Guest: David Bray and Mei Lin Fung Guest Title: David Bray – Executive Director / Mei Lin Fung – Co Founder
Date: December 13, 2017 Guest Company: People Centered Internet
Debra Ruh: Hello, everyone. This is Debra Ruh, and you’re watching or listening to Human Potential At Work. Today we’re gonna talk about I think a very, very important topic, being a global change agent or a local national change agent, being a change agent period, and also we’re gonna talk about People-Centered Internet. So, I have David and Mei Lin joining me today, and I’m going to start with Mei Lin and ask her to introduce herself and then pass it over to David. But I will tell you, both of these guests have very impressive bios. So, welcome to the program.
Mei Lin: Thank you, Debra. I’m delighted to be here, and the whole idea of human potential is why we wanted to have a people-centered internet. I deeply believe in the idea of the internet of the people, by the people, and for the people, and that comes from growing up in Singapore, which was a poverty-stricken country when I was young. The investment in the people has led to become one of the success stories of the economic growth. My background is that I was in Australia. I worked for Shell Australia as an operations research analyst. I worked with Intel. I worked with Oracle. And while I was at Oracle, I helped to be the pioneering team that developed CRM, customer relationship management software. I then … And so … There are many things that happened. I have much more to say, but suffice it to say I was Douglas Engelbart’s business partner, the inventor of the computer mouse, and then also now working since … I have the honor and the privilege of working with the first two nerds of the internet.
Debra Ruh: And now we’ll talk to another really powerful, amazing nerd, David.
David: Thank you, Debra. It’s great to be joining you and Mei Lin today. My role currently is that of executive director for the People-Centered Internet initiative, and really it was about three years ago that I met Mei Lin. And Mei Lin, as humble as ever, she is a great connector of positive change agents across multiple sectors, multiple organizations, and she’s also a tremendous source of positive energy. And so, she approached me, she said, “Would you be interested in helping out as a volunteer with trying to bring communities together?” That really was Doug Engelbart’s vision, which is technology could actually help humans come together as individuals, share ideas, bring together people with different thoughts and different beliefs and actually help us come together as opposed to pulling us apart.
That was very compelling to me. My own background … I’ve done a combination of different roles in the public sector, the private sector. I was involved with the response to 9/11 and anthrax back in 2001, later volunteered to go to Afghanistan. I have also worked for some large tech companies as well, some startups, and so the idea of helping play a role in how we can bring communities together online, ’cause this is unprecedented in human history and we still have half the planet to connect to that as well. And as Mei Lin mentioned, the opportunity to work with Vint Cerf, the other co-founder of the People-Centered Internet coalition, was just too good an opportunity to pass up.
Debra Ruh: And also, David has a new addition to his family. Him and his wife just adopted a baby boy, Dylan, so very, very [crosstalk 00:03:45].
David: Yes. That is very … That also probably impacted the thought processes ’cause you think about what’s the internet gonna be like when it’s 2030 and he’s in his teens, and you’re just thinking about like, “Well, what does that look like?” So, yes.
Debra Ruh: Right. I agree. And also agree that Mei Lin was being very modest because she is a woman that has changed the world. I’m really looking forward to watch her change it some more. Also, David, I know you were formerly the CIO of the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, so that was a very … it’s a very powerful position, leadership position, and that’s where I met you. You really were … I was so surprised because you were talking to us, you were talking to the people. I did not see that from many other leaders in the position you were in, so that was … You were so accessible and you were engaging. You were being a thought leader. You were doing good things on social media, and I remember being very, very impressed with you and being very impressed with the leadership that you were showing in Washington. But I think I as a human being am more impressed that you’re working with Mei Lin and Vint and all of the others because I think that it’s up to the people to make the world a better place for all of us.
