Towards the information society

Allikas: KakuWiki
Redaktsioon seisuga 31. jaanuar 2007, kell 15:34 kasutajalt Kakk (arutelu | kaastöö)
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The Rapids of Change

It is becoming more and more evident that the human society is once again going through a stage of thorough changes - as thorough as was the transition from gathering and hunting to agriculture and from the latter on to industrial production. However, the intensity of this process seems to be much greater:

  • both production and destruction capabilities of mankind are virtually unlimited (in Terran perspective)
  • as seen from the news, even the most stubborn politicians are starting to admit that the planet has got its limits. The brute force (or brute money) approach is becoming increasingly ineffective.

Today's lecture has a number of writings by some wise people as its starting point - including Robert Theobald (The Rapids of Change), Charles Handy (The Future of Work), Pekka Himanen (Hacker Ethic), Manuel Castells, Vint Cerf and other thinkers.

Theobald has used the metaphor of immigration - we all are immigrants to the new kind of society. The old saying "let the young study, the old ones know" is not valid anymore. The process of learning will more and more shift from the previous, hierarchical model towards the network model (the process is well described by Pekka Himanen as the network academy). No more is a wise sage sitting in front of a bunch of humble disciples - the process of learning becomes increasingly bidirectional. The constructivist approach to learning, where knowledge is constructed individually from small pieces of wisdom (quite like building a LEGO) will probably become mainstream.

All people will need to master the art of surviving and controlling mindquakes. A mindquake (or mind-quake) is a concept by Robert Theobald, meaning a certain point in the process of change where the old model and old understanding lose their meaning - a new one must be obtained or constructed (to borrow from the famous parodist Weird Al Yankovic - "everything you know is wrong!"). Above all, it means the skill to cut and divide the major quakes into smaller ones that are easier to contain (just as we use the staircase not to be forced to jump from the third floor). The old Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times!" can and should be turned into a blessing.

An important point in the gradual change of values is also the reduction of the materialism and 'the Cult of Getting Stuff'. Some time ago, there was an (ironic) ad campaign titled "The one who has the most stuff at his death will win" - this mentality will give way to valuing the quality of life. The focus will move to the Person with his/her special traits, skills and preferences - but not as a kind of extreme individualism but rather the realisation that personal perfection can only be strived towards through interaction with others.

What is interesting - this somewhat philophical reasoning comes down to the mindset that has been dominating among hackers from the very beginning.

(A personal thought: yet, it might be not as simple as Theobald suggests. There is a quote that is attributed to Andre Malraux, a French writer and the Minister of Culture in France after the WWII - "the 21st century will be religious, or it will not be". While religions have caused their share of hassle in history, the almost total secularisation of the late XX century has been remarkably more successful in producing alienation, hedonism and nihilism. Some kind of balance is sorely needed. - KK)

Already in the 80s,, Charles Handy formulated nine paradoxes in the society to come. While they are initially put into the context of management, they may well be looked at in a wider manner. The abridged version from : lists them as follows:

  1. The paradox of intelligence. Intelligence is the rising form of property; yet such assets never appear on company balance sheets.
  2. The paradox of work. Because the economic system discourages people from working for free, simultaneously we have work crying out to be done (from helping the elderly to environmental cleanup) and people endlessly searching for work. Modern organizations cannot seem to bridge this gap.
  3. The paradox of productivity. At the organizational level, productivity improvement means more work from fewer people. At the social level, more people become inactive or enter the underground economy. The result is organizations become more productive and society less so.
  4. The paradox of time. The application of modern technology means less time is needed to make and do things. People should have more spare time. But time has become a competitive weapon and getting things done quickly is imperative. As a result, many of those who work have less time than ever before.
  5. The paradox of riches. Economic growth depends upon more people wanting more things. But increasingly, the things people want most (clean air, safe environment) are collective and cannot be bought by individuals at any price. And because there is no customer, organizations cannot produce them.
  6. The paradox of organizations. Today, organizations need to be local and global at the same time; to be small in some ways but big in others; and to be centralized some of the time and decentralized the rest. Managers are expected to be more entrepreneurial and more team-oriented at the same time. No one knows what is needed to run organizations now.
  7. The paradox of ageing. People never learn very much from the previous generation because their experiences were so different. The result is most organizations are led by people whose experiences do not equip them to lead in today's environment.
  8. The paradox of the individual. Managers are urged to challenge old ways. At the same time they are asked to remember that they are a part of a larger group-a team. The tension between individual rights and collective will has never been more explosive.
  9. The paradox of justice. People want the organizations they work for to treat them fairly. But being treated fairly means different things to different people. To some it means treating different people identically, but to others it means compensating for their differentness. Either way, the manager will be accused of being unjust.

