In 1984 I was teaching a class on THE INFORMATION REVOLUTION: HOW TO MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU at 17 California State Universities and Colleges on the emerging computer revolution.
I was approached by Steve Russ and Curtis Koppel asking me to present to Apple Computer their new online publishing program that was the first consumer software that could publish what today we call a website.
They had worked for months to get their foot in the door at Apple Computer and wanted me to be their pitchman presenting their product for a meeting they had set up with top Apple and Bell Telephone Executives.
Apple had just released the first Macintosh user friendly computer interface the month before and was on a roll that was changing the world. This meeting was a big deal because it was the first presentation of an easy to use consumer software program for online publishing. It was such a big deal Apple called in top executives from Bell because they wanted to show what we were presenting was the future. And a lot of long term outcomes resulted from this early meeting that helped shape the world we now live in.
At the time Bell was the telephone monopoly and the industry joke was that if you worked at Bell you had to have a bald, Bell shaped head. These guys fit that description exactly!
The guys from Bell in 1984 said, “There’s a lot of talk in the industry that in the future telephone lines and computers are going to merge. But frankly, we don’t see that happening anywhere yet!”
My pitch focused on the new found freedom of self-publishing this technology gave users never before possible. Formerly you had to go through an editor of some type of publisher like a newspaper, magazine or book publisher.
As hard as this may seem to imagine today, “Now you can publish yourself!” was the new idea that was pioneering the early beginnings of the Internet at this meeting of Apple Computer and Bell Telephone Executives it was my honor to speak to in 1984.
In retrospect, none of us at that time could dream of how the Internet has transformed the world since 1984. For myself and countless others it has enabled me to live my dream being an information entrepreneur as a digital nomad traveling the world where it didn’t matter where I worked, it was the quality of my insight and ideas that brought value to others.
It’s liberated me and so much of the world from it not mattering where I worked but being able to work where ever I go so long as I have an internet connection enabling me to be helpful to others.
But frankly, what I didn’t see coming was that now you can upload any sick LSD nightmare to the web and find a following! Dark uses of the internet to spread malicious hearsay that leads to Internet anarchy and unverified conspiracy theories where all people need is their own anger for proof!
Will Rogers said in the 1930s when radio was that next big thing that “Rumor travels faster but the truth stays put longer!”
That’s not the fault of the technology – but the discretion of what people do with it that is the misuse.
Not the dream of the greatness of “Now you can publish yourself” that the Internet has achieved!
Here are a few excerpts and outline of the curriculum I presented on 17 California State University Campuses in 1984 on THE INFORMATION REVOLUTION: HOW TO MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU foretelling the life we would now be living almost four decades later.
INTRODUCTION TO THE INFORMATION REVOLUTION
We are experiencing the early stages of a dramatic revolution transforming our lives in ways we have only begun to imagine. Emerging technology in computer sciences, telecommunications and visual media are profoundly changing the way we do business, the way we spend our leisure time, how we learn – even how we think about our own thinking process.
The Information Revolution is profoundly changing the very manner by which wealth is defined and created. This fundamental restructuring of our society is exciting for a number of reasons. Just as the Industrial Revolution extended the power of a person’s muscle, the Information Revolution will extend the power of our intellect.
Information Economies are characterized by intellectual capital formation. While industrial manufacturing is capital-intensive, and agriculture is land and labor-intensive, information is idea-intensive which fundamentally changes the costs and characteristics of market participation.
The value of information as an economic commodity is that it enables someone or something to work smarter. While our society continues to think of itself as an industrial economy, we must realize that information enterprises often prosper under conditions quite different from those yielding success with industrial manufacturing. Information enterprises involve a higher degree of intangible assets like the knowledge level of their workers and require different measures to gage success.
Information enterprises give the little guy, or someone with a new insight a more even shot at the marketplace. Many of the businesses we explore in this book have relatively low start-up costs and high value-added pricing, which means if they are successful they have the potential of being very profitable. With consulting, software production or fee-based information services, being big doesn’t necessarily make you are better with a wide range of information products.
The Information Revolution will bring as sweeping changes as the Industrial Revolution, however the Information Revolution will happen much faster generating a wide range of opportunities for information entrepreneurs. Whenever someone comes up with a good idea, it makes possible several new ideas that can be based on the original concept. We sometimes need to be reminded that most things have yet to be thought of!
