Talk is cheap: the coming shift from social media to action media

Posted on Posted in Canvassing, Elections, Introduction

In a world filled with propaganda, lies, and a tsunami of text, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that “talk is cheap; the work you do is what will endure”. These are the words that FBI director Christopher Wray sent earlier this month to the Bureau’s 35,000 employees.

Wray’s words have a profound meaning: the shift from words and pictures to actions. And, because analog humans are limited in our ability to navigate in a complex digital world, we’ll need technology as a “sensor”: to interpret data about people, trends, interests, and events in a way that shows which actions lead to which outcomes.

It’s easy to forget a time before the web and Facebook, when people interacted with computers primarily through text. Adding pictures and video changed everything.

Ten years from now, it will be easy to forget a time when our communication through computers was separate from the actions we take every day: a walled-off activity peering into a screen. In contrast, we’ll use technology for actions that make a difference: connections, human contact, honest conversations.

Just as computers until now have optimized the exchange of words and pictures, tomorrow they will help us to decide what to do each day to make the greatest difference.  We’ll see how our choices have impacts.

Take a political candidate. Every day she chooses a few actions from hundreds of choices about how to spend her time. Which issue should she research? Which event should she attend? What should be her platform? How should it adapt as she learns more about her constituents?

And her volunteers face the same challenge. Should they all attend a rally? Or would it be better for some to phone bank and others to canvass? If they do knock on a door, what’s the best topic to discuss? Who’s the best person to meet this voter?  And how can real-time feedback from that door knock get back to the candidate as quickly as possible?

Let’s face it: time and money is limited. The candidate who does the best job of making these choices every day is the one who will win.  And the pace of change and complexity of the world has become too great to just “wing it”, so lots of people have given up and civic participation is ebbing. Technology can help here, as a tool for good instead of for lies.

To get this right goes well beyond text and pictures. It is about integrating what we know about the world into a living organism of a campaign (and other activities): observing, orienting, deciding, and acting.

And the power of the new “action media” will be an order of magnitude greater than that of words and pictures. Because it will be about humans, in person, with a “shared consciousness” between them and their representatives (no longer lost in their phones) as mediated by new action media tools like artificial intelligence (AI), business intelligence (BI), collaborative intelligence (CI), decision intelligence (DI), and more.

Think Pokemon Go meets Team of Teams  meets Wikipedia plus Google and Facebook at their best, with each one of us playing a part not just in sharing words and pictures but in contributing a little piece of knowledge on the way from actions to outcomes.  Because talk is cheap.  Let’s get to work.