As we look around at the beginning of the new century, we see several of them around already.

We can complement Handy with Manuel Castells' network society descriptions (further commented by me - KK).

  • information-based economy - the success of economic processes depends directly on information and its availability; the informatin economyalso includes agriculture and service industry. A threat is the exclusion of those not keeping pace - in absence of adequate regulation, this threat is much more serious than in industrial society.
  • global economy - technology-based relations favour some players while pushing aside others. Castells predicts the "third world" becoming much more diverse; the "first world" keeps producing exclusion, which results in the emergence of the "fourth world" consisting of excluded people regardless of the "world" they live in.
  • network enterprise - a new kind of organisation, which will develop from the initial purely economic entity towards a wider one.
  • changes in work and employment - emergence of flexi-workers (working without fixed time, place, or regulations); new methods allow more flexible approaches, but also produce more stress and discontent; the share of temporary and telework increases.
  • social exclusion and polarisation - work becoming more networked and personalised will weaken NGO sector, including trade unions and protection mechanisms of welfare society.
  • the culture of true virtuality - the network becomes a real medium and cultural enviroment, whose symbols will become cultural reality (today, a perfect example is Second Life).
  • hard and dirty politics - politics will focus on network media and become even more cruel. Castells sees the following chain:
    • politics needs the simplest possible message
    • the simplest message is an image
    • the simplest image is a person
    • the most powerful political message is a negative message
    • the best negative message is ruining the opponent's personality

Thus, the politics will become even more dirty and unpleasant than it is now.

  • timeless time - in a networked society, time becomes relative (e.g. we can chat in the Net in real time with someone from the other side of the globe - she has morning while we have evening).
  • space of flows - social processes will become dependent on things similar to the atmospherical phenomena like winds and streams - flows of technology, capital and information.

Quite an interesting comparison results from looking parallelly at three very different thinkers who dealt with social processes - Karl Marx, Max Weber and Manuel Castells (with Pekka Himanen). On one hand, every next one of them opposes to the previous one, on the other hand, all three are hard critics of classical capitalism.

Vital skills

The educational landscape of the new century will probably be very diverse. While all possible 'alternatives' keep thriving (Waldorf, Montessori etc), some will advocate return to strict Prussian models. Whatever the model, almost everyone seems to agree with the concept of lifelong learning. No one can be pronounced 'complete' anymore.

Education will move towards greater personalisation. Traditional 'same time, same place' teaching model is increasingly contested by 'same time, different place' (tech-supported distance learning), 'same place, different time' (correspondence learning; centralised, but web-based learning) and 'different time, different place' -models.

In the Future of Work Conference 2000 at Liverpool Hope University, Dr Paul Redmond outlined some interested tendencies of future society. Regrettably the presentation which was online at for a while have been removed by now - therefore the following is only approximate reconstruction of his work.

Traditional vs future
Clarity Vagueness, variety
Employer Client
Job Adding value
Career Portfolio
Promotion Personal development
Degree Lifelong learning

As seen from the table, the keyword is 'flexibility'. Even in Japan, where 'a job for life' was a rule for long (a samurai did not change his master!) and people sometimes still identify themselves via the company (I'm the Mitsubishi man), the globalising capitalism has forced changes in workforce much more frequently than it used to be in this traidion-loving society. So the job market of the future will be ruled by those young people who combine their good base education with open thinking and readiness to learn new things. The McJob introduced by Douglas Coupland (see also the definition here) will perhaps back off, but not disappear - it will keep preying on those who lack abovementioned qualities.

The new way of working

People slowly start to realise that our current economic system is based on extensive growth of production, buying power and jobs. Professor William Gomberg has defined it as "a whirling dervish-like economy which needs consumption madness in order to exist". The effectiveness decreases due to several reasons. Consumption is extremely uneven - the gap between the rich and the poor is widening in all levels (including international). Preserving environment becomes more and more expensive, while not all of those able to contribute are not willing to do it. In many places, changes in work time and form result in rapid rise of unemployment (also seen in Estonia, e.g. in the former industrial regions).

