29 August 2006

Welcome to the Post - Information Age World

Periodically, periodicals publish their declaration that this is a new information age. That could be, but I'd propose instead that we live in a post-information age.

The information age started with the telegraph and telephone, both popular long before you were born. What has happened since about the mid-1800's is not new. Information flows have expedited the flow of commerce and the consolidation of production, necessitiating an explosion of distribution channels and retail outlets. This has been on-going for more than a century.

What defined the last century is continuning advances in the processing, storing, and interpreting of information with technologies as varied as cell phones, laptops, and universities. This has coincided with the explosion in knowledge workers, who were arguably to economic growth in the 20th century what capital had been in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Today, we live in a world in which knowledge workers, for the first time, are no longer constrained by lack of information. In fact, they are probably hindered by it - the proliferation of calls, emails, meetings, books, (and yes, sadly) web sites including blogs probably do at least as much to diffuse attention and lessen productivity as they do to inform action and enhance productivity.

This raises a very different question: What can be done when information no longer limits? And it is the communities, organizations, and individuals who focus on the answer to that question who will advance as much in this century as did those who focused on the question of how to get more information stored, distributed, and processed advanced in the last century.

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