The future will always be what we make of it. While “we” includes many “I”s past and present, and “it” contains infinite possibility, core fundamentals are evident. We can see the layers that have been built over time and predict those yet to come.
Weinberger (2011) shared five concepts as ideal to support the “networking of knowledge.” These were conceived as part of the information explosion, resulting from the Internet, and how best to provide adequate access to endless information. Important now, these concepts become increasingly critical as knowledge, systems, and people continue to evolve. For leaders today and in future to be successful, we must:
- Open up access – make available to everyone everything that is available.
- Provide the hooks for intelligence – help key knowledge to “filter forward.”
- Link everything – “show your work,” repeating a grade school math phrase.
- Leave no institutional knowledge behind – include the past in the present.
- Teach everyone – employ the Web, but also evaluate and embrace it.
Weinberger (2012) spoke of knowledge as linking together differences given knowledge lives now in the network versus in individuals. Greater danger exists at the same time. We enjoy today a much larger, louder echo chamber, preferring opinions that reaffirm our own, and a vaster network of affirmation is more dangerous. It becomes exclusionary (All Tech Considered, 2016). It creates “digital islands of isolation” (El-Bermawy, 2016).
As a communicator, Weinberger’s (2012) linkage of knowledge to storytelling gives me my own affirmation and caution. The author stated that “knowledge is beholden to its beginning,” which includes language, culture, history, and family. Stories can teach us about those beginnings. What we “know” depends on where we started, and storytellers have a choice and “moral duty” to spread knowledge in the selection of a beginning. If, for example, a tale begins from the assumption that every princess needs a prince, a certain race is inferior, or individuals have outlived their usefulness at a specific age, we expect and therefore see that trope echo in media coverage and society. This is because “the world matters equally but differently to different people” (Weinberger, 2012). Stories have the power to marginalize the thoughts and feelings of those excluded from or misrepresented in said stories, thereby perverting knowledge. Alternatively, stories may include multiple beginnings and perspectives to enhance and extend the universal body of knowledge.
Echoing the importance of the beginning, Kelly (2016) outlined we may steer specifics by embracing larger trends. As “cognification” occurs, whereby everything becomes increasingly smarter, intelligence moves from a single dimension of noise to a multidimensional symphony or harmony. To extend Kelly’s (2016) musical analogy regarding the role different types of intelligences may play, so also does varietal leadership have a part now and in moving forward. It is not just many types of intelligence, or skills, that matter, but the way those are employed by different leaders.
Leadership is about effectively leveraging resources and always has been. From developments in the Stone Age to the Industrial Revolution to the Information Age, the fundamental need to adapt and manage resources is the same today as it was as it will be. Technology simply requires we increasingly be more agile and flexible in approach than ever before (Libert, 2014). We have different resources and we employ them differently. The future will mean more of the same, so the dynamic, aware leader is the one who will succeed.
Considering changes to come and the speed at which these may arrive, the only consideration potentially missing from Weinberger’s (2011) “networking of knowledge” list is an ethical one. Leaving no knowledge behind covers our history (and the possibility of repeating history to a degree), but in looking specifically forward, we must ensure technology has all we can give it in terms of safe design (Bostrom, 2015). This last point alone is no mean feat for a leader. We do not all agree on ethics today, and teaching an AI to value the myriad ethical considerations beyond or even equal to straightforward decisions is daunting. Seeing the many layers that form the whole, and conceptualizing where future change will occur is not easy. It is necessary (Machen, 2014).
All Tech Considered. (2016, July 24). The reason your feed became an echo chamber – and what to do about it. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/07/24/486941582/the-reason-your-feed-became-an-echo-chamber-and-what-to-do-about-it
Bostrom, N. (2015, March). What happens when our computers get smarter that we are? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/nick_bostrom_what_happens_when_our_computers_get_smarter_than_we_are
El-Bermawy, M. (2016, November 18). Your filter bubble is destroying democracy. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2016/11/filter-bubble-destroying-democracy/
Kelly, K. (2016, December 13). How AI can bring on a second Industrial Revolution. TED. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_kelly_how_ai_can_bring_on_a_second_industrial_revolution
Libert, B. (2015, February 6). Is your leadership style right for the digital age? Knowledge@Wharton. Retrieved from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-right-leadership-style-for-the-digital-age/
Machen, D. (2014, March 25). The future is what we make it: Human vs. inhuman, it’s our choice. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dan-machen/the-future-is-what-we-mak_b_5027052.html
Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room [Kindle version]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/
Weinberger, D. (2012, October 3). The networking of knowledge and storytelling: David Weinberger for the Future of StoryTelling 2012. Future of Storytelling. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN2oG8QFXxQ