The Information Age/Introduction

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Imagining the future is always a chancy proposition. For the future almost always turns out differently from how it was imagined. Just think of all the movies made about the present 20 or even 10 years ago. They hardly got it right.

The reason we fail to anticipate the future is simple enough—the many variables that affect the unfolding of history are never fully captured by analysts, activists, artists and scientists.

Yet, we persist in imagining the future. We persist because we are motivated by what could be as much as by what has been. We persist because we have a stake in the future—we intend to live in it.

Imagining a future is affirming a particular account of it. We imagine a future we want to live in. In looking at trends, in extrapolating, we make choices. Even when we take into account all variables, we give some variables more weight than others. Even when all outcomes are anticipated, we deem some outcomes more likely than others. This is not intellectual dishonesty. It is simply how things are. (To say otherwise is to be dishonest.)

This primer on the information age, as well as the other primers in this series on the Information Economy, Society and Polity, is an act of imagination and affirmation of a future that is being shaped by information and communication technologies (ICTs).

This particular primer begins with a review of the digital and the ICT revolutions and how these profound technological transformations are changing the economy, business, and the workplace. The primer also outlines the impact of the pervasiveness of ICTs on the individual, the family and society. The effects of technological change on the global order—the nation-state system and governance—are likewise considered. Finally, the primer charts the challenges arising from the widening divide between those who have access to ICT and those who do not.

Ultimately, we imagine the information age in order that we can affect its becoming.