I just think it’s a very important topic, and I know that often I talk about the inclusion of people with disabilities and let’s make sure things are accessible. To me, this is even broader — let’s make sure human beings can participate in the internet. Right now, technology … I also kid about being a nerd also because I’ve always been a technologist, and my dad was a technologist. He took care of one of the first super AT&T computers, and it took up three different blocks in Jacksonville, Florida, and I’m sure my Apple Watch probably has more computing power. But it’s just amazing what’s happened in our lifetimes in the technology and the way that we can connect to each other. I think the first time I had the pleasure to meet Mei Lin when I was with AXSChat … We were talking to her. I forget which country she was in because she was traveling so often.
But, today, both of you are joining us from the west coast of the United States, so … But I think we’ve seen a lot of amazing good. We’ve seen also the power of human beings to mess things up, and, to me, connecting all of the devices with the internet, making sure the content is there — there’s a whole lot of moving parts to this. So, this … I guess we can never have a conversation about just the internet without having all of the other conversations that go with the internet. I mean, all of the technology, the emerging technologies, the AI, the VR. So, where do y’all begin to really wrap your hands around this conversation without trying to boil the ocean, which it’s a really big undertaking you’re doing?
Mei Lin: I’ll start. I think we want to think about technology, including the internet, like fire. It took hundreds of years for humans to really use fire and harness it for the good. But before that happened, it burned up … It was very threatening. It was a dangerous thing. I think any tool has the power for great good and great harm. What we have to realize is that we as humans have decision to make. Technology is invented by humans. If we invent it for the purpose of improving lives, that’s one thing. If we invent it for the purpose of making me a rich person, that’s another thing. So, I watched with CRM and how that technology that I, in my naïve idealism, thought, “This is gonna build relationships between customers and businesses,” and it took 15 years before the idea of being customer-centered came about.
In that time, managers were using the software to get their MBOs done and earn their bonuses and make themselves look good internally — nevermind what happens to the customers. It was only when they started to say, “Be customer-centered,” that the tracking was done to see, “Well, how does this impact the customer? Is it good for the customer?” Even today, we’re not using technology that’s customer-centered, but it’s slowly happening. Seeing that happen over a couple of decades with CRM, it became very, very clear to me that the internet was gonna be on a much vaster scale, but likely to go to that cycle. And so, founding the People-Centered Internet was to get us people-centered as fast as we could and not wait for it to happen outside.
Debra Ruh: Wow. Wonderful statement. David, I know you want to comment on that.
David: Well, I mean, Mei Lin said it beautifully, so I will try to extend an ad. We humans developed communication as a way of … one, cooperating amongst groups and collaborating, and even more importantly reframing what’s being done as something that’s a group effort, a common effort shared amongst individuals that have chosen to come together as opposed to something that’s solely in the self-interest of just one individual. I’m all for healthy self-interest, however, exactly as Mei Lin said, the internet is unprecedented in how it starts to connect us. If you think about it, 10,000 years ago, 15,000 years ago, for the average lifespan of a human being back then, you ran into about 80 people in your entire lifespan and most of those were your immediate family members. That is not the world we’re in now. You are probably going to run into at least 80 in person, let alone online, if you’re on social media, in a day and most of them are not gonna be your family members.
That sort of unprecedented impact on how it brings us together, we’re going to see both the good and bad. I often say the internet, in some reflection, it really is the best reflection of humanity, both the good, the bad, and the ugly. Again, becoming a new father and having adopted, that definitely makes me think about what is the future in terms of the world that our future generations are gonna grow up and inherit. And then I’ll share one last story, which was … I was actually reflecting on this about 20 years ago, back in 1998. I actually had built a computer model of the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, and I actually ended up going to South Africa as a volunteer — this was when I was doing my undergrad research — and actually volunteering and writing for the Cape Argus in Cape Town. For a while, I was being told, “Write about football. Write about politics. No one really wants to hear about HIV/AIDS,” and I kept on saying, “Well, look, you have this challenge of,” …
Back in 1994, they only had 5,000 cases out of about 40 million people, and then unfortunately when they opened up their borders … I mean, the good news was Apartheid ended. The bad news was when they opened up their boarders, they went from having 5,000 cases to more than 2.4 million cases. They were on track to, in another ten years, to have about one in five individuals in South Africa if they didn’t do an intervention. And that’s again where communication about what’s going on and getting that awareness out can help make a difference. That’s what actually impacted me and made me realize that there’s both good and bad in the world. Apartheid obviously a truly awful thing, very damaging to humans, very damaging to lives, and then obviously the ripple effects we’re seeing now still today. That said, if we can start coming up with what we can do to help make a difference, ’cause I think the one challenge we have with technology right now is it can make us feel like we’ve done something if we leave a comment or we click something or we do a thumbs up or something like that.
