Alan Kay at World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland (1994)

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good morning
welcome to the morning session my name
is Richard Saul Wurman and I will
introduce the panelists as they speak I
have three premises I would like to share with you and then I will ask the
panel on my right to respond to them or
a rift away from them or say what they would like to say hopefully inspired or
to counter a kind of dict what I'm saying premise number one it goes
without saying that we are sending
vastly we have the ability to send vastly vast quantities of information
faster and cheaper they were sending
them in many ways through the air through wires through the ground that
we're storing more things in smaller spaces and that the hardware that is
being developed is getting smaller and smaller and hopefully cheaper and
cheaper doing more and more things and it's going to interact with each other
on demand we're going to be able to carry it in our hands and our pockets
maybe even in our glasses that goes
without saying we we are in the middle of that it will continue on for the next
few years it's not a point of discussion we have all read infinite number of
articles on hardware software of multimedia storage speed information
highways back roads side rows dirt roads all kinds of things the second premise
as a result of getting all this stuff all this data faster being able to store
more of it there will be created even
though it doesn't exist now a viable
group people and companies which I call the
information architects they will take this information and make it
understandable this doesn't exist now except in isolated situations but this
group of people these corporations these people who will be in the instruction
business and the understanding business these information architects will occur
because there's money in it and they have to it has to happen so in the next 10 years there's going to be a new
business the third premise is really what I am
addressing to these four gentlemen on my right and that is if information is
accessible and understandable if indeed
we can with no anxiety with great ease
find the answers to our questions push
buttons that just tell us a couple it tells some machine two or three things
about ourselves and get the car we should really buy or find out
information about law or about medicine or about politics if we can uncover and
understand things about government and bills that are going to be passed if we
can vote shop
bypass travel agents is this the Chinese
curse I curse you I curse you may you get everything you want do we indeed
make such changes to our economy to
existing groups in our economy do we bypass advertising do we bypass many
parts of many professional life do we get anarchy because of understanding of
government do we reveal the secrets that
have been that have people have held you know like shamans the power of
information what is the result of one
getting more and more information - having it understandable
what is the result of this kind of public information being made public now
this is what we've always wanted this is what people talk about this is the the
dream that I've had for a long part of my life I've talked about public
information should be made public and the second public means available
accessible and understandable but then what happens those are the three
premises this morning I think this is a serious and interesting issue into
communications today and the four gentlemen on my right eye it's easy
you're supposed to say this upfront that they're remarkable and special but they really are remarkable and special I'm
going to lead off because he seemed more
awake than the others with our token
Welshman the president of Neddie and
most people probably haven't heard an eddy but it's it's this division of News
Corporation that is taking news
corporation happily quick kicking and screaming into the electronic age he's a
strategist strategist and an evangelist
I think of sorts and he will say something disrespectful after he starts
about me mr. Evans good morning I don't
know how awake I am and I'm not sure how much I can cover of that long agenda in
the time let's take a shot at this
clearly the idea of people getting more
information is problematic because most
of the problems today is that there's too much advice and too much information and the result is stagnation or people
ending up as couch potatoes and and the proposal that there will be
information architects who groom and select and bring all of this vast
information into a usable and useful size and format is it's clear because
that's what we call editing the difference between myself and many of
the people speaking at these conferences is that I'm a publisher and I'm somebody
who's worked on the creative side of trying to write stories and trying to edit them and then trying to run
magazines and find the money to do it with and so the difficulty for me as I'm
developing software to do exactly what Richard was proposing is that unlike a
company that is operating in Silicon Valley in California building utopia I
have to be careful that I don't destroy what we have at News Corporation before
I start because our money is made here and now and I'm working in there and
then and it's how to get from here to there and certain things appear to be
fundamental the first thing that appears to be fundamental is that products to
survive in this information age have to have three criteria they have to be
digital they have to be narrowcast or they personalized and they have to be
interactive and so the first way of
reducing this vast amount excuse me this vast amount of information into a
meaningful size is through the process of agent Rhee which is in simple terms
devising a piece of software that understands the user the understanding
is based upon criteria that you the user
put into the software a profile what you
liked and disliked about very simple things now the work I'm doing is
initially in the travel area because that's a safe area because it's a
business we're not in so if I mess it up we don't hurt ourselves but secondly
more importantly it's an area full of commissions and royalty payments because
