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					                      Information Technology
                               And
                       The Future of Mankind
                                                             Ragy Enayat – Cairo, Egypt.
   Information and communication technology can no longer be conceived of as merely a
new technological achievement known to mankind throughout history. For information
technology is a basic element in the active circle greatly affecting the current cultural
change movement, transforming us from industrial to information society.

   To proceed in the right direction, we need to have an understanding of the societal impacts of
the information revolution, and the radical change it could bring about in the different fields of
human activity.
   Innovational technology, as we all know, has led to changes in socio -economic systems,
throughout history, in the following three stages:
First stage: Technology, on behalf of man, takes over the work customarily assigned to him.
Second stage: Technology offers work possibilities that man is incapable of carrying out, now
and in the future.
Third stage: As a consequence to the first tow stages, the existing social and economic
structures are transformed into new social and economic systems.

   This rule may be applied to the history of the industrial revolution. Yet we are concerned in
this field with its applications to the reality of the information revolution, or the computer-
communications technology revolution.
   In the first stage, automation is achieved, where computer-communications technology takes
over the mental labor customarily assigned to man. In the second stage, knowledge creation is
realized by means of advanced technology, leading to the amplification of man’s mental labor,
in such manner that the human mind has never, and will never, be able to carry out. The third
stage, which is the essence of our discussion, is the impact of the tow previous stages, creating a
set of political, social, and economic transformations, leading to system innovation.

                                     The Difficult Task
   What is the form of the information society that is taking shape at present, according to the
three stages we are discussing, and which is refashioning the life of mankind? . Can we draw a
comprehensive image of this society? . Is this possible at a time when we are at the midst of the
transformation stage, from industrial to informational society? .
   Principles, beliefs, and theories established throughout the years of industrial society,
emanating essentially from the nature and interests of industry have begun to recede, to be
replaced by new principles, beliefs, and theories, emanating essentially from the nature and
interests of the information society.
   Herein lies the importance of identifying the nature of information society, which is taking
shape at present, even though we are in the midst of transformation stage.
   This is a difficult task. Since the mere assembling of aspects and observations about the
indicators of change, will not lead us to the futuristic vision. We must try to identify the inter-
relations between these indicators. This will enable us to reach the basics of the new system, and
draw a framework for the futuristic vision, required to explore the future of each human activity.
                                      The active circle
   Among the elements that led to the cultural changes, that the world began to witness in the
second half of the twentieth century, is the acceleration in the rate of accumulating information,
due to the rapid development in the computer-communications technologies. This has led to
increasing diversity and differentiation in the ideas, dreams, and aspirations of mankind
everywhere. This in turn led to an increased flow of information and knowledge, followed by a
further advance in computer-communications technologies, resulting in increased diversity in
individual trends, and so on and so forth.
   However, this active circle is not the only element in the current changes. There are others
that contribute to unsettling the foundations on whish the industrial society was based.
   Among these are the shortages in world reserves of fossil fuels, whish industry relayed on,
such as coal, gas, and oil. Also the issue of environmental pollution, cased by the industrial era
to a hazardous degree, jeopardizing life on our planet.
   These are the major elements contributing to the breakdown of the industrial society, and the
gradual progression of new bases emanating from the interests of the information society. In this
context, we are concerned with registering some fundamental trends of the future transfer.
                                      Trends of change
   Following are some fundamental trends of change, witnessed vigorously, as we move from
industrial to information society, whish may be useful in shaping the comprehensive futuristic
vision.

1) From physical to mental labor:
   The steam engine constitutes the core of the innovational technology of the industrial society.
It has contributed to man’s physical power, substituting and amplifying this power. However,
physical labor remained as the main characteristic of the industrial society.
   The core of the information society is computer-communications technology, seeking to
replace and amplify man’s mental labor. This means that the main support in information
society is mental labor, where innovation constitutes the element of superiority. Proceeding
from there, we may visualize the impact this will have on the relationship between workers,
means of production, and capital.

