For the last few years, scientists have argued that were living through a distinctly new geological age. They call it the Anthropocene: a new age characterized by humanitys profound impact on Earth itself as evidenced by pollution, mass extinction and climate change.
We are currently facing a new systemic collapse, one that has built far more swiftly but poses potent risks for all of humanity: the collapse of the information ecosystem. We see it play out every day with the viral spread of misinformation, widening news deserts and the proliferation of fake news. This collapse has much in common with the environmental collapse of the planet that were only now beginning to grasp, and its consequences for life as we know it are shaping up to be just as profound.
The digital revolution greatly expanded human knowledge and wealth much as the industrial revolution did 150 years earlier when new technologies, notably the combustion engine, brought about extraordinary economic growth. And much like the building of great railways and interstate highways allowed people to connect, the creation of tools that allow anyone to be their own publisher has made it possible for new voices to reach large audiences around the world.
The collapse of the information ecosystem has already wreaked havoc on our political systems
But if the price of the industrial revolution was planetary destruction on an unimaginable scale, the digital revolution may be costly in a different but similarly destructive way. William Randolph Hearst owned the means of production and was free to publish made up stories to sell papers and stoke the Spanish-American war. Today, everyone is free to be their own propagandist.
The scale of the threat is hard to overstate.
When the scientists behind the Doomsday clock published their yearly assessment of how close we are to planetary doom, they added a new dimension to the dual threats of nuclear proliferation and climate change, namely the intentional corruption of the information ecosystem on which modern civilization depends.
What weve seen in recent years isnt just the collapse of informational authority. It is the destruction of the pact between the purveyors of quality information and the businesses that wanted to reach the consumers of that information.
In 2018, Facebook, Google and Amazon have sucked up nearly 70% of all digital advertising dollars, effectively taking the place of the old monopolies.
Some news organizations have become profitable by persuading their audience to pay for the journalism once heavily subsidized by advertisers. Others, such as the Guardian and HuffPost, have created membership programs that ask audiences to support journalism once heavily subsidized by advertisers. Still others now rely on foundations or wealthy patrons, with people such as Jeff Bezos taking the place of Pulitzer or Hearst.
But this is not enough to make the provision of high-quality and affordable information sustainable. Since 2008, at least 28,000 journalists have lost their jobs. Today, we get much less foreign news as news organizations close their bureaus, and local news may go the way of the dodo as newspapers across the country fold.
The scale of the threat is hard to overstate
The collapse of the information ecosystem has already wreaked havoc on our political systems. It has undermined democratic elections. It has shaken basic trust in institutions. It has left us with a world in which anyone is free to choose their own facts. It threatens to fundamentally destabilize the existing world order.
That world is a very dangerous one for humans in general, but it poses special and serious risks for businesses. Without facts, what are contracts? Without facts, what are laws? A world without facts is as dangerous for companies as it is for citizens.
Most major corporations have sustainability policies and seek to limit, as much as possible, the harm caused to the environment by their products. This is partly due to consumer pressure. But its also because companies have realized that climate change carries catastrophic business risks.
Just as companies decarbonize their businesses, they should think carefully about how they contribute to the destruction of our information ecosystem and choose to reach consumers on platforms that slow rather than increase the pace of information ecosystem collapse.
I am not suggesting anyone must immediately abandon Facebook or Google advertising platforms. But I do propose an experiment. What if the chief marketing officer of every major corporation set aside a substantial chunk of their marketing budget and devoted it to high-quality news? Of the $130bn devoted to digital advertising, set $50bn aside for news.
Indeed, the withdrawal of advertising dollars would be the single most powerful way to change the practices of companies that contribute most powerfully to the information ecosystem crisis. It dwarfs anything a regulatory body could do to alter the behavior of these platforms. When the FTC slapped a $5bnn fine on Facebook this summer, investors sent its shares soaring.
Advertisers love these platforms for the same reason industrialists love carbon-based energy: it provides powerful, measurable fuel for their businesses. But increasingly they are becoming wary of these platforms because they are full of disinformation, fraud and abuse. Just as companies are weaning themselves from substances that pollute our air, water and lands, companies should wean themselves from platforms that are destroying our information ecosystem. Its just good business.
The Doomsday clock stands at two minutes to midnight. But this new normal is not normal. As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists put it earlier this year:
Nuclear war and climate change threaten the physical infrastructure that provides the food, energy, and other necessities required for human life. But to thrive, prosper, and advance, people also need reliable information about their world factual information, in abundance.