you can't deliver things today with $30 a delivery costs that are worth a dollar
The Wall Street Journal delivered by Wireless in the United States they would cost about $80 to deliver you might
charge 75 cents for it but the delivery cost would kill it and so one has to
have small amounts of information which are highly valuable for which other people are willing to pay you for the
transaction either hotels or Airlines or car rental people and so that you can
deliver the product in a subsidized way which is the way we've always delivered
information in the traditional analog sense those of us will crush trees and
smearing kana to make newspapers do so in a very highly subsidized way with
advertising it would seem to me that in a an electronic Information Age sense
the idea of imposition the idea of forcing people to watch advertisements
when I the publisher wants you to watch them is now over the remote control that
allows you to misuse television would
allow you to avoid commercials on television very easily and any form of
electronic device that receives information will have a hard time
imposing advertising and so the future is going to be made up of pure
advertising and transactional processing and by that I mean people use that
remote control on television to avoid advertisements but they use the same
device to go and watch an hour-long advertisement on some product like car
polish or hair dryers or or beauty
treatments and so advertising when we want it is compelling and when we want
it we want it and when it's forced on us at a time that we may not want it is a
thing of the past and so I think that
one at one of the areas we ought to look at is how do we change the economic
model along this process how does that slowly take place home shopping netwerk
some television today are very early examples of this and once you start to
put Home Shopping Network behind soap operas so that in the future you'll be
able to see a product demonstrated in a more natural setting
if you're a woman and you see somebody wearing a dress in the soap opera you like you should be able to see it in all
its colors maybe see yourself wearing it if you've digitized yourself with your
home video camera into the set and then purchase it by some wireless or or long
line transaction and have it delivered the next day and and those sort of
things you can see coming quite clearly the biggest problem facing the future
and I'll try to give my friends equal time here is that there's a lot of talk
in the United States and in Europe about cyber highways and information highways
which frankly I think is nonsense because I think it's already here it's
called AT&T in the United States and then that was copied by Sprint and then
by MCI so we have three fairly super highways out there with a lot of
bandwidth on them so we've got the communications we have vast cable
systems the problem is access the problems not the infrastructure the
problem is access who are the gatekeepers how are they placed there and what are the regulations that
control them because clearly the more personalized information that we have
through editing or narrowcasting the more when you require privacy and to be
protected in the way this information travels and so we need virtually common
carriers who are prohibited from
interfering with the free passage of our information right now as publishers the
truck that drives the newspaper to the newsstand or the book to the bookstore
or the movie to the movie house is not violated by the transportation a truck
driver can't change the newspaper a bookstore can't change the book it may
decide not to sell it but the editing process remains hours and somehow that
has to remain in the process at the other end the difference between today
where we as bit radiators where we as publishers issue one too many the future
is where people who have high technology
in their hands the power transfers from us at the center to the user at the
peripheral and that the user will reach into the center for what they want and
that the transportation back and forth to the user
must be sacred as it is currently between us and the distribution networks
thank you John our next speaker is yet
another legend it's Alan K Apple fellow thank you and
he has an arm that is broken and he won't tell us why too boring a story one
of the ways that I've tried to think about what's going to happen in the next
few years is partly in the context of a
dream that many people started having about 30 years ago
in the u.s. it was sponsored by an organization called ARPA the Advanced
Research Projects Agency and the idea
was that somehow computers were likely
to become symbiotic partners some complementary aid for thinking and
doing and that that partnership would be
affected through networks so this is a very old idea in fact I think actually
dr. pinzhi has probably remembers better but I think the first time a computer
and telecommunications were used together was in 1938 with stibitz as
complex was basically a pocket calculator the size of a room made out
of relays and you could dial in from home and get it to calculate things for
you so there's the whole notion of combining these technologies have been
around for a very long time the thing that has haunted me for many
years was 25 years ago or so I visited
one of the great libraries in New York City it was in the middle of a
burned-out slum and nobody was in that library although I was fully functional
and free and open to the public so when
we talk about access being the problem I don't exactly agree I think there's
already access in many countries to a
wealth of in nation held in old media and what is
lacking is a value system that
understands that the great powers are to be had by availing oneself of that kind
of information and putting all of that information into digital form and
broadcasting it on fiber-optic networks and even making it interactive is not
going to help that much because there is another part a social part that has to
be thought through my friend Neil postman likes to make the distinction
between a technology and a medium there's a for instance television as a
technology and American television is a medium as you will find the more you
imported into to Europe it's a particularly of using a technology
