Jared Cohen: “It Will Be Easier To Start Revolutions, But They Will Be Just As Hard To Finish”

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If you want to understand what is going on at the nexus of technology and youth protest movements around the world, watch this video. Jared Cohen, who is a director at Google Ideas writing a book with Eric Schmidt and previously was an advisor to the State Department, gave the presentation above at Techonomy.

Cohen studied firsthand the Green Revolution in Iran, and then the Arab Spring. He noticed that young people in Iran were using Bluetooth, but not for wireless headsets, but rather as a technology to communicate peer-to-peer. People over 30 in Iran didn’t even know what Bluetooth was, so when the government tried to shut down SMS and cell networks during the protests in 2009, the protesters communicated with each other via Bluetooth (That’s how the famously disturbing video of “Neda” after she was shot made its way from the streets to the Internet).

The Iranian protestors would be the inspiration for the Arab Spring two years later. “It put an idea out there that a bunch of young people armed with nothing other than a mobile device can make a difference,” says Cohen.

“Technology doesn’t create new leaders,” he says, “it just makes it easier to organize and mobilize without a plan.” He sees a future in which “citizens and states will keep each other in check.”

Knowing what to do with these revolutions will be the hard part. “It will be easier to start revolutions,: predicts Cohen, “but they will be just as hard to finish”