Where the media end and you begin
In the information ether, choices proliferate - and the accumulation of choices made is world-changing.
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You got hardly any new information in a day - and, so, life barely changed for decades. Most people had one job all of their lives, lived in one town, had one spouse. In Adrian today, there's still one daily newspaper, but there are 25 or 30 radio stations and hundreds of TV channels via cable or satellite. Everybody has cellphones. And you can jump onto the Internet - broadband, of course - and instantly search the largest aggregation of information humanity has ever known. And more is on the way. Digital TV broadcasting is coming soon, allowing up to seven or eight times as many channels. Satellite radio is here, and digital radio soon may quintuple the number of stations. Websites multiply with no limit. And there'll be more.Skip to next paragraph
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With so much more information - so many more choices - change will come faster. Add the rest of the world and it's even more dramatic. Half of humanity lives in information conditions like those of Adrian 100 years ago. Roughly a quarter lives in information conditions like those of Adrian in the '50s or '60s. All of these people are trying desperately to catch up, realizing that better information is the path to better lives. As they do, change will accelerate in their world - and ours.
These changes are dramatically reshaping cultures and societies right now. The Christian Science Monitor recently reported on changes in family structure in China where, for centuries, life has centered on a strong family unit. The eldest male has been the family decisionmaker. With all generations living together in a single household, he decided what work everyone would do and whom everyone would marry. But in major Chinese cities, that's being swept away in a single generation. Spurred by huge growth in manufacturing jobs, China's young people are making their own career decisions, choosing their spouses, and living on their own.
With massive poverty and a third of the world's population, China and India plan to leverage their people into the 21st century through information and technology. And they are proving it can be done - progress some Americans fear will come at their expense. But if someone asked you what single global resource is the key to future human progress, what would you say? Energy? Raw materials? Technology? The answer is the vast reserve of human intelligence, creativity, and productivity that goes wasted every day. Why? Because billions of people can't get enough information to develop their native abilities.
In this century, those reserves of ability will be tapped as never before. Billions of people will get connected, and they will use new knowledge to develop their potential. This will spur the fastest advance in human freedoms and quality of life in history. And, as people around the world gain skills, they will also gain the kinds of jobs, technology, and earning power we have in the West. This will drive huge growth in the global economy even as it reshapes lives, jobs, companies, industries, and governments.
This kind of change may not be easy for us - but we can't deny that it is right for it to happen. And besides, no one has the power to prevent it. This is because, amazingly, no global power, government, or corporation has control of this information tsunami. It's happening precisely because the new information technologies move control of information away from the few, into the hands of the many.