computer is a technology and one of the things the visionaries at ARPA wanted to
find out is what kind of medium should we make it so that it could be a partner
for humans that implied that it should be made interactive and we should learn
about how to make friendly user interfaces we should learn something
about how people learn when they deal with interactive media and so forth and
this problem is still not solved another
problem I have when I think about this is the what you might call the junk
media phenomena now this is much older than electronic media flow bear in
Madame Bovary
characterized Madame bovary's problem as
reading too many romance novels she thought of as the junk media of the day
and I'm sure his term might have been couched pomme de la terre for what her
condition was so that the idea is that
any of these media can be made into sugar water and people will find ways to
do it and to spread them around so you can think of the tendency
in all technological efforts sort of two
things go on side by side with people trying to do good one is one is what I
call inverse vandalism which is the opposite of destroying something it's
making something just because you can and a lot of the products that people
are sold today are things that were made just because they could be made and then
marketing people figure out how to make them attractive and sort of the partner
of that I called narco engineering narco engineering is making something that is
addictive and habit-forming by catering
to tendencies that human beings like for instance fat sugar salt we like
flickering images and people will home in on that as well and so the there is a
vast potential for creating an entirely
new set of junk media transmitted at the speed of light and in fact a couple of
weeks ago I was at vice president Gore's information Highway summit I was on a
panel there and I would characterize the majority the participants there who are
all CEOs of large corporations as trying
to find out what the next sugar water would be what electronics sugar water
would be and being very anxious to be the first ones to be able to manufacture
and dispense it now I think we can do better than that
and I don't believe that you should try and legislate junk out of existence
because one person's junk is another person's content I don't think you can
define that but I think the people who are designing the media of the future
should also think about what serious discourse is and wonder whether the
medium can handle it for example in
December of 1775 Thomas Paine wrote a
pamphlet called common sense and it was a 50 page argument contrasting
monarchies and the possibility of demo
democratic governments and in January
they started printing this 1776 and over
the next five or six months they printed about 600,000 copies which is a large
press run even by today's standards there are only one and a half million
colonists in the thirteen colonies back then and so the press run actually
covered about half of the colonists or almost all of the families and a large
percentage of those colonists could read and understand an extended argument done
without any pictures and most historians believe that that document was the
pivotal document in the acceptance of
the Declaration of Independence and then the federal system of the Constitution a
few years later so this now we think about trying to do that today in the
United States you'd have to have a press run of about 120 million copies which is
almost unfeasible unless you published
it in a newspaper less people in the United States percentage from a
percentage standpoint can understand a 50 page argument now and if you tried to
put it on television which is our mass medium today it won't work because
television can't carry a 50 page argument television is not about
arguments it's about presentations and so the bug in inventing television was
not that television can be filled with junk the bug in inventing television was
that television is not good for serious discourse involved in being a mass
medium for a Democratic Society I think
that is going to happen again in the next five or six years again it's not
that it's impossible to make good media
but what is
okay once you say that I was good tell
Alan listening to his 50 pages I would think that if someone of our public one
of our leaders today attempted to put 50 alphanumeric characters on a bumper
sticker his advisers would say that would be too difficult for people to
read right we're down to fortune cookies now in the US and you can expect that to
happen in Europe as American television invades I think the French are quite
right to try and keep it out so so in
conclusion what we're going to what we're setting ourselves up for is
another technology but we haven't taken
that which is much easier to do than inventing the media that is going to be
the purpose of the technology in the direction of the technology we can't
stop technology I don't want to stop technology I love it I'm a musician and
I use technology all the time to express art through and what I'm saying is that
in the next five years we should pay a special attention to making sure that
the media that goes on this technology is capable of serious discourse thank
you know I decided not to decided not to
third participant this morning is Craig fields who is currently the chairman and
CEO of MCC I can't quickly pronounce the name of a
company but it's in your booklet and he was the former director of DARPA the
Advanced Research of the Defense Department the United States government
even though I got the words out of order anyway Craig the first time I've
regretted that our name has multisyllabic words in it but thank you for the introduction
I find the analogy between the information infrastructure and the
transportation infrastructure to be a fairly poor analogy but an instructive one in some ways if you think about the
transportation infrastructure it is much more than a road system for example
if we only had a road system and did not have gas stations and fast-food chains
and trucks and automobiles and highway
police and maps and drivers education and social conventions for rules of the
road and much more we wouldn't have a transportation infrastructure and that's
not even mentioning the air and the water transportation as well in the same