We’re watching history being made, witnessing first hand a dramatic transformation in the evolution of humanity. All of the previous breakthroughs in communication – including speech, writing, printing, telephone, and broadcast media – have produced far reaching changes in society. There is every reason to believe that digital communications will change our culture in ways equally profound.
Because many of the new information technologies are penetrating America’s economy first, we are the earliest to experience the benefits (and burdens) these new tools bring. This knowledge – our technical expertise – is valuable information that as we move to a more global economy is becoming our most important international export.
Information is increasingly becoming the mainstay of our economy, yet our thinking about information as a commercial asset is far from clear. What gives information value is often intangible, which raises a wide range of questions as to how these types of products are priced, how information marketing differs from other types of product marketing, and perhaps most fundamentally, how do you create information services people value and pay money for?
This book deals with these questions in three sections. The first part looks at the Revolution itself, the major trends shaping the future of the new information technologies. The object is to look at the dynamics of the Revolution, both from a historical perspective to study what lessons can be learned from the past, as well as examining areas changing the fastest that offer opportunities for information entrepreneurs or consultants who’s product is implementing these changes for users.
The fast breaking developments transforming the information economy today create opportunities for those who know the terrain and know how to operate in an era of accelerated obsolescence. It’s a market environment where what you know may be far more important than how long you’ve been doing it.
The second section deals with the economics of information, i.e., how to take-an idea and turn it into a product, for there’s a world of difference between valuable information and an information product. We go through the value-added process during the life cycle of an information product to make clearer the factors that give information value.
Commerce in information is not only growing, it is taking on many new forms. Since most of the new information services require repeat business to be profitable, it is important to be able to justify information costs in a rational manner to satisfy increasingly sophisticated users.
Revolutions are times of accelerated change, and the changes the Information Revolution’s bringing demands we develop new ways of thinking about our enterprise if we expect to do business during the Revolution and prosper.
The final section looks at a variety of professional and career strategies to get in front of the major economic trends shaping our future – how to make the Information Revolution work for you. While reading this book, it is important to keep in mind that technological breakthroughs create opportunities on several levels, not just the technical level which is often the most immediate or tangible and gets the most attention in the press.
The career paths explored in this book range from highly technical telecommunication careers to relatively non-technical home-based businesses, some of which were not even possible a couple of years ago. Much of what is said is aimed at the information entrepreneur, that is, someone who’s self employed with an idea-intensive enterprise such as consulting or electronic media production.
The word “Information” is used in this book in ways that are important to differentiate. On the one hand, it can mean topical information such as what is often the subject of a book, a talk or a narrative film. It can also be technical information such software, or the engineering specifications of a manufactured product.
A product that is highly engineered, like a solid-state car stereo is an information-intensive product because it has a high ratio of information to mass.
Topical information and technical information are not separate entities, but more like opposite ends of a continuum. There is a full spectrum of information that to some degree combines topical and technical material.
However, it is important to keep in mind the difference between how these types of information are produced, marketed and used to understand their role in the information economy. Some statements made in this book may be truer for topical than for technical information, or vice-versa.
CHAPTER ONE: THE EVOLUTION OF HUMAN ECONOMIES
A. Increasingly, we are living in a society where information is developed, packaged, bought and sold as an economic commodity.
B. Information commerce is nothing new. What is new is:
1. Emerging information technology that is changing the speed, volume, and demand for this type of commerce.
2. The costs of tangible goods are going up due to increasingly scarce resources and fuel, while the cost per-bit of electronic information is going down.
3. Technology like personal computers, small format video tape, even low cost photocopy printing is putting new tools in the hands of relatively small information producers.
4. The number of entrepreneurs trading in information is growing because information enterprises can be relatively inexpensive to start which means if they’re successful have a very good chance of being very profitable. They have high value-added pricing.
C. The Information Revolution is as much a conceptual revolution as a technological revolution.
1. The Information industry is a relatively new concept, not yet recognized or statistically analyzed by the federal government. Important aspects of the information economy deals with intangible assets like copyright not measured by the gross national product.
2. Industries who only a few years ago would have thought of themselves as very different businesses are rapidly being linked in ways producing a growing awareness that the business they’re really in is the information industry.