That suffices our brain and makes it like we’ve done enough, and so there’s this … as technology is bringing us together and allowing us to communicate in ways never … unprecedented in the human species, that it, at the same time, takes away our physical motivation to actually get out and do something in person that is a positive thing forward ’cause it’s too easy to bring anger, to bring hate. It’s hard to then say, “Well, what can I do to show a better way forward?” And so, when Mei Lin and Vint Cerf made the pitch of, “Let’s do demonstration projects that measurably improve people’s lives, bringing them together in terms of communities,” that to me was like, “Sign me up right away,” and that’s what I hope we can do with the People-Centered Internet, is create a big enough umbrella where both the private sector, public sector, interested individuals can come together and play a role.
Debra Ruh: So, you lead me to the question I wanted to ask next anyway, which is … Okay, so, I understand everything that you’re trying to do, and I 100% … I’m on board. But how do you plan to really bring the communities in? I know, for example, you have connected with AXSChat — Antonio Santos, Neil Milliken, and myself. And we certainly are part of the disability community and we’re very concerned and we want to also enable people over a certain age, so the aging in place community. But tell us more about how are you going to bring us together via these communities?
David: So, I’ll go real quick and then I’ll turn to Mei Lin. Mei Lin is definitely the connector amongst us. She is the great bridge. So, back when I was dealing with 9/11 and other public health emergencies — severe acute respiratory syndrome, responding to West Nile — I observed that if you tried to be top-down in a rapidly changing world you would always be out of date and fall behind. And so, the goal, I believe, of the People-Centered Internet coalition is not to be top-down and not be so formal that we are trying to predict in advance what the world needs, and this is also in keeping with Doug Engelbart’s vision, which is go to the communities themselves, ask what content they want, actually try to figure out the context in which they operate and let them be empowered.
And so, we’re trying to create sort of the connector of connectors for People-Centered where basically … you can come and make a pitch to us. In fact, right now we have a draft, two-page form. It only asks about five questions — very simple — and that then allows the board to figure out, “Well, can we help provide support for your effort? Can we help provide expertise for your effort? Where it possible, maybe through our different connections can we help get you funds from different sources,” and things like that. Really, however, it’s really about trying to have this sort of thought process of, “What are you trying to do? How do you know it actually is gonna be something that the community wants and will bring communities together? And then how can you measure it in a way that actually makes it almost clear and obvious to private companies, to the public sector, that we need more of this.” Again, it’s too easy to say what’s not being done, or what’s being done that’s wrong. We want to make it so it’s clear and compelling to the world as to how we go forward together.
Debra Ruh: Yes. Yes. Yes. Mei Lin?
Mei Lin: Well, I want to go to the specific example of what we’re doing in Puerto Rico. So, I think the devastation in Puerto Rico has shocked everyone, and we also all wonder, “What can we do?” But so, Vint Cerf said, “We need a Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico,” and that actually plant some interesting ideas. So, we’re in the age of tremendous disruption. The World Economic Forum has called it, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” So, what if we were able to actually take the crisis in Puerto Rico and create a Fourth Industrial Revolution exemplar? What would that look like? Well, what we see in the People-Centered Internet is a network of networks. Let me spell that out. So, within the federal sphere, there are entities called the community health centers and there’s a network of 10,000 community health centers that are somewhat facilitated, or connected to the federal side within an instrument called network improvement communities.
