The world has seven new wonders, but democracy, apparently, isn’t one of them.
In a ceremony — held on 7/7/07 — that featured Ben Kingsley, Hilary Swank and Jennifer Lopez, Swiss filmmaker Bernard Weber named the New Seven Wonders of the world. It was hailed as an exercise in global democracy, because the selection process was opened up to electronic voting by various means by everyone in the world.
The organizers counted more than 90 million e-votes. Does that mean 90 million people voted? Not necessarily.
Two things make this problematic. First, untraceable e-votes can easily dominate the media and public perception, leading to the potential for a tyranny of the pseudo-majority.
Second, the abundance of new global issues on the horizon makes the e-voting process a highly attractive method of suppressing public opinion by electronically manipulating the results of a vote.
The last century has seen a sea change in our mass communication media. The radio, television and Internet have largely supplanted the printed page. It follows logically that the paper ballot should give way to the electronic one.
However, deciding complex issues based on untraceable electronic pulses raises some serious questions. Most of the world’s population is oblivious to the intricacies of global networking systems and highly programmed devices, just as they were unfamiliar with the workings of last century’s newspaper barons.
The Global Billion E-Vote Machine
If we accept knowledge as the real bond of society, then today the flow and control of information will hold ever more power. The technical capacity of a single source to communicate and regulate information at a massive global scale will establish itself as the new phenomenon.
Today, free democracy meets free voting, creating a mess of freedom beyond control. It is still the calm before the storm.
Perhaps we have already created the greatest wonder of all: an interconnected, interdependent, interlinked global society of amazing proportions.
Now the danger looms in harnessing the opinions of the global masses. Rather than polling that delivers whatever you want to hear and focus groups that create out-of-focus opinions, here comes the global billion e-vote machine.
Just when you thought cell phones were settled into the role of simple pocket devices for calling, a new function emerges, making each phone a portable voting booth. Brace yourself for strange and random resolutions passed by the global populace via their impulsive voting habits derived from reality TV shows.
The methods of polls and focus groups, often designed to sway opinions and reconstruct truth, have always been a prime principle of propaganda machines throughout history.
Weber’s global e-voting effort has now created a new benchmark. Now that the BBC has banned telephone voting because it’s unreliable, one only wonders what will occur during the next season of “American Idol” — or for that matter, the upcoming presidential election.
What Are We Thinking?
The stage is set, and the greater struggle of current times to create the next wonder of the world is on. Then again, the most amazing question asked during any visit to an ancient ruin is often what the supreme command was really thinking.
We have created an online public democracy, where public opinion can be expressed in extraordinary ways, as the next one-billion-citizen poll on another global issue is already in progress, this raises the big question: Should untraceable digital democracy reflect public opinion?
Let’s e-vote on it.
Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on Corporate Image and Global Cyber-Branding. Author of Naming for Power, he introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80s and also foundedABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York and Toronto a quarter century ago. Currently, he is on a lecture tour in Asia and can be reached at[email protected].