According to Handy, labour-based jobs were replaced by skill-based ones at the advent of industrial age. Nowadays, the skill-based ones will in turn be replaced with knowledge-based ones. In accordance with that, also the way of working will change. Earlier, people "went to work", spent a fixed time, did certain things and returned home. Today, an increasing number of jobs do not demand full-day presence or even full-day work - new solutions allow tasks to be completed faster and without being on site. Working at home allows saving the costs on transport as well.

As a side issue - Pekka Himanen has used an interesting metaphor here. According to him, the traditional work model and work ethic originates from monasteries. Strict regime and order, punishments for misbehaviour, work is valuable as such; there is the One Right Way to think, a fixed thinking frame and hope for a compensation in future (all this can be seen in today's companies!). On the contrary, the hacker ethic of Himanen has its roots in academy - seen as freedom of word and thought, unorthodox thinking and prefering essence to the form. This is the kind of work ethic that Himanen predicts to be prevalent in the future.

The new work model will give great freedom but demands a much greater personal responsibility. Even if this kind of work is shorter in time, it may be more intensive and stressful. Especially in homeworking, a major danger is to lose the line between work and leisure which results in rapid burnout.

Another interesting thought in Handy's "Future of Work" is the perceived return of guilds and smaller workshops (but on the qualitatively new level, being equipped with the latest technology). According to him, these small units will more successfully avoid bureaucracy and rigidity seen in large enterprises. He also predicts the rise of service industry - but not in mass services but rather more personal form.

Actually, what Handy predicted in 1978 has largely become true in the software world. Both the flexible small units and service-oriented business models are the core principles of the 'free culture' of recent years (free and open-source software, Creative Commons etc).

Ühiskond võrgus ja võrguühiskond

Ühelt poolt on Internet kõigest järgmine loogiline samm inimeste poolt kasutusele võetud kommunikatsioonitehnoloogiate ahelas - alates suitsusignaalidest ja lõpetades trükisõna ja telefoniga. Niipidi vaadatuna on kogu E-äri, võrguajakirjandus ja jututoad lihtsalt vanad asjad uues tehnoloogilises kuues. On avaldatud arvamust, et nähtust nimega küberruum ei ole üldse olemas ja netist vaatab meile vastu seesama ühiskond mis võrguvälises elus.

Samas on ka varasemad kommunikatsioonitehnoloogiad muutnud ühiskonnaelu päris tuntavalt. Ameerika ja Euroopa lähenemine teineteisele peale 1866. aasta telegraafikaabli paigaldamist muutis tugevasti nii äri kui ka näiteks ajakirjandust. Lähema näitena võime tuletada meelde, kuidas muutus meie telefonivestluse stiil mobiiltelefonide kasutuse tulekuga - korraga "oli aeg raha", suhtlus muutus konkreetsemaks, kontsentreeritumaks ja vähem formaalseks.

Internet lõi uut tüüpi kogukonnad, kus inimeste füüsiline asukoht ei mänginud enam mingit rolli - tähtsam oli ühine mõttemudel, huvid ja tõekspidamised. Interneti ühe pioneeri Vinton Cerfi arvates on selle põhjuseks eelkõige Interneti võimaluste mitmekeskisus - ta ühendab endas pea kõigi varasemate tehnoloogiate omadused. Eriti oluliseks faktoriks on kahesuunalisus (võib võrrelda kommenteeritavuse seisukohalt näiteks Postimehe paber- ja võrguversiooni), samuti lisab Internet senistele suhtlemistüüpidele "üks ühele", "üks mitmele", "mitu ühele" ja "mitu mitmele" veel terve hulga "halle toone", mis iseloomustavad ka vahetut inimsuhtlust. Näitena võib tuua jututoa, kus lisaks "say", "tell" ja "shout"-käskudele on veel rida võimalusi oma sõnumi edastamiseks.

Võrgusuhtluse psühholoogilisi ja kommunikatsioonilisi iseärasusi käsitleme lähemalt mõnes järgmises loengus.

Lõpetuseks ja koputuseks ehk tõmbame Tansaaniasse neti sisse ja kõik saab korda?

Sedalaadi arvamusi on avaldanud mitte vaid tavalised netifanaatikud, vaid ka üsna lugupeetud inimesed. Mitmedki näevad Netis imerohtu kõigi ühiskonna hädade vastu. Siiski - tuletagem meelde, et nr 1 netiriik maailmas on ka kõige rikkam riik, arengumaade netistumistase on küllaltki suures korrelatsioonis elatustasemega. Seega infoühiskonda siirdumine ei ole ilma tugeva majandusbaasita võimalik.