That means each community works hard to improve the delivery of health to their community and then shares lessons between each one. So, how does that work? In the past, a community health center would have just listened to, “What does the CEO want us to do?” And maybe his pet project was diabetes. Okay, so if you did things on diabetes, you get a pat on the back, and if you didn’t, well, you got ignored. What the network to improve the community does is it pulls breakthrough collaboratives of all the people that are interested in diabetes, and they go through an improvement cycle — plan, do, study, act — in six month cycles, so there’s a rhythm, there’s a beat for improvement, and you compare, “Okay. What did you do? What did you do? What worked? What didn’t work? Let’s not do the things that didn’t work. Let’s do more of the things that do work.” And so, you propagate through the network all of the best ideas in a systematic way.
So, within Puerto Rico, we are using the already built instruments and process that’s called the signature process of the federally qualified health centers to work with the 81 locations across the island and working on the signature process of improvement. But that’s not all. We don’t have to just stay in health. There’s the public Montessori schools in Puerto Rico. They’re connected in a network of 50 of them, and they too have their signature process about how Montessori schools are at the heart of their community. The parents do things together, and so you look at the community assets, you look at the places where the community is strong, and you say, “What can we do to help you move forward?” What we recognize within the People-Centered Internet, it’s about networks, so we’re connecting the federally qualified health centers in Puerto Rico to some of the 10,000 federally qualified health centers on the mainland. At that point, you’re no longer going through a funnel that says, “Oh, San Juan, please give us help.”
You just go community center to community center, “You know what we do. We know what you do.” You just talk and triage the needs, and you start to understand what’s going on. You use technology to take a look at, “Okay. Who’s got the same problems?” And so you do that in health, you do that in education, and you do that in community innovation. What can we do to rebuild Puerto Rico so that the housing has, for example, built in electricity conduits, has plumbing, has wifi, and that every single kind of brick that you might use in Puerto Rico has that built in, so you don’t have to put wires … And when you do the roads, it’s hurricane proof. It’s underneath the roads, all the electrical connections. We can do the best example of Fourth Industrial Revolution society that enhances the lives of its citizens in Puerto Rico, and we hold that forward as a challenge to all technologists and technology companies. Be part of this. This is the Lewis and Clark expedition to the digital frontier.
Debra Ruh: Wow. Wow, Mei Lin. That is so brilliant. I just … I’ve already said it to David, but how can I help? I want to help. I want to be involved with this because I agree. You can feel that this is where humanity needs to go as we try to evolve as a species. I’m always hopeful that … I do believe we’re evolving. I do believe Dylan, David’s son, is going to have a better world. I do believe it because we’re gonna make that happen and it’s gonna be all of us.
Yes, we’re talking about … I love the idea of starting with Puerto Rico — a US territory the US, once again, hasn’t done as good of a job as maybe we should have with our territories, our fellow citizens — but taking it … and this is a global thing, too, everyone. This is … You know what, Mei Lin, I wasn’t thinking about communities in that way. I wasn’t. I was thinking of them … the disability community, the African … I will tell you, I had not … That’s brilliant. That’s so brilliant. I’m really impressed with that idea. David, do you want to comment anymore? I just think … It seems so “duh” to me, my … It’s like how could I not have thought of it that way? But now that you said it, it’s like of course that’s the way we move forward. So, great.
David: So … I mean, I think like you said, a lot of people understand this maybe implicitly, but it’s not been spelled out because we’re still teaching people to operate in top-down hierarchies. Top-down hierarchies are extremely efficient in having quality control across the organization, but what they’re not good at is responding to new environments and new circumstances. I don’t … I find it’s much more important to accentuate the positive of what’s going on in our world right now, which you are beginning to see people say, “Okay. Maybe we can have this network approach to positive change agents.” I mean, you’re gonna get a lot more with honey than you will with trying to deal with a negative, and this is massive disruption on a human scale.