2) From the factory to the information utility:
   The modern factory, with its machinery and equipment, is the social symbol in the industrial
society, and the center of producing goods. This symbol in information society is replaced by
the information utility, which is computer-based public infrastructure, including information
network and data banks.
This means that we are moving from a rapidly increased material productive power, as the main
support of production activity, to a developing production force of cognitive systematized
information. We are moving from the manufacture of machinery and chemical materials of an
electro-mechanical nature, to mental industries, or information and knowledge industries of an
electronic nature.

3) From division of production and consumption, to synergetic economy:
   The economic structure of the industrial society is characterized by sales-oriented commodity
economy, and specialization in production, based on division of work, separating production
from consumption.
   The structure of the information society is characterized by consideration of information as an
axis of socio-economic development, and by the increase in the individuals self-production, and
by producing for self-consuming, depending on shared utilization, which could lead to the
establishment of a synergetic economy.

4) From profit maximization, to social benefit:
   In the industrial society, the law of price is considered the universal socio-economic principle
for the achievement of a balance between supply and demand. The information society is based
on the goal principal.
   If the economic enterprise is the most important subject of social activity in the industrial
society, it is the voluntary community that is the most important subject of social activity in the
information society. The voluntary community, is an socio-economic group that can be broadly
divided into local and informational communities.
   In other terms, the socio-economic system of the industrial society is based on private
enterprise, characterized by private ownership of capital, free competition, and the search for
profit maximization. Its counterpart in the information society will be a voluntary civil society,
characterized by the superiority of its infrastructure as a public capital, and also by knowledge-
oriented human capital, in a fundamental framework based on the principle of synergy and
social benefits.

5) From centralization, to decentralization:
   The industrial society is a society of centralized power, and hierarchic classes. The
information society is a multi-centered and complementary voluntary society, which is
horizontally functional, and whose social system is based on the principle of self-independence
of individuals.
   If the industrial society relies on geographical concentration of human communities, the
information society allows for geographical dispersion, due to the advanced technological
communication it provides. The pyramidal bureaucratic organization of the industrial society is
transferred to networking systems, based on mutual interests, whenever such interests appear.

6) From representative democracy, to participatory democracy:
   The political system of the industrial society is one of representative democracy, and majority
rule.
   Upon entering the information society, there is a need to transfer to a democratic system
suited to the interests and nature of society, namely a system of participatory democracy, and the
politics of autonomous management by citizens, based on: agreement, participation, and
synergy. Such system protects the choices and rights of minorities, and includes that people
affected by a decision must be a part of the decision-making process. This must be accompanied
by the dissemination of a futuristic approach among individuals, to prevent short and direct
interests from overcoming options and decisions If unions and syndicates was the force of
social change in the industrial society, change in the information society takes place as a result
of citizen movements, where the tool is networking, and participation in decision-making.

7) From synchronization, to adaptive time:
   The controlled synchronization imposed by idustrial interests, and which necessitated certain
standardization in the individual life, has lost its raison-d’être due to the advance of computer-
communication technology, which led to the breaking away of individuals from massification in
place and time.

8) From massified education, to continuous self-education:
   Educational systems recognized by mankind during the idustrial era, were based on
massification, and devised for non-mental repetitive work, in the factory and office. These
systems are no longer appropriate for the information society, awing to the information flow and
accelerated change. Now, there is an urgent need to review educational systems, and the targets
of the educational process. The information society requires an educational system based on
continuous self-education, aimed at comprehensive knowledge besides the existing
specialization, and which permits moving from one specialization to another.
9) From nationalism, to globalism:
   The process of reviving nationalism, which spread to the benefit of the idustrial era, is
receding, due to the advancing globalism imposed by the information society and the computer-
communication revolution. If the industrial society has known a wide economic exchange
among countries, the advancing global economy is different. It is an elevated entity that does not
derive its strength from the will of nations.
   Globalism is the soul of the information society, whether from the economic, political, or
social viewpoint, or even in the field of harmony between man and nature.

10) From short-run planning, to futuristic vision:
   With the relative stability of the principles and bases of the industrial society, short-run
planning was appropriate as a basis for economic, social, and political activity. However, with
the accelerated change brought by the information revolution, and the receding industrial
principles, short-run planning is no longer useful. There is an urgent need for work, to proceed
from a comprehensive futuristic vision, from which strategies and plans will emanate.
                                                                                 Ragy Enayat

				
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posted:10/20/2010
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