Just back from the stimulating Personal Democracy Forum in New York City. The high point was Tom The World is Flat Friedman's presentation cannily (or, more appropriately, caninely) entitled "What happens when all we all have dog's hearing."
Huh. Has Friedman gone barking mad? Or has he got new gig writing for The Bark?
Actually the reverse is true. The crazy utopian of the World is Flat, has finally sniffed reality. Tom Friedman, praise the lord, has finally become a skeptic of all this web democracy.
We've all acquired dog's hearing, he told us. Which means that we've become acutely sensitive to information about ourselves. Everything is personal is the global information age. It's democratic narcissism, Google style. Friedman borrowed Linda Stone's notion of "continuous partial attention" to explain our descent into this canine inaninity. The only thing we can concentrate on is what other people are saying about us. What Friedman once saw as a flat world has acquired a billion inaccessible peaks.
The climax of Friedman's talk focused on the flattening of truth and fiction on the Internet. He told the story of Muslim woman in the Middle East who was against Al Gore because he was Jewish. When he tried to correct her, she refused to believe him:
"But I read it on the Internet," she insisted.
Friedman has got the species right, but the body part wrong. It's not dog's hearing that we've acquired -- but a canine soul. I read it on the Internet has become the equivalent of a dog's faith in their master's voice.