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In April 2020, the internet reached 4.6 billion people across the globe, impacting and influencing 59% of the world’s population

The figures are staggering, a non-political, non-sovereign entity having this sort of reach. It is rewriting the rule book for everything – culture, health systems, precision medicine, food security, global trade, supply chains, human interaction, consumer behaviour, organised crime and business longevity, to name but a few.

The internet is an empire in this, our brave new world. Old empires barely had coverage or penetration in the double digits of either land mass or population, nothing compared to this. Even the British Empire, the largest empire the world has seen extending over 22% of the earth’s land mass and by 1938 had 20% of the world’s population, is not comparable. Centuries earlier, the second largest empire, the Mongol Empire, albeit the largest contiguous empire in history, covered more than 16% of the earth's land mass and had 110 million people still only 25% of the world's known population.

These empires were the stuff of legends, glorious battles, glorious heroes and rulers and of course numerous Hollywood block busters. But overall, their penetration, impact and time of glory, Sic transit gloria mundi relative to our current world, was fleeting. 

These historical empires whose myths loom large in our culture might be defined by both their scale and that a single sovereign entity created them. As they expanded however, their components, were involuntary participants, conquered or colonised. By contrast, as this internet technology spreads to every corner across ethnic, wealth, geographical and sovereign boundaries it is unlike earlier extensions

this is voluntary and minute by minute not century by century

We are enveloped in this, the greatest empire. But a key difference – empires had a singular source of power. And emperors - hero or villain - were not regulated and individuals did not have any decision making authority. 

Significantly our vastly greater empire, affecting 60% (and growing) of the world’s population has a different power base. There is much commentary and attempts to regulate the ownership and tax responsibilities of some of these large internet-based companies. And just as emperors of old could not be regulated nor it would seem will this be an easy road now …  The internet is 50 years old and now integral to human existence, it is difficult to see an overseeing authority or entity tasked with the setting of global laws. No doubt the media exposure and corporate regulators will stay on the case, but that is perhaps missing something in the power in this internet empire. There is a seismic shift in authority to the individual.

The impact of this technology (empire) is enormous in both extremes. Everything feels heightened, exponentially so – the power of the internet for common improvement or subjective good is around us - telehealth for remote communities, precision medicine /clinical trials, drone dropping vaccines at impassable areas in Africa or PNG, regenerative agriculture, timely weather disaster forecasting and consumer spending turbo charging economies at $1m per minute by minute by minute. Just as the empire is on a scale we can’t get our head around, so is the immeasurable good it provides in nearly every aspect of life.

but the corollary is also with us and possibly in the same proportion - propaganda, hate mail, fake news, cyberbullying, fundamentalism, terrorist radicalisation, online paedophilia, unchecked mob mentality, vicious trolling leading to mental health consequences.  

Is it possible we are all missing something – governments can’t regulate this empire – it is bigger than all of them and if it is decided - which government might regulate this massive global empire - who do they regulate – the heads of these corporations?

Meanwhile the real power has moved, the users of this internet empire are acting individually (and cumulatively mathematically) for either path – enormous good or concerning damage. Individuals make the incremental decisions that give the internet its power, minute by minute. Minute by minute, 60% of the world’s population voluntarily turn the wheels of this massive empire of our time. 

There is no emperor nor sovereign boundary anymore ......

The power in this empire is us.

the tipping balance between supporting the common good is us (or not) and we are exerting that power minute by minute….


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