D. The growth of information commerce is creating an environment where entrepreneurship is on the rise because many aspects of information production work in the favor of the small operator.
E. Revolutions are times of accelerated change – creating opportunities and obsolescence.
1. As with any of the former transformations of society, there will be winners and losers. Those who can understand and adapt to the changes stand to gain the most.
2. To the inexperienced, computer knowledge can seem cold and depersonalizing.
3. From a historical perspective, this is nothing new. Alienation with the social transformations technology brings is always a recurring phenomena.
F. As we try to anticipate the changes of the future, let’s look at the evolution human society has already undergone.
1. To see what lessons can be learned from the past, and
2. To take a closer look at what we may have already forgotten.
G. What have been the factors that have accelerated the major social transformations of the past?
H. What have been the human costs that accompany these transitions which have slowed their acceptance, or have resulted in some societies rejecting the benefits of the next era? How can we recognize these factors so as to minimize their costs?
HUNTERS AND GATHERERS
Nomadic or semi-nomadic
Hunting Ground and Magic
Animistic – senses a living spirit in all things
Power of spirit is seen as at least equal to physical power
Importance of dreams for vision and hope
Importance of kinship relations
Loose political system – small groups
High level of personal freedom
Freedom to “go where your heart will”
Unity of spirit / psyche with nature
World of spirit less clouded by material objects
Vulnerable to nature’s irregularity
Minimum control of physical well being
Little accumulation of material resources
Capacity to defend land
Politically and economically stratified societies
Concept of nation
Family works as a production team
Small degree of occupational specialization
More reliable food supply
Increased control over nature
Creation of excess wealth by harvest surpluses
Higher population density
Subjugation of personal freedom to political authority
Well being tied to one place
Hourly or salaried worker
Transportation of goods and resources
Based around manufacture and transportation of goods
Greater specialization of occupations
Development of transportation infrastructure
Political organizations are geographically larger
Innovation and change increasingly stressed
Increased ability to apply and control physical power
Increased productivity with division of labor
Accelerated accumulation of wealth through manufacturing
Greater variety and choice of consumer goods
Decline in humanistic / spiritual values
Decline in cohesion of family unit
Increase in carcinogenic and stress related disease
Varied and Specialized
Physical space diminishes as a barrier
Accelerated rate of change / time becomes more crucial
Shift of emphasis from the physical to intellectual functions
Development of interactive information infrastructure
Principal productivity increases result from working smarter
Work become more task / results oriented rather than rated hourly
National boundaries decline in importance
Expands the power of our intellect
Knowledge based which is a renewable and non-polluting resource
Greater technical control of the physical world
Easier access to the economic system
Knowledge based reducing the effects of sexism, racism and ageism.
Helps overcome the disadvantages of the handicapped
Techno stress / Erosion of soul
The nerd factor / Overvaluation of intellectual function
Big brother / Loss of privacy
DATA > INFORMATION > KNOWLEDGE > WISDOM
1. Empowerment of the physical self and accelerated creation of wealth
2. Focus of intellectual concentration becomes more specific
3. Fundamental changes in our awareness of time and space.
Technology broadens our spacial horizons, contracts our
4. Isolation of the inner self.
5. Increased need for privacy.
6. A blurring of the distinction between information and knowledge.
a. Knowledge is information, but not all information is knowledge.
Knowledge comes from “Knowing”, and to know something involves awareness, understanding and consciousness.
b. There is a human element that characterizes knowledge that is subjective and largely unconscious. No one knows the full depth of the unconscious, or be able to consciously program it into a computer.
c. Knowledge is distinguished by a level of depth, how much it engages you, how many connections it makes, that sudden burst of insight that propels you to the next level of understanding.
d. No firm line can be drawn between information and knowledge, but because a line cannot be drawn does not mean a difference doesn’t exist. Its a matter of depth. Most languages of the world not as technically developed as English makes a firmer distinction in usage between information, and knowledge.
There are several reasons for this because, of course, you can have misinformation.
f. Without knowledge, information has no value.
J. The striking characteristics of the Information Society:
1. Physical space diminishes as a barrier.
a. Telecommunications link remote users, Satellite transmission is not affected by distance.
b. Information products are frequently small, lightweight, easy to move through the mails when they weigh anything at all.
c. With information, where you work is less important than the information you can deliver.