way information infrastructure is much more than telecommunications certainly
for the telecommunications we can believe that getting bits from here to
there will become a commodity like buying MIPS is today in computing that
in the telecommunications part of the information infrastructure it's possible
to warp space and time distances shrink and you can be real time or not real
time that you can connect people and computer programs and information of
course it's multimedia that's not even noteworthy who would want mono media of
course it's secure who would want unsecure but to me the interesting parts
of information infrastructure are not at the telecommunications level as Ricky
suggested earlier but in fact are the things above it the directories the
libraries the brokerage services the expert commentators the pundits the
training courses all of those additional things without which you don't actually
have an information infrastructure one of the consequences of the growth of
information infrastructure is the growth of information commerce buying and
selling information which is the topic of our discussion this morning and I
expect there are new functions that are going to grow up we see the seeds of
each of these functions today but they will sprout what do I mean I mean
critics and reviewers I mean advertisers I agree with your
comments that advertisement will not be the involuntary experience it is today
but will be more personalized and directed by the receiver of the
advertisement I see brokers and brokerage services perhaps people
perhaps computer programs to help connect buyers and sellers to help
negotiate prices it's helped get group deals some of these brokers exist today
some of you perhaps use either the Moses service or the fast service that operate
in the United States both are automated brokerage services in one case for
connecting buyers of integrated circuits to producers of integrated circuits in
another case buyers of electronic components to suppliers of electronic
components and everyone gets a better deal I see locators to help you find things
because in fact it'll all be there but finding it will be quite challenging and
in fact there should be a wide range of finding things from the very directed
search to the opportunity for browsing this is somewhat similar to the personal
shopper that some of us employ at Christmastime to help us get our gifts
browsing is something in information infrastructure that I think is
underappreciated one of my hobbies is cooking and baking and a few years ago I
invested my own time to put all of my recipes into a computer it was the worst
experience of my life not only putting it in but then later precisely finding
what I wanted losing the opportunity to browse was a big mistake
and that has to be part of this location service and then lastly going to Ricky
your point about understanding the sort of super concept of the editor to try to
make things understandable as always there'll be a tension between the
originating producer of somewhere between data and information and the
editors I know journalists today who are convinced their editors do nothing but
destroy their stories and editors who are convinced that their writers give
them a random series of consonants and vowels and then they have to produce the
information in this world of information commerce competition will be the same I
believe or along the same lines as competition for products namely time to
market price quality and variety and my
own excitement is focused on that last word variety namely being able to
produce a wide range of forms of information and of information because
in the end people really want answers and the ultimate is a one on one
transaction between a supplier of information and a consumer and that
consumer gets something that no one else has ever gotten now you suggested that we focus Ricky on
two areas this information commerce it affects government as it and as it
affects what I'll call normal Commerce and in goods and services
let me speak of government for a moment or two then go on to commerce and then
I'll be done as you indicated I I did work in government federal government in
the United States for 17 years and the speculation that you raised was that if
the public was better aware of loopholes and tax breaks and lobbying and some of
our laws that in fact there might or might not be some fundamental change I actually am of the view that there
wouldn't be fundamental change the fucked the federal government in the
United States particularly the political part is one of the most efficient information processing mechanisms I've
ever seen all aimed at public officials getting reelected and so one person's loophole
is another person's entitlement and one person's tax break is another person's
benefit and lobbying is just free expression so that I think that the
system wouldn't change very much in these circumstances but time will tell
on the other side of the coin of Commerce buying goods and services there
I think there are fundamental changes that are here now and are coming at an
accelerating rate based on information infrastructure and information Commerce
we're seeing a revolution in the whole fabric of Industry actually around the
world certainly not just in the United States going from single companies to
multi companies where people are outsourcing and depending on suppliers
entering of entering a very sort of fragile nonlinear system where very
small advantages lead to very big changes in market share and where more
and more Commerce is in services rather than goods in fact in the manufacturing
companies I know 9 out of 10 people don't manufacture but in fact do
services and we're seeing a growth in a global free trade in such services
that's what supported by the infant by the information infrastructure and by
information Commerce it means much greater efficiency it means the
opportunity to avoid waste in making things people might or might not want
and lastly it means something that's important to me it goes back to the
comment about variety then leaving opportunity for people getting custom
products there's no reason why every should get the same thing as everyone else you should be able to get exactly
