companies and the state. The monolithic Soviet radio and TV broadcasters were easily kept in check. Protesters were forced to use secret books and pamphlets to spread the word. It was an extremely poor method of protest and undertaken with a great deal of risk. Today communication has spread to a thousand platforms. Every person can be their own broadcast company, spreading news and information across the globe.

This new era of individual communication makes world democracy not just a dream, but a practical reality. As communication devices and platforms spread, the power of government to control people is weakened. Satellite and internet technology means that a simple protest in a suburb of Tehran can be watched by millions across the globe in a matter of minutes.

Those platforms are increasing and the power of individual communication is growing. It still has a way to go: just look at continued communication repression in North Korea and Chinese attempts to filter the internet. However, even in these countries change is happening.

What does this mean for First Contact? If I were evaluating our world, in an effort to decide if it was time to say hello, I would look at several factors. Among them would be the ability for humans to speak as one world and begin to form a world voice. Are we there yet? Probably not. But as technology spreads and more people have access to internet and satellite communication, we become more closely drawn together. We can easily talk with people in nearly every country in the world. That means governments must work together. The old borders may soon become like states in the United States, an interesting cultural and geographical marking, but no longer an impediment to communication or commerce.

The Iranian government may yet win this latest battle. But the changes in how we interact, how we communicate and ultimately how we are governed seem inevitable. An extraterrestrial analyst could look at the situation in Iran, and similar scenarios across our planet, as a kind of gathering storm. Technologies are swirling around, combining and interacting. Communication platforms gather together a power and a form that cannot be ignored. People acquire a new voice through billions of voices.
We may not be there quite yet, but it is coming. The question for First Contact is: are they watching and are we far enough along in this cultural communication shift to warrant a greeting?

First Contact Extraterrestrial Alien Proposal Idea Hello Introduction Space Visitors

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