It seems that all throughout history, human beings have been trying to utilise the latest technology of the times in order to connect, communicate, cooperate and colloborate (the 4 C’s!). When I say technology it might not always be the computers and social networks of today (but I will get to that shortly). Just think of smoke signals, carrier pigeons, the horseback mail courier, the telegraph service (morse code), through to the telephone, finally entering the computer era. The important thing here is really that humans are social creatures and we are pretty clever when it comes to finding ways to communicate even over long distances.
This continues on into our modern computer driven era, if we look at some of the ideas and innovations in communication and collaborative technology dating back as far as the 1940’s.
From Niall Cook’s book “Enterprise 2.0”, in 1945 Vannevar Bush, who was then the Director of the US Office of Scientific Research and Development, published his article “As we may think” with these visions of the future of communication:
“… a future device for individual use, […] a sort of mechansied private file and library.” which he called a “Memex”.
“…stores all his books, records, and communications […] consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility”
“…an enlarged intimate supplement to his knowledge”
It is just me or is his “Memex” referring to the explosion of computers and later smart-phones/tablet computers today some 60+ years later?
I know I certainly use my iPhone for many of the very purposes he describes above in my everyday communication and collaboration with friends and colleagues.
Later on in the late 50’s and 60’s ARPA and the ARPANET evolved funded by the US Defence Force and used by Universites as a way for scientists and researchers to share information over a geographically long distance via packet switching using the already existing telephone wrie; a technology that still forms the basis of our modern Internet today.
The Internet we use today again evolved from scientific research purposes, most notably in the 1980’s through the pioneering work of Tim Berners-Lee a student at CERN and his idea of a “web of notes with links” which we now call the world wide web and hence the reason for the “www” at the start of many website addresses or to use the correct terminology – Uniform Resource Locators (URLs).
In a recent TED talk video (included below and well worth a watch!) Tim again explains his vision like this:
“…imagine that that link could have gone to virtually any document you could imagine.”
Further on in this video he moves on to explain his vision for the future of the web, which he is calling “Linked Data” the idea that raw data is available for anyone to use, share and combine to create new data and insight. Which has a lot of “unlocked potential” in terms of scientific research, enterprise and society.
The more data our scientists across disciplines can access, share and cross-pollenate, perhaps the better cooperation and collaboration can take place and maybe, just maybe, we can start to solve the problems we are facing now and in the future on our planet.
The use of social media and social data in our personal and work lives will be key to making this happen as we become a more open and transperant society, much to the horror of the old guard in government and business!