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Peter Cochrane's Uncommon Sense: Network power

From concentrated skill to distributed ignorance?

Don't be a control freak, says Pete Cochrane, instead seek to influence and contribute. Is there any other way in truly networked world? No doubt about it, we seem to be moving from a world of concentrated skill and expertise to a world of distributed ignorance. Only 200 years ago it was possible to be a leading engineer and zoologist at the same time. Even 50 years ago it was possible to understand the fine grain detail of the telephone or television network but today no one knows everything about almost anything. No one human mind understands and contains the full design and operational detail of even the simplest of aircraft. The knowledge required to create materials, turn them into the component parts and mould them into a complete system is way beyond the capacity of any one human. Should we be shaking our heads in despair at the demise of the polymath? Perhaps but, then again, perhaps not! The upside to the technology that saw their demise has, in part, allowed us all to become more powerful. We may have created a sea of ignorance but we have also opened up windows of capability that we could not have imaged even 20 years ago. The power of networking is something that most do not contemplate and few understand. If we take, for example, a broadcast network as in radio and TV, we see a single transmitter with a number of receivers. If these receivers number

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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