Society is changing rapidly. These changes are the product of, among other things, the new information and communications technologies (NICTs). The impact of the NICTs is analysed here by François Ascher.
He says that the Internet is seen as opening up all kinds of new possibilities. While some argue that technical advances are not causing major social changes, he takes the opposite position: the vigour and speed of penetration of the NICTs are accompanied by radical changes in our social and cultural models.
The new modernity now emerging, which he labels 'the hypertext society' by analogy with the interactive links of the Internet, is based on the knowledge economy and is characterized by greater emphasis on individuals, rationalization and social differentiation. These 'multifaceted' individuals with multiple connections act in varying ways, and their new ways of thinking and acting create new social linkages, new forms of solidarity, and sometimes also problems.
Ascher goes on to argue that this on-going process of modernization, which emphasizes individual freedoms and aims to create a fairer and more open and peaceful society, requires an updating of the concepts of democracy, political programmes and government action. This new democracy (more complex and more procedural) will be most effective if it is truly 'comprehensive' and consultative, relying more on interactive than on traditional modes of governance. But will it be capable of inculcating tolerance, morality, justice and hospitality? Can it redefine notions of solidarity and responsibility, achieve lasting compromises, operate from the most local level to the most global level?
According to François Ascher, the new dynamics of local governance and the development of supranational policies and multinational organizations give cause for hope, provided that modern decision-makers feel that they can control what will happen in the future.