Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Newnoise1 takes on the present and the future with Alvin Toffler

I read Alvin Toffler when I don't know where the world is heading. Futurist and writer of Future Shock, The Third Wave and Power Shift, Toffler makes all the changes surrounding me make sense and gives me clear glimpses of where we're heading.

Don't let the fact that Power Shift was published twenty years ago, in 1990, make you think it's not relevant. Toffler's writing in 1990 is a spot on prediction for the world we are living in and the world still to come.

Take the monetary system. Where before we measured the value of money by figures printed on paper now we measure the value of money by symbols printed on a computer screen or information stored on smartcards. Where before money use to represent a specific amount of gold, today money represents only the fact that who ever takes it from you believes it's got value. It’s a matter of faith.

Plastic money is another leap of faith. You never actually see your money except when printed on a computer screen. This has its advantages since you don't have to crawl around the floor looking for coins after turning your pants upside down for the zillionth time without checking the pockets first.

What's strange is that even if plastic money seems to be the cheaper option compared to paper money, banks have figured out ways to make it look as if it's the most expensive option ever considered when you gawk at your bank charges. This is my opinion not Toffler's.

When money changes banks change. What do banks keep if they do not keep paper money in vaults but only blimps on computers? Could other companies do that just as well as banks? What power will banks have if they loose the power they have over the current monetary system? Toffler makes the point that our entire perception of what power involves and means is changing.

Work has changed and will change fundamentally. Work use to be measured by the time you labored, in future work will be measured by how hard you think and how easily you can transform information and knowledge into more useful information and knowledge. Where you could in the past teach someone a job in an hour or less new jobs require skills and it takes a long time to train employees. Therefore companies will want to hang on to those employees who they've spent some time to train.

When work changes power structures change. Governments who don't realize that knowledge is the basis of current and future development will be left behind.

Individuals and corporations who harness the power of technology in providing quality information, knowledge and services will be the ones who thrive and will have the power to influence the world.

Monday, February 15, 2010

newnoise1 Adrift: A survivor's incredible voyage

Always make sure you have a number of survival to life, the universe and everything type of books within arms reach. That way you'll know if you're in serious trouble or if what you're facing is more or less normal.

This week I read Adrift by Steven Callahan, first published in 1986 and printed by Ballantine Books, New York. This is the incredible story of how Callahan spent longer than two months adrift in an emergency raft he named Rubber Ducky III. Callahan's triumph will give you a broad glimpse into what it means to keep going when nearly all hope is lost.

The story begins when Callahan's small cruiser the Napoleon Solo sinks while he attempts to sail to the Caribbean. Every minute becomes a matter of life and death as he fights hunger, thirst, shark attacks and blisters that cover his entire body.

Callahan refuses to face defeat under unbearable circumstances. He is ingenious in finding solutions to every problem the sea and his mind throws at him.

The story draws you in. You can taste the brine splattering over Rubber Ducky III. You share his frustration as a fish gets away, his equipment fails, his raft starts to leak and his mind starts to wobble.

This is no dry reflection, the writing is often poetic:

'The ocean persists, monotonously bombarding us. Please don't knock us over; I can't survive a capsize. If I am thrown into the sea I will shiver until the earth quakes. My lips will turn blue, my skin white. My grasp will loosen. The sea will fold her blanket over me for one last time, and I will sleep forever.'

The book is an excellent account of survival at sea and includes Callahan's psychological reactions and philosophical musings as he drifts on and on through a world that has turned blue all around. So blue in fact that when he finally sets foot on solid ground again his senses real when he is confronted by the variety of colors.