Get Home Safely
Ex Libris 2013

Our {Virgin} Digital Future

New digital future

When Richard Branson asks for your opinion on the digital give him one.

VirginMedia has a little project running about #ourdigitalfuture and they [in the person of the lovely Hannah] kindly asked me for some words. 

Since they are quite positive, they seemed to be a good NEW YEAR post. You can read them over on the VirginMedia site, or below. 


What’s the biggest difference the web has made to your life, and how do you think it has made the biggest positive difference to the world?

The evolution of all useful technology follows a similar trajectory: from novelty to necessity. The web has transformed so many elements of my life because Tim Berners Lee's open platform enables so many other people to build on it, who in turn have changed how I work, socialise, learn, and relax. 

I remember the first time I ordered toilet paper online. I had been buying things online for over a decade at that point, and yet there was something oddly poignant about how mundane that purchase was. The web is changing every little thing about how we relate to the world. 

I believe people are basically good, self-interested sure, but willing to help people out if that help seems meaningful and manageable. As Plato supposedly said; "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle". I believe exposure to different people and ideas makes us smarter and more tolerant.

For the first time in the history of our species, we are mostly connected. When television emerged it showed an entire generation what the world looked like for the first time. The web allowed us to talk to each other, to disseminate ideas, to reach out and connect to communities. 

So hopefully we will learn that we need each other, and need to need each other, to be human. 

"Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being." - Gandhi.

Is there anything that worries you about the internet and an increasingly digital society?

I'm a techno-meliorist. 

In general, I think technology has, overall, always made things better. We live at a moment where average life spans have never been higher, and infant mortality never been lower. Every new technology that impacts the world creates fears, especially for those who didn't grow up with it. 

Technology is "stuff that doesn't work yet", to quote Bran Ferrin, and part of what that means is finding the appropriate cultural responses to disruptive changes. 

Technology is a tool and is changing at the pace of Moore's Law. Culture moves more slowly, and this presents challenges. Online security is paramount when so much of our lives are online. Education and access are crucial. Helping young people develop skills that are relevant for tomorrow, not yesterday. 

And learning to turn off once in a while and be lost in our thoughts, not our screens, is something we will all need to master.

How do you think digital technology and the web can make life better in the future for you, the country, or the world?

In innumerable ways, of course. Opening up access to the government is an important step, re-building the relationship between government and the governed. Emancipating access to education, more effectively leveraging the cognitive surplus of humanity to solve the big challenges we will and are facing this century, as our population continues to bloom and the world remains the same size. 

Bringing every one of us something to smile at everyday, from a friend or distant youtube cat video creator, which shouldn't be overlooked. Creating services that are just intelligent enough to help us manage the content that constantly cries out for our attention. 

Reminding everyone person and nation state that there is no 'somewhere else' - we are all in this together. 

Oh and robots, of course. Definitely with robots.