BBC Radio 4 Today / AP
Last Updated Dec 27, 2017 8:02 AM EST
LONDON — Former U.S. Presidenttold in an interview broadcast Wednesday that he was concerned about the effect of the internet on public life.
“One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases,” Mr. Obama said.
“The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a Balkanisation of society and allows ways of finding common ground,” he continued.
He spoke with Harry in the prince’s capacity as guest editor of the BBC Radio 4 news program. Both men said the interview, recorded in Canada in September, was Obama’s first since leaving the presidency in January.
Mr. Obama went on to say that in-person contact could help counter extreme views.
“Social media is a really powerful tool for people of common interests to convene and get to know each other and connect, but then it’s important for them to get offline, meet in a pub, meet at a place of worship, meet in a neighborhood and get to know each other, because the truth is that on the internet, everything is simplified, and when you meet people face-to-face, it turns out they’re complicated,” Mr. Obama said.
The former U.S. President also said he felt serene the day he left the White House despite the sense that much important work remained unfinished.
Mr. Obama said it was “hugely liberating” to be able to set his own agenda in the morning and to have the time to talk with his wife, Michelle, now that he is no longer president.
“I miss the work itself because it was fascinating,” Obama said of his eight years in the Oval Office, citing his health care reforms as one of his proudest achievements.
He did not mention his successor, President Donald Trump.
In his guest editing slot, Harry also focused on climate change, the military and mental health.
He used his position to ask Obama a “lightning round” of questions of the type normally asked of entertainers, not politicians.
The former president declined to say whether he wears boxers or briefs, but was willing to say he prefers Aretha Franklin to Tina Turner – “Aretha is the best,” he said of the Queen of Soul – and favors retired basketball star Michael Jordan over current star LeBron James.
Obama also said he is “obsessed” with helping to train the next generation of leaders and said the world is in many ways healthier and wealthier than it has ever been.
Harry also interviewed his father, Prince Charles, who offered more gloomy assessment. He said the root causes of climate change are not being addressed even as it leads to more destruction in many parts of the world.
At the end of the show, Harry would not say whether Obama will be invited to his May wedding to American actress, saying the guest list hadn’t been drawn up yet. But he did say Markle had enjoyed her first Christmas as a guest of Queen Elizabeth II at her country estate.
“She really enjoyed it, and the family loved having her there,” Harry said.
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