Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Changing of the Guard

Technology is changing the world. It's bringing us closer together: phone, satellite, transportation and internet. Technology enables communication on a scale and in formats that people only a decade or two ago would have thought impossible. It's a force multiplier. The number of ways to mix and match technology to produce results is limited only by human imagination - which, as we know has few limits. If we can dream it, chances are good, that we can do it - or soon will be able to do it. Evolution is increasing it's speed exponentially. Moore's law can barely keep up.

All of this change and added capability is exposing the human condition and busting paradigms at light speeds. Anyone who thinks that technology is not actually changing the people who use it need only look a little harder.

David Weinberger
addressed a government crowd a couple of weeks ago with an interesting story about the relationship between our old paper based system and authority. I had the good fortune of listening to him amuse the crowd (he is a very funny guy). He held up the idea of a paper based world as a world of absolute authority, where a seeker of knowledge stops dead once he or she reaches the final authority on a subject - perhaps a piece of paper with a signature on the bottom of it. After all, he told the crowd, that paper with the signature is the authority!

In today's world of internet and hyperlinks, one could wander about looking for "the" answer to a question forever and never find it. There are an endless supply of answers to just about every question - most of them only a series of clicks away. And it's not the bad information that we have to worry about. We know what to do with bad information. It's the good information - the overwhelming supply of good information that have a hard time dealing with. People no longer have the luxury of coming to a single piece of paper and stopping - they "Google" - an endeavor that could keep someone up all night long flowing from interesting bit of information to interesting bit of information. Today, it's left up to the individual to say when enough is enough - when they ultimately decide that they have enough knowledge to make a good informed decision.

My friend added some new thoughts to my consciousness: We are witnessing the death of power hording and absolute authority. In today's world, there is a growing shift from concentrated power to distributed power. Large media outlets are being out maneuvered by individuals with personal camcorders. Blogging and podcasting are taking over the news. Social media is flattening hierarchical structures everywhere. Data warehouses and system access requests are becoming a thing of the past. Individual systems don't matter when we can get to any data anywhere through the use of Web logic, mash-ups and an internet service bus.

Technology systems used to be reflections of human systems. Today, human systems are beginning to reflect advancements in technology systems. It won't be too long, predicts my very smart friend, that we will see all of these old systems approaches (and the governance bodies who support and defend them) completely buried by a new generation of Web logic and mash-up gurus. Elaborate multi-billion dollar systems will be replaced by a few thousand dollars worth of techie Joe's time.

I invite you to browse a few hyperlinks and judge for yourself where you think we're going. Just don't stay up all night searching!