2. With an accelerated rate of change, time becomes more crucial.
a. As the tempo of life accelerates, accelerated obsolescence becomes a permanent feature.
3. Shift of emphasis from the physical to the intellectual – instead of working harder physically
4. The principal productivity increases result from working smarter because what someone knows becomes more important than how long they’ve been doing it.
5. More varied and specialized occupations less likelihood of lifelong employment with a single task
a. This means new flexibilities are required, and an increased need for lifelong re-education
6. National boundaries decline in importance
a. The growth of telecommunications has been the principal reason for the growth of the multinational corporation.
b. Digitized information traveling at the speed of light is very difficult for custom authorities to inspect.
K. The potential benefits of the Information Revolution need to be made clear to people to overcome the built-in resistance to new technology that requires us to develop new habits.
1. The Information Revolution expands the power of our intellect,
2. It is based on a renewable and non-polluting resource.
3. It allows greater control of the physical world.
4. With Information the basis of commerce, access to the economic system is easier.
5. Reduces the effects of sexism, racism and ageism,
6. Helps overcome the disadvantages of the handicapped.
Potential liabilities of the Information Revolution most apparent
to many. Some of these are valid concerns.
1. Techno Stress and the erosion of the soul.
2. The nerd factor, the growing phenomena of people who are
good with machines, but operate in a social vacuum.
3. Over valuation of the intellectual function, confusing the models we mentally create with the real thing.
a. Over reliance on information instead of knowledge concentrating on the small pieces and missing how the pieces relate to the whole.
4. Big Brother and the loss of privacy.
a. The privacy issue’s sort of like the weather – everyone talks about it but…
b. Never before have we needed privacy as much, and never have there been the tools to potentially undermine it like exist today.
5. Reliance upon technology makes us vulnerable to technology.
6. Information overload and optimum ignorance.
M. Just because we have these tools doesn’t mean people are going to use them.
N. How fast these technologies spread will depend upon how they are introduced to people.
P. Costs in both time and effort of educating the public of the benefits of new high tech products are being consistently underestimated, often changing the profit picture.
CHAPTER TWO: THE ELECTRONICS REVOLUTION
A. Many of the changes that are bringing about the Information Revolution are the result of advances in the electronics industry. The electronics industry is over a 400-billion-dollar business (1984) the largest ever created.
B. It is clearly an Information Age industry. What have been some trends and observations we can make about the electronics industry that can tell us something of how idea intensive, innovative businesses operate? What has the history of the industry revealed and where is it taking us? The major trends shaping the future of the electronics industry are:
2. DECLINING COST OF COMPONENTS
3. MAJOR INNOVATIONS HAVE FREQUENTLY COME FROM RELATIVELY SMALL START-UP COMPANIES
4. IT HAS OFTEN TAKEN TWENTY YEARS FOR A NEW ELECTRONIC INVENTION TO GO FROM INTRODUCTION TO WIDESPREAD ACCEPTANCE AND USE
5. ELECTRONIC COMPONENT MANUFACTURERS HAVE GENERALLY BEEN BETTER AT SELLING TO EACH OTHER THAN TO THE CONSUMER MARKET
1. In the past ten years, the active elements on a silicon chip have doubled each year.
2. Today’s microprocessor consumes the power of a light bulb rather than a locomotive.
3. The dimensions engineers are now working in are the sub-micron and the nanosecond. This is the quantum dimension, dimensions very different than the realm of in which we live our daily lives.
4. How far can miniaturizations go? There have been several attempts to define that limit, arid we’ve past several of them already.
5. We are now in the production stage of the megabyte chip
D. DECLINING COST OF COMPONENTS
1 The cost per bit of electronic circuitry is steadily declining
2. Electronics industry is dominated-by learning curve economics because principal productivity increases result from working smarter rather than physically working harder.
E. MAJOR INNOVATIONS HAVE FREQUENTLY COME FROM RELATIVELY SMALL
1. Small companies can often better exploit new, fast breaking developments
2. Big business pays a price for being big. The personal computer market was not pioneered by IBM, but by APPLE, a small start-up company
3. It’s as if the mindset of big business runs against the grain of innovative high-tech development;
4. Big businesses have more inertia. An elephant can’t turn on a dime.
F. IT HAS OFTEN TAKEN TWENTY YEARS FOR A NEW ELECTRONIC INVENTION TO GO FROM INTRODUCTION TO WIDESPREAD ACCEPTANCE AND USE
1. This has been true of the telegraph, the telephone, radio and television, and if it proves true of the personal computer, the real computer revolution will be in the next decade.
