The end of the first decade of the 21st century marked the 50th anniversary of the Information Age. In 1957 the USA Labor Dept noted the number of white collar or information workers had exceeded the number of blue collar workers for the first time, ushering in the Information Age.
It is also worth noting that Buck Fuller and Marsh McLuhan both concluded that it takes about 50 years for new technologies to be truly transformational.
For these five decades of the information age, humans were most often subordinate to data processing. People were often seen as a messy, error-prone appendage to the almighty information technology. Slow-moving Orwellian automata were a perpetual nuisance to the so-called system designers.
In the information age excellence was focused on processing. Business activities were ordered, mechanical and process-centric. They were/are exactly the opposite the way real people function!
The specious mantras of the 90s business process re-engineering (BPR) phonies, like “People, Process, Technology,” or “Don’t Automate, Obliterate!” and the ever popular ‘PEBKAC’ were computing and data processing’s vulgar, inhuman apex.
Now we are three plus decades into the internetworking revolution, The Internet Age. For background note that 1974 marked RFC 675 – the first use of the term “Internet” to describe a single global TCP/IP network by the irrepressible Vint Cerf.
Today, finally, people, real humans, are assuming their correct role as the principal actors in connected business, productivity and innovation. There is a fundamental social reorientation of work and connected wealth creation. The network singularity is well underway.
The Rise of Wetware
Colloquially, wetware it is used to refer to the person using a computer. It is the human dimension of the system. More formally, in medical circles, the wetware metaphor is the visible network known as the central nervous system. The invisible network is known as the human mind. The popular two-part abstraction is drawn from the conventional ideas of hardware and software.
In stark contrast to the Information Age, which imposes a) structure and b) process prior to c) application use, is the Network Age.
Wetware turns the model completely around. The network first encourages actual use (c) first, then (maybe) defining process (b) prior to, in some rare cases, providing final structure (a).
Of course, processes, functions, structures are still important. However, this reversal in how applications evolve requires a dramatically different approach. Now, evolution of applications is supported, renewed, improved and amplified via mastery of social networks, visualization, collaboration and… conversation (gasp!).
Just look at the enormous, pivotal impact of consumerization on enterprise IT.
Today, rapidly advancing social network comprehension of entire business ecosystems and their inhabitants drives breathtaking productivity gains and sustained innovation.
2014 will be a watershed year in the stunning transformation of stagnant, moribund business processes into fluid, complex networks and comprehensive business ecologies.
Emerging creative networks develop new ideas, supply networks and distributed talent. Collaborative networks emerge transorganizationally to better serve and delight customers.
Basic network comprehension identifies enormous productivity opportunities. They are quickly realized with a network mindset and approach. Network fluency propels continuous innovation and sustained excellence.
Wetware is taking its rightful place at the center of the social computing revolution and the network singularity. The cognitive bias to process is quickly giving way to a potent network vision and flourishing business networks and ecosystems. Get prepared!