The internet has the answer
Monday, January 07, 2008
From time to time, I like to give Gabriel (my son who is 7 years old) small problems for him to solve without any help. His latest obsession, aside from Wii's Super Mario Galaxy, is a book called Earth And Space. He picked it up on one of our weekly trips to the local Chapters bookstore. This book has easy to digest tidbits of information about everything related to Earth, our solar system, our galaxy, and the universe. He's fascinated by black holes and wants to know why nothing can scape their gravitational pull. The concept is reinforce by Mario Galaxy, one of the best designed games I have seen in a long time, as it has black holes scattered all over the place that suck you in if you fall into them.
While reading his book, we found something about time zones. The section explains that when it is day time in Canada, it is night time across the world. It explains that we rotate around the sun and that our days are made from Earth's axis 24 hour rotation.
The problem I gave him was as follows: if it is day time in Canada, in what country around the world will it be night time? He said he didn't know and asked for a clue. I told him that we can use one specific object in the house to find the answer.
His first answer: use the computer and go to the internet to find the country. His second answer: create a globe in the computer and look around.
Although he is entirely correct on what tool to use to get his solution, I was thinking more locally: our old school world globe. He doesn't have an answer yet, but I'm hoping he'll pick it up to look for the point on the sphere that is across the North American continent.
I realized a long time ago that our generation has shifted the way we do things. Our parents relied on memorization to succeed academically and in the work place. We no longer need to memorize useless facts to succeed. We still need to remember where to find information, but our strength comes from knowing how to mix and match data to create useful solutions. (To a certain extent, we still need to memorize things. For one, high school students still need to do tedious work to get good grades; my suggestion for the high schoolers, jump the hoops for a couple of years and then do interesting work at the university level.)
Searching the web is a natural way to answer questions; however, we need to learn to differentiate between good and bad resources. Our children (my son, for example) know that this thing exists where they can play and learn things from. He is still too young to tell the the good from the bad (even we fall into that trap: "if it's in the internet, it's true" syndrome). With time, he (and we) will learn.
Now imagine the corporate shift that will be taking place, because the first tool we use to answer questions and solve problems is the internet. The corporate world will shift dramatically from the technology resistant management stiles of today to something incredibly connected.
We, the technorati-gen-Xers, will move into leading roles soon enough. We, who grew up with the internet, the web, P2P, will replace the wave of retiring executives, who have little use for the internet. Not all of them are resisting the winds of change, but there are leaders of industry and government that don't use technology the way the rest of world do. Did you know Bill Clinton sent only 2 email messages
while in his 8 years at the White House? That is an incredible statistic, considering he was the president at the time where most of the technology we use today started to being commercialized.
Now, imagine what's coming in the next 10 to 20 years on management and government innovation, with all our "surfing" experience under our belt?
I'm not saying we will forget about the basics of running a business and make technology the center of our universe. We tried that and it's now called the "web bubble." It didn't work, but we seem to be doing the same with all the "Web 2.0" talk. Regardless of VCs' enthusiasm for a quick buck, our MBAs have taught us well, and we have evolved to respect business fundamentals. Furthermore, we will be making strategic decisions at the speed of light.
True enough, we will have terabytes of information at our disposal, where a large percentage will be garbage; nonetheless, we've been training for a long time to make use of all the information that is out there: we don't memorize facts, but we know where to find them--and we do it rather efficiently; we know how to create new information systems with open sourced technologies; we have learnt to collaborate wiki stile; we share information, across the globe, instantaneously; in one word, we are "connected" all
Just imagine what we and these kids will be able to accomplish. We are part of the generation that doesn't know a world without top-of-the-line laptops and high-speed internet connections. We will solve unimaginable problems; problems that our current generation is leaving us to deal with: pollution, over population, oil dependency, broken digital laws, etc., etc.
I'm very optimistic about my future and my children's future. And the internet has and will have the answer, according to Gabriel.