Time Warner swallows up CNN. AOL swallows up Time-Warner. BCE snaps up Canada’s premier television broadcaster CTV. The media mergers keep coming and the conventional wisdom says that they are good. They wake up snoozing CEOs, shake up company boardrooms and most importantly, they marry industries like broadcasting, telecommunications and computers into efficient new digital age corporations.

The downside, of course, is that with each merger, media power is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations. We know what it means when two companies (Coke & Pepsi) dominate the world’s soft drink market, or when one corporation (Microsoft) has a near monopoly on the world’s operating systems, or when half a dozen companies (Exxon, Chevron, Texaco, BP, Total Fina and Shell) control the bulk of the global oil supplies. But what does it mean when a handful of media corporations gain control of the world’s news, entertainment and information flows?

It means cultural homogenization. It means the same hairstyles, catchphrases, music and action-hero-antics perpetrated ad nauseum around the world. It means a world in which dissenting voices that challenge corporate interests and profitability are increasingly filtered out.

In all systems, such homogenization is poison. Lack of diversity leads to inefficiency, stagnation and failure. Just as this is true for physical systems, lack of infodiversity spells disaster for mental systems too. The loss of a language, tradition or cultural heritage – or the censoring of one good idea – can be as big a loss to future generations as a biological species going extinct.

Infodiversity is a word you’ll probably keep hearing in the years ahead. Infodiversity is analogous to biodiversity. Both are bedrocks of human existence, and both are currently plummeting at alarming rates.

Thirty-five years ago Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring evoked a future in which birds no longer sing. This book shocked us into realizing that our natural environment was dying, and catalyzed a wave of environmental activism that changed the world. What we need now is a Silent Spring of the mental environment – a book, a film, a charismatic media reformer who warns of a future in which corporations do the talking and dissenting voices no longer speak back.

        Kalle Lasn,

        editor of Ad-busters and founder of The Media Foundation, Vancouver