To the extent that it’s possible, I’m declaring today the start of recorded history in information technology. On this day, the phrase “information technology,” abbreviated to IT, came into being as shorthand for electronic devices that aid humans in the storage and sharing of, analysis of, protection of, and access to significant amounts of digitised content. Content? That’s anything you’re capable of holding in your brain for even a nanosecond. IT is not a department or a group of people. It’s a smart phone. It’s a room full of SPARC servers. A telephone headset? A keyboard? I don’t know. They’re new terms. We’ll work that out as we go. I do know that if we didn’t have such things, information technology would be inaccessible.
Accessibility is the measure of successful IT. On a macro scale, accessibility refers to the ability to touch my content, wherever it lives, from whatever device I’m using, and all access to content takes place as though the information is stored on my device. Different companies are coming out with various ways of sending content through the air and through buried fibre cables made of glass. I don’t know what way will win out. I do know that all the players in this emerging communications market are charging way too much. Fortunately, we’ve learned from automobiles and airfares that competition always sorts things out in consumers’ favour as markets mature — but only if consumers force the issue. I hope people approach this IT thing with similar vigilance.
Accessibility also means empowering every person on the planet with IT. When IT takes off, it will become so much a part of life, governance, public safety and commerce that cultures and subcultures will become as dependent on IT as they are on rain. IT can assuage the fear that people have of wind and rain, too, because as it evolves, it will become better able to spot the currently invisible conditions that presage potentially devastating weather, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and the like. I have this vision of a radio station that guides people away from dangerous weather with specific directions from their present locations, taking factors like clogged escape routes and washed-out bridges into account.
As I understand it, IT will be able to look into the future. It will tell you when someone is embezzling or committing fraud within your company well before you have to hire private investigators. It will keep every professional and, eventually, every person in real-time contact with specific information that changes dynamically. Imagine looking at your watch and seeing which of your retail stores is doing the most business, then pushing a button on the rim of the watch to get a tally of the five top-selling items. The very same watch could tell you where your child or an elderly relative is.
Now that we’re on the verge of IT, I can’t imagine living without it. I also see ways it could be used against us. I mean, if we rely entirely on technology to share ideas and knowledge, isn’t there the risk that people will intercept it? I suppose we’ll either have to find ways to protect what we share using IT or just share everything openly so that even efforts to use our content against us is shared with everyone.
I’m liking this idea, but it’s scary. Someone’s going to look back on this day and see IT in the same light as primates’ evolution to the use of tools and weapons. I’d like to leave a positive legacy.