I mean, I was actually just at an event in New York yesterday in which the comment was made … the last century was all about centralizing coordination of things just because it was hard and that was the only way you actually got things moving forward. That’s no longer the case with the internet. We don’t have to centralize everything we do, both in terms of crisis response, but in terms of community everyday living, in terms of supply chains, and trying to figure out, again, going back to the very beginning of this conversation, how it can be a force of good for everybody as opposed to just a few. That is really what we’re trying to do with People-Centered Internet.
I will end with that … [inaudible 00:22:18] the definition of what a positive change agent is, and I always say it’s basically … it can be anyone of us, anyone who wants to have the willingness and the thinking through of the strategy necessary to step outside the status quo and manage the friction. You see, plenty of people that are willing to step outside of the status quo, but they don’t think about the consequences in terms of, okay, well now you created a flame war on social media, or now you’re just gonna create a change fatigue in an organization. Did it actually help any or did it just create a whole lot of heat and light, but not move anything forward? And so, we’re trying to basically equip communities to think about how they can all be positive change agents with whatever skills they bring or whatever abilities have and move things forward together.
Debra Ruh: And helping us remember all the different communities that we’re part of because I think we forget. I will tell you, as I’m listening to the examples, when I see somebody or countries or Puerto Rico or … When I see people in trouble, I want to help. I want to. I’m one of those people that I see homeless people on the streets and I want to give them money, and my son’s saying, “Mom! There’s a better way to distribute that money,” you know? And so, I think a lot of us do want to do a better job.
I know that … I feel quite traumatized as an American these days with … I was talking to somebody the other day, when did this ongoing trauma start, and it seems like it started for me around 9/11. Maybe that’s just when I realize … I know I did wake up that day, but … so even if we look at it just from the lens of the Unites States … David, we were talking about it the other night when I heard you speak, which, wow, I was so impressed with your speech, and that was a short one, so I imagine you’re even more impressive as a keynote speaker.
David: No, I miss when I’m short.
Debra Ruh: Well, I was impressed. But we were just talking about it. I, like both of you, I travel globally all the time, and I was heading over to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and one of my friends said, “Be careful over there,” and I said, “Well, you be careful over here because there’s no one with guns hanging out of Las Vegas windows and shooting pedestrians in Saudi Arabia.” I mean, I’m not saying that they don’t have complex problems just like the rest of us do, but I felt very safe over there.
And, David, you actually, during the car ride, gave me a statistic that I didn’t know when you were talking about the amount of people that got killed and … I want you to tell or say that for us. But I think the point that both you and Mei Lin are making, which I think is so important, is we want to focus on how do we fix it? How do we get better? How do we … I think moving away from communities and our tribes, I think it’s actually hurt us as human beings, so maybe you could just share that little story you told me because it was very powerful for me, based on that story I just told you about. How safe are we?
David: Well … I think we as humans … Let me preface it, that the last 75 years historians say has been actually the most peaceful time in human history and it doesn’t feel that way, but that’s partly because of two things. One, because we now have access to more information on an unprecedented level. There were genocides, mass genocides happening in 1920 in Europe and other places in the world, you just never knew about it because there was not the awareness, and so we’re experiencing a cognitive overload of all this news. The second phenomenon is, quite frankly, good news doesn’t sell. This goes back to our biological background. Those of our species that when they were looking around would say, “Oh, look at that pretty flower over there.
Let me go admire the flower,” … that of our species versus the other one that was like, “Maybe there’s a tiger in a bush. Maybe that tiger’s gonna come and get you. Maybe something bad’s gonna happen.” Guess which one survived? It was not the one that went to go sniff the flowers, it was the one that was always on alert for bad things that might happen, and so we have a predisposed disposition to our species to be looking for the negative and the doom. We often miss the really good things. I mean, think about what’s happened in terms of infant mortality around the world as a result of public health and improved public health.
