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:
- BitCherry To Build a Trusted Distributed Business Ecosystem - Coinspeaker - February 6th, 2020
- Building a Worker Co-op Ecosystem: Lessons from the Big Apple - Nonprofit Quarterly - February 6th, 2020
- Letters: Healthcare industry needs its own digital ecosystem - ModernHealthcare.com - February 6th, 2020
- The new financial ecosystem of big banks and big tech - ValueWalk - February 6th, 2020
- To protect ecosystem, improve balance on critical regulatory panel - theday.com - February 6th, 2020
- How to fall in love with the Apple ecosystem all over again -- spend more money and buy new stuff - ZDNet - February 6th, 2020
- Artificial intelligence requires trusted data, and a healthy DataOps ecosystem - ZDNet - February 6th, 2020
- Preserve the Sacred Lands of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem - CounterPunch - February 6th, 2020
- Organizations only protect 60% of their business ecosystem, Accenture finds - CIO Dive - February 6th, 2020
- IBM: building a digital ecosystem to support the mine of the future - Mining Global - Mining News, Magazine and Website - February 6th, 2020
- Structo Partners with Pro3dure to Extend applications in the Velox ecosystem - Manufactur3D - February 6th, 2020
- Epic and about 60 hospital chains come out against rules that would make it easier to share medical info - CNBC - February 6th, 2020
- [2020 Outlook] Indian startup ecosystem raring to break new ground in the new year - YourStory - January 2nd, 2020
- [2020 Outlook] What investors expect for the Indian startup ecosystem in the year ahead - YourStory - January 2nd, 2020
- Chuck Todd Finds All the Disinformation In 'Ecosystem Problem' on the Right - NewsBusters - January 2nd, 2020
- THE CONNECTIVITY B2B ECOSYSTEM: How 5G and next-gen networks are transforming the role telecoms play in enterp - Business Insider India - January 2nd, 2020
- Looking back at the Indian startup ecosystem in 2019 - YourStory - January 2nd, 2020
- 2019 In Review: Key Milestones That Indian Startup Ecosystem Achieved This Year - Inc42 Media - January 2nd, 2020
- Vivo, OPPO and Xiaomi Partner to Bring New Wireless File Transfer System to Global Consumers - PRNewswire - January 2nd, 2020
- Bringing start-ups and corporates together to foster maritime innovation - Riviera Maritime Media - January 2nd, 2020
- Regional disparities in the Indian innovation ecosystem - Forbes India - January 2nd, 2020
- Fixing the rot in Indias financial ecosystem - The New Indian Express - January 2nd, 2020
- The inside story of the AppStore, Salesforces Marc Benioff, and a gifted URL to Steve Jobs - 9to5Mac - January 2nd, 2020
- 2019 In Review: The Best Of Inc42 - Inc42 Media - January 2nd, 2020
- For 2020, Cross River Bank Says It Will Increase Collaboration to Grow New Jersey's Fintech Ecosystem - njtechweekly.com - January 2nd, 2020
- As healthcare moves to the home, CISOs can't be 'Dr. No' - MobiHealthNews - January 2nd, 2020
- The story of why Marc Benioff gifted the AppStore.com domain to Steve Jobs - TechCrunch - January 2nd, 2020
- NBCs Ben Collins to Chris Hayes: Trump Retweets Shady Accounts Because He Listens to Alternate Ecosystem Where Hes God Emperor - Mediaite - January 2nd, 2020
- The moon and Earths ecosystem - OrissaPOST - January 2nd, 2020
- Frontline Systems Launches Analytic Solver V2020: Tool for Analytics-Powered Decision Models in the Microsoft Ecosystem - PR Web - January 2nd, 2020
- Time to stop playing with acronyms and create vibrant eco system in North East - Economic Times - December 21st, 2019
- What You Can Do to Build an Innovative Ecosystem - CMSWire - December 21st, 2019
- TrueFort Expands Fortified Ecosystem with Infoblox and Others - Business Wire - December 21st, 2019
- Driving up the value of AI starts with building an ecosystem - CIO Dive - December 21st, 2019
- OKEx Research: Ecosystem, and Innovative Products - newsBTC - December 21st, 2019
- The Unter-class is the Whole Ecosystem - Fairplanet - December 21st, 2019
- Paige Raises $45M to Expand AI-Native Digital Pathology Ecosystem to Accelerate Biomarker Discovery - HIT Consultant - December 21st, 2019
- Dotscience Gains Momentum in the MLOps Ecosystem and Accelerates Deployment of Machine Learning Models into Production with New Technology... - December 21st, 2019
- Rakshit Shetty talks about 'Avane Srimannarayana' and the eco-system that enables his work - The Hindu - December 21st, 2019
- Are Apple Macs worth the money? - scallywagandvagabond - December 21st, 2019
