Alex S. Jones, lecturer on the press and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, recently spoke to Harvard alumni in Seattle, and he pointed out that the invention of the printing press presaged 150 years of war, upheaval, turmoil and anti-scientific sentiment. He then compared the Internet to the printing press and presented the possibility that another century and a half of upheaval is on its way.
Centuries after its introduction, it's easy to overlook the turmoil caused by the printing press when it was first introduced. Rather than use the printing press to increase the spread of, say, scientific papers written in the then lingua franca of Latin, the original mass publishers "used the technology to make people stupider," Jones contends.
The clear implication is that our own "Gutenberg moment" is nigh; that the ability for anyone to publish anything may send society into a protracted decline from which it may take decades or centuries to recover. Based on ample evidence of stupidity in the public sphere fueled by the Web, it's easy to come to the conclusion that the downward spiral has already commenced.
Jones didn't offer any precise forecasts for how that might unfold in practice or prescriptive advice for how to cope, except to recommend that we recognize we're in the midst of an historic shift, that we attempt to preserve our values throughout that shift, and that we talk to one another about what we might do to counteract the negative trends that may arise.
The relevant questions for Enterprise Efficiency readers: Should IT professionals prepare their enterprises for 150 years of turmoil? If so, how?
The answer to the first question is obviously yes. That’s part of your job, to prepare for turmoil. That’s why the practices of disaster recovery, business continuity and information security were invented.
But how do you defend against stupid?