Thursday, May 28, 2009

Where Is Our Stuff Going?

Most likely, you are reading this text on a computer screen. In fact, if you’re reading this, then most of the information you get is transmitted to you via emitted photons from that computer screen. You go to Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, etc., and you read or watch content every day. You probably haven’t realized it yet, but you are participating in one of the biggest changes that mankind has ever experienced:

Information is no longer tangible.

You don’t have to grab a book of Wikipedia off the shelf. You don’t pick up a phone to call someone at Google to ask for a phone number. All of this information is being created, stored, and delivered electronically.

But business has not yet adapted to this paradigm. I’m not talking about the paperless office, or other such concepts. I’m talking about the idea of work.

If you’re reading this your work is probably not using a socket wrench on a bolt, nor is it using a plow to turn a field. Your work is conveyed through an electronic medium in the form of articles, journals, publications, reports, spreadsheets, graphics, websites, etc. This is now the case for the vast majority of people, and yet, we still think of only tangible objects as having value—as being something that represents the effort of an individual.

We are entering a more open and free era where intellectual property is no longer tied to a physical object. Right now, IP is becoming associated with software versions of the applications in which they were created (e.g., Word 95 or InDesign CS4). Eventually, with the evolution of XML or other such languages, even that will become obsolete. 

More on this later....

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