Impact of the Information Revolution


This article originally appeared in Issue# 22

For three decades we have been concerned about the effect and affect of computers on human life. We have been obsessed with the delivery system. We should have been questioning the effect and affect of information availability on human life.

The convergence of computers and communications has altered our lives because of what they do with information, not because of what they are.

"...the newspaper has arguably reached the limits of its growth as a form in that the costs of its raw materials are beginning to outweigh the advantages of distribution and delivery to so wise an audience. If it far better to transfer information of this kind to magazines, if we can wait a week or two, or if urgent and perishible, transfer it to videotext or teletext."

The electronic delivery system makes information available anywhere. Ideas can be everywhere at once, in real time and full color. Information is available to us "live from Saturn," from London, from the Moon, from our offices or from anyone's offices in New York or anywhere on land, sea, air and outer space. Is anyone plugged into the delivery system really remote?

How much information availability is necessary for mass control?

What is considered to be responsible dissemination of data?

While information can be invisible, we must ask, is it ever intangible? When does information in electronic form become tangible enough to be subjected to import duties?

Information is universal energy, effecting change, creating and disrupting order. Information in the form of proprietary databases can be monopolistic. It's information that is forcing us to question the true nature of the decision process and the perception of reality. Seeing is no longer grounds for believing.

The old information transfer systems were very inefficient. We hear at 300 words a minute but speak at 150 words a minute. Images can be transferred into our minds so fast that we don't see them. Our focus should be on information, not our delivery systems.

The workplace is being severely challenged by the availability of information. Now that we don't need to be there to meet and manage, we are questioning the nature of management. Attempts to link information to decision models leads us to question our understanding of the alleged decision process.

Easily transferable information is easily copied. Entire business empires are operating under the threat of extinction by counterfeit. Movies, music, and databases are easily replicated. Information instantly available everywhere, anywhere is difficult to protect from theft or misuse. What are acceptable prudent safeguards?

Information is reshaping the home. Home-delivered electronic yellow pages threaten the lifeblood of newspapers. The blending of computers with sight and sound equipment is producing new markets and different types of consumers. The hooking up process results in a mass of wires that rivals the confusion encountered when de-wiring a Christmas tree.

It's time to shift our focus and plan for the impact of information availability. We have already forgotten that understanding occurred, decisions were made and actions initiated without instant updates and vast electronic memories.

Author Bio: 

The late Hank Koehn was Director of Futures Research at Security Pacific Bank in Los Angeles.