The other day I heard Don Tapscott speak at one of those chicken-and-slightly-overcooked-vegetables dinners, and it got me thinking about the power of the Internet. (Don’s speech did, not the vegetables.)
For those of you who haven’t met Don, he’s an author (he penned Growing Up Digital, among other books) and a cyber-guru. (By the way, if your title is Anything-guru, you know you’ve arrived. My personal goal is Drinks-coffee-for-a-living-guru.) Don’s an interesting guy, and he had a lot to say about the societal value of the Internet, especially for the people he calls the “Digital Generation” – those the rest of us call “Kids.”
After dinner and between bites of white chocolate mousse cake I mulled over Don’s words. His basic thesis was that technology – and the Internet in particular – is remodelling both business and entertainment. In that he is correct.
It really came home for me when a colleague told me her childhood would have been a lot easier if the Internet had existed then. She’d had a difficult time, and had felt quite isolated. The Internet, she said, would have given her access to a large support group of on-line contacts. As an adult, she has many friends on-line and enjoys an extensive and fulfilling cyber-circle of friends.
That example – and thousands of others – illustrate the vast influence of the network of networks, but let’s keep some perspective. IT vendors will line up outside the door to tell you “The Internet changes everything” – usually in relation to e-comm – but “everything” is an overstatement. Sure, the Internet is running fingers of change throughout society, but people will always be people. Stuff will get purchased on-line and people will telecommute, but physical stores will always exist and nothing will replace a group high-five when a deal is closed. That’s just human.
The Internet is the great proof of that old clich