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The End Of Elites? How Technology Is Killing The Man

10/11/2016 16:20
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Donald Trump has snatched victory from establishment favourite Clinton. Britain is careering towards a Brexit - unless the recent High Court judgement puts a brake on it. Social media is millennials' primary source of news.

'The Elites' as we know them are dead. Their influence has been diminished and their future is compromised.

2016 has been the year of shock news, and alongside the surprise headlines we've seen a bubbling of resistance against 'the man', the coming to a head of anti-establishment feeling across multiple areas of life.

What's changing? Technology.

Elites are losing their grasp on what makes them Elites, thanks to advances in the tech sphere.

The defining characteristics of Elites have traditionally been threefold. The first is their institutionalised access to information. The second, their exercise of influence. Thirdly, they controlled opinion and expertise in the public sphere.

Now, we're seeing the demise of these three assets - and with them the demise of the establishment. It's clear that we're in the middle of a seismic change to the way information, influence and control is spread within society.

Take information and the way it is accessed. Traditionally, Elite owners of news establishments would control the information presented to the public, packaged neatly in ways that were beneficial to their own interests.

Now - thanks to the Internet - the success of social media and rise in personal blogs means that very little information is curated in this way. Today, we are all publishers. Information is rarely subject to any oversight or editorial scrutiny - the Elite have lost their control. The political establishment no longer manipulate access to information through a compliant press - we all have more ways to get hold of news and communication.

As this control of information and influence has ebbed away from the traditional political establishment, we've seen outsiders rise in popularity, using social media to channel their own information and build their own influence.

In recent months this has come to a head. Jeremy Corbyn once again won the popular vote of Labour party members, explicitly against the wishes of the party's Elite. The Brexit vote was seen as a rebellion against the establishment and against expert advice from both sides of the political divide. In the US, Donald Trump's nomination defied the Republican party Elite - and now he has succeeded where they couldn't.

But beyond politics, Elites have also seen their influence reduced by advancements in tech.

In the legal profession, perhaps one of the sectors most under the influence of Elites, there is considerable pressure to streamline procedure and make access to justice more affordable, partly through the use of new technology.

Taking justice online will enable the Facebook generation to deal with disputes in the way they know best - with less formality, lower cost and at the tap of a smartphone. Recently, we've seen the launch of a wholly online platform, which will entirely bypass the legal Elites.

Even the wealthy need to be aware of the risks and have contingency plans in place. The digitally savvy pose a threat to the security and privacy that money alone cannot easily protect against.

The Panama Papers were a prime example: the rapid dissemination of alleged tax avoidance data resulting from the leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm of Mossack Fonseca led almost immediately to a crackdown on complex tax avoidance schemes. The influence of the wealthy Elites to further their own means has been exposed and shamed by the exploitation of technology.

What is clear is that advancements in the digital sphere are changing the way the balance of power is held in society. Elites are losing their grasp on controlling information, expertise and influence. The next question is - who will fill the void?

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