Hold on ...let's think LO11533

Sat, 21 Dec 1996 23:43:46 -0500

Last night my wife and I, along with two other couples, went to see Star
Trek: First Contact. I'm not a big science fiction fan, and I certainly
don't qualify as a Trekie, but I am a social creature and so I went for

I enjoyed the movie, not because of its entertainment value, but because I
understood the terms they were using in the movie. For instance, the Borg
(sp?) were cybernetic creatures, and I understand, at least in basic
terms, what cybernetics is. The Borg were said to have the "hive mind," or
"collective consciousness," which I instantly associated with Kevin
Kelly's "Out of Control."

What I found fascinating was how they melded these concepts with the Borg:
the loss of individuality, lack of advanced cognitive ability, and so

Something the bald guy said (sorry, I don't remember his name; he's the
captain of the ship), really struck me. He was having a discussion with
the woman brought to the ship from earth, and he said in the 24th century
economics was different; their values, he said, had evolved, allowing them
to live on a higher level.

I left the movie thinking deeply about what we're doing, with science,
with LOs, with society. We're evolving, no question, but evolving into
what? What are we trying to achieve, really, with LOs? Is it greater
profitability? (I don't think so.) Is it greater capacities to achieve
meaningful results? If so, what results? How will the stuff we talk about
on this list influence the future? Are we moving toward becoming the Borg?
Or are we creating a society where the values and economic structures are
totally different -- let's say, more evolved?

Here's the story of how I got to the movie.

We left at 6:00 so we would have time for ice cream and conversation
before the movie, which started at 7:30. We piled into my friends Chevy
Suburban and headed for the ice cream parlor. Two of us work for Novell
and one for Xerox Business Services (XBS). I'm wearing my pager, carrying
my cell phone, and packing my notebook computer (not to mention my PDA so
I can easily jot down notes when ideas come to me). One friend has his
portable HAM radio, his notebook computer, and his pager. His HAM radio
station is hooked to the Internet, providing him with really cheap access.
My friend decides to log into his UNIX server and check his E-Mail while
we're driving down the highway. He plugs his HAM radio into his notebook
computer, and logs into his machine. Yep, there's E-Mail.

At the same time, I could be logged into my network, answering E-Mail,
working on a slide show I left undone, or running some computer
simulations on our new product. I have my cell phone, my notebook, and my
PDA. I could download my schedule for the next week to my PDA, or upload
notes I'd taken that afternoon in meetings. It could have been difficult
to tell if we were on a date. I start voicing my thoughts. My wife then
raises the question, "Could someone please explain to me what Ben's
computer has that I don't?" To which one guy responds, "We are the Borg.
Resistance is futile."

After the movie I'm thinking. . . we're not that far from what I just saw
on the screen. Sure we're no where close to traveling the speed of light,
but hey, 19,000 mph ain't bad (the approximate speed of the space shuttle
in orbit). . . faster if you're going to the moon (I think the ships going
to the Moon travel at about 7 miles per second, but I could be wrong).

And so technology just keeps moving along. Discontinuous change is a
normal part of living. Every three or four seconds, somewhere, someone is
making a new technical discovery. It's accelerated acceleration.

Today I stop by Barnes and Noble just to browse. In the science section I
see the book, "Nano," which has a cool jacket design so I buy it. It's a
book about nanotechnology. Something to read over the holidays. Tonight I
lay down on the couch and turn on the Eagles concert on PBS, and start
reading the book's prologue. By the time I'm finished with the prologue
I'm not laying down anymore. I'm sitting straight up, with the the
strangest feeling surging through my body. Pretty soon -- probably before
I die -- I'll be turning grass clippings into roast beef. . .in a machine
that looks much like my microwave oven. . .WOW! Star Trek is getting
closer to reality. . .

And so I start thinking about the work we're doing with Learning Orgs. I
begin to think about what we're trying to achieve, what we're creating,
and how it relates to the exponential rate at which technology is
evolving. Are our organizations evolving as quickly as technology? Are our
values evolving at or near the same rate? What happens if technology
evolves faster than our values, institutions, economic theories, and
social structures? Will technology cause a type of social implosion,
creating large-scale economic disruptions and unnecessary warfare?

I think that we need to be concerned with these issues. They're real, at
least in my mind. The theories, tools, and methods of a Learning Org must
continue to evolve at a rapid rate, and gain widespread application, if
we're to avoid a huge, global catastrophe.

Is it possible that we're creating an environment that will allow
technology to continue to evolve without jeopardizing our economic
stability (even if it should change our economic structures and patterns)?
Are we creating communities that can responsibly use technololgy? Are we
creating a way for a global value system to emerge? (The Learning Org list
is, after all, a global list. People from all over the world communicate
and share ideas. Might this list be the source of some fairly universal
values? I would say that because we're all interested in Learning Orgs,
that such an evolution has already begun.)

We certainly don't want a Borg-type society to emerge. So what do we want
to create? How can we create a society that uses technology for noble
purposes instead of as a source of mass destruction or terrorism?

For me, my work now has much more meaning. It's not just about business
(if it ever really was). It's about helping to form a future for myself
and my children, in which peace and happiness can exist while technology
continues to make more and more things possible.

I'm open to feedback on these ideas and beliefs. Sorry the message was so
long, but my feelings run deep and are quite poignant at this time.


Benjamin B. Compton bbcompton@aol.com

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>