If the world had its way, Al Gore would be the next president of the U.S.
This at least is what the pollsters at Planet Project found in a four-day Internet poll that was designed to span the world and ask such questions as, “If you had the opportunity to live forever, would you?” and “If you could adjust the DNA of your child either toward independence or obedience, which would you choose?”
The project, sponsored by 3Com Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., also attempted to bridge the digital divide by sending out pollsters in approximately 90 countries around the world from Nov. 15 to 18. Over 2,000 3Com employees worldwide were also to conduct polls in their local communities using Palm Pilots and then upload the results through the Internet. The poll questions were available over the Internet in eight languages.
“Where and when have we ever had the ability to stop a moment in time and compare many of the issues that we deal with on a day-in, day-out basis as part of our daily curriculum?” said Nick Tidd, the president and country manager at 3Com Canada Inc. in Mississauga, Ont.
3Com participated in the project because it wanted “to bring together the world and form a sense of community,” Tidd said.
The poll will allow people to compare what they think with others in their country and around the world, he said.
Toronto-based Bob Logan, an associate professor of physics at the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto, hopes that the project will bring people closer together, and maybe discover that those on the other side of the world have similar hopes and fears.
“It’s the global village going live,” Logan said. He believes that this experiment may have far-reaching effects.
If the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan said, then according to Logan the Internet has five messages: two-way communication, ease of access to information, continuous learning, community, and alignment.
“The Internet brings people together and helps them align their thinking,” Logan said.
He believes all five of the Internet’s messages are present in the Planet Project. “People are going to discover they’re similar,” he said.
The project establishes a methodology for polling the world and, if a crisis arises, there is now a way to gauge what people think.
Logan is also attracted to the program because of the unknown element.
When the telegraph was put into operation, its purpose was to allow people in two stations to communicate that a train was coming down the track. The telegraph was built to avoid accidents.
“And then one guy one day said, ‘Hey, tell my wife I’m going to be late for dinner.’ And all of a sudden they realized there was another use for this technology that hadn’t occurred to them,” Logan said.
“I predict that in a 100 years, or even less, everyone will have access to the Internet. It will be as basic as the telephone,” he said.
Jerry Lee, 16, is already on-line, and sometimes even uses it to meet people.
“(They’re) people to talk to when there’s no one else around,” Lee said. He and other students at Toronto-based high school Brebeuf College took part in the poll as part of a class project.
Lee said he wouldn’t mind taking the time to do a poll like this one again.
But his fellow student, Elie Saad, 16, said, “It’s a one-time thing.”
Planet Project was designed to ensure that students participated in the poll, and included questions geared especially for them.