G. ELECTRONIC COMPONENT MANUFACTURERS HAVE GENERALLY BEEN BETTEER AT SELLING TO EACH OTHER THAN TO THE CONSUMER MARKET.
1. In terms of marketing and product design, the consumer business is vastly different from the electronic components business.
2. The people who run the semiconductor companies, whose names sound like mutations of a few basic syllables – tron, tech, or micro digital tronics – are largely of an engineering background. They can carry on long conversations without having to resort to English,
3. In the late 1970’s several Silicon Valley firms went into the digital watch business. They invested millions of dollars in a product they thought would sell like a chip, but failed to grasp that a watch was something people wore and lived with.
4. The people who develop this technology cannot be expected to tell us what to do with it. For the most part, the electronic hardware manufacturers have been preoccupied with their own highly specialized and highly competitive business, building faster, more powerful machines.
5. Robert Noyce, the coinventor of the integrated circuit admits that the whole consumer business was an area they never anticipated. The first microprocessor was built for a Japanese calculator. It cost $300. To those who invented it, it didn’t seem possible that the price would ever come down enough to meet simple consumer applications.
6. Noyce says the home and hobby microcomputing market was
an area they didn’t see either, which is how most computers ended up getting into homes – to play games.
7.The tendency for hardware manufacturers to be better selling to each other than to the consumer is exactly the predicament many computer companies find themselves in today.
a A senior Vice President of Atari said, “You know, we thought all we had to do was make this technology available and people would know what to do with it. Clearly this has not been the case. There is only.so far you can go with intimidation, telling people their kids are going to flunk out of school if they don’t buy them a computer!”
b. Home computer manufacturers are not meeting their sales goals because they have not educated their market on the benefits of the Information Revolution. With high-tech products that require new habits, new markets are created people to develop through education.
H. Many people think that computer technology is highly technical, and that since they are not electronic engineers, have little to contribute to this field. THEY’RE WRONG! THEY HAVE A LOT TO CONTRIBUTE .
l. We cannot expect to take our lead from the electronic engineers. They’re preoccupied with their own specialties. Often the type of person who is good at talking to the machine is not good explaining the machine’s use to the average person.
2. This is often where non-technical people find their place, explaining to users how this technology fits into our lives.
CHAPTER THREE: THE COMPUTER HARDWARE REVOLUTION
A. The application revolution is only the beginning.
B. Applications is where most non-technical people fit in, and is really where the excitement in the field is.
C. The major trends shaping the future of computer hardware are:
1. ACCELERATED PROLIFERATION
2. FASTER AND MORE POWERFUL
3. MEMORY – INCREASES WITH NEW STORAGE TECHNOLOGIES
5. PORTABILITY/REMOTE TERMINALS
6. NEW INTERFACES AND ENHANCEMENT PRODUCTS
7. IBM COMPATABILITY
D. Increasing proliferation
1. The amount of computing brainpower is doubling every two years.
2. Some estimate a 70% penetration of electronic keyboards of all kinds by the mid 1990’s, a greater penetration of society than telephones and televisions today.
3. In 1984 the dollar value of personal computers shipped in the u.s. will surpass that of mainframes by a lot!
4. What this means is THAT THE PERSONAL COMPUTER IS DECENTRALIZING COMPUTING POWER.
E. The other factor driving this curve is that the machines are becoming faster and more powerful.
1. Fourth generation microprocessors that will be the heart of the next generation of extremely powerful microcomputer, computers that will support advanced software.
2. Personal computers keep moving up in speed – 8 bits to 16, to 32…
3. Large scale integrated circuitry that will characterize the – fifth generation machines reaching the market in the early 1990’s will greatly increase the speed and power of personal computers.
F. Memory increases with new storage technologies.
1. Ten years ago the 2K chip was the state of the art. (AK of RAM is equal to 1,000 characters or about one double spaced typewritten page)
2. We are currently in the production era of the 256K chip and 1,000 K chips will be here in late ’85 or ’86.
3. New technologies in auxiliary memory storage with lazer disks, and vertical recording of magnetic pulses will come on the market in ’86 and ’87 that will boost current memory capabilities many times over like artificial intelligence that requires a great deal of memory.
l. Robots are essentially computers with arms.
