Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Day The Human Universe Changed

This brilliant guy, James Burke, was my inspiration for doing what I try to do through my posts, make 1 + 1 = 3!  This BBC series ran in 1978, but the points he made about the small shifts in our human history that resulted in monumental change are as valid and fresh today as they were over 30 years ago.

Here's a 4 minute edit of one of the most mind-boggling changes that has gone a step further today with the advent of the Internet.  In it he points out that it was the invention of movable type in printing presses that moved us from having our databases of human knowledge stored in individual brains, to being stored in books, then in collections of books (libraries), then computers, and today in 'the cloud'.

It's not the storage, nor the quantity of information that has been the key to our vast leaps forward with technology, however, it's something quite simple that is actually changing the way children today learn and process information.  Pay attention to his final question...


Kids today memorize very little because they no longer have to, Google is usually near at hand.  What they're learning is how to find things (i.e. search and connect).  What that means is not that they are less educated than earlier generations, it merely means that their brain power is freed up to think about other things, like how 1 + 1 might equal 3.  What this means is that, if we put the brightest bulbs in front of the right problems, they will make leaps forward in thinking an earlier generation might not have because they've been 'programmed' differently.

The next transformational step that is about to happen is instantaneous universal translation and payments on the Internet.  This is almost here, but once it happens, you'll be able to chat via Skype with a native in the depths of Borneo's jungle and order a custom-carved hatchet to be delivered overnight by UPS.

All the boundaries of our physical world, like the national boundaries that the invention of printing (standard spelling and grammar in languages) first established, and those of culture and distance, will begin to fade away once this change takes place.  Once people can chat for free to people from anywhere, anytime, and exchange not just information, but goods, freely, the very notion of what's important, AND of what 'power' really means, begins to change.  That's more like 1 + 1 = 11!

Here's a clip from another episode in his series, this one pointing the way forward to a time when 'free enterprise' will inevitably give way to a more balanced and fair distribution of the planet's natural resources: "Hole in the Ground"

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