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Bellingham Herald: Technology is changing the world, but it can be for the better

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Originally Published in The Bellingham Herald

By Dave Gallagher

BELLINGHAM – The world is entering an era of dramatic change as new technology is allowing more power to be distributed to the masses. It’s a change that will be full of opportunity but also will be a bit dangerous.

That’s the assertion of Nicco Mele, who gave a presentation at Bellingham City Club on Wednesday, July 23. Mele, who has family in Bellingham, is known for his forecasting of business, politics and culture. Last year he came out with a book “The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath.” It discusses how technology is disrupting traditional institutions, which has some good and bad consequences.

“This is an insecure time, but we have an opportunity to own it,” he said.

The reason Mele believes dramatic change is already happening is because technological advances allow people to instantly stay connected with anyone around the world. He noted that this technology is making it difficult for big institutions to keep up, whether it is in government, education, politics or business.

Some examples given at the presentation include politics, where Barack Obama, a relative newcomer, rose to win the presidency, and Tea Party candidates knocked off established legislators in recent primary elections. He also noted the rising popularity of online universities and said the workforce is swinging back to self-employed companies, rather than the tradition of working for large corporations.

The changes made through technology can work for good but can have plenty of unintended consequences. One example is the Boston Marathon: Mele was relieved to be able to hear through social media that a student of his (Mele teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government) was not hurt right after the bombings in April 2013. However, some social media users misidentified the bombers, creating trauma for the families of those unjustly accused.

Mele contends that society needs to be cautious when it comes to using this new technology. His advice includes demanding technological literacy, not just for society’s leaders but for those who use it.

He also believes we need to get used to the idea that power is no longer something that can be centralized, that it is being distributed more than ever. Accountability also should be demanded for the companies that have recently risen to power through this new technology, including Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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