2007 : WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?

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Hi-Tech Industry Consultant; Former Executive at Apple Computer and Microsoft Corporation
Former VP, Microsoft & Co-Founder & Director, Microsoft's Virtual Worlds Group/Social Computing Group

People Are Using Technology Effectively To Mediate Toward a Healthier Global Community

Ten years ago, the novelist Andrei Codrescu came to visit me at Microsoft, where, at the time, I was Director of the Virtual Worlds (now Social Computing) Group.  As he watched me engage in conversation in V-Chat and Comic Chat, he mused skeptically about these virtual communities—until a soldier entered the conversation. 

"Ask him where he is?!" Codrescu demanded.  The soldier’s reply, "Stationed in Germany, fighting in Bosnia."  Andrei grabbed the keyboard from me, full attention now on the soldier, as he was sucked into the virtual world.  When he finally disengaged, he seemed fascinated by the possibilities.

Technology has advanced so significantly in the last decade, and many in the generation of kids, high school age and younger, are so fluent in every aspect of the technology that they have moved beyond being participants stimulated by the technology to being creators, creating both technology and content, collaborating and sharing every aspect of their lives, their opinions and their causes across borders that, to them, are increasingly invisible.

Everything can change when we change the way we look at it, and the generation coming of age sees a more global world and experiences a range of resources for creation and collaboration on a scale previous generations could only imagine.  Through Podcasts, Youtube, blogs, MySpace, and emerging technologies, every issue we face today, from successful alternative energy solutions to avian flu outbreak areas to disaster recovery is part of the global conversation and there are many pathways to participate and co-create solutions.

Attention is the most powerful tool of the human spirit.   The opportunity this generation can and appears to be seizing, is to move collective attention away from the type of anxiety and despair fueled by campaigns like the War on Terror and Climate Crisis and toward the most positive future we can create together, as highlighted by blogs like Worldchanging.com.

Through shared experiences, the generation growing up today has a broader sense of global issues and possibilities and a reality that moves beyond "my country," and, instead, embraces "our planet."