From Information Technologies and Social Transformation edited by Bruce R. Guile. National Academy of Sciences Symposium on Technology and Social Priorities, October 4, 1984. National Academy Press, Washington, DC. 1985.

The Evolution of Information Technologies by John S. Mayo

The Information Age: Evolution or Revolution? By Melvin Kranzberg

The Twilight of Hierarchy: Speculations on the Global Information Society by Harlan Cleveland



The Evolution of Information Technologies by John S. Mayo

Of greatest impact are 'killer' technologies.... Their impact... extends far beyond these major replacements to opening whole new fields of opportunity. Included among these are opportunities to satisfy previously unknown or unrecognized societal needs and wants, often of an increasingly sophisticated nature.

Second in impact are the 'new domain' technologies. Although they do not replace earlier technologies, they do open up entirely new areas of opportunity. An example of the new domain technologies is automatic speech recognition and synthesis, a rapidly developing technology that will eventually allow inanimate objects such as cars and appliances to speak and listen much as humans do.

Third, there are the 'niche' technologies, which play a very important role in meeting society's needs. When they first appear, however, they are often mistaken for killer technologies. For example, when broadcast television became feasible, many expected it to kill newspapers, radio, and movies. Instead, it found it s own niche and satisfied a thirst in society not previously met -- or perhaps even recognized. (10)


The Information Age: Evolution or Revolution? By Melvin Kranzberg

When the first electronic computers were introduced some decades ago, their complexity , size, and expense seemed to dictate that the computerized information would perforce be concentrated and hence be susceptible to control by relatively few individuals. Indeed, this appeared to lend substance to George Orwell's vision of 1984 when all information -- and hence all thought -- would be controlled by 'Big Brother.' however, the introduction fo the transistor and the development of the microchip allowed for the miniaturization of computing devices, so that today's small, hand-held computer can rival the past giants in information capacity and activity. As the young hackers at CalTech showed when they took over control of the scoreboard at the 1983 Rose Bowl game, the problem is not longer that Big Brother is watching you, but that 'Little Brother' is messing up his program. (43)

People like to congregate together; they derive intellectual stimulus and social satisfaction from personal contacts. The workplace is not only a spot for making a living but is also the site of the social interchange that is apparently a hallmark of our human species. So, just because computers might offer us certain capabilities, this does not mean that we would want to take advantage of them, nor does it mean that they would necessarily be advantageous for the social interchange that, in the vast majority of cases, is essential for individual fulfillment. (44) [I do think we'd go for it, though; I think that we are perfectly willing to lazily ignore our need for others and stay contained in our mini-systems. Other way of looking at this, though, is socialising through the computer, via the net etc., in which case we feel that our need is being met. But is it, really?]


The Twilight of Hierarchy: Speculations on the Global Information Society by Harlan Cleveland

Decision making proceeds not by the flow of recommendations up and orders down, but by development of a shared sense of direction among those who must form the parade if there is going to be a parade. Collegial not command structures become the more natural basis for organization. Not command and control, but conferring and networking become the mandatory modes for getting things done. Planning cannot be done by a few leaders, or by even the brightest whiz kids immured in a systems analysis unit or a planning staff. Real-life planning is the dynamic improvisation by the many on a general sense of direction -- announced by the few, but only after genuine consultation with those who will have to improvise on it. More participatory decision making implies a need for much information, widely spread, and much feedback, seriously attended -- as in biological processes. Participation and public feedback become conditions precedent to decisions that stick.

That means more openness, less secrecy -- not as an ideological preference but as a technological imperative. Secrecy goes out of fashion anyway, because
In the new knowledge environment, civilization will be built more around
communities of people, and less around communities of place. (76)

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