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Douglas Carswell's Blog

14 NOV 2012

Digital means less deference. Good

Trust is in retreat, writes City AM's Allister Heath.

In 2003, 81 percent of us trusted BBC news journalists.  Today, a mere 44 percent.   It is a similar picture for senior police officers (down from 72 per cent to 49 per cent), senior civil servant, bankers and politicians.

This is, argues Allister, a Bad Thing, since trust is the glue that holds together a "complex network of voluntary associations ... conducive to commercial cooperation".

I agree with Allister – but, for once, only sort of.

Yes, we need lots of connectedness to thrive and prosper – the wider and more intricate that network the better. It is this connectedness that allows humans to not only specialise and exchange. It gives us a collective intelligence, allowing us to do (and be) things we could never manage on our own.

Far from breaking down, we are witnessing an exponential increase in human connectedness. Our collective brain is getting rapidly bigger – just do a quick Google search, and imagine how long it might have taken you to gather up all that information twenty years ago, to see what I mean.

Rather than becoming atomised individuals, living in lonely isolation, the digital revolution will bring us closer together in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.  We will be able to organise ourselves together not merely on the basis of geography, but on the basis of shared outlook, common interest and collective ambition. 

The internet is a sprawling network of organic and spontaneous design, without a central, directing authority. It will make us much less deferential to authority figures trying to centrally direct us.

Instead of looking to BBC journalists to interpret current affairs for us, and direct us towards a particular point of view, for example, we have begun to realise that the man on the telly might be full of subjective biases and preconceptions - just like anyone else. So we no longer take as gospel truth his analysis of the banking crisis or climate change. Good. Nor should we.

We have begun to recognise more vividly, too, that some MPs don't always put the interests of their constituents first. Nor are all bankers paid their bonus by grateful customers seeking to reward them. Nor does everyone working in the criminal justice system put the victims of crime first.

We cease to trust blindly because we can at last see.  We can see things as they really are, not how those at the top would like us to percieve them to be.   

So we begin to demand greater accountability.  This is a good thing. Or rather, it is bad for elites who would rather remain unaccountable. It is great news for everyone else.

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