There is, however, a common dilemma. The best works that exist are usually about aspects or tools that are incorporated into the comprehensive system of integrated technologies that is the Information Age platform that impacts our present and will underly our future when fully completed.
Few writers or film makers currently are able to grasp the totality and to deal with the Information Age as a whole.
Creative output based upon the "big picture" of the Information Age is what is sorely missing and constitutes the kinds of works that need to begin appearing, whether in the field of high technology, sociology, philosophy, political science, history, or other disciplines, all important facets of the impact of a true new age, which, as history has shown, changes every aspect of life.
And it should be noted that these will NOT begin appearing until such time as human beings acknowledge that the Information Age is, in fact, a true new age and begin to study it as one. Clinging to the belief that the new tools coming into existence are merely an extension of the Industrial Age will not achieve any kind of breakthrough.
In terms of books, there are more and more substantial volumes being issued, but these most often have to do with particular innovations/inventions that played an important role in technological development – the transistor, the microchip, etc. They are unquestionably important contributions, but still not enough to help us move into a true new age.
In the area of film and video, the television show "NOVA," in particular, has produced some excellent programs on high technology; however, these are, like books, mostly presented in a highly focused manner, but there has been a notable exception. A NOVA program I saw recently focused upon how the collective mindpower of humans is being harnessed in new ways through the interconnections made posssible by the Information Age to solve problems, interestingly enough in the format of a game, that could not be solved before, or solved with very poor results by computers.
The fact that important breakthroughs are beginning to occur through this particular effort of 30,000 people working together is EXACTLY the kind of advancement that the Information Age has the potential to provide, and that will, in fact, carry Humankind towards a Renaissance if we will learn to think through the possibilities of the Information Age and to choose such a path.
The Classic Works
Two works are considered fundamental to the evolution of computers and communications, both of which were published in 1948.
Claude E. Shannon first published The Mathematical Theory of Communication in the Bell System Technical Journal in the July and October 1948 issues, and the work then appeared in book form in 1949, accompanied by Warren Weaver’s essay, “Recent Contributions to the Mathematical Theory of Communications.” Few books have had as lasting an impact or played as important a role in our modern world as The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Shannon essentially gave birth to the science called information theory. However, Shannon's theory was larger than just information theory as it relates to computers, and encompassed not only written and oral speech, but also music, the pictorial arts, the theatre, the ballet, and in fact all human behavior.
Readily available in book form as well.
Norbert Weiner was an American theoretical and applied mathematician who is best remembered as the founder of cybernetics, a field that formalizes the notion of feedback and has implications for engineering, systems control, computer science, biology, philosophy and the organization of society. His ideas were first published in 1948 in the work Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Wiener set forth the requirements of the modern computer as we know them today: the central adding and multiplying apparatus of the computing machine should be numerical, the components should be electronic and not mechanical, the numerical system used should be binary (Wiener was aware of the work of Claude Shannon and his recommendation to use binary code), the computer should operate without human intervention once set in motion, and the storage memory should be fast and re-usable.
Readily available in book form in multiple editions.
In terms of the final realization of the Information Age as we now know it, which is based upon James Messenger's Theory of the Information Age, the concept of the interconnection of computers via telecommunications, a third work is fundamental.
The Death of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company – How "Ma Bell" Died Giving Birth to the Information Age by James R. Messenger was the first overall history of the events that have led to the creation of the Information Age technological/economic/social platform that is now in existence. The value of the book is that it creates a framework of understanding based upon The Theory of the Information Age that can be applied by future historians in discussing the wider impacts now occurring.
Available through any bookstore.
ISBN 978-0-914695-01-1 $18.95
Works Presenting a Healthy Vision for Our Future
Related to the work just above, If I Won the Nobel Prize by James R. Messenger was written in 1996 upon the occasion of the 100th anniversay of the death of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prizes, and is a model/one vision of what humans might do to advance themselves in the Information Age.
Available through any bookstore.
ISBN 978-0-914695-07-3 $11.95
In One Man's Life – Chapters from the Career of Theodore N. Vail by Albert Bigelow Paine is, in my estimation, the finest book ever written about the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, and the only book, to my knowledge, about the Bell System genius Theodore N. Vail.
