New communications technologies have always been a force for good

I was conscious when writing yesterday’s post Social media make us all more human that some of you might think I am over-optimistic about the impact that new comms technologies will have on society.  Regular readers will know that I have been hitting on this theme in various guises for a while, including last week in Twitter as a productivity tool.

Given this background I was pleased to happen upon the following passages from Robert Wright’s Non-zero, in which he is talking about the impact of the printing press:

The lower the cost of transmitting information, the more broadly and intricately productive a society’s invisible brain can be, both in the short-run sense of everyday economics and the long run sense of technological advance.  But realizing this potential means empowering a commensurately broad swath of the population to serve as nodes in that brain: fostering literacy for example, and giving people some leeway in what they read and write.

and, quoting Charles O. Hucker:

“the role of printing in the social leveling process can hardly be overemphasized”

So I am a big believer in progress.  I don’t expect it to be linear, and for sure there will be problems with abuse and spam, but over time, and by time I mean years rather than months, the companies and countries that embrace social media and empower their people to have genuine conversations with customers and partners through these new channels will be more successful than those that don’t, both increasing productivity generally and encouraging a further social leveling.