The Digital Era Will Ignite Revolutions — as Did the Print Era

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The breakthrough technologies of the printing press and data digitization allow the masses to access information. That flood of new information crumbled the legitimacy of the established political orders.

Will great powers fall again due to the greater information flow in the new digital media era?

Over 500 years have separated the invention of the Guttenberg Press and the creation of digital data. Each begat substantial social and political upheavals. Those changes could come sooner since the speed and breadth of the digital era’s impact dwarfs that of the printing press.

The spread of mechanical, printed information, from its inception in 1440, took 70 years to embolden challenges to the power of kings, elites, and the Catholic Church. In 1977, when computers became accessible to the public, digitized information took less than 30 years to create a robust Artificial Intelligence (AI) and social media on the Internet. Authoritarian governments weaponized it to manipulate democratic governments’ elections, while the Internet’s social media facilitated domestic rebellions against autocratic governments.

Two societal conditions make the digital era more threatening to all governments: how each era’s culture measures time and their literacy level.