A great deal of understanding concerning the Information Age can begin with this book because of the continuity of business principles and behavior of the Bell System across more than 100 years. A first point of understanding is that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Theodore N. Vail invented the telephone company. The result of these two men's lives combined was the Bell System. There is also an enormous amount of solid business wisdom for any business person within these pages.
And it should also be noted that Theodore N. Vail was one of the founders of Junior Achievement, referenced on this website, and he was a major supporter of the important volunteer organization known as the Telephone Pioneers of America, which has today become the Pioneers, and which is also referenced on this website.
Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Toynbee Convector,” while lesser known than many of his other works, nevertheless stands as one of his masterpieces. This remarkable tale tells a story very much like a description of our own time – and Bradbury’s solution to humanity’s dilemma is most remarkable and well worth one’s time.
The work was first published in Playboy magazine in 1984, and was subsequently featured in a 1988 short story collection also titled The Toynbee Convector. Turner Publishing, Inc., issued a beautiful illustrated book version of The Toynbee Convector in 1992 with artwork by artist Anita Kunz, which is the edition referenced here.
As a side note, I had the privilege of directing Mr. Bradbury at his home for one of the first high definition video recordings for presentation as a keynote address on his views of the future for the landmark joint conference in Atlanta “Success in Cyberspace/The Olympic Games at the Speed of Light” held just prior to the Centennial Olympic Games in 1996.
One of the reasons that Atlanta won the Olympic Games was the self-healing optical fiber network that was used during the Centennial Olympic Games to ensure continuity of television broadcasting and voice and data communications. A demonstration was held by BellSouth and Lucent Technologies to illustrate the network’s capability to provide continuous service by literally cutting a leg of the network at a news conference before a large room full of reporters and the network repaired itself invisibly within a fraction of a second.
The Toynbee Convector is readily available through used book dealers such as www.abebooks.com and www.alibris.com and in used copies on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. It should also be available through many local libraries.
The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid. Most people do not realize that there has actually already been an “information age.” It took place in Ancient Times. This era started with the founding of the city of Alexandria in Egypt by Alexander the Great, and the city then became – under the Ptolemy line of rulers, starting with Alexander’s lifelong friend and Greek compatriot Ptolemy, who seized Egypt as his prize when Alexander’s empire crumbled upon Alexander’s unexpected death – the most renowned of all cities, equivalent to Athens and Florence in impact, if not greater. Beginning with the vision of Ptolemy I and continuing across time, a conscious effort was applied to make Alexandria the center of all knowledge and learning in the Ancient World. Notably symbolized by the famous Library of Alexandria, the burning of which has often been depicted as the greatest disaster ever to befall mankind, Alexandria became the most influential city in the Ancient World, with its famous lighthouse symbolizing the city was the light of the world. This remarkable book, in piecing together the story of how Alexandria rose to greatness is a solid, wondrous, and thought-provoking example to hold before us in our own efforts to shape the Information Age. The unabridged audiobook is an electrifying way to experience this remarkable work full of ideas for creating our own Renaissance in modern times.
Available through any bookstore.
ISBN-13: 978-0670037971 $27.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-4001-0277-8 $37.99 Audiobook
Other Valuable Books
The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, written by two of Google’s business leaders, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, is a good representation of the kind of thinking that informationage.org is trying to promote. If mankind will think through the character and impacts of the Information Age, humans can give ourselves the power to guide this new era to fullest benefit. Hopefully, this volume will be just the beginning of America’s and the world’s best thinkers reflecting upon the great issues raised by the coming of the Information Age and help humanity create the positive guidance necessary to yield a new Renaissance.
From the book description: “…Schmidt and Cohen illustrate just how much we have to look forward to—and beware of—as the greatest information and technology revolution in human history continues to evolve. On individual, community and state levels, across every geographical and socioeconomic spectrum, they reveal the dramatic developments—good and bad—that will transform both our everyday lives and our understanding of self and society, as technology advances and our virtual identities become more and more fundamentally real.”
Available through any bookstore.
