Explore the Future
by Ray Strackbein
Want to explore the future? Want to see how society will solve its problems in the Information Age? Analyze the metaphors of the age. The metaphor of the Information Age is the computer network.
To understand society, we need to understand networks and the processes that make them work. To understand computer networks is to understand the Information Age.
What works consistently well to advance society? Technology solutions. Networking is a technology solution.
Networking works so well technically that we advise people and businesses who have problems to network. Do you need to find a job? Network. To find new customers, network. Network to identify or
solve problems. Notice how the technical concept of networking has permeated our society in a non-technical way.
Low Risk Experiment
Occasionally technology and society need to accomplish the same tasks. Changing society is dangerous. Changing technology can be fun.
Technology is a less risky place to experiment with the future. To see society’s future, look at technology’s tools. Processes that successfully solve technical problems later solve society's
Birth of Information Age
The seeds of the Information Age were sown thousands of years ago.
Civilization began when nomadic traders and merchants traveled from one area to another. Yes, they traded spices for gold but more than that, these traders were allowed free access to many
cultures. They not only shared products between tribes, but stories and customs. The merchants saw how each tribe solved problems, learning new methods of their own. This sharing of information was the
beginning of civilization.
Perhaps it was this sharing of information which led to the spread of agriculture and farming. Perhaps the sharing of tools and information about how to use them led to the Industrial Age. I am
convinced that if civilization began with the nomadic traders, then the seeds of the Information Age were sewn then, too.
Early in the 20th century, telephones, electricity, radios, and cars brought rural farm families into the American Network.
The automobile enhanced our network. The Model T Ford was so affordable, that isolated farmers bought them. Cars allowed the rural families to go to town more frequently. Even today, the automobile
allows easier access to the network of society. The automobile is a communications device.
Computer systems, transportation systems, and telephone systems are all communication systems. They are networks; not only technical networks, but social networks. We reach out to touch everything.
Our hearts ache to network, as shown in our literature -- movies. We respond at the box office to the metaphor of the network. ET, Dances With Wolves, The Hunt for Red October, As Good as it
Gets, Ghost, You’ve Got Mail and Independence Day are about networking.
Even when critics aren't enthusiastic, people race to movies that model ways to network.
Each age has its own particular metaphors that serve as standards for understanding the system.
The Industrial Age had two metaphors: the machine and the assembly line. The metaphor of the Information Age is the computer network. To understand society, we need to understand networks
and the processes that make them work. To understand computer networks is to understand the Information Age. Understanding technical systems helps us make our business, personal and social systems better.