The Growing Divide Between the Information Haves and Have Nots

Atari 800

I vividly remember navigating the refrigerators, stoves, and ovens to find the matte painted, rounded corner personal computers during the first year of the 1980s.  They were sold in appliance stores back then, because the generation of the late 70s and early 80s had no idea how to sell these “machines”.  We were enthralled by the power of the PC, the promise of this universe inside the silicon – it beckoned to us.  It wasn’t until a long fifteen years later that the promise of the connected homes became a reality through this thing called the Internet.  For the generation older than forty years old during those years, the concept of “Electronic Mail” was foreign – as foreign as setting up a habitat on Mars.  Did the paper get faxed through the computer phone lines?  Who pays the postal service for the delivery?

The very concept of server to server communication could not be communicated, or perceived, by those who did not have the verbs, the nouns, the clay with which to form a mental picture.  They were left with imperfect analogies, like Ted Steven’s quote:

“…the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.”  Today, I would assert the the there is a widening gap between the “Information Haves” and the “Information Have Nots” that has as significant an impact as the ever widening gap between the financial haves and have-nots.

The impact of this divide?  With wealth comes opportunity, exposure, and resources that are not shared by the majority of the population.  With Information (the “Haves”) there comes the opportunity to connect, learn, grow, and be exposed to trends that expand the neurosynaptic connections of the individual.  A fascinating recent Ted talk by Steven Johnson asserted that “Good Ideas are Networks” that begets outcomes not comprehended at the outset of the idea.

The digitally savvy population gets this – they understand the intersection between Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.  They can conceive of a world where there are no colleges, but simply crowd-source, volunteer repositories of content where self-directed learning can open new doors of opportunity.  The digitally “unsavvy” generation may have a predilection to believe that which they learned from 30 year old books, before this technology had the ability to connect the planet – person to person, community to community, learner to learner.  And in that intentional ignorance, this sector of the population may resist the wonderful change that opens new vistas.  When the world can benefit from their guidance, where wisdom tempers youthful enthusiasm, an active closing of their minds to these disruptive changes furthers the gap.  Perhaps the “Information Have Nots” should grab a new smart phone, submerge their fears, and simply just dive in.  The pool is warm.  This is a gap that doesn’t HAVE to grow.