A Dream comment
Starting The Liquid Information Company.
I have had a dream for the last couple of years, a dream of getting rid of computers. A dream of harnessing the information, communications and tools which have been loosened, which have become members of the inner space we flippantly call Cyberspace.
Lets segue a bit on that one for a moment though. It's funny, cyber supposedly means helms man in Greek (Latin? you tell me). So Cyberspace purports then to mean navigation space.
Hold that one for a moment.
The name we have given the world of linked computers, the generic, the un-branded name, doesn't refer to the information in it, it refers to the action of intelligently, knowledgeably moving through it.
It's a very meaning full name. It admits to a space which only exists through movement, which aptly describes information, knowledge which needs time to exist as it needs time to be connected, seen in context, understood. Information on its own is at best data with a "process me please" sticker on its forehead.
But we were talking wet stuff. Liquid. Liquid, the name and the philosophy is based on fluidity and motion, connection and accessibility.
Fluidity. Making things easy to do, Smoothing processes, removing the utility and incidental tasks. Whoopee, no surprise there.
Motion. Information floating around, floating around with what I like to think of as magnetic tendencies. Like information attracts like information. It clusters. A discussion forum with some worthwhile information on it will tend to attract more information of a similar nature, a computer nerd (who us?) will tend to attract more information on computers. This isn't a human invention I feel, this is the very nature of information, and, this is heavy, as information is the only "thing" which can interact, information is also the nature of nature. By interact I mean that if no information is exchanged in a crash for instance, there can be no crash. So anyway, information is inherently interacting and live...
Connection. Just a humdrum reminder of the power of the network. It great working on this Newton, fully set up in its leather case, Newton propped up at an angle, keyboard in front of it, its green backlight warming me... But, like countless cool techno pocket gadgets before me, if it didn't connect to the Internet it would be about as useful as a pad of paper whose pages I could only read one of at a time.
Accessibility. Here's an old thought, tools within arms reach and information within eyes reach. This whole accessibility business needs to take into account the active part, some things needs to come and pat me in the back to really be accessible. Such as an event in your calendar. Or a site on the World Wide Web which had just come up in the search engines radar after you've done your research and you've started writing your report... Or information on your favorite Mac OS Rumors site which has been updated not two minutes after you looked at it this morning, with breath taking Apple news... Hey, I'm slowly veering into relevant territory here...
But actually, that is the point. All this, as Therese's aunt would call "mind masturbation", our fancy philosophy deriding most of what's on the market (can you say Microsoft?...) wouldn't be worth the neurons it's flown through if we weren't doing something about it.
And we damned sure are. We are giving the world a better way to communicate electronically. We are already pouring on what some might call innovations (like our marketing department) such as our Views, Live Web Links, listing messages by their conversational thread, and in the near future (Alan don't laugh) email and phone integration, live Mail Handling and a more intelligent calendar/planing system as well as LOTS more. Live Newsgroup Monitors... But more truly than that, they are just manifestations of our whole wet liquid philosophy. It's easy to build something which appears new and innovative if you have a solid big picture in mind.
And we're set to make money from this thing! We are following the principal rules of the emerging global information economy (Doesn't that sound great?!). We are giving away the basic service and selling additional complementary services. We are small and very able. We are international, but of technology and mind set. We are fearless, and we are wanting to do some good. Not out of any other motivation than arrogance and inflexibility, surely not traditional virtues: We can change things because we don't like the way they are now. Are we really doing the right thing? I think so, so much I'm staking my professional and spiritual life in it.
This is going to be good. We are opening the floodgates of information as we are providing the environment for information and people, as well as people and people (hey, that's us!) and information and information to interact, as Clausewitz would have put it, with less fog and friction.
We are, in effect, realizing my dream. We are actually building the Liquid Information Environment. A dream I saw as hopeless because I thought that to do such a thing I would have to design operating systems and applications, at least the architecture behind it. This many have thought before me. There's been Ted Nelsons Xanadu, there's been Sun's Starfire project, Engelbarts augmentation system, Apple's Macintosh... But we are in an exceptional time in history. The Internet and Java. We can really build our utopia one feature at the time, letting the rest of Cyberspace filter through our perspective. It's all connected, it'll all make a difference. It doesn't matter that we can't redesign word processors and file systems. Yet...
Practically speaking, we have done it, as far as technically putting it together. We have proved to ourselves and to anyone else who might care to watch, that we have a solid relationship here, N-ARY and the Liquid Information Company. We now also have solid product to go into the world with.
It's a wonderful age to be alive!
COMMENT AUGUST 2000: Well, I no longer work with N-ARY and The Liquid Information Company is no great financial .Com success, but I have got the honor of working with Doug Engelbart, so I can not complain!
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