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Adam Kleinberg

Arianna Huffington and the Age of Humanity

by Adam Kleinberg

Arianna Huffington and the Age of Humanity

When I showed up for Arianna Huffington’s keynote at ad:tech in San Francisco last week, I expected to hear about her vision of the online publishing industry and the role of advertising in it... Should people pay for content? Was the iPad the answer to solving her industries woes? Blah. Blah. Not that I have a poor opinion of the world’s sexiest media mogul (sorry Oprah), but this was a conference called “ad” + “tech” after all.

Instead, I was inspired.

Arianna told of us of a conversation she had some years ago with Jonas Salk, the man who discovered the cure to polio. Mr. Salk told her that he believed civilization was entering a second era, a new age where nationalism and self-interest would take a backseat to society’s collective humanity.

Epoch B. The Age of Humanity.

What a vision. Arianna believes it is coming true. I believe it can.

We see evidence of the growing power of our humanity all around us: The shift toward transparency in progressive organizations around the world; the radical transformation of social structures in the Middle East; the election of Barack Obama.

People are driven by conscience. Wacky liberal Democrats, church-going Republicans—we disagree on a lot, but for the most part, we’re all good at heart. We are human beings first—we’ve come to distrust institutions of power. We look at our kids—hell, I look at my kids—and ask, “What kind of world will they be left with?”

Now, we have the power to change the world. Our collective humanity is like a rising tide. We are now and forever more connected through the internet and social media and together, the human beings of the world can and will effect massive change by sheer will power alone.

Last week was also the 150th anniversary of the first battle of the Civil War. My wife and I have been watching Ken Burns’ documentary. That war began as a struggle over state rights and preserving the Union. The South did a pretty good job of kicking the North’s ass that first year of War. 

When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation a year into the war, however, the struggle became transcendent. It was now a battle for humanity. Of good versus evil. Northern soldiers held the high ground of morality for the rest of the conflict. France and England liked that cotton and it had looked like they might have lent a coffin nail to the South in our Civil War, but not anymore. There was no way they were going to go down in the history books as the defenders of slavery.

That stake in the ground made America just. We rode that wave of humanity for a hundred years. America was different. We stood for good.

Then TV came, and Vietnam, Iran-Contra, Iraq. Humanity slipped away, it seems.

The next tidal wave of humanity is not going to be driven by a lone, brave man with a feather pen and a view into our souls (that would be Lincoln if you’re not still with me). It will be human-powered. It may take time to take hold, but it is looming.

And I believe we’ll see great things happen because of it. 

Of course, I’m an optimist. Arianna seems to be one too.



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