Now, that’s created other consequences because now we have a lot of people who are having a youth bulge, and that creates challenges on actually developing economies, but that’s why I also say past successes can set yourselves up for future challenges going forward just because now there’s something new to deal with. So, we’re now dealing with this world that is now interconnected, that has this massive amounts of information. The story that I had told you was that on average, when they looked at the last 3,000 years, historians said you had about a one in ten chance of being killed by another human being. It actually got as high as almost about one in five, one in four during the medieval ages. Now it’s less than .01%, and yet we have the record number of people on the planet. So, we need to make sure that in this period in which it feels like everything’s falling apart, and I know you mentioned 9/11, but I would say even go back further. There was the Syrian gas attacks in 1990.
Debra Ruh: Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.
David: There’s always been something. I think what we want to do is actually look at what’s also being done and what we can do as positive change agents to be this force for good. Not to be naïve and not to put blinders on, but to say, “What can we do to actually harness this force for good to show what’s possible to other people to make it so it’s clear and compelling that basically the private sector wants to do it because they’ve seen the economic advantages that Mei Lin mentioned, the public sector wants to do it because they actually see how it brings benefits to their public?” We just want to make it so clear and compelling by doing the demonstration projects today.
Debra Ruh: I really do believe that the majority of us want this too, we just don’t know what to do, and that is why we need your leadership. That’s why we do because … I know I’m game. I’ve been saying to you, David, “What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?” And I’m gonna keep saying it. I came and saw you in DC the other day, but … What can we do, Mei Lin? What can we do, David? You tell us how to help because we want to be a part of this. I know my audience does. I know they do. I know everybody does because I want to see … This is the right thing for all of us. This is the right thing for my children, so …
Mei Lin: So, what it takes is a change of perspective, from thinking about “me” to thinking about “we”. When you start to think about “we”, you realize we as a group, we as a community can do much more than we as individuals. That’s sort of embedded in my bones because I grew up in Singapore. So, Singapore when it first became independent had an average income-per-capita that was equivalent to southern Sudan. If you look at the difference over the last 50 years, the divergence is enormous. So, we started at the same place, in Sub-Saharan Africa in some levels. What it took was not just leadership, but strategy, a strategy that said, “We’re not gonna follow India that says no foreign investment. We’re not going to follow China that says, ‘Oh, let’s close in on ourselves.’ We’re just gonna say what does it take to improve the lives of our people?”
So, the first thing was housing because they were worried that the best and the brightest would leave ’cause they had other opportunities, they were educated. So, they said, “Well, if we give public ownership of housing where people could own their own apartments and public housing, they’ll want to stay.” This has created over 50 years the largest per capita millionaires in the world in Singapore because as the economy grew, the people’s assets grew as well. When you invest in people, there’s a return that is much, much higher than anything we can get from a mechanism because people have … There’s so much possibility. My grandfather’s grandfather was a slave in a sugar plantation in British Guyana. He went there because of the famine in China. And here I am now in Palo Alto, and that’s just in four or five generations. He took what his situation was, which is no money, being worked hard off … and then he put together a provisions store, a grocery store, and that allowed him to pay off his debt in [inaudible 00:31:17] and then send his grandson to Lincoln’s Inn in London to study law.
Debra Ruh: Wow.
Mei Lin: So, I’ve seen it happen. It can happen, but it requires strategic intent. We can do this. The internet was a force of will. It was a darker project that was supposed to survive attacks. Instead, people believe that it brought something that allowed them to say, “Well, I don’t care if my boss thinks I should do this or not. I’m just gonna do it.” When I helped Vint sort of run the 40th anniversary of the [TCP/IP 00:31:53]. The most moving testimony was by the Moscow State University professor whose father had been the one to bring the internet to Russia. She said, “This was the most important thing that he felt he had done in his life.” His widow came, too. People went far, far out on a limb to bring the internet. So, we as individuals have to seize the opportunity. For the next thousand years, people will say, “I wish I was there in the 21st century when we were creating the framework of what the world is now.”
