Parents, children and wikileaks

i have argued for many years that the internet was going to disrupt our social fabric as much as the printing press. I relish the openness and shared responsibility that I believe it makes possible. I don’t however believe that success is inevitable and a peaceful future relies on all of us taking a greater responsibility for our thoughts and our dealings with each other. This will mean more people thinking hard about what they think, being prepared to say what they think, and listening intently and with an attitude of tolerance to what other people think.

None of this is going to be easy. I have been accused in the past of being naively unreasonable for expecting people to think. During the Personal Democracy Forum seminar yesterday on wikileaks Douglas Rushkoff asked if we are ready for democracy and today Henry Porter writes of the desire of the grown ups to maintain control.

However I am hopeful. Comparing the levels of technical competence of my kids with those of my non internet friends and comparing the peaceful majority at the student demonstrations in London to the wistful recollection of more politically engaged times amongst my middle class friends, I find myself wondering if the children are becoming grown ups and the adults are succumbing to voluntary infantilisation.

8 thoughts on “Parents, children and wikileaks

  1. Hi Euan,The Entperise 2.0 guy Andrew McAfee makes an interesting argument that Julian Assange has made very clear his position that Wikileaks' goal isn't in fact about increasing transparency – as most of us presume – but is primary about changing the regime in the US: the way, when you write:"I have been accused in the past of being naively unreasonable for expecting people to think" – doesn't this rather appear to carry the implication that if people don't think along broadly the same kind of lines you do, then they're not really 'thinking' at all? (*Everyone* thinks, after all!).Despite the plea for tolerance in your post, haven't you unconsciously entrenched an intolerance of the 'infantile' views of others at the heart of your approach?That said, I think the issue you raise about how some organisations infantilise their staff – and others don't! – is perhaps one of the most crucial issues imaginable, as so very many of us work in organisations.It's such an ever-present issue… that barely anyone seems to notice it! (Except perhaps a few organisational development thinkers – Argyris, Torbert etc. The Bertelsmann Foundation's new report 'The Leadership Implications of the Evolving Web' looks like it covers some of this important, but usually ignored, stuff.Take a look: ).I rather suspect that infantilised people don't build inspiring on authentic or sustainable organisations, or futures…Matthew


  2. I didn't mention Julian or his motives because he is a red herring. If it wasn't him it would be someone else. It is others who raised the issue of expecting people to think, not me. I do want people to feel encouraged to think for themselves and prepared to share what they think with others. I genuinely don't want them to think exactly like me because that wouldn't move anything forward very far. I am glad that you appear to agree that this is an important issue!


  3. Hi Euan,When you talk about how people should be encouraged to "think for themselves", my own take on that is that it means that we'd like to see a shift from the traditional/conformist ('Socialised' in Prof Robert Kegan's terminology) way of thinking to a more independent ('Self-authored') way of thinking. I'm currently reading an interesting book which covers how to enable this shift from traditional to self-authoring ways of thinking – it's titled 'Leading Adult Learning: Supporting Adult Development in Our Schools'. (It focuses on pillar practices such as teaming, mentoring, shared dialogue, providing leadership roles).As you will notice, it focuses on schools – though obviously (almost) all the messages and insights and practices transfer to other organisations.But it would be great to see a book like this written for the Enterprise 2.0 organisations.We need organisations that help people more effectively to grow!Cheers,Matthew


  4. Hi Euan,I don't believe the role reversal is really there. (That leadership and adult development text sounds about right.)The responses of authorities unable to handle wikileaks has indeed been infantile, an inability to grasp the situation, but when not being infantile I have to believe that adults in general have wisdom that children need experience to learn. Of course as new technology possibilities change faster, the gap between the young and old learning how to work with it narrows and even reverses – children do grow up faster. But the world as a whole is more than the technology. Adults need to remember they are adults. Sometime with speed, less is more. Of course wisdom probably does require some reflective space that is inconsistent with the ideas of full and immediate public disclosure for its own sake. (The Khmer Rouge example would be a chilling counterpoint to the wikileaks "ideology" – the cult of child power.)


  5. I wasn't really dismissing the need for experience nor suggesting that everything nowadays has to happen faster. However on a daily basis I encounter adults, some at a very high level in organisations, who act as if they have no power or responsibility to affect change – and I equally watch kids taking things that matter very seriously.


  6. Yes, I'd agree with that experience too Euan. Following the Parent / Child transactional metaphor … youth takes ideas of change very seriously, but has that not always been the case ? A tendency to conservatism in the adult, versus youth forcing the pace and nature of change ? Youth wasted on the young, and all that.I think the authorities (adults) are talking the infringements very seriously, just not recognizing the (already) changed environment in which they need to frame their responses, or more likely recognizing it, but simply at a loss for how to change their modes of response (in the timescales that apply). I think it is the moderation (of the nature of communication, and response) that is hard to work out whilst maintaining trust. When trust is lost …. all is lost.(This is probably not the place, but recognizing the urgent need for change, and taking responsibility for doing so is one thing, but there is a memetic sense in which despite taking responsibility seriously, people are actually less in control than might appear – less in control than their available resources allow. Deckchairs on the Titanic.)I guess we're violently agreeing, and with Jeff in your next thread, that the grown-ups are not facing-up the need for change enough. Our common agendas.


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