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The Human Network

Cobb thinks about computers and the future:

First off, the fundamental thing that IT gives is the ability to overcome time and distance. It enables human intercommunications on levels never achieved in the history of mankind. In and of itself, this is an economy pulled out of a hat. Without disintermediating planes, trains and automobiles, there are new ways that people interact that make IT a non-zero sum game. Look at a movie from the 80s and find all of the plot holes and crazy situations that could have been obviated by today's cell phone networks and GPS.

Transportation is essentially the most physical form of communication. Communication is required for people to negotiate and cooperate. And more cooperation leads to greater prosperity.

Facebook and the social networks seem almost entirely about sharing personal trivia. But that’s still communication, coordination and cooperation. The cost of sharing is approaching zero. That means that even if only one in a million Facebook updates has non-trivial value, we still become richer.

What's happening to crowds these days is something very unusual. People have their own networks, and communicating with them and their paths makes an extraordinary difference in attention and focus. Many people may not quite know what to think about virtual friends, but the opportunity to have multiple online networks is a new social skill. Your telepresence will be a bigger status symbol than your car.  The hardware and networks into your home will be more important than your lawn.

If there is truth in the old saw, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” what happens when we can all know everybody?