- Silicon Labs and Z-Wave Alliance Expand Smart Home Ecosystem by Opening Z-Wave to Silicon and Stack Suppliers - PRNewswire - December 21st, 2019
- Transforming the insurance sector to an Open API Ecosystem - Finextra - December 21st, 2019
- Apple Issues New Blow To Google With This Bold Security Move - Forbes - December 21st, 2019
- Why the $52K Mac Pro is important for everyone who cares about the survival of the Mac ecosystem - ZDNet - December 21st, 2019
- The Top 3 Fintech Stocks to Buy in 2020 - Motley Fool - December 21st, 2019
- GW addresses report recommendations to improve research - GW Hatchet - December 21st, 2019
- Hyundai teases flying car concept ahead of CES - Autoblog - December 21st, 2019
- N.S. won't protect land with 'globally rare' ecosystem that company eyes for golf resort - CBC.ca - December 21st, 2019
- OPPO announces three initiatives to co-build new intelligent service ecosystem with developers & partners - United News of India - December 21st, 2019
- Ecosystem | Definition of Ecosystem by Merriam-Webster - November 21st, 2019
- Ecosystem - Wikipedia - November 21st, 2019
- Has Arm Discovered the Ecosystem Keys? - The Next Platform - November 21st, 2019
- Integrating Global Seagrass and Mangrove Ecosystem Observations - Eos - November 21st, 2019
- Dreamforce 2019: Salesforce Outlines Initiatives To Ignite Ecosystem Growth - CRN: The Biggest Tech News For Partners And The IT Channel - November 21st, 2019
- Ten Predictions On The Future Of Work, VC And The Tech Ecosystem For 2020 And Beyond - Forbes - November 21st, 2019
- Galt Earth Day: Lucero Farms partners with the ecosystem - The Galt Herald - November 21st, 2019
- Why Your Organization Needs an Innovation Ecosystem - Harvard Business Review - November 21st, 2019
- Ecosystem Kickstarter is a cardboard structure that fights soil erosion - Dezeen - November 21st, 2019
- Sapiens Expands Its Partnership Ecosystem With Lightico to Enhance Digital Customer Interactions for the Insurance Market - MarTech Series - November 21st, 2019
- How human and animal excrement harm the planet's ecosystem - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - November 21st, 2019
- Working in Partnership to Power the News Ecosystem - Reuters - November 21st, 2019
- Mellanox, JVP To Develop Haifa's Tech And Innovation Ecosystem With $14M Investment | Technology News - NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News - November 21st, 2019
- Oracle's Aubrey Hawes on Open Banking and ecosystem building - Tearsheet - November 21st, 2019
- Vermont Futures Project recommends strengthening the innovation ecosystem - Vermont Biz - October 24th, 2019
- Android 9 was installed on less than a quarter of the ecosystem as Android 10 launched - The Verge - October 24th, 2019
- Leave those fall leaves for a nicer lawn and a healthier ecosystem - Greater Greater Washington - October 24th, 2019
- Innovation and safety: creating a safer road transport ecosystem - Intelligent Transport - October 24th, 2019
- Inmar Expands Innovator Ecosystem with Acquisition of Digitus Solutions - Yahoo Finance - October 24th, 2019
- Plasan Introduces the StreetDrone Open Autonomy Platform to Israel - Army Technology - October 24th, 2019
- Investing In The Nonprofit Ecosystem - Forbes - October 24th, 2019
- 35 New Integration Partners Join Thriving Clio App Ecosystem - Yahoo Finance - October 24th, 2019
- Trump Wants Loggers to Tear Through This Pristine Forest. If It Happens, the Ecosystem Will Be in Chaos. - Mother Jones - October 24th, 2019
- Treating the IT Ecosystem as an Actual Ecosystem - MarketScale Industries - October 24th, 2019
- Identity and Access Management for Healthcare getting it right to support clinical workflows Part Two - HealthLeaders Media - October 24th, 2019
- Understanding Startup Investment Dynamics Within The Logistics Ecosystem - Benzinga - October 24th, 2019
- Understanding the Decentralized Finance Ecosystem: Part 2 Top DeFi Projects - Bitcoin & Crypto Guide - Altcoin Buzz - October 24th, 2019
- Indian startups have raised a record $11.3B this year - TechCrunch - October 24th, 2019
- Global Access Control Ecosystem, 2019 | 5 Year Forecasts of Unit Sales & Revenues for Smart Door Locks, Video Doorbells, and Smart Garage Door... - October 24th, 2019
- Restoration Agriculture: A New Approach to Growing Food - WCAI - October 24th, 2019
- Yurok Tribes Connection to Klamath River Weakens as Ecosystem Declines - The LumberJack - October 24th, 2019