The following post will run later this week on "All Things That Rise," a new blog which will become my site for posting professional research and opinion. The Hubbub will live, but more as a personal site. Stay tuned.
This is a post about new beginnings, and a look backward to people who have helped me think forward.
First, the look backward -- two people who influenced me in college. The great American short-story writer Flannery O’Connor was said to have been deeply influenced by Teilhard de Chardin, the mid-20th century Jesuit theologian who perhaps is best known today for his amateur-yet-astute insights into the theory of evolution. In several writings and public speeches he summarized his theory of “convergence” with the memorable phrase “everything that rises must converge” (hence the title of O’Connor’s best known collection of stories). In college, I was a student of both religion and anthropology, and for years the phrase has intrigued me as much it has bothered me. I’ve long thought, shouldn’t it be the other way around — “all things that converge must rise”? Whether O’Connor and Teilhard got it wrong, or whether something got lost in translation, it recently struck me that the grand experiment with social technology that we’ve been running for several years should serve as good fodder for exploring a hypothesis: that the socializing effect of these technologies (which is bringing about its own kind of convergence) is driving the irreversible evolution of smarter, more efficient and perhaps even more ethical organizations and systems.
At first blush, this hypothesis shouldn’t strike anyone who has been following social tech as radical or novel. After all, the business case for social technology — “smarter,” “more efficient” — has already been made in very smart books like Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics, and Charlene Li and Josh Bernioff’s Groundswell, both which have a pretty huge following in the business community. But it’s the third item in my hypothesis — “more ethical organizations and systems” — that I hope will add something to the current thinking. It’s one thing to say that social technology is good business, and quite another thing to say that social technology makes business good. And I am quite certain that this has not yet been adequately explored -- there are so many questions about what it means to be "good," both philosophical and practical -- in a convincing and comprehensive way. That’s the overarching mission of this blog, and if I am successful I will take what I learn here — in my posts and conversations with you— and use it as the foundation for a book I’ve been sketching for quite some time — perhaps, ever since college, but almost certainly since I first began tinkering in the world of social media.
Along the way, I will try to steer the conversation along three broad lines of inquiry: the effects on general culture, the effects on business, and the effects on the general citizen/consumer. Two reasons. One, because of my hypothesis — that our experiment with social technology plays a role in the evolution (ascent) of our world, it makes sense to widen the lens to account for what’s happening outside the enterprise. Two, what led me here to create a standalone blog to explore this subject was a series of experiences that were quite personal (I will gradually reveal those experiences as I go along); from my perspective, it makes little sense to focus on the evolution of the enterprise without exploring the evolution of the individual who serves the enterprise -- an especially important perspective in social tech which depends so much on the standout leadership, contributions and sacrifice of individuals. They don't call it DIY tech for nothing. We've known this for a long time.
But in addition to these three focus areas — culture, commerce, consumers — I will also strive to stretch the boundaries of our common understanding of social technology. I will explore the standard definition this week, in one of my first posts. But for now, I’d like to acknowledge that the scope of this blog might extend to a broader set of technologies that may not fit the definition but will soon become relevant. I’m talking about the place where AI (artificial intelligence) and IA (intelligence augmentation) collide, a place where we are likely to see the next wave of tech innovation that will continue the grand experiment of the last several years.
I hope you will follow me and support me in my own experiment — the blog and the book. I’m very excited to get restarted.