Is the Internet a new technology that we have to integrate into our ways of working and learning or is it a transformational way of communicating that will change our society forever? The approach from existing software vendors and established organisations is that Internet technologies can help you become more effective and efficient in your current business model through systems for collaborative work (e.g. Sharepoint) or online education (e.g. Blackboard).
Another view is that we are going through a transformation similar to what happened 100 years ago and that the Internet is like the industrial system and will significantly change how we spend our discretionary time (9 hours each day). Here are the predicted shifts from NineShift:
- People work from home.
- Intranets replace offices.
- Networks replace pyramids
- Trains replace cars
- Dense neighborhoods replace suburbs
- New social infrastructures evolve.
- Cheating becomes collaboration.
- Half of all learning is online.
- Education becomes web-based.
These are major changes and it’s hard to argue with most of these predictions, as in the last two years they’re pretty well all coming about. But is the Internet going to have an even greater impact on society? Mark Federman thinks so.
Federman sees the Internet and related electric media as the biggest change since the 16th century and describes it as epochal. According to his research, we are 150 years into a 300 year change into the electric age and the Internet is the point of acceleration of our shift from print-based communications to electric ones. The launch of the Netscape IPO occurred during the “break-boundary” between epochs.
All three perspectives have validity and can be useful. Yes, we can get efficiencies from these new technologies but they are having an impact on how we work and live that will be obvious in the next decade. We should also keep in perspective that life will be significantly different for our children and grand children, which is difficult for many of us to imagine. How could scribes imagine an age of literacy or an oral society watch as the written word extended power and control?
Combining the short, medium and long views may give us a better picture and a framework to help with the decisions we have to make today.
Photo by SMigol