Dear PCI Colleagues,
Hello world! My warmest greetings to each of you.
I am excited to join the People-Centered Internet family as Executive Director. The opportunities to work closely with Vint Cerf, Mei Lin Fung, and each of you is something that I cherish. Thank you.
In addition, the mission of our PCI movement is one that our world needs now more than ever, especially given the unprecedented pace of technology-introduced changes, challenges, and opportunities impacting our lives at work, home, and in our communities. Big questions loom before us:
- How will we help connect the rest of the world to the Internet?
- How can we help those who are connected have tools that help them build benevolent and beneficial communities using the Internet, consistent with Douglas Engelbart’s vision that we must co-evolve our human systems with technology advances so that together they continue to encourage good outcomes in the world?
- As advances involving automation, advanced analytics, and machine learning impact human societies globally, how can we demonstrate to both private and public-sector leaders the individual, social, and economic benefits of people-centered approach Internet technologies that improve lives and livelihoods?
I went to high school and later college during the 1990s. Back then, I remember the accelerating public adoption of the Internet back then as one that was associated with hope, freedom, and creativity. Nowadays when I interact and listen to groups around the world, I sense some groups beginning to question whether the Internet remains a source of such uplifting hope and empowered freedom for individuals. These reflections are important, because we as humans have some crucial choices to make about how we use the Internet to help communities, neighbors, and ourselves live better lives.
Back in the 1990s, several of us also hoped that more information on the Internet would lead to greater understanding and shared truths across divergent groups. Nowadays collectively we may be discovering that, without some course corrections, more information on the Internet results in each of us cherry-picking what information or news our confirmation biases support, at the discounting of other information or news, resulting in greater fragmentation across groups locally and globally. Concerns of fake news and misinformation seem to be pulling communities apart.
The digital tsunami of information on the Internet, combined with an increasing number of sensors and mobile devices, also raises questions of how to best empower individuals to have a greater locus of digital control regarding sharing personal information, health information, and financial information? Can the Internet provide us with the ability to make such choices in a way that allows greater granularity of when, where, and with whom our information or our family’s information is shared? This includes additional approach to protecting digital personal information from data breaches or other forms of digital compromises?
Collectively, these reflections underscore the importance for each of us — as positive #ChangeAgents working across organizations, sectors, and borders — to do our part locally to help encourage the benefits of the Internet for all globally, both now and in the future.
Looking forward to months ahead, our work with the People-Centered Internet will be one that focuses on project demonstration projects, multiple types and locations, that help show a “better way forward”. PCI works towards a future where communities are empowered to make their own contextual choices for how the Internet helps them pursue positive benefits in their lives and livelihoods. We are a movement that can provide support and expertise for these ventures. Over time we hope we can also help provide funds or help connect such people-centered Internet ventures with sustainable funding sources.
As I am just starting as Executive Director, my own focus is listening and learning from everyone associated with the People-Centered Internet. We are a diverse group of thinkers and doers, with strengths that span a wide spectrum of backgrounds and experiences. Part of the beauty of PCI is we can pursue different efforts locally and globally that align to our interest and capabilities. Over time such efforts will show results, scale, and grow.
The seeds we sow today will help grow a more People-Centered Internet of the future for us all. Here’s to our shared journeys ahead.
David A. Bray, PhD
Executive Director, People-Centered Internet