The most recent edition of ON Magazine contains fabulous articles and interviews industry luminaries reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the Web and on its potential over the next 20 years. Interviewees were posed three questions by EMC:
○ How has the Web changed your life?
○ How has the Web changed business and society?
○ What will the Web look like in 20 years?
The breadth and depth of responses has inspired fellow bloggers inside EMC and out to contemplate the same questions from their own unique perspectives. Colleague Kathryn Winkler, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at EMC, has tagged me to contribute my story and encourage you to comment as well.
How has the Web changed my life?
I might otherwise have become a motorcycle mechanic. In the spring of 1971 I had wanted to take the Saturday course at the city high school on motorcycle engine repair, but when the registrar discovered I was a girl, I was blocked. Of course, that wouldn’t happen today. J My parents went to war with the city to get me admitted, and in the meantime as I shopped around for something else, my eye was caught by a computer course being held in the basement of Dalhousie University‘s Library, so I signed up. And within the first hour, I fell in love with the technology even though I was a terrible programmer. (Turns out I’m a pretty mediocre mechanic too). But I was helped by other high schoolers that were far more adept and felt sorry for me as I thrashed through my assembler subroutines. But it didn’t matter, I was enthralled. I went on to complete a Math degree with a minor in Computer Science, and later an MBA focusing on the Strategic use of Technology, and did get to practice mechanics on a dozen or so motorcycles over the years. But the glee of being around technology has never left me, even as it becomes pervasive. I remember the exact moment the penny dropped for me; I was stunned, realizing it would change everything. It was 1992 and my consulting colleague Ken Rossen showed me gopher while we were at Dow Jones completing an Enterprise Wide Architecture engagement, helping them strategize on how to make an electronic version of the Wall Street Journal that people might one day read on tablets on the trains. It was a vision then, but a reality now, 20 years later. This month, as I watch Apple’s ipad being launched, I feel a part of it and a sense of satisfaction as what we dreamed about, on that, and many other strategy engagements, unfolds.
How has the Web changed business and society?
The paradox however, is that the web has leveled, empowered and liberated us, but also commoditized and distanced us from ourselves. Leveling the field of information lets us all see around corners, up and down, over, in and out, and helps makes the unfathomable more understandable. Seeing the latest Hubble shots helps us imagine our place in the multi-verse; watching 3d visualizations of hyperbolic paraboloids and fractals brings mathematics to life; connecting serendipitously through twitter or stumble upon makes it possible for us to question in hitherto unthinkable ways, and imagine ourselves into new ways of being. So many good things have happened through the web, crowdsourcing us together in a global community. But, at the same time, we all have experienced how a few clicks away can be so artificially close. Sometimes I long for the days growing up in Nova Scotia when people would just drop by for a cuppa, and catch up on the news over a long, leisurely conversation. Now, we pseudo-connect through Skype. The complexity is enormous and fragile, precarious. In so many ways, we’ve passed the point of no return. But let’s be clear: We don’t have a choice about this; business totally and absolutely depends on the interconnectivity of the web.
What will the Web look like in 20 years?
I don’t think there will be a web in 20 years. Last year conversion to LTE networks began, bringing the next generation of advanced mobile computing to life. Over the years what we know as the web will have morphed beyond the semantic web into a new kind of electronic fabric that will be so embedded in our lives it will essentially be an extension of ourselves. Ray Kurzweil talks and writes about the singularity, where technologies advance to the point of where we as humans evolve beyond our biological limitations – with profound social and spiritual ramifications. Ray estimates that by 2045, non-biological intelligence created in that year will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today. So, 20 years from now, 2030, we will be well on our way….
What’s your story? How has the web changed your life, our society and business? What will it look like in 20 years?