The Challenge

These essays correspond to the six chapters of the film. They foreground the key ideas of each chapter and flesh out additional themes.
We offer the essays as commentary on the film, and hope they provide a springboard for further discussion and debate.

The Challenge

“Governments and even companies are accustomed to being the target of protests, so as protests coordinated by social media become normal, their effectiveness will fall. A more remarkable and longer-lived change will be in the offing, though, if people are able to start using these tools to bypass government or commercial entities in favour of taking on problems directly. If this happens, it will be a far bigger challenge to the previous institutional monopoly on large-scale action that anything we have ever seen.”

Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, p. 318.

Our children will look back and wonder why it took us so long to get it. From their point of view, our way of thinking about the internet as a place for communicating and sharing ideas will seem as quaintly unimaginative as the Wright Brother’s idea that the best use of their flying machine was to enable aerial spying missions seems to us. We have the technology and we have the capability to change the way that we organize, create, and behave on a global scale. But our imaginations, for the most part, are stuck in the age of the postal system and telephone, where the point is to facilitate information-flow between groups and individuals.

It is time to put this paradigm behind us. It already belongs to the past.

Convergence is the key to understanding the new revolution in social media technology. When we start using new internet tools to coordinate the acts of groups and individuals about the world in such a way that they converge on common projects and goals, we will rapidly transform our sense of the possible. There is no limit to what people can achieve by coordinating their actions. We are standing on the threshold of a genuine global revolution.

The coming revolution is not a revolution to overthrow the government or smash the state. The last thing we need at the moment is social and infrastructural collapse. The coming revolution is a creative revolution, not a destructive one. It will leave governments behind and put them to shame. When millions of people about the planet converge on common acts and goals, we will see how timid and ineffectual governments, as agents of change, really are. They were never designed to change the world, after all. They were designed to manage the status quo. But the status quo is out of time. The future is all we have left.

Get ready to change the world. There are millions of others waiting to play their part. All that they need is the infrastructure to make it happen. We have the tools that we need to construct this infrastructure. We have the talent and intelligence to make it a system people will want to use. Lord knows we have the motivation to get busy. So get started, before it’s too late.

Log on, converge, and swarm.

Tim Rayner

About the authorTimothy Rayner is a writer and philosopher based in Sydney, Australia. His consultancy, Philosophy for Change, teaches practical philosophical skills for everyday life. Tim has taught philosophy at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, Australia. He recently completed 'Philosophy for Change' the book, and is writing a book on innovation.

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