H. Portability, laptops and remote terminals.
1. Miniaturization and breakthroughs in the display are making a significant trend towards portability. In fact, if these machines didn’t have to be interfaced to humans, they could be much smaller!
2. Nonexistent in 1981, the portable computer market should grow from $343 million in 1984 to $1.4 billion in 1986.
3. Part of the sudden emergence has been as a result of breakthroughs in the LCD. For a long time these could only be produced to fit small applications like watches or calculators. Technical breakthroughs now make it possible to make them large enough for a computer display.
4. Portability is opening up new applications such as electronic mail, mobile data base query, remote data collection and field engineering, or word processing on the go.
5. Portability refers to how the lap size (also referred to as notebook size) and to “luggables”.
6. It is anticipated that later this decade portables will be available that have built in cellular data communications capabilities discussed in the telecommunications chapter.
7. Computers have been a god-send to journalists and lawyers who deal with a lot of printed material.
8. Portables open up the possibility of small lap size computers controlling more powerful machines through remote access.
9. The biggest difference portable computers may make is that they make it less important WHERE you work.
I. New interfaces and enhancement products.
1. There are going to be more ways to interface with the hardware – mice, graphic tablets, touch screen, brain-wave interface – all aimed at making the machine more versatile and easier to operate.
2. You don’t have to be a mechanic to drive a car and you don’t need to be a programmer to operate a computer. The number of programmers will always be small compared to the total number of users.
3. There will be more add-on peripherals like modems and sophisticated graphic printers that will expand the human-machine interface and the capabilities of the computers.
J. IBM Compatibility
1. IBM is so big its mere presence in the personal computing field creates opportunities for others.
2. Among chip suppliers it was found that the more companies producing a chip, even if it where a copy arrived at through reverse engineering.
3. IBM adopted this technique by publishing the technical specifications for its PC to allow other manufacturers to make similar products and software.
4. Certain design elements, however, have been kept secret by IBM. As demand slackens, IBM’s strategy will be to cut their computer prices to pressure the clone makers. In the future, the only products that are fully IBM Compatible may be IBM’s.
1) ACCELERATING PROLIFERATION
2) FASTER AND MORE POWERFUL COMPUTER BASE
3) MEMORY INCREASES WITH NEW STORAGE TECHNOLOGIES
4) PORTABILITY/REMOTE TERMINALS
5) NEW INTERFACES AND ENHANCEMENT PRODUCTS
6) IBM COMPATIBILITY
CHAPTER FOUR: THE COMPUTER SOFTWARE REVOLUTION
A. THE MAJOR TRENDS SHAPING THE FUTURE OF THE SOFTWARE INDUSTRY ARE;
1. COMPUTER MARKET SHIFTING TO CONTROL BY SOFTWARE PRODUCERS
2. HIGHLY DIVERSIFIED MARKET
3. TOWARDS MORE SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS
4. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
6. APPLICATION LIBRARIES
7. BETTER DOCUMENTATION AND SUPPORT
8. MORE VISUALLY ORIENTED
9. MORE OPERATING SYSTEMS
B. The dominant overall trend in the computer industry is from control by hardware manufacturers to software producers.
1. Software is the soul of the machine, it’s what makes everything work. Before you buy a computer you first decide what your software needs are to decide what system you’re going to do with it.
2. For a longtime lack of good software held back sales of personal computers because without good software you had to be a programmer to use one.
3. Because computer operating systems are not all compatible, there is fierce competition among hardware manufacturers to get software producers to write for their models.
C. Compared to computer hardware manufacturing, software production is idea-intensive, more a matter of individual creativity than mass-production.
1. Because the hardware is slavishly logical, the creativity in making the machine applicable in our daily life comes from how well we can make the machine respond in a human “user friendly” manner through sophisticated software.
D. While there has been a lot of talk, especially in Silicon Valley, about the Japanese taking the lead in the semi-conductor industry, barriers of language and culture make software production an area where it will always be very difficult for them to compete, although they have had some initial success with non-verbal games like Pac-man.
