When you read Sam’s speech, it’s obvious what a smarter planet would mean for the large, complex systems that constitute the way the world works. It’s obvious that our cities, organizations, supply chains, economies and the planet’s environment – from water systems to climate systems to forests and beyond – could become manageable and sustainable in wholly new ways.
But what does a smarter planet mean for the individual? The short answer, I think, is that this is a last-shall-be-first moment. If the job of leaders is, as Sam describes it, to act more like followers – by listening, facilitating, collaboration, acknowledging that they are not in control, opening up, becoming far more transparent, etc. – then perhaps the job of "followers" (i.e., the world’s poor, the new populations joining the middle class, employees, global citizens, et al.) may be to act like leaders – to be bold, to act like they own the place, to experiment, to expand their horizons.
How might individuals begin to do that? I’d suggest three ways:
- Go Web 2.0. Embrace the long tail.
- Look at your own area of responsibility through the lens of ‘smarter planet,’ and see what this frame lights up… what it transforms… what it could expand.
- Personally engage in the big-picture societal work that is newly possible.
Sam’s speeches so far have been directed to leaders. For them, the challenge is to seize this moment, to embrace the world’s eagerness for change and use it to be bold, game-changing.
But as families, as neighbors, as employees, as partners, as suppliers, as scholars, as global citizens… we can seize the same opportunity, too – the chance to change our lives, our work, our communities, our future. And the way to do that is to participate, to co-create, to network, to jam. The key is to understand that these amazing new capabilities make the planet’s infrastructure available to the individual, to every individual, without regard to wealth or physical location or power.
In other words, the exponential increase in connectivity — and therefore in ‘smart’ connections — means an exponential increase in new ideas, new products, new businesses, political and economic relationships and institutions and new communities. That’s the deeper promise of a smarter planet – far larger and more consequential than the initial increases in efficiency it will drive.
So, for instance, any of us could choose to get involved in any of the big-picture societal/planetary possibilities Sam tees up: an Energy Internet (see Tom Friedman’s new book), monitoring natural systems, social epidemiology, microfinance, access to clean water, etc. For IBMers, things like On Demand Community and World Community Grid are directly related to the new capabilities we’re describing. Any of the systems described in Sam’s speeches is going to have its primary transformation from billions of diverse, unconnected but networked individuals acting locally and collectively having an enormous impact.
So, a Linda Richman moment…
Discuss: Web 1.0 was the Information Web. Web 2.0 is the Social Web. And Web 3.0 (a.k.a. the smarter planet) is the Societal Web.
Here’s another: If a smarter planet is going to become sustainable (ecologically, politically, humanistically) – in other words, if our species is going to survive – it will be because the billions of people on the Net make it so.