what you want and at a low cost and that's what's happening I would leave
you with just one heuristic for thinking about technology and information
technology in particular namely in areas like this the opportunity to produce
custom products it really means that everybody can get the privileges that
previously it only be enjoyed by royalty or by wealthy people and to me that's a
means a major step forward thank you
Craig just gave a one-hour speech in about seven minutes we have yet one more
Nobel Prize laureate aren't opens at Penn's iist Penzias NZ Penzias right
right okay did it who runs Bell Labs in
Murray Hill New Jersey - okay if we
start about say a couple of words perhaps about the information market I'm
struck by the fact that people regard this as a new phenomenon if we think
about what most people still do today most of us certainly our children or
college students everyone feels entitled at least until recently to spend the
time between graduation from the University until retirement sitting
behind a desk now what else do those people do other than this editing of
information we say it's creative but surely every time someone writes a
report for one's boss justifying a budget over and is creative information
creativity and editing as well simple numbers 200,000 milli and I dare not use
the word billion here because different countries have different meanings of that word but 200,000 million sheets of
paper put into filing cabinets in United States every year so enormous amounts of
resource is already going into information and this information
shortfall the fact that the large majority of our labor force is now
already engaged in making this minority
of people actually make things productive by getting them from from the
one place to another by overcoming all
these terrible problems we have moving information around well until recently
of course that seemed to be it seemed to be a problem and computers by themselves
didn't do much with it the telephone even come from that part of the world
didn't help all that much but about
three or four years ago telecommunications and data processing
came together we see it in productivity
figures that non manufacturing productivity United States for example
was flat essentially zero for a generation and has now been climbing steadily for three or four years we see
direct access to information not yet
here but coming soon now the notion of
drowning in fire hoses of information is still a transmission model if we really
understand that control will ultimately come to the person seeking information
the size of the information out there is no longer threatening the machine which
we used to call a computer because this was a name given to human beings about 50 years ago people computers were
people who sat behind desk calculators and push buttons and that term was
finally given to the first of the string manipulation machines that that Alan
talked about but that data process then became their processing and other things
but today the computer is really an information interface and as people
begin to have access to other people access to machines and access to data
the information that they need and able
to extract it from this not information superhighway because of connectivity is
not important but the information supermarket that exists out there and collect the item they want at the price
they want or the service they want at the terms they want I think the world is going to change
tremendously now there are some problems
perhaps but I think I don't see that there's really will be a difficulty in
the when when the information shortfalls disappear in the what we call the lot
size of one that the terms design are the terms and conditions of the whatever
the sale or transaction is are customized to the individual the time
all the all the things that go that we now do on that the kind of investment
one makes in buying an automobile in terms of selection and others could go
down to something as small as a book of matches or a wristwatch we just will
have so much more technology be so much more customized they don't think we have
to worry about the information coming to us mean drowned in it because we just will be able to look for it wherever we
wanted now the other side of that story
however is that not only will we be able we as individuals be able to look
wherever we want in the world everyone in the world will also I think be able
to look at us whether we like it or not I can imagine something Saul said which
is important glass thinking about glasses as a
computer I can imagine if I'm a decade
from now coming to such a conference with perhaps a pair of video cameras on
my glasses connected to my cellular telephone and earphone people I don't
recognize can be matched up either through their voice and and perhaps a
database like the one that we get here with the pictures so I know who you are but this information will automatically
go to my home computer and so just as
the person in the small village grocery store knew that you had gotten watch
your milk today or something of this sort every every other trend every
transaction that you make in a much larger world will become public as well
simply by people observing it's not just the question of someone taking your
credit card and comparing it to the the barcode in the supermarket and then
deciding that you bought a in a box of chocolate today or something
so this personalization I think will change our world dramatically and in
doing so the term revolution which we've thrown about will really be hitting us
in a few years and at that point people
businesses and countries as in all revolutions will have the opportunities
for changes in their position and ladders so economic and social echelons
will change not for everybody not always
up but they will change let me ask a
couple questions of the panel let me
start with you are know the do you think advertising and the whole advertising
industry as we know it is going to have
vast vast changes anybody else can pipe in there too actually I thought that
question was answered right at the beginning which is in some sense
advertising will be disappear because everything the the distinction between
advertising and entertainment will disappear I mean we see this already in
