It struck me as the perfect irony when Google ads about cyber security popped up on my screen as I researched surveillance for this magazine. It was an excellent example of how much we reveal online, and who has access to it.
Now that is not to say that we should all get paranoid, shut down our social network accounts and head for the hills. But seeing as this digital revolution thing is not going away, we need to get our heads around it.
We are living in a time of accelerated innovation. It poses huge challenges – not least to the magazine industry – when digital data, freed of physical substance, can be shared as easily as ideas. It’s a time of great promise – the global democratization of information and knowledge, new ways to network, organize and innovate.
But we don’t know, of course, where these new technologies will lead us. It won’t all be good news. Over the next 20 years, advances in open-design and 3-D printing promise to democratize and localize manufacturing. There will be environmental gains, and it will slash the import bill for Majority World nations – but it may also wipe out millions of jobs.
We also need to be wary of overstating the impact of new technology. Open access to government data, for example, can empower communities but it will not automatically confer power over decision-making, particularly for the 60 per cent in the world without internet access.
This is the case for 97 per cent of people in Mali, the focus of Jeremy Keenan’s exposé on US interference in North Africa. Keenan reveals how the US and other Western countries have been sponsoring terrorism, which is then blamed on Islamic militancy. His shocking report provides important background to a developing news story.
This month’s magazine also has two prominent human rights campaigners, Peter Tatchell and Joyce Arthur, taking opposite views on a thorny issue: should hate speech be a crime?
Hazel Healy for the New Internationalist co-operative.
Donough O'Malley www.pencilrobot.net
New Internationalist co-editor Hazel Healy meets the free software hackers protecting your bits from cybersnooping governments and marketers.