Dec 14, 2008

The 24-hour diplomacy cycle

Did Google make our foreign policy stupid?

In an interview this morning, Former Sec. of State Colin Powell told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that he brought the State Department into the "electronic age" when he bought 44,000 computers and encouraged his staff to rely more on websites than books to do their jobs.

From the transcript:
And I used to tell them, get rid of all the books in your office. You don't need them anymore, as long as you have a couple of search engines and Wikipedia. And then I challenged my people to try to keep up with Wikipedia in terms of changes in countries. That was a challenge.

But I believe the electronic age has fundamentally changed the way in which we do business in every aspect of human life, but in diplomacy and politics as well -- instantaneous transmission of information, instantaneous knowledge.

As I like to say, we've gone from a lunar world where you measured everything in days, weeks and months, to a transactional world where every single transaction has to be put into your information system, into your decision system.
A State Department without the Internet and computer-literate staff would be ridiculous. But so is a State Department that stops referencing the collective wisdom of books in favor of the short-hand history of Wikipedia.

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