paper catalogs don't we some of the catalogs I get already beginning to have
text in them they become infamous infomercials I mean a magazine that I
buy or the the catalog I get from Land's End are beginning to look more and more
alike and as those you know as those to
merge the the creative or attractive packaging of information the kinds of
things people do in movie studios I think will just be so much part of
everyday life the reason we will tolerate it I suppose is again what was
already spoken about is customization because the only advertising you'll ever
be looking at is is something you might be interested in so I think advertising
will be an enormous part of our life but it will merge with all these other information part and entities and I'm
not sure really will even recognize it as different Sony now does a catalogue
which is which they sell as a magazine yeah John space talking in front of
engineers and scientists or was no better but the the fact is that when I
first came to the United States I worked on Madison Avenue and of the dollar spent on products in those days 75 cents
was spent on advertising and 25 cents were spent on promotion and today 75
cents is spent on promotion and 25 cents on advertising so there's been a tremendous rift a shift in in
expenditures if you just stop for a second and think about automobile racing
now carries 10 billion dollars worth of advertising worldwide from Grand Prix
racing down to sponsored Club events so that's money that used to go into much
more traditional venues so I think that advertising per se is always changing
and I think that it's going to be just as important a lubricant to industry as
always but it's going to be more in the control of the recipients and it was in
the past yes I misspoke there's my your viewing
of mine of what advertising is somewhat different ultimately I see ad may have a
different word for it what would you call something which is narrowcast to one person is that that may not be
advertising me promotion or sales or something I see that what dependent if
mercedes-benz wanted to send me a message because they knew that the
mileage on my BMW was such I would be making a change that would be an intrusive advertisement said to the
world through my device I'm interested in buying a car than it would be a useful information okay but the point is
they see my point would be that if you think if somehow you indicated you were
just your action will signal Mercedes
theirs without you having to say anything that's a is that is that
transparency in the other direction which I think reduces the distinction for me anyway well all of the things
that I'm working on and the companies like general magic that I'm working with
have all decided that the only way to save our souls is to have mail
boxes in in the cloud above our heads so that one can be labeled private one can
be labeled junk and that one can filter out most of the things that one doesn't
want to get like messages during
breakfast about hygiene products while
I'm eating my corn flakes I'd like to avoid if I could both now and in the
electronic future business transaction
of advertising will become explicit where now it's implicit right now an advertiser surreptitiously gets
information about my preferences or past behavior and then in a none connect
being from New York that's difficult that's a very important point I hope
you'll repeat it he's known for this I
was saying that the current advertising economy is one that is uncontrolled
information about your behavior your preferences your past consumption is
surreptitiously obtained by those interested in advertisement or promotion
and then the advertisement and promotion received by you is also an uncontrolled
commercial event in the future you should be able to control and sell
information about yourself and enter into an explicit arrangement where you
get the advertising that you want and in fact you might choose to get unpleasant
advertising at inconvenient times if you're well rewarded for getting it and
that's where that explicit nature of the transaction is what I think is coming
why let's be quickly and then there's some really excellent questions and I'd
like to move it along - we only have 15 minutes interesting that once they asked
McLuhan why don't you read psychology
books and use psychological terms he was a in English literary critic and he made
up his own terms for many of his ideas and very difficult to understand and he
said well psychologists are studying rats
I look at advertisers they are the ones who are studying human beings
and if you think about whenever embedded
in a culture were embedded in advertising the and the dominant forces
in the culture have always been able to afford the best artists to do it so the
the advertising in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were stained glass
windows and frescoes which we think of as art today but in fact they were
advertising for the dominant belief system of the time if you think of it
from that standpoint you can see the rich that's a stretch it's not a stretch
okay that's not a stretch think of what
they're selling and think of the context in which it was was given and so we're
always embedded in in the systems of communication trying to convince us of
one thing or another one of the interesting things that happened with the printing press was that people could
take books away with them out of the
larger scale social context and think thoughts that were outside of the social
context that led to an enormous difference in the number of different
pathways that human thought took in the Renaissance and the age of enlightenment
and I think the most important thing
here since we're television and this global network McLuhan called it a
global village it's back to a kind of a glow village culture when you're
embedded in somebody else's advertising the most important thing to be able to
do is to be able to take information that you're interested in away so you
can think about it as much as possible outside of this dominating set of highly
funded ideas there's quite a number of
questions as you can see piling up here so let's try to rapidly go through at
least a few before we come to a close of this meeting I'm going to pick up the
