Syncverse Essays (number 10)

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10. Information, light bulbs and the answer to the universal question

In the exceptional novel “The Hitchhikers guide to the universe” Douglas Adams presents us with a series of conundrums that change how we perceive the things around us.

1. Mice are not infallible

2. You can throw an entire planet at a problem and still end up with the answer 42

There is however a darker meaning in the void represented by the works of Mr. Adams. At least in my opinion there is a darker meaning. We reject mice because they appear on the surface to be vermin. In the works of Mr. Adams we discover that they represent a much higher intelligence then we do. Which if you think about it seems almost poetic justice. Dolphins as well represent another species of animals much smarter than humans (and kinder as well, they “Thanks for all the fishes” as they leave us before our destruction). The real issue however is that we, humans didn’t read the warning signs posted about the destruction of our planet.

I wonder if information and the withholding, managing and controlled distribution systems we’ve built isn’t us ignoring the warning signs. What seems key in the “Hitchhikers Guide” is keeping an open mind about what is both possible and probable.

Yet we lock both possibility and probability away. I’ve used this quote many times from Alexander Solzhenitsyn that loosely goes like this, you can imprison my body but you cannot imprison my mind. I can, however surround your mind with ignorance. I can keep information from you that might change the course of history. I can deny you information.

I have spent most of the past 15 years of my career involved in IP management and creation. I’ve watched system after system come and go. I have watched great ideas slide off to the side to be forgotten because they weren’t really the answer people wanted. I have heard great ideas about IP creation and reuse die because well, other people knew the answer. I’ve come to realize that information and the creation of information isn’t simply a reusability process and a reusability problem. It’s a growth problem.

There is a fabled mountain into which 1000 stairs have been carved. The legend says that each step has a contemplative message and that you stop at the step that meets your current “need” to reflect upon that need and the solution to what-ever problem troubles you. It is a journey that takes a lifetime. Or, if you don’t have a lot of pain points it is an afternoon’s walk.

What if, however, we redesigned the mountain? What if we left the answers to the problems next to every step? You see really, IP is simply answering questions quickly and correctly. What if the journey from perception, to problem to solution was shortened by using information?

What if everyone could easily find and climb that mountain?

Then each set of answers would continue to be improved. Each journey would move faster thought the steps producing more answers. Each variation would allow for new people to solve their variations of the original problem.

It would no longer be the journey of a thousand steps. It would become the information superhighway. We could fulfill the dream that was the internet oh those many years ago.

What if the answer isn’t 42?

.doc