When it comes to prediction George Orwell was at least as good as Nostradamus. 1984 is a truly prophetic book.
It convincingly predicted the internet, food shortages, perpetual war, and stockpiled atomic weapons.
And of course it gave us Big Brother.
In Britain, the average citizen is recorded by CCTV cameras 300 times a day.
A fact that’s so well known in the UK it could be a pub trivia question.
Maybe it already is.
We're talking routine daily surveillance here, not covert ops.
And other developed nations are catching up fast.
But prediction is at best, an inexact science.
And Orwell didn’t get everything right.
Because although it’s true that most governments and many corporations have the resources to keep tabs on us 24/7 -- digital/social media increasingly gives citizens the ability to turn the tables.
The biggest example of this is WikiLeaks, about which millions of words have already been written.
And it’s by no means an isolated example.
As Congressman Anthony Weiner recently discovered, indiscrete tweets are not a good idea.
Maybe it’s the arrogance gene, but politicians especially, seem slow to grasp that there is no privacy anymore.
And where there is no privacy there has to be less secrecy.
Certainly nothing digital can be classified as secret.
It only takes a click.
And as an Original Gatester, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman astutely remarked, “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube”.
What was true for Watergate is truer for Weinergate.
Even riches and influence can't erase a digital footprint.
Tiger Woods’ extracurricular activities came to light through a string of text messages.
And as Ryan Giggs found out to his cost, high-priced lawyers and super injunctions are no match for 140 characters.
It's not just a prurient interest in the sex lives of celebrity sportsmen.
There's a business story too.
Sponsorships have been pulled, and some commentators claim Mr. Woods’ antics cost shareholders as much as $12 billion.
That's a sweet swing if you're short selling, and someone usually is.
Back in 1998, it took a blue dress laced with DNA to make an ass of Bill Clinton.
Now a little string of 1s and 0s can carry the impetus to unseat dynasties.
The Arab Spring was largely broken to western media via social media.
Sure, the story would have broken eventually but when people are being killed lead times are important.
The movements were also largely orchestrated through Facebook and Twitter.
Well you try calling 10,000 people personally.
Of course the rise of citizen journalism has been well chronicled.
What interests me more is a phenomenon created as a side effect.
Because an unexpected and far-reaching consequence of the social media revolution is the answer to an old question: who watches the watchmen?
And the answer is – now we do.
And that’s what Orwell didn’t see coming.
Big Brother may still be watching us – but we’re watching Big Brother like never before.
The populous may well have more power than any time since the French Revolution.
And this levelling of the playing field is a good thing.
Unless or course you’re a dictator, dodgy politico, unscrupulous oligarch, or philandering celeb.
And if you are, watch out.
We’ve got our eye on you Pal.