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Ours is a Global Conversation

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The 165th edition of Who's Who brings together over 33,000 autobiographical entries from people of influence and interest in every area of public life. Featuring just over 1,000 entries new for this edition, Who's Who 2013, published on 3rd December 2012, celebrates the achievements of British Society. An invaluable research tool and a unique way of measuring social change, it is the longest established and most comprehensive general biographical reference book. Arianna Huffington has written the introduction of this edition, which follows below.

It is an honour to be introducing the 2013 edition of Who's Who - a venerable institution that is remaking itself for the digital age while staying true to its DNA. When we consider the ways technology is rapidly transforming the media landscape and our lives three trends stand out.
The first is the seismic shift from presentation to participation. The second is the paradoxical shift from using technology to connect to also using technology to disconnect. And the third is the game-changing shift from using social media simply as a way to make our lives more fun to using social media to make the world better.

The shift from presentation to participation means that the days of the Media Gods sitting up on Mt Olympus and telling us how things are have ended. People are tired of being talked to; they want to be talked with. Ours is a global conversation, with millions of new people pulling up a seat at the table indeed, nearly 3 billion people will join the internet community by 2020. That conversation has fuelled revolutions and allowed media to engage with readers in totally new ways. The success of individuals, organisations, and brands in the future will depend upon how much they understand and embrace this new relationship.

So, if the first trend is a Garden of Eden blooming with engagement and self-expression, the second trend is the snake in the garden. For all the powerful tools at our disposal to bear witness and bring about change, there is also the temptation to fetishize the virality for its own sake. On a daily basis, I'm invited to media conferences filled with panels devoted to how we can use social tools to amplify our messages. But very few of those panels seem to care what the message is. As Thoreau said in 1854, "We are in great haste, to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."

Luckily there is a powerful, countervailing force using technology to get away from technology, reflected in apps and features like Freedom, Do Not Disturb, and HuffPost's forthcoming GPS for the Soul. Of course, I realise there's a paradox in the idea that, of all things, an app can help deliver us from the temptations of technology, but the snake in the garden is very wily, so our solutions have to be just as clever.

The third trend is the shift from searching for information to searching for meaning. People are using technology to connect with others not just around similar passions and interests, but around the causes that most resonate with them.

In the 1990s I wrote a book called The Fourth Instinct, which explored the instinct that takes us beyond our first three our impulses for survival, sex, and power and drives us to expand the boundaries of our caring to include our communities and the world around us. That instinct is now driving more and more of our choices in terms of what we do, what we value, what we read, and what we buy. And technology has given us the ability to expand those boundaries even further.

So the future is hyper-connected except when it is blissfully, joyously disconnected. And an understanding of these three trends can guide us to a place where we are more creative, more effective, more compassionate, and more capable of making things better for ourselves and for the world. The entries contained within this 165th edition of Who's Who are a powerful tool not only for connection, but for sharing and expanding upon the knowledge, achievements, and wisdom of the people it celebrates. As Lady Boothroyd wrote in her foreword to the 1998 edition of Who's Who, "Long may it continue to flourish."

Extract taken from Who's Who 2013