On leadership, vision & insights.
It’s been a big week. We have been both excited and confused by a stream of #HashtagActivism and have seen Elon Musk pledge to bring the future forward, whilst the creator of the World Wide Web warns us all that we are losing control. . .
The father of the World Wide Web speaks out.
Tim Berners-Lee has made an appeal to the world 28 years after submitting his original proposal for the World Wide Web. Having watched the world contribute to the web we have today, he believes the responsibility falls with everyone to ensure it “fulfils its true potential as an open platform that allows everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”
He is concerned with three key trends that are threatening the future of the web.
- We’ve lost control of our personal data
- It’s too easy for misinformation to spread on the web
- Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding
The shitstorm that was 2016 has ensured that most of us are now gravely aware of these — whether it was one of the largest companies in the world getting hacked by a teenager in his bedroom or watching a monkey who talks with less eloquence than most six-year-olds become president of the United States.
Is anyone going to actually do anything about it?
It is painfully unclear at the moment what needs to be done and we have no wise solutions to offer. All of these issues throw up big moral questions, both old and new, around regulation and censorship.
The only thing we do know is that it’s critically important that we actively raise conversations, challenge and debate.
Has Elon Musk just fast-tracked the future?
In one of Twitter’s more exciting exchanges this week, Elon Musk made a bold bet with the Prime Minister of Australia. If the bet were to pay off, it may fast-track drastic change to national energy systems across the globe.
In the exchange, Musk pledged to solve the state’s energy issues within 100 days — promising that if he couldn’t deliver within the time-frame he would deliver the 100MW battery storage system for free.
Why does this matter?
Since power first began to be distributed to homes at the end of the 19th century, people have relied on national energy grids, both publicly and privately run in different countries. These invisible systems that ensure we are all kept warm and connected are responsible for balancing the network, ensuring supply and demand are matched second by second.
Having enjoyed many years of comfortable, steady growth, the companies that currently own and operate these systems are now moving into uncertain territory. Everything is shifting fast, from the mix of energy that goes into the systems (now including more and more renewable sources) to customers demanding greater flexibility — expecting energy where they need it when they need it.
Elon Musk is proposing to provide people with the means to store energy locally, allowing them to literally turn supply on and off as they wish. This adds a whole extra dimension to the challenge grid operators face, as they race to develop smart systems capable of managing flexible demand.
It would be safe to say no-one had considered that Tesla would be moving into grid services as early as 2017. If Musk’s gamble pays off we are going to very quickly start to have a choice around how we buy and use power — something we’re pretty sure 99% of us have never even considered!
The future of energy will be in our hands - how will we choose to shape it?
Do hashtags make people lazy?
Over the past months, through exploring and thinking about how we can best use Twitter at Think Plan Thrive, we have gone from keeping the platform at arms-length to being completely absorbed by it.
We have discovered, and connected with amazing people and organisations. We have found great opportunities to learn and develop ourselves. However, we have also found aspects of Twitter frighteningly hollow and meaningless.
Something we feel really highlights this is the ‘hashtag activism’ we come across every day. This week has seen companies and individuals all across the world join Twitter-forces in supporting #NationalWomensDay and #DisabledAccessDay. We have been part of both, as we took part in a an event for the International Women’s Peace Group and work closely with the Office for Disability Issues.
What leaves us feeling conflicted is the seemingly huge amount of content being thrown into the ‘Twittersphere’ that doesn’t clearly link to any action. Activism through social media should be a really powerful tool for good, however, unfortunately it is also an easy way out for businesses that feel they should be doing something but can’t quite muster the energy.
We can see how it’s tempting to think you might be ticking a box by ensuring five tweets go out on National Women’s Day with a ‘shout out to the girls’, but it really is obvious when it’s just for show. We should use these tweets to highlight either an opinion, or what it is we’re actually contributing to change.
We’ve started calling businesses out on this — we’ll let you know how it goes. . .