Tagantjärele on päris huvitav vaadata Eesti arengut selles kontekstis. Endine nõukogude asumaa ja idablokist pärit kääbusriik võttis kätte ja alustas kõlava nimega programmide abil infoühiskonda ehitama. Piltlikult öeldes üritati sapakast 150 km/h kätte saada. Senini on ülekuumenemist suudetud üsna napilt vältida ja tulemusi võib Euroopagi mastaabis heaks pidada, kuid areng saab toimuda vaid seni, kuni ülejäänud sotsiaalne infrastruktuur ees lippava IKT-sfääriga sammu jaksab pidada. Nii nagu Tansaania lambakarjust ei aita karjamaale paigaldatud terminal, nii ei ole Eesti peost suhu elaval pensionäril olulist abi Hanza.neti uusimast veebikujundusest või isegi ID-kaardist. Tasuks meelde tuletada kuningas Kokot doktor Dolittle'i lugudest, kes pidas postmarke "uut moodi nõiduseks" ja oli väga pahane, kui postkasti pandud kiri nõiaväel kohale ei jõudnud (alles siis sai ta teada, et vaja on ka postkontorit, postiljone ja muid tähtsaid tegureid)... Lisaks muule on tarvis ka uute lahenduste reaalset juurutamist - ehkki näiteks pikaajaliselt töötu inimene võib koju veetud Interneti püsiühenduse abiga saada end uuesti tööle, ei sünni see automaatselt: vaja on eelnevat teavitamist olemasolevatest võimalustest, samuti eri määral juhendamist.

Üsna ilmselgelt on ka tänapäeva tehnoloogilises maailmas vaja rohkem teadvustatud sotsiaalset mõõdet. Taas kord tuleks tsiteerida Himast ja tema häkkerieetikat, mis laiemalt rakendatuna aitaks ilmselt üksjagu vähendada tänase majandussüsteemi kohatist inimvaenulikkust:

  1. Töö peaks olema ühtlasi ka hobi - tõelist häkkerit ei meelita mistahes rahamäega, kui töö talle vastukarva on või mitte midagi ei paku.
  2. Elu ei tohiks võtta surmtõsiselt - väike mängulisusemoment aitab paljudel juhtudel töö efektiivsust oluliselt suurendada.
  3. Kokkurabamine on Paha Asi - häkkerid ei mõista inimesi, kes vajavad õnneks "veel üht miljardit". Kui elujärg on kindlustatud nii endale kui lastele, siis võiks midagi ka teistele jätta. Häid näiteid on selles vallas mitmeid. Tasub meenutada vana indiaanlast ja tema küsimust: "Valgel mehel on vaid üks paar jalgu. Milleks talle siis viied saapad?"
  4. Kas meie elu on reede või pühapäev? Euroopa traditsioonis on reedesel päeval paha maik juures - sel päeval löödi risti Jeesus Kristus, ka inimkonna pattulangemine toimus mõndadel andmetel just sel päeval. Reede on töönädala viimane päev ja reedehommikust väsimust ja nädalalõpuootust teavad ilmselt paljud. Pühapäev seevastu on hoopis teistsugune - Jeesuse ülestõusmise päevana on see Euroopas ligi kaks tuhat aastat olnud puhkamise ja mõtisklemise aeg. Tänapäeval võib nädal otsa töörakkes olnud inimene teha pühapäeval seda, mida ise tahab. Niisiis: kas elame pidevalt reedes - väsinuna ja pikisilmi nädalalõppu oodates - või oleme oma elust teinud pühapäeva?
  5. Kirglik elu - see ei tähenda mitte pimesi instinktidele allumist, vaid kõige tegemist "täie rauaga". Idamaine tarkus õpetab: "Kõndides kõnni, istudes istu - peaasi, ära uimerda".

Ja kõige lõppu kaasamõtlemiseks küsimus: kas inimene elab selleks, et töötada - või töötab selleks, et elada..? Viiteid:

Theobald, R. The Rapids of Change. The Information Society Journal. Redmond, P. The Future of Work. Presentation at the "Future of Work" Conference at Liverpool Hope on 8 June 2000 Get Connected! Manuel Castells on the Network Society. Electronic Culture - The Hacker Ethic.