Debra Ruh: Gosh.
David: And I will build on what Mei Lin said, and again she said it so beautifully …
Debra Ruh: She did. Wow.
David: … with three specific things, which is … First, if you see something in your own community, ’cause you’re right, we all wear different hats. We’re all parts of the community. But if you see something where you’re like, “That’s not right, or it could be better. I’m frustrated with this,” the first step is figuring out who amongst you also thinks that same and start to build your coalition of that. If you are finding that maybe you’re all by yourselves, we do have a website. We do have peoplecentered.net, and you can actually send in comments from there. We also have @PCI_Initiative on Twitter — send us your thoughts. We can help connect you with other like-minded change agents because that helps when you’re … When you’re banging your head against the wall trying to make change and you’re the only one, or you feel like you’re the only one, you’ll get discouraged.
But if you can figure out there’s other people like you, that it can actually help share ideas … It can also point out things you might be missing in blind spots. Second, once you’ve built that coalition, start to think through the strategy as Mei Lin said. We can help also, again, connect you with people that can actually figure out the strategy because it’s not enough to just want the change or say something’s not right. You try to think about the end goal and how are you going to bring people along because people don’t like change. If the system is currently doing something, you’ve got to figure out why and how are you going to actually do an intervention of sorts to positively change and move it forward. And third, just communicate amongst yourselves about the need for how we can bring everybody along and make it inclusive. As Mei Lin mentioned, the Singapore example is a tremendous example of how thinking about “we” and the community as a whole can make a difference and move things forward.
I would also say, it also is a tolerance of a plurality of approaches. I feel like the one challenge we have right now that I’m personally concerned about with the internet, as one who’s been a nonpartisan and has served underneath different administrations, is that we are beginning to insist that people have to think the way we think, and if they don’t think that way they must be wrong, when, in fact, there is actually beauty in that plurality. So, in addition to shifting from “me” to “we” when thinking about the community, also recognizes there may be people that have different strategies, and I think Abraham Lincoln said it best, which is, “I do not like that man. I must get to know them better.” That’s the same approach we need to have here, too, which is if there’s somebody that you don’t agree with or you don’t understand, don’t take that as a way to write them off, instead say, “I must get to know them better.”
Debra Ruh: Right, and what can I learn from this person, because I voted one way in the election, and I was sort of stunned that other people voted the way they did, and … But after a while, I picked myself up and I thought, “But why? Why?” And I went to family members that had voted for a different party than I did, a different person, and they explained to me why. At first, it was emotional, but the more we talked, and it was many conversations, I started to understand things I had not understood before. I still would have voted the same way, but I was not as quick to villainize people that-
David: Oh, definitely. You should never … and I say this as nonpartisan-
Debra Ruh: I know, and I love that. I think that’s the beauty, but [crosstalk 00:35:52].
David: No. But you have to recognize that there’s almost a lack of empathy of understanding other perspectives, and it’s almost like our human brains reward us to think that we must be right and someone else is wrong. I also worry that, again, that the internet … if we’re not careful, as Mei Lin said, we want it to be that you want to say, “I wish I was there in the 21st century when we were figuring this out.” What we don’t want is 2030, 2040 to say, “The internet was a source of tyranny and forcing everyone to think the same way or becoming almost like an autocracy of ideas and ideology.” Definitely recognize that if someone thinks a different way than you do, there’s probably very valid reasons why. It’s just bring that into your-
Debra Ruh: Right. So, why not learn it.
