I’m not sure how to make this a concrete thought, but something has been percolating in my brain, so I thought I would throw it out there. While the economy is in a slump right now, it seems to me that we could be on the verge of something unprecedented.
I like to think about current events in the light of the past. Anyone with a cursory interest in history realizes that human civilization has radically changed since the industrial revolution. Since then it has been like a snowball rolling down a steep hill, gaining size and momentum. Mass production, factories, good roads, railroads, cars, phones, electricity, antibiotics, and millions of other things have improved the standard of living for most people. The poorest in America live better than most people throughout history. I think you could argue that information is the backbone of all this. You see what other people do, what is possible, and it spurs you to do something, to add your bit, and it just keeps growing.
Computers and the internet are the current current of change (pun intended). They are the information vehicle of unprecedented availability. The amount of information is mind boggling. One person has an idea, it goes out on the net, and in a day, it is everywhere.
My thought is this; if information is what has driven the prosperity and growth prior to now, and computers allow the assimilation and dissemination of information in astronomical ways, why shouldn’t there be unparalleled growth as we recover from this current downturn?
Of course, this is only one possibility. People thought that television would end illiteracy and be the venue for bringing great culture to the masses. It has been that to a small extent, but it has also degenerated to the lowest common denominator. There is no doubt that computers and the internet suffers from some of that as well. Unlike television, however, where only the most popular wins out, anyone can publish on the net inexpensively. Just because most people want recipes for dinner tonight, doesn’t mean you can’t find a site about the history of food, or a detailed chemical analysis of a food. True, what gets shoved in your face is the titillating and droll, but if you have an idea, you can search for 10 minutes, and find out anything about that idea you want.
Marketing, selling, research, communication, all the major aspects of culture and commerce are there, in a new, inexpensive form on the web. It is my contention that this could lead to something great, and not in the distant future.
What do you think? Am I too optimistic? Do you think it’s already here, so the current downturn is evidence it won’t make that much of a difference?