Bifurcation of Society

Bifurcation of Society

A commentary by Leane Roffey Line, PhD

We are quickly entering a period in which society will be split in terms of how internet resources are used. What’s the answer? My husband would say “let the other half die”. I’m not quite at that Draconian a point yet, another possibility is to somehow bring the non-users current. I’m not really quite sure how to do that, because resistance to technology seems to be clogging these people’s arteries as bad as plaque.

An example? I, for one, even at age 59, do not want a person for president of this or any “civilized” country who cannot or will not use a computer because he or she doesn’t think it’s important enough to warrant their attention. Real people don’t need to pay attention to such things, after all. Delegation to subordinates just reflects more of the “push the power to the top” mentality that I think is outmoded in today’s world. In the world I live in “power is pushed to the periphery”, which after all, is really what the shift from mainframes to PCs accomplished. Power, being what it is though, always has acted as a strange attractor in the swarm, things always seem to drift back up and centralize. Because of that, the ongoing task in current politics has to become one of conscious attention to what the daily action is, and how its affecting the body politic as a whole. Management, both in politics and in corporate America, needs to wake up to the fact that future success will depend, in toto, on their ability to read the frontliners and moderate action based on what is really happening. The only way to do that is to pay attention to those who are networked. You won’t be able to really understand what is going on by just taking a six-mile walk by yourself in your local park and engaging in more of the mental froth that has kept mankind (and Big Ten elitists) busy analyzing itself for decades.

In my view, it is insufficent to just be able to throw money at a problem, such as communicating with netdenizens, delegating such activity to whatever person is around who considers themselves a webrider. If you want to really understand what is going on you have to own the links, not the nodes.

The swarm is bifurcating into two pieces, not the Have vs. the Have-Nots, but rather the “pre-industrial and industrial society” vs. the “information-network economy”. The single biggest factor in determining who’s who? Ownership and proper use of the computer and related technologies.

The generation that once thought of this piece of technology as a fad is suffering now the effects of not just their age, but their attitude. By refusing to roll with the punches at the point in time in which the PC made it’s first appearance, and continuing to insist that the world is the same as it was at that point in time, they have made it difficult not just for themselves, but for people who are now stuck trying to communicate with them.

I think it’s fair to say, that even the 1998 “BLUR” economy described by Davis & Meyer et al. is an outdated model of what is occuring in today’s marketplaces. Rather than describing things in terms of mathematical derivatives, as they did, I’m suggesting that Integration is the tool of the day. Within these integrating functions (knowledge, imagination, trades, barters, etc.) are sticking points, around which the functions simply are not defined. One of those sticking points is the complete belligerence of the older generations to get with the programs. These people are no different in my mind from themselves as younger persons, whom at the time of Peer to Peer culture circa 1974, stubbornly insisted “You’re not going to get ME to change”…in fact, a lot of these very people I’m now talking about/to are the very subject of this commentary. Some are older relics of a time in which a man was not a man unless he shot his own dinner. We have room here to allow them the dignity of a peaceful retreat, considering what they accomplished in (as one 86 year old gentleman put it) “moving the covered wagons from coast to coast”. (Why exactly he took credit for something his predecessors did was slightly mysterious, but I was more than willing to grant him credit for it). Current mortality tables give us the indication that lifetimes will be considerably longer than what people of that generation would have been subject to…are we all to just stop growing because we are “aging?” The AARP doesn’t think so, and neither do I.

Enriched Environment. That’s one key that I believe will help enable all people to manage and measure their personal capital. We may be poor as churchmice in the ensuing decades, but as long as no one burns down the libraries, or kills the movie industry, we have a chance of at least staying awake. I’m looking too, toward modern science and biology to improve quality of life for many. We’re in transition now, but thanks to forward thinking projects (such as the Human Genome program of the last decade) we’ve got a chance to really make the world a much healthier place to be. In order to do that, though, people, in particular older people, are going to have to come out of their isolationism and start rethinking who they are and why they are here. The younger people I’m not really worried about, they’ve mastered the art of forming groups heterogenous to both personality and problem type. They’ve got a good handle on their links, even if older people cannot see it. This, after all, will become THEIR world, and they are organizing around it.

There will be two worlds in the interim, slowing things down to a crawl in some sectors, unless something is done to bridge this gap. That situation , of course, cannot survive for long, because in reality, there is only one world. So, master the ability to CONNECT. Form CONDUITS.

Those stuck points might just come down to bits of hardware, even ethernet cards…it’s one thing to multiplex or to bring broadband down to your firewall, but another thing to graduate all the mediums in between to optics. And the copper? Well, it just has to be recycled, now doesn’t it?

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2 Responses to “Bifurcation of Society”

  1. Great post — I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    One of the primary characteristics that I see in this bifurcation is people’s relative ability to take part in adhocracies as they arise and become relevant to their lives. You touch on this when you say you’re not so worried about young people because (to paraphrase) they know how to organize and reorganize their lives around this week’s human condition.

    Ironically, some of the same boomers who ditched any semblance of orthodoxy when they hitched a ride to Woodstock, some of the same peaceniks who would rather spend their time volunteering at the local food coop than setting foot in that evil institution we then and now refer to as a “grocery store”, are in fact the same old geezers who today are fossilized into top-down organizational strata that do not allow for the invasion of adhocracies of any kind.

    Funny, that. And kind of sad.

    Maybe the most resistant geezers are just the ones who were studying law, marketing or nuclear engineering while the rest of us were chowing down on cheap hazelnuts at the food coop.

    Or maybe they’ve just forgotten their roots. In that case, maybe this blog will help to remind them.

    Or maybe not.

  2. Myopia is as myopia does. Ruby J. Line, who is 94, and up until Earthlink quit supporting her emailer, was emailing regularly, stated “I don’t care how good a candidate he is, there are people in this country who will never support a man of color being president.” Ruby went on to say how incredibly shortsighted people can be, and how far from the idea of “democracy” things had moved in her lifetime. Since she is fully in possession of her faculties even at her advanced age, I believe she has the right of it.

    Ours is not a political blog, but I think her point translates well across all generational boundaries. I am reminded of the rhetoric during the election of John F. Kennedy, where his being Catholic was the central point of contention, and Ruby’s comment was restated “I don’t care how good a candidate he is, there are people in this country who will never support a Catholic for president”.

    I only hope people will decide based on issues here, and not on surface characteristics which are meaningless in today’s information economy. In fact, I vote we make no distinction in terms of how we refer to people — I’ve never seen a totally “white” individual, and in terms of the actual color spectrum, we are all “colored” (admittedly some more pasty than others).

    There is only one world.

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