E. Software production is a good example of an information age business – highly specialized, and characterized by accelerated obsolescence.
1. A software program can go from introduction, to marketing and obsolescence in a year’s time with active marketing lasting only a couple of months.
2. Software pricing is characterized by a high value-added feature, although software pricing is widely predicted to be coming down as a result of competition.
3. Most software production houses are one to five persons.
4. Although software publishing is becoming more expensive to market because of increasing competition and sophistication of the programs, you do not necessarily have to be big to be successful. Many important programs have largely been the inspired production of a single individual.
F. HIGHLY DIVERSIFIED
1. Software production is a highly diversified market, with no supplier having even a 10% share of the market. The top eight suppliers account for little more than a quarter of the market. The largest supplier of software for personal computers is, and will continue to be, the independent producers.
2. Software production is highly innovative, and just as we saw that innovation in the electronics industry comes from small start-up companies, the same is holding true in software production. The mindset that characterizes large organizations goes against the grain of innovative high-tech enterprise.
G. TOWARDS MORE SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS
1. Another current trend in software is towards more specialized programs. The most basic types of application software like word processing or spreadsheets are pretty much bases that have been covered with a glut of good programs. Much of the current work is towards more specialized programs, often taking software available on larger systems and paring it down to fit on micros.
2. The sophistication of microcomputer software is increasing very rapidly; however, it is not unusual for new capabilities that were unavailable to users of minicomputers or even mainframes in the past.
3. As computer users proliferate, the need for more and more specialized programs to meet their various needs is where much of the current work is being done.
Often what is happening is individuals spot a need for a particular type of program to meet the special needs of a certain profession. The professional teams up with a programmer, with each contributing their specialty – the professional the understanding of the needs of the users, the programmer the needs of the machine.
H. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
1. Artificial intelligence is the field that deals with the parallels between mind and machine and teaching computers to imitate human reasoning and problem solving. Whereas spreadsheets or word processing programs deal with specific numbers or words, artificial intelligence programs deal with the relationships between concepts and ideas with the goal of learning the indefinable but invaluable quality we call “common sense.”
2. There have been several attempts to define what artificial intelligence is. The American Association for Artificial Intelligence uses a broad definition which includes:
a. The capacity to learn from experience,
b. The ability to understand and speak natural language as opposed to mathematical type computer commands,
c. The ability to assess information and draw new conclusions that involve “common sense” rather than value judgments and comes up with an intelligent response.
3. Artificial intelligence is one of the most intriguing areas of the emerging technologies we examine in this book because. it has the greatest long-range potential of changing our world. There is simply no precedent for the existence of a factor like this in the history of human society.
4. Artificial intelligence programs that raise the machine’s ability to synthesis rather than just analyze information are the wave of software products that will begin to hit the market in 1986. There are currently many firms working in the area with the most active research in developing programs that;
a. Recognize speaker’s intent.
b. Determine relationships among several sentences.
c. Understand nonverbal communication.
5. Language by its very nature doesn’t have the mathematical precision that computers deal with so well. English syntax, especially, is irregular with many words having more than
one meaning. What’s more, we constantly make minor grammatical mistakes which all of us understand because we have “common sense” but to the computer is unintelligible.
6. The capacity for computers to use everyday language is only beginning to be tapped. What is envisioned for the future are:
a. Machines that speak several languages, translating documents from one language to another.
b. Word processing applications where artificial intelligence would not only check spelling errors, but also check grammar or suggest alternative words and phrases.
c. Other applications are programs that would enable computers to feed their own data based by scanning printed material, recognize what is significant and file it.
7. Since its function lies at the very heart of the learning process, artificial intelligence has far reaching applications in education.
a. Whenever we learn something we make an association with something we already know by unconsciously making a metaphor. We all have our own unique and idiosyncratic ways of making these connections, what engages us.
b. Learning software in the future may first learn something about the character of the user, analyze the way their personality structures metaphors when they learn, then present the educational material in a way that is most closely matched to the user’s learning pattern.
8. This interaction between us and our machine makes us look closer at our own thinking process.
a. An interesting aspect of artificial intelligence is that it has been found that the ability to make a mistake may be a fundamental attribute of brain circuitry, and the computers have been programmed to do things wrong from time to time. It’s this capacity for occasional error, where everything doesn’t go as expected that aids learning.