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The Coming Golden Age Of The Information Revolution
18 April 2002
George E. Pake Auditorium
Is the information economy's future behind it? Is its promise, like all the hype that surrounded it, exhausted? Prospects look glum at the moment; even management guru Peter Drucker says that "the information industry as a business isn't going anywhere."
History tells us otherwise. It suggests that the information revolution's best days actually lie ahead. The information revolution is only one of a series of technology revolutions in history. Several of these have experienced a chaos of early invention, a burst of public enthusiasm, a wild investment bubble— and a collapse. But in every case the major impact of the technology— the major economic build-out based on the new technology— comes after the bubble bursts. If this holds for the information revolution its best years are still to come.
What is needed for a post-crash technology revolution to go on to build out the economy? Three things: Proper arrangements of use-the thousands of small technologies that adapt the base technology to its users. An appropriate infrastructure. And a new architecture of doing business. These take time to arrive, and for the information revolution still lie ahead.
W. Brian Arthur is an economist, best known for his pioneering work on increasing returns in the economy: what happens when products that gain market share find it easier to gain further market share-and their role in locking markets in to the domination of one or two players. Arthur is also one of the early explorers of the science of complexity-the science of how patterns and structures self-organize from simple elements. He was Morrison Professor of Economics and Population Studies at Stanford from 1983-96, and is currently Citibank Professor at the Santa Fe Institute and a visiting scholar at PARC.
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