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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Social Media and The Hive Mind

Science fiction is full of instances of the ‘hive mind’, a collective consciousness shared across small groups or even entire species of beings. The narrative varies: sometimes they act as one individual through many bodies, and sometimes they have distinct personalities but share their thoughts through some form of telepathic communication.

While we’re a long way from telepathy, you can see the parallels between the latter description and the current generations of heavy social media users. We freely share many of our thoughts across the networks to our friends and family wherever they are. As a result I know what my friends are thinking, what they are doing (or have been doing) and where they are.

Some people are clearly more open than others: I consider myself a fairly heart-on-the-sleeve sort, but I can’t imagine sharing some of the updates (or pictures) posted by some in my network. But I can see that level of broadcast intimacy becoming increasingly the norm. It feels very in sync with the current culture of emoting, present in music, celebrity revelations, lifestyle magazines and newspaper columns.

And as the friction involved in sharing updates becomes lower, I can see us sharing more and more. Some of it will be automated (such as location), much of it will be banal. But it will all contribute to a kind of background hum that gives us an extra sense of what is going on with our connections. We are already developing and using meta analysis tools that will help us sift meaning from this hum: just look at trends on Twitter if you want to see the most popular memes circulating the earth.

Where will this all end? Well if you take my rosily positive view of the world, it could all work out quite nicely. Tying this flight of fancy back to present day issues, imagine a global consensus based on the collected thoughts of the species. A grand, global, technologically-inspired version of proportional representation. It would provide an interesting take on democracy.

I just hope our judgement — and our wit — can keep pace with the advances of technology.

[This blog posts finishes a train of thought started on the way home from FiveLive last night talking about the fact that young people are switching from SMS to instant messaging according to a report from Mobile Youth. My take? Not surprising given that IM is lower friction and lower cost.]

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Security vs communication. Privacy vs freedom. The personal policy challenges of the connected generation

Ok that’s a pretty grand title for a very short post. But it’s a big old issue. We are all increasingly connected in our day-to-day lives across a thousand and one different networks: social, financial, geographic, corporate, legal and technological. The price of access to these networks is usually the sharing of some information, whether that agreement be explicit or implicit.

Unfortunately this wealth of human information provides a fertile environment for the criminal and the hacker. The more data we reveal, the greater the threat to our personal security and that of our employers and service providers. That threat can be mitigated through precautions — mainly education but also software and policies — but it seems unlikely that it can be completely extinguished.

For me there is a huge amount of interest in watching the change in social norms of our society as we integrate and embed all of these new information sources and communications channels. But the even bigger interest is in how we adapt to the changing threats and balance our response to them against our desire to enjoy the benefits of our newfound technological freedom.

[This is what I would have said on Radio FiveLive last night if it was a longer slot…and perhaps if it was on Radio 4… 😉 ]

Tom Cheesewright