Easily swayed


According to social scientists, any two people are only separated by 6 to 7 degrees of connection. Last week I put it to test.

Surely enough, the quake victims in Japan somehow are separated from me by only three degrees. My niece’s friend had relatives who fled Japan and came to stay with them. Two short introductions and a short ride stand between us.

We are living on a planet of 7 billion people, 2 of which are online.

The cumulative brain powers are enormous. For the first time, it seems as if a lot of things are now made possible, from wikipedia to wikileaks.

Thirty years ago, I gave up my summer in between school years to do relief work. The only resources at my disposal was an address book of friends from college and a roll of stamps. I copied fund-raising letters, sent out to my “network” and waited for donation. Quite a risky adventure, both on the funding side and visa turn-around time. But we pulled it off. The summer turned out to be a highlight of my life.

If we had the online resources as currently available, we would probably have uploaded a Youtube clip of boat people cramped and confined in Hong Kong prison facilities, women who were raped and turned cannibalistic to survive….

You know the drill. My contention is, we are now resource-rich, but are we becoming more compassionate ? In other words, does the good-will increase proportionately with the tools to express it? Or precisely because of information-overload that led to compassion fatigue?

To sell something people need and want is easy. Costs vs benefits results in change (buy).

To sell an idea that people can become their better selves requires enchantment.

People died in mass protests (herd instinct) or annual Run-of-the-Bulls (even cheese rolling downhills). But to spare a change for the guy holding the homeless sign takes a lot more. He will need to sing and dance. He will have to put on an act of desperation before the lights turn green.

We act differently in public vs in private.

When survival instinct kicks in, self-preservation is above all else.

Multiply that 7 billion times. Then we get the picture of state of the world.

How does the quake in Japan affect our lives: a lot. Someone relates to someone who knows my relatives is suffering. He/she is doubling up in a house near ours.

Then the Toyota dealers in town won’t get foreign parts etc… Go Hyundai, this is your chance in this no-hire-no-fire economy. Sometimes people change because they are forced to, not because they would like to. But change is as sure as the sun that rises tomorrow. You don’t see it because you are not 30,000 feet above ground. Those who are at the executive level know to expect change, prepare contingencies for it, and profit from it. Same crisis, but it is danger to some and opportunity to others. We will learn to make use of the Web from sharing cute kitten clips to vendor’s immolation clip. Welcome to the age of participation/consumption. It’s never been more exciting and dynamic than time present, when both push and pull technologies are vying for our attention, swinging and swaying our votes and demanding our devotion. Hold on to your wallet while keeping an open mind, to quote Buffett.

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