ISBN-13: 978-0307957139 $26.95
Who Owns the Future?byJaron Lanier is an important work because Mr. Lanier has recognized the importance of the fundamental concept of the Information Age – the power of the interconnection of computers via telecommunications. His conclusions underscore why it is important for humans to think about the impacts now occurring rather than just letting them happen on their own. That is precisely the kind of thinking informationage.org is trying to promote.
From the book description: “Who Owns the Future? is a visionary reckoning with the effects network technologies have had on our economy. Lanier asserts that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class. Now, as technology flattens more and more industries—from media to medicine to manufacturing—we are facing even greater challenges to employment and personal wealth.
“But there is an alternative to allowing technology to own our future. In this ambitious and deeply humane book, Lanier charts the path toward a new information economy that will stabilize the middle class and allow it to grow. It is time for ordinary people to be rewarded for what they do and share on the Web.”
Available through any bookstore.
ISBN-13: 978-1451654967 $28.00
Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier documents the latest trend in high technology, “big data,” a concept whereby new insights can be gained by the application of study to large quantities of data. This is currently the hottest trend in technology and the dramatic impact it will have on the economy, science, and society at large may well be significant in altering how humans see our world. The authors explain what “big data” is, how they perceive it will change our lives, and what they think we can do to protect ourselves from its hazards – pointed out most recently by the NSA scandal.
Available through any bookstore.
ISBN-13: 978-0544002692 $27.00
- The next step in building the Information Age: Moving to broadband, TelephonyOnline, June 5, 2002
This article for Telephony Magazine, the most important of the telecommunications industry trade publications, was written to provide both understanding of the current state of evolution of the Information Age and to give a rationale/provide motivation for the industry to continue the buildout of digital networks to provide end-to-end broadband connectivity to help make the Information Age economically viable.
- Broadband & Hollywood, White Paper, June 7, 2002
This white paper introduced Hollywood to the technology model of the Information Age and explained both the impact of the coming of the Information Age and the role the entertainment business would play going forward. The goal was to "jump start" thinking within Hollywood regarding the new technology and the opportunities that would be forthcoming.
How to create a brilliant and happy future for humanity. "Success in Cyberspace" was one of the first high tech conferences proposing ideas for advancing the Information Age, which took place on Friday, October 20, 1995. Legendary Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury gave the keynote address for the conference. Appropriate to the theme of the conference, Mr. Bradbury presented his remarks in one of the first widescreen, high definition videos ever made. In this video, Ray Bradbury gives his advice and counsel on how best to approach the Information Age so that it will bring success for humans moving into a totally new era. This long-missing video has recently been found, and, as a result, Mr. Ray Bradbury returns to the present like his now-legendary time traveler Craig Bennett Stiles in Bradbury's The Toynbee Convector to give Mr. Bradbury's timeless insight into how humans can achieve "Success in Cyberspace."
The video that changed the world. “Defining the Information Age” started life as a large AT&T videowall presentation that was used with the world’s leadership in telecommunications, Information Technology, business, government, education, and other fields to persuade the world to rebuild the planet’s telephone networks as all-digital systems to enable the interconnection of computers via telecommunications.
“Defining the Information Age” was the first major presentation of The Theory of the Information Age, which has now revolutionized the world.
"Triumph of the Nerds: An Irreverent History of the PC Industry" is a fascinating, well-researched documentary on the history of the PC. Though looking a touch dated from the faded film, this is nevertheless absolutely well-researched and fascinating in taking one through the history of the PC up until the time the series was released. If you plan to be an historian in the Information Age, this is superb background for beginning to understand some of the technology that will now be a regular part of an historian's life.
Readily available. $29.99
Junior Achievement programs help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities. – From the Junior Achievement website
One Laptop Per Child's mission is to empower the world's poorest children through education. We aim to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future. – From the One Laptop Per Child website
Founded in 1911 as the Telephone Pioneers of America, Pioneers has grown to be the largest industry-related volunteer organization in the world. We’re a dedicated, diverse network of current and retired telecommunications employees across the US and Canada. Our Pioneers network has steadily grown through our grassroots efforts to spread our mission of service — country to country, city to city, neighbor to neighbor. – From the Pioneers website