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Thursday, June 02, 2005

One Life and the Information Revolution

There was a large metal box placed on the table at the front of the room. A scientist from the local college, teamed with representatives from IBM, stood up front and fielded questions. At one point, to everyone’s enjoyment, the box began to sing “Daisy, Daisy, give me you answer true…” This was the future: A computer! Okay, this may not be impressive to you, but to a junior high school student attending the event at Mid-America Nazarene College (now University) in Olathe, Kansas, circa 1973, it was pretty cool!

A short decade later, I learned to do computer programs on key punched cards in college and at graduate school. When it came time to do my graduate thesis at Kansas State University in 1983, I got a major break. I got permission to write my thesis on the department’s first ever desk top computer. I got a key to the office and privileges to use the machine after hours on weekdays and on weekends.

Fast forward a few more years to 1991, to a prestigious Manhattan, New York, hotel for an Investment Banking meeting. A professor from Cornell University was giving a demonstration to a standing room only crowd about something called the “Internet.” She insisted all her displays of Unix code on the projection screen were about to revolutionize the world! Not likely.

At the time, I was working for an investment banking firm in Kansas City starting an information retrieval business. The business plan was to provide consolidated and standardized information products on companies, industries and individuals to high-end clients. These folks had no time to sift through masses of duplicated and wildly formatted data from places like Dialog, Dow Jones News Retrieval, Lexus/Nexus, Investext and Newsnet. We would standardize and productize the information for them. Then, about 1993, something came along called “Mosaic,” the first web browser. The rest is history.

Today I woke up and checked news from across the planet. I scanned my e-mail. There were posts from relatives, reminders of meetings, several posts from a discussion group including people from South Africa and Australia, and spam offers to improve my credit standing and my sex life. Then I sat down to type this blog that can be read by millions of people all over the planet with a few keystrokes and clicks.

Many of us have similar stories. I Hope I didn’t bore you with mine. Looking backward is not my primary concern here. Humanity is on a trajectory into the future. What next? What does all this mean for “being and doing church” in the future? Some thoughts to follow.


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