The UK riots this recent week have been a terrible shock to all of us in civilised society. The pattern that these riots mainly involve youngsters of under the age of 21 has got me thinking. My theory is that this era is the first time in the history of society that youngsters have had access to smart phones. The apps on them like Facebook, Twitter and BBM are allowing them to form groups whereby their can share their ideas. This has never happened before in the history of society on such a wide scale.
I remember seeing a reality TV show years ago whereby they put a group of youngsters in a house for a week and left them to their own devices. Surprisingly the result was chaotic with mess everywhere with many of the rooms being trashed. I think they had to stop the show in the end due to violence breaking out as the situation drifted towards feudal warfare.
This is not a very scientific study, my evidence being based on just one case, but conclusions can be drawn as follows: Youngsters left to their own devices have a disposition for anarchy, rule breaking and chaos. When presented with no rules they do not have the organisation or communications skills to create any. If you combine this with social networking tools so that a group of youngsters can share ideas and start to exert a new found voice, you have a dangerous mixture. What we are seeing with the riots in London, Manchester and beyond in the UK is a manifestation of youngsters tendency toward anarchistic behaviour all coordinated by social networking tools.
Unless government’s take steps to monitor the use of social networking tools, which is something none of us want, this could be the start of a worldwide phenomenon.
Regulation and monitoring is going to be difficult in the case of with Blackberry Messenger (BBM). If a user creates a pin and then asks their friend to type that pin into BBM then they have a bidirectional fully encrypted messaging system that is not trivial to crack. The system uses a strong encryption method and would take considerable brute force computing horsepower to crack even one message. If a new movement of anarchists move towards the Blackberry platform with a view to using BBM to co-ordinate themselves, society is going to have a major problem on it’s hands.
Edit - Ofcom says that 37 per cent of the smartphone market in poor urban areas is accounted for by BlackBerrys.