I’m going to Consilium and you’re not invited

I’m rather flattered to have been invited to speak at Consilium on 23 to 25 August, an invitation-only annual conference put together by the Centre for Independent Studies.

There’s a brochure [PDF]. but essentially Consilium is “leading thinkers from business, politics, policy, academia and the community” talking the “critical issues facing the world” under a modified Chatham House Rule. So I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to tell you afterwards.

I’m on a panel discussion called “Social Creatures: How social media is changing the landscape”, with Iarla Flynn, Google Australia’s head of public policy and government affairs; Nick Holder, a partner at LEK Consulting; and Cassandra Wilkinson, co-founder and president of FBi Radio, and author of Don’t Panic! Nearly Everything is Better than You Think.

Looking at the full blurb for the session, it looks like there’s plenty of stuff I can have a go at.

We are all familiar with the revolution that is the Internet — and perhaps even complacent about it. Google graduated from a search engine to a verb more than a decade ago. Most of us have accepted, if not embraced, social media to not only enhance our personal communications but also our business practices, reach and contacts. The incredible rise in the number of Facebook users since its launch in 2004 — 800 million and counting — has shattered societal norms about privacy, relationships and personal exposure, obliterating the line between public and private. And most of us accept with only token annoyance corporations having unprecedented access to our comings and goings, habits and purchases.

Ordinary life is changing at a pace unimaginable even two decades ago. For example, one hour of video footage is uploaded every second on YouTube. But as we embrace the many positives of this burgeoning technology, we must also be mindful of its ramifications. Erosion of privacy is just one of the issues. ‘The news cycle is much faster these days, thanks to 24-hour cable, the Web, a metastasized pundit caste constantly searching for new angles, etc … Politics is able to move much faster, too, as our democracy learns to process more information in a shorter period and to process it comfortably at this faster pace,’ wrote American journalist Mickey Kaus in 2009 in Slate magazine. Things have moved rapidly since then and politicians must now respond to polls and situations without pausing for counsel and reflection, resulting in a sharp rise of ill-considered policies. Can we manage or curtail this trend?

Cyber-crime is also becoming an increasing problem, and businesses are as vulnerable as individuals to hacking, identity fraud, scams and theft. Brand and reputation management need to be considered — an ill-advised Tweet of 140 characters can destroy a lifetime’s reputation. A company’s reputation is in the hands of employees or customers who can post at will, and the blogosphere can be a free-for-all of inane, malicious and barbed commentary from ‘Twitter-mobs’ and the like. How do we regulate against unlawful, unscrupulous behaviour across borders without sacrificing the freedom and the ‘invisible hand’ at the heart of the Internet revolution?

I must admit, I’m looking forward to the panel called “After America: Imagining a world with the US in retreat”. Author John Birmingham gets a spot, which is fair enough given that they pinched the title of his book. But we also have the former foreign minister Alexander Downer and the current one Senator Bob Carr. Fun for all the family.

Breakfast with Miranda Devine? Maybe not.

Consilium is held on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast at the Palmer Golf and Spa Resort, which was the Hyatt Regency Coolum until Clive Palmer decided it needed to be named after him.