last one because it seems to touch on a point that Alan was just making
tribalism seems essential to humans what will the new revolution do to tribalism
anybody want to tell you already tribes forming around the online services that
exist in the United States if you are a subscriber to CompuServe or one of the
internet forums there are some very
compact and solid groups of people who
all gather around specific issues there are groups formed on the internet of
people whose parents have Alzheimer's and they respond to one another in a
very intense way very narrow focused and that's a new form of tribalism in some
way places like the well on the internet I think are places where tribes gather
they're like watering holes okay one more simple answer I would think is that
tribalism was limited geographically in
the past and I think one simple thing is in the future tribes can extend through
time and space more conveniently so the formation of tribes be less limited so
be probably less imagination societies
in non tribal societies is that in tribal societies the point of view of
everyone is the point of view of the tribe that's the major difference Middle
Ages was much more of a tribal society than we have now so I think the special
interest groups may not be the same thing as tribes but I think that if you
go to South Central Los Angeles or certain areas in New York you will find
modern tribalism as people try to find a
franchise in a world that they feel
completely cut off from that's much more tribalism than just being interested in
the same topic could the panel comment
on the French mini tale experience or would the panel comment on you have the
right to say no the mini mini tell many
tell dangerous dangerous question nobody
wants to comment okay I think there we go ask west comment
it's Buddhist or something it is it is
it was a good first step onto something which is going to come very much larger
and and much more much more useful as
more media abroad in it is after all confined to a relatively simple
alphanumeric format one one gets information in many media at the same
time the system become far richer often
first in one respect that it proves as
my colleague on the Left said that sex sells and that most of the new
technologies are driven by pureeing interest and we never like to talk about
that but v8 VHS is a standard in the
United States because pornographers use that rather than beta which is a better
technology there are examples in every place you can imagine so minitel allowed
people to reach out and touch each other in very naughty ways quite successfully
thank you John
okay what equipment and communication
facilities will the household on average
income unless in other words I guess
well average income or less I guess it says have to participate that to have to
have to participate in the Information Age okay well it could be almost any I'm
sorry Craig first well I think it's the wrong question let me comment in the
question and then what I hope would be the right question because the equipment is the least of it my home at the moment
has so many computers there in my refrigerator and my air conditioner and
my toaster and my television and my automobile and so the equipment is the
least of it and will get cheaper and cheaper to me the the major expenses and
to be concerned about Lisa V lower income families is the information in
the services it's the royalties how much is it going to really cost to use a an
extremely effective education program that someone may have invested in that's
going to be the big cost that limits whether everyone gets it or not this is
an important point and we talked about the role of government this is not being terribly important the if the
information access is going to be charged for if it's going to be very
hard to use then the system may fail on a social basis but I see no reason why
to use a New York example a homebound
mother who was just sent her children
off to school should be able to walk up to her television set which would cost
no more than today's machine and be able to say is there any are there any
cleaning or childcare jobs along the
number 25 bus starting at 10 o'clock today and be interviewed within five or
ten minutes by a prospective employer with no more training than that and with
no more per capita investment now that is the that is a question of entitlement
in the United States we have Universal telephone service as a public policy
now that was this is a 1500 year old
instrument to just go one more step that
access to that kind of information becomes a public policy government can
do this at relatively modest cost sixty-year-old the point I was trying to
make earlier about newspaper delivery along the Kings Highway is exactly this
newspapers have a right there protected by copyright and they're protected by
the First Amendment rights to some degree in the United States when you transfer that information to a telephone
system it is a private road not a public highway and the the fact of the matter
is that private roads can edit and filter for their own purposes the
information that runs along them the rights of the publisher and the rights of the reader are not exactly the same
in the electronic Highway in the States today as they are on the on the roads
I'm gonna ask two more okay do it quickly those we get two more
quick one that I can't ask him to do oh I'm sorry right because in there there's
a major debate going on in the United States at the moment about what is
universal service for the next 50 years and it's fairly clear that it is not
just telecommunications the point I was making I think is the same as yours in
focusing on the information the information services you were assuming that government would pay and provide
some minimum the example you raised I'm not making that assumption
it's really quite unclear governments everywhere are strapped for cash and the
public seems quite unwilling to pay the extra bill so the question is who will
pay so that lower-income people can get the services not the telecommunications
and that's an open question well but the government comes out because
using information to make the economically deprived portions of
society more economically productive is a win for the government that is not in
