John Spacey, February 07, 2017 updated on December 06, 2020
The information age is a common designation for the current period of world history beginning with 1945 that is characterized by the use of computers and the broad impact this has had on all societies on a global basis. The following are the basic characteristics of the information age.
Networks such as the internet that allow a large number of computers and people to communicate and interact.
Internet of Things
The networking of everyday products and infrastructure such that all things begin to demonstrate intelligence.
The ability to do things such as work or social interaction from any location such that you are free to move.
Knowledge & Research
There are currently about 3.5 billion smartphone users globally. This gives large populations the ability to look up any topic and get some type of answer. This access to knowledge is unprecedented in human history. Computers and networks also play a major role in the development of new knowledge.
Digitization is the transformation of things that used to have a physical form into intangible digital data. For example, an architecture that was once designed on paper and with models that is now completely digital.
Historically, firms bought equipment that was generally too expensive for consumers. For example, early computers were supercomputers and mainframes that cost millions of dollars. As the decades went on, computers built for consumers improved to the point that firms abandoned specialized business computers in favor of consumer models. This process of consumerization is likely to occur in many industries. For example, 3d printers could someday make factories irrelevant such that design becomes the only value added activity for many products.
The ability to feel that you can step into games, art and other digital environments that are fully or partially simulated.
Long tail is the ability of amateurs to compete with highly skilled professionals or very small firms to compete with large firms. Cheap technology and access to the entire world via the internet has created a long tail in many industries and will likely completely change every industry with time. For example, a video channel with a few employees that completes with far larger media firms.
Misinformation & Disinformation
The internet allows everyone to participate in the sharing of information and commentary on a global basis. This provides an important alternative to the dominance of large media companies but also allows for the rapid spread of misinformation and disinformation.
The knowledge economy is the creation of value without manual work. A large number of workers now create things such as strategies, plans, code, designs and research that are completely digital with no physical form.
Automation and powerful tools that allow people to increase the amount of value they create in an hour of work. Productivity is the basis for a high standard of living.
Increases in productivity allow for a society of leisure where people have more and more freedom in how they choose to spend their time.
The attention economy is the market for getting a message to a possible customer at the right time and place. The information age has created potent marketing tools that allow customers to be reached with a message when they are likely to buy.
Dematerialization is the tendency for economy activity to use less and less raw materials. This includes the tendency for products to be smaller and lighter. It also includes economic activity that is completely digital such that it produces nothing physical.
The observation that as society advances products of imagination such as storytelling, invention and design become an ever greater component of value creation. This is largely due to the elimination of toil.
The sharing of information and the ability of consumers to purchase computers and other very useful tools has led to a culture of designing, making and repairing things independently. This has several names including diy and maker culture.
As information technology has changed operating models and business models, economic disruption occurs whereby old firms are replaced with new. This can be viewed as a process of creative destruction that puts people out of work in one industry but creates new jobs in others. In this context, the expectation of a job for life may be unrealistic as workers must continue to learn and adapt to stay relevant.
Globalization is the integration of systems, economies, societies and politics across regions. This is a long running process that is greatly accelerated by the internet as a venue for communication, shared experience and commercial exchange.
Commoditization of Experience
The continuation of the industrial age model of producing products and services at scale designed to fulfill every human need. This includes commodities that are designed to substitute for original experiences. For example, a theme park that serves the human need for adventure and risk taking.
Technology advancements greatly influence culture. Traditional culture is a stabilizing force that can help to reduce the disruption created by technology. Other culture, such as youth cultures can act as a pioneering force that help to shape technology to human needs such as the pursuit of happiness.
Digital dependency is a state where individuals use tools in an obsessive way that makes them unhappy. This term doesn't apply to dependency on technology that has positive results. Humans can become as dependent on computers as they are on basic technologies such as clothing and housing.
As economies, societies, organizations and individuals are highly dependent on technology the security of these environments becomes almost as important as physical security. As the same time, the aggressive pace of change in information technology tends to leave technologies exposed to cybercrime and cyberwarfare.
Information technology rapidly improves and becomes cheaper and faster with ever greater capacity. Moore's Law is a prediction made in the 1970s that the processing power of computers would double every two years. This has mostly held true to the present time.
Million Operations Per Second
Intel Pentium Pro
Intel Pentium III
Intel Core 2 Extreme
Intel Core i7 920
Intel Core i7 2600K
Intel Core i7 5960X
AMD Ryzen Threadripper
Intel Stratix 10
Computers are a potent research and design tool that have helped to create an age of innovation and change. Each innovation tends to help make the next innovation faster such that change accelerates with time.
There are many competing and overlapping designations for the current period of world history such as internet age, experience age and postmodern-era.