As I'm back on campus studying business (I did my undergrad in the same subject), it was unavoidable to come across good old Adam Smith and his term of "the invisible hand." Needless to say, the level of my excitement to study microeconomics was rather modest. BUT! I have always loved this term and this idea that there can be an invisible power coordinating or even rectifying things in the background, invisibly.
Simultaneously, I noticed two incidents in the news in the past two weeks. One, there was this Hungarian camerawoman who was tripping up a father and her son who were refugees and trying to break a control fence. Second, there was the viral story of Ahmed who built a clock and was taken as a terrorist.
If you look at them individually, they are both really sad personal tragedies. The refugees were fleeing from war and the last thing they needed was an ignorant woman to hinder them in their search for a better life. And Ahmed, believe me, it sucks to be put into the terrorist bucket. Even more when you come to school and have such personal achievement to celebrate.
At first sight, these two stories don't have much in common. At a second glance though, they both got reported on and went viral. The went so viral that one of my friends was jokingly posting on Facebook "the only thing Ahmed is blowing up is my newsfeed." The attention for these events was high because it seemed so unjust, even outrageous, what had happened to these individuals.
Fast forward to this week, there has been a crazy twist and turn in each of these stories. As you might have heard, Obama invited Ahmed to the White House, Microsoft sent him tons of gifts and Google invited him as a VIP guest to its annual Science Fair where he hung out with Sergey Brin. And the Syrian father and his son? They are now celebrities in Spain. The father, Usama, a former soccer coach, has been offered a coaching job. And the son, Zaid, was allowed to enter the soccer field together with Cristiano Ronaldo over the weekend.
Absolutely beautiful turnarounds. Yet if you take a step back, there is an interesting observation. Namely that the internet has become something like an "invisible hand" that has the power to not just course-correct injustice, but to excessively redeem wrongdoing that is happening in this world. There are many other examples that come to mind, both successful (a crowdfunding campaign for an old handicapped man who was robbed or the homeless child who was studying under the light of a McDonalds sign) and unsuccessful (attempting to collectively bail out Greece).
It's very interesting to see how the internet has the power to invisibly fix incidents like that. It further raises another question though: how can this be systematized and facilitated? Could we create a platform whose only goal is to report on scenarios of social injustice and then invite the power of the invisible hand of the internet to come and rectify things? Also, could the platform become something bigger than just a tool to help individuals? Something like a social police? If you think of the demonstrations that took place in Brazil or Venezuela, if you think of all the corruption that is taking place in India or Mexico – how could we help collectively surface these incidents, expose them, and use the power of the collective to rectify things? Especially in the next 5 years as the next 5B people are connecting to the internet and are increasingly empowered through their smartphones?
This is a question that has been on my mind for quite some time. But until there is a proper platform, we will rely on individuals to surface these incidents and the media to bring these cases to our attention.