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6/19/2006
00:00 AM
Stowe Boyd
Stowe Boyd
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John Seely Brown on The Future of Collaboration

A mildly schitzophrenic presentation was delivered by John Seely Brown, the former Former Chief Scientist of Xerox, at the Collaborative Technologies Conference this morning. Seely Brown began with a macroeconomic analysis of the differences between Asian and US supply chain approaches, and then segued into a deep dive about modern collaboration technologies and their impact on how we will collaborate in the future.

He started out with a condemnation of Detroit style supply chains, arguing that the friction involved between suppliers and buyers is destructive. The focus on price, rather than cost, and the lack of collaboration in the system, dooms this era of supply chain. The alternative? Productive friction in the supply chain where suppliers and buyers are working together to collectively improve processes.

How will today's IT deal with the possibilities of ever larger groups of suppliers, when historically they have found it difficult to work with even a handful of partners? Brown argues that service-oriented architectures (SOAs) based on loosely coupled web services will be the path that companies take. Instead of focusing on the hard-coded "authorized" business processes, Brown suggests that real learning and real innovation takes place in the emergent soft processes, and that's what we need to focus on.

And where does this lead us? Web 2.0 -- new technologies based on social architecture [my term] and participatory esthetics -- will play the foundation for new directions in collaboration.

Brown used Cory Doctorow's Book Launch party in Second Life as an indicator of things to come. What can we learn about the future of online collaboration from Second Life? What does it suggest about the future of mediation, diplomacy, or online life and business?

Brown closed by asserting that we are in an unusual moment, a time of punctuated evolution. Moore's Law is being overturned, and we will see a 100 fold increase in computing power based on the commoditization of processors, the rise of the LAMP stackj and web services (SOA) architectures/Web 2.0. This enables the rise of global platforms, like Google, on which a wave of new innovation will occur.

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