that cost that is much cheaper to provide information which allows this
woman to get a job during the day than to continue to pay welfare cost welfare
in the United States is enormous and she's taking a small amount of money and using that a little more efficiently the
biggest employer of in New York City today is welfare inspectors as the
biggest single source of employment so
its influence an information job that could be replaced by a machine let me go
back to an issue that in a sense Craig dismissed and that's in this question
here will direct democracy as opposed to representative democracy be possible
thanks to a new interactive information system actually I hope not
because I I can just imagine through the
medium of television getting people all excited and somebody says let's go bomb
X yes or no and everybody in the heat of
the moment votes yes and that is a mandate of the people I think that in
one of the things that one of the basis
of democracy was cool thought rather than just hot-blooded oratory and the
cool thought was done through essays and longer deliberations and I think
building in any in any system where you want to find out what the will of the
people is and try and make policy based on it it can't be a direct route it
should not be a direct route it should be one in which there's both hot
thinking and cool thinking to come up with a policy in the end you know to
come up as a very very controversial issue in the next half it sounds like a
great idea for about it's going to be a second issue one quick last question what does
the panel see is the future of reading books and newspapers well I think the
I think there are two answers to that I'll take the book one the the book has
existed in lots of different forms in history I think the most important thing about the book is has been the distance
between the way information is represented in a book and the world of
the census I think that's been extremely important in a lot of different areas
and has fostered new kinds of thinking just in the last few hundred years that
have never existed on the earth before so I think that in any new medium that
we design we have to understand that that kind of thought which we could
calls symbolic thought thought that is detached cool thought has to be provided
for just as an example anybody who has a
computer today with a CRT on it probably notices that to read anything longer
than our nose bumper sticker you print
it out and the reason is that the CRT was designed to be looked at all the way
across the room with a very narrow viewing angle when you look at it up
close it causes your eyes to jump all over the periphery of the screen and it
causes discomfort and in about 10% of the people that actually calls causes
vertigo so the CRT is antagonistic to
text which it has been the major instrument of our civilization of the
last three or four hundred years so when we for instance when we put computers
into schools willy-nilly and think that we're going to substitute for books by
simply putting text on the screens we're in for a big shock because those screens
are not even close to being as readable a flat screen like a liquid crystal
display the new ones don't have that problem and I think that reading in the
sense of being making symbolic renderings of things that do not involve
iconic images associated with them will
carry on for a long time even as it gets translated to this new
this new technology John how about answering newspapers newspaper and book
publisher and of course as a very minor stockholder I hope that they continue to
be profitable and successful I think the
books will succeed and in the future as will newspapers it's just that the
proportion of people getting that information and from electronic means
will continue to increase today newspapers are flourishing in some
societies but if you see where the television channels increase and
newspaper readership usually declines and so most people today in America get
their news from television not from newspapers although many people buy and
scan them I think that I like to drive
old cars that's just a quaint thing and I would like to have books around
because of that activity and the very product themselves are appealing to me
as well as the information that's in them so books will always be around it's
just that when you have 90 million people in the United States judged to be
unable to read the future looks pretty grim for the text and written word okay
I think paper is an excellent flat panel display the cost is low the resolution
is high the power consumption is zero and it will be around for a very long
time the places where we will see some inroads is where you want
personalization hence more at the news and then at the book end because it's
still not economical to print a newspaper in quantities of one or a book
in quantities of one you also see where you in nonfiction work where you have
directories where you need information and you need other kinds of access and
slices through it it's certainly going to be better to have it electronically
than in print I want to
look at the clock resistor yes if we look at the progress in technology we
have gone from the four kilobyte memory
4000 bit to four million bits without any further change in physical science
we will go to four gigabits that is another factor of 1000 that is to say
technology progress from the beginning of integrated circuits to now is halfway
there in a geometric sense so I do not believe that the width of my successors
will somehow be baffled by building a printer a cheap enough printer to give
every person in the world a customized piece of paper the question is whether I
think Allen was the one that pointed out the question is whether the audience and
there will be an elite audience for it whether that audience will be large or vitiate 'add by the mindless programming
that will grind other people that other
people's intellect downward so there's a social danger that I can't really
address as a technologist but for those who will want to read and I hope I
certainly hope my children will be among those that will be books I'm sure I
would like to thank the audience I would like to thank them for their questions
and I want to thank a truly remarkable panel thank you very very much