Debra Ruh: I want to ask you and Mei Lin a quick question. I know that we’re over time, and the good news is we’re gonna have you back on again. As a matter of fact, I’ll have you back on as much as you want because how I’ve tried to make a difference in the world is by having shows like this and AXSChat to give people a bigger voice. But when I think of the internet, I just was wondering if you could just take a minute to talk about what you mean by the internet? The reason why I say that is I am assuming when you talk about the internet … I mean, the internet, it’s just so big. That’s social media, right? So, would you just define, ’cause I don’t think I asked you to define … What do y’all mean by the internet because I want to make sure we’re all on the same page?
Mei Lin: I think of it simply as a means of connecting, which we hadn’t had before. The easiest way I like to think of it is up to now great powers have been in continents, land masses, and that’s because people could communicate and get through, and islands are very, very difficult because they’re so separated. I come from southeast Asia, which is about 2,500 islands. It’s like now southeast Asia has a chance to actually do things on a continent scale because the internet allows the islands to be connected — with hardly any latency you’re connected. Tom Malone from the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT … He’s a mutual friend of both David and I. He came to a conference that I organized called, “The Program for the Future”. It was the 40th anniversary for Doug Engelbart’s “Mother of All Demos”, and he said … and just was so striking, he said, “Only once in all humanity will the whole globe be connected as a global brain, and this will happen in our lifetimes. Let’s make sure that it’s connected as a global brain for good and not for exploitation.” Those last two were my add-on’s.
Debra Ruh: Yeah, but those are brilliant add-on’s.
David: To add to what Mei Lin said, I mean, I could give you the technical definition of it — I think of it as being TCP/IP and the entire sort of stack, everything from the transport network layer all the way up to the application layer. But I would say the same thing that Mei Lin said. It’s about how do we connect as a planet, as a species, in ways that we haven’t before, whatever the modality is. And, again, to sort of use … to give another salute to Tom Malone, with the Center for Collective Intelligence, one of the questions they ask when I was doing my postdoc back then about ten years ago, and it’s still the case, “How do we organize humans and technology nodes so that collectively they’re more smart, they’re more intelligent in ways they’ve never been before?” That’s what we’re looking for and that’s definitely [inaudible 00:39:32] to the community crux.
Debra Ruh: Well, I know that … I’m 100% behind you, and I feel confident everybody that’s watching and listening is there, too. So, tell us how we can find you. I know how to find you on the internet and social media, but tell the listeners and viewers how to find you on the internet, both of you.
Mei Lin: So, www.peoplecentered.net, and you can spell “centered” in either the US way or the British way and it’ll work. So, however you spell “centered” — peoplecentered.net. Definitely sign up for our newsletter and write to us. We’ll connect you to like-minded people.
Debra Ruh: Thank you, Mei Lin. David?
David: Yeah. Exactly what Mei Lin said, and then also we are on social media, on Twitter @PCI_Initiative if you want to follow us. I do think going to the website, signing up for the newsletter, write to us. We do also welcome op-eds if people have thoughts or opinions. Again, we’re trying to look for positive messages as well as if you have some ideas and you’re interested in making a pitch, if you do communicate to the website we can share with you those five questions we ask as to what could be a possible venture we could do together.
Debra Ruh: And also David is very supportive of the hashtag #changeagents with an “S”. Mei Lin is out there. I’m out there — Vint. There’s a lot of pretty amazing people out on #changeagents, and so join us on that Twitter handle and you can use that handle on other social media mediums, too. But Mei Lin and David, thank you for everything you’re doing for all of us. I know I’m totally with you. I’m not sure if I signed up for the newsletter, so I’m gonna do that right away. But thank you both, and I look forward to continuing the conversation.
David: Thanks for having us, Debra.
Mei Lin: [crosstalk 00:41:31], Debra.
Debra Ruh: Goodbye, everyone.
You’ve been listening to Human Potential At Work with Debra Ruh. To learn more about Debra and how she can help your organization, visit ruhglobal.com. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and you want to make sure that you don’t miss any future episodes, go to iTunes and subscribe to the podcast, Human Potential At Work. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll be back next week with a new episode.