The National Security Agency’s Prism revelations have contributed to America’s growing ambivalence and fear around privacy and personal data. Who knows what legislation may result from it all? I know that, like many fellow citizens, I was not alarmed by our government’s data-gathering practices. I am more alarmed by what private enterprise can and may do with my data. But, for me, that’s an old saw.
Author Mitch Joel released a book, Ctrl, Alt, Delete, that attempts to establish a certain level of fear and foreboding in us by offering up some staggering statistics indicating how our world has changed, transformed by the digital revolution. It’s yet another police siren the digerati persists in blowing and I’m not sure why. We know the world is changing, for God’s sake. Rather than dish facts, how about demonstrating some traction and results?
Mr. Joel includes a long list of really compelling and surprising stats, but he leads with classic digi-style Chicken Little hyperbole:
“The World Is Changing”—except, “Is Changing” is crossed out in red, fire-engine type (naturally) and is replaced by the more severe “Has Changed.” Then comes the sucker punch . . . “There’s only one question: Do you want to be employable in the next five years?” Somehow it makes me feel like mom just threatened with, “You’d better clean up your room, buster, or you’re going to bed hungry.”
The facts that follow are indeed staggering and do indicate that our world has changed, but then our world is nothing but a morphing, twisting, grinding mass of change. The very land we stand on changes constantly. Our weather, our biological ecosystems, our brains, and our cellular structures are in a rapid state of change. Change doesn’t scare us—it’s expected. And the chaos that ensues isn’t paralyzing; it’s energizing. Change isn’t about fear; it’s about regeneration, rebirth, and transformation.
Mr. Joel might have taken a cue from the gold standard of service journalism and posited, “The World Has Changed: 10 Ways to Assure You’ll Be Employable for the Digital Epoch.” Regardless, the facts are wondrous, ridiculous, without context, and bold—and here are just a few:
1. Google’s revenue is bigger than that of the entire U.S. print industry.
2. Sixty-six percent of Apple’s revenues derive from products released within the past six years.
3. Amazon’s annual revenue is larger than the GDPs generated by half of the countries in the world.
4. In 1999, 38 million people had broadband. Today, 1.2 billion have it on their mobile phones.
5. Half of Facebook’s 150 million daily visits are done on mobile.
6. More people have mobile subscription services than have access to safe water and electricity.
7. Kickstarter raised more money for nonprofits than the National Endowment for the Arts.
8. The average tenure of a chief marketing officer is 48 months.
9. The average Facebook post on a brand page only reaches 16 percent of fans.
10. At least 200 million tablets will be sold in 2013.
11. Seventy-seven percent of smartphone users accessed local content in 2012.
12. Eighty-one percent of users trust information on Pinterest.
13. Reddit has 62 million unique visitors each month, serves 4.4 billion pageviews, and has 22 employees.
14. Only 12 percent of employees believe their companies are keeping up with the changing landscape of business.
And there you have it. So either get out the bottle of Xanax or hoist a glass to the opportunity and fun ahead!