Managing The Machines of Politics

Many science fiction movies have a common plot: The machines created by humans rise up to take power over their creators. And while the real world version is far more benign, our addiction to knowledge has created a world where we are, for better or worse, increasingly defined by machines. To survive in the Smart Phone Era, we must learn to manage the machines.

Just over a decade ago, I decided to go all-cellular all-the-time. In just a decade, however, the era of the cell phone has come and gone. The cell phone has given way to the smart phone and early adapters, regardless of how smart they truly are, are fast becoming arbiters of knowledge, news and information in their communities.

While visiting my family in Texas over the holidays, my relatives quickly saw how helpful it was to have hipside Internet access. Want the latest stock quotes? Need a phone number for a restaurant? Forget what time you had plane reservations? Just ask Scott, who has the whole Internet in his pocket. A quick tappity-tap in the phone’s browser and any question can be answered, from which team won the 1996 Rose Bowl Game to the ranks of the three enlisted men sitting at the next table over in their dress blues.

No more arguing, no more debates, no more people acting holier-than-thou because they have some trivial information stored in their heads. As my roommate says, the phrase, “I wonder” will soon be replaced by, “I Wiki.”

Where’s My
Fifteen Minutes?

In his new book, Where’s My Fifteen Minutes? Get Your Company, Your Cause, or Yourself the Recognition You Deserve Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman argues that everybody has a public image that they must manage. What your Facebook profile or Google results say about you is as important as any image you put forth about yourself, talking at a seminar, walking down the street, dealing face to face with your neighbors and colleagues. Now that more and more people have the Internet in their pockets, first impressions are as important as the second impressions someone has when they look you up online.

Whenever I meet a new person, I look them up on Facebook and probably Google them. Same goes for many companies evaluating new employees. I have even heard of one courtroom prosecutor who befriended a defendant on a social networking site and gathered evidence for his case!

Our online personas are becoming part of each of us. A blogger’s online persona can quickly define them as a person in the eyes of others, for example. If someone does not manage their Facebook profile, the comments and photos of others will tell their story to the world – be it a true on or not. This, of course, goes double for politicians and public figures.

And if we do not control what is being said about us online, the Internet will begin to control us. Google, Facebook and other online outlets tell stories to others about us, and what everyone must learn is to take charge and tell the stories we want people to hear.

Today’s MySpace kids will become tomorrow’s leaders. The comments of a fifteen or twenty-five year old today could become a speedbump on the information superhighway should they decide to take on, say, a political career at some point in the future.

In some ways, the rise of the machines is well underway. As the World Wide Web becomes ubiquitous, on our desktops, in everyone’s pockets, in cars, on subways, at work, on vacation, those who have access to it will have knowledge to use as they see fit. So for politicians today, and those aspiring to go there, it’s more important than ever to control what you say, and what’s said about you, online as almost any assertion, unless corrected, becomes the truth.