Read more here:
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- This is the size of undisturbed ecosystems lost in 13 years - World Economic Forum - September 25th, 2020
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- Why the new farm Bills should excite the advertising ecosystem - Business Standard - September 25th, 2020
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- 'Drilling Would Have Devastating Impacts on This Fragile Ecosystem' - FAIR - September 4th, 2020
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- IoT Ecosystem Creates an Optimized Smart Warehouse - The Union Journal - September 4th, 2020
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- Microsoft and Samsung need each other now more than ever - The Verge - August 12th, 2020
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- BBT is the first and most competitive game ecosystem - GameDev.net - August 12th, 2020
- Purple urchin has overrun kelp forests, commercial divers and conservationists have have joined forces to restore the North Coasts marine ecosystem -... - August 12th, 2020
- Four Altcoins Could Break Out As Ethereum-Based Ecosystem Goes Parabolic, According to Messari Researcher - The Daily Hodl - August 12th, 2020
- Samsung Unveils Five New Power Devices in the Galaxy Ecosystem to Empower Your Work and Play - Samsung Global Newsroom - August 10th, 2020
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- Diversity & Inclusion in Investment Management: SEC Explores Creating a More Inclusive Capital Formation Ecosystem - JD Supra - August 10th, 2020
- New Marine Park in Australia's Northern Territory Protects a Flourishing Ecosystem - The Pew Charitable Trusts - August 10th, 2020
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- Chehalis River: Watershed Helath, Climate Resilience, and Ecosystem Restoration - The Columbian - August 10th, 2020
- CerebrumX Launched - Buckling Up the Car Data Monetization Ecosystem for the Exciting Ride Ahead - PRNewswire - August 10th, 2020
- Vinli Hires George Ayres as Executive Vice President of Partnerships to Drive the Future of Its Connected Vehicle Ecosystem - PRNewswire - August 10th, 2020
- 6 Ways to Build the Healthcare System of the Future - HealthLeaders Media - August 10th, 2020
- How The Chinese Open Source Ecosystem Is Thriving And Advancing AI - Analytics India Magazine - August 10th, 2020
- Best of BS Opinion: Indias digital ecosystem, beyond Ayodhya, and more - Business Standard - August 10th, 2020
- How can Canadas performing arts ecosystem change in the face of COVID-19? - The Globe and Mail - August 10th, 2020
- yEarn Expanding its Ecosystem to Bring in Hot DeFi Tokens into the Mix - Bitcoin Exchange Guide - August 10th, 2020
- What is the current state of the UAE's startup ecosystem? - Gulf Business News - August 10th, 2020
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- Global Connected Cow and Farm Market Report 2020: Market Size, Forecasts, Insights and Opportunities to 2025 - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business Wire - August 10th, 2020
- Alabama Mercedes plant among first in world to use innovative production system - Alabama NewsCenter - August 8th, 2020
- Enhanced efficiency thanks to new family of applications: Digital Mercedes-Benz production ecosystem MO360: global production networked in real time -... - August 8th, 2020
- Peril in the hills: Extreme weather a danger for Nilgiri ecosystem - Down To Earth Magazine - August 8th, 2020
- IPL returns but will be played in UAE; Indian cricket ecosystem loses out - The Times of India Blog - August 8th, 2020
- The Giant Panda Is a Conservation Icon, But The Success Story Masks a Dark Truth - ScienceAlert - August 7th, 2020
- This mobile game lets you build ecosystems that will help solve real-world ecological problems - Fast Company - August 7th, 2020
- BigPanda Invests in Partner Ecosystem to Deliver on Customer Demand for Improved IT Operations - GlobeNewswire - August 7th, 2020
- The IoT Community Internet of Things Community Announces Phizzle Has Joined Its Elite IoT Ecosystem as a Gold Level Corporate Member - Business Wire - August 7th, 2020
- COVID-19 Impacts: Clinical Trial Management System Market Will Accelerate at a CAGR of Almost 11% Through 2020-2024 | Increasing Outsourcing of... - August 7th, 2020
- The AR/VR ecosystem Are we there yet? - VentureBeat - August 4th, 2020
- Spixii Joins Duck Creek Technologies Partner Ecosystem, Offering Award-Winning Claim Solution to Deliver on Customer Expectations at the Moment of... - August 4th, 2020
- DIY phishing kits dissected: Organizations urged to tackle the underground ecosystem that democratized cybercrime - The Daily Swig - August 4th, 2020
- Addressing the potential impact of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on The Wearable Technology Ecosystem Market: Quantitative Analysis from 2018 to 2030... - August 4th, 2020
- India Gaming Summit 2020: How Dream11 plans to build the esports ecosystem from the bottoms up - The Financial Express - August 4th, 2020
- Huawei Ecosystem has gone beyond the heights with 1.6 M Global Developers - - Technology Times Pakistan - August 4th, 2020
- Opinion | How to make online payments bustle with competition - Livemint - August 4th, 2020
- Building ecosystems is hard. Auditing them is worse. - Stacey on IoT - August 4th, 2020
- AB 3030 fails to recognize marine protections that exists in California - CALmatters - August 4th, 2020
- VoLTE (Voice over LTE) Ecosystem Industry Market Professional Survey 2020 by Manufacturers, Share, Growth, Trends, Types and Applications, Forecast to... - August 4th, 2020
- COVID-19 Impacts: Global Automotive Intelligent Door System Market will Accelerate at a CAGR of almost 12% through 2020-2024|Growing Demand for... - August 4th, 2020
- Podcast: CLUECON SPECIAL FEATURE OrecX not only delivers top shelf stereo recording, but delivers a huge ecosystem of add on technology that may... - August 4th, 2020