The pace of change

speed of changeI had an appointment with my orthopedic guy the other day. My hip is still giving me problems, and we’re going to do an MRI and take a closer look. Something ain’t right.

So I was sitting in the waiting room and pulled out my Blackberry for a few games of Number Cruncher (the best). As I got ready, I looked around the room. There were about 20 people in there, people of all ages. Young, fresh-faced. Grey hair and wrinkles. In addition to all being in the same place at the same time, 15 of them were doing the same thing I was doing with some sort of hand-held device. I smiled and thought of the plane rides back and forth between Dallas and Fort Myers last weekend. Same thing there.

Those of us who write about change need to stop every once in awhile and think about the extent to which communications have already changed in a very short period of time. However, those who cling to the past, endeavoring to bolt the new onto the old need to think about it even more. We’re all carrying the world in the palms of our hands, and it is a stunning paradigm shift that we’re all experiencing as it happens.

Where’s it going from here? I recall the words of then FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who noted in 2004 that “application separation is the most important paradigm shift in the history of communications, and it will change things forever.” He was talking about separating content from the infrastructure that delivers it, the ultimate technological disruption for communications. Think Vonage as a phone company without wires. Think digital music cuts without albums. Think TV programs without channels.

It’s why I’m not very bullish on apps, paid or otherwise. The newspaper industry thinks that tablets are a mulligan, a “do-over” for a digital strategy. I’m just not convinced, and it’s why I think HTML5 is the way to go. We’ll see.

These little devices are changing forever the definition of “news,” because everybody can now contribute to the process. Take a look at a great example of what we call “curating” a story, compliments of They’re using a piece of software called Storify, which allows the sorting of items from a variety of sources to create a timeline for an event. I wrote on Twitter the other day that  “News is not news unless it’s in real time. Anything else is something else, and we ought to begin calling it by another name.” The “news” that we read in the newspaper or see in a “news“cast, is actually “olds,” as Doc Searls would say. We’ve got to find a different term, or we’re just fooling ourselves.

As I get older, my thoughts often drift to all that I’ve experienced in my lifetime, cultural and personal. I feel fortunate to have been alive during this massive communications shift, what I call the “Second Gutenberg Moment.” I hope that those who follow will continue the fight to keep this open and free for everyone, for it would really be tragic if it were otherwise. I also hope we pay attention to defending the electromagnetic space, where the real frightening wars of tomorrow will be fought. And I certainly pray that we use this technology and this hyperconnectivity to become better beings, as Kevin Kelly says we can and must.

As I ponder the picture of my fellow waiting room denizens, I’m struck by the speed with which all of this is happening. The next several years will be most interesting indeed.


  1. The singularity approaches…

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