Matt Novak in Paleofuture : “In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face. Sounds obvious today. But in 1968, a full year before ARPANET made its first connection? It was downright clairvoyant…
The paper was written by J.C.R. Licklider and Robert Taylor, illustrated by Rowland B. Wilson, and appeared in the April 1968 issue of Science and Technology. The article includes some of the most amazingly accurate predictions for what networked computing would eventually allow….
The article rather boldly predicts that the computerized networks of the future will be even more important for communication than the “printing press and the picture tube”—another idea not taken for granted in 1968:
Creative, interactive communication requires a plastic or moldable medium that can be modeled, a dynamic medium in which premises will flow into consequences, and above all a common medium that can be contributed to and experimented with by all.
Such a medium is at hand—the programmed digital computer. Its presence can change the nature and value of communication even more profoundly than did the printing press and the picture tube, for, as we shall show, a well-programmed computer can provide direct access both to informational resources and to the processes for making use of the resources.
The paper predicts that the person-to-person interaction that a networked computer system allows for will not only build relationships between individuals, but will build communities.
What will on-line interactive communities be like? In most fields they will consist of geographically separated members, sometimes grouped in small clusters and sometimes working individually. They will be communities not of common location, but of common interest. In each field, the overall community of interest will be large enough to support a comprehensive system of field-oriented programs and data.
…In the end, Licklider and Taylor predict that all of this interconnectedness will make us happier and even make unemployment a thing of the past. Their vision of everyone sitting at a console, working “through the network” is stunningly accurate for an information-driven society that fifty years ago would’ve looked far less tech-obsessed.
When people do their informational work “at the console” and “through the network,” telecommunication will be as natural an extension of individual work as face-to-face communication is now. The impact of that fact, and of the marked facilitation of the communicative process, will be very great—both on the individual and on society.
First, life will be happier for the on-line individual because the people with whom one interacts most strongly will be selected more by commonality of interests and goals than by accidents of proximity. Second, communication will be more effective and productive, and therefore more enjoyable. Third, much communication and interaction will be with programs and programmed models, which will be (a) highly responsive, (b) supplementary to one’s own capabilities, rather than competitive, and (c) capable of representing progressively more complex ideas without necessarily displaying all the levels of their structure at the same time-and which will therefore be both challenging and rewarding. And, fourth, there will be plenty of opportunity for everyone (who can afford a console) to find his calling, for the whole world of information, with all its fields and disciplines, will be open to him—with programs ready to guide him or to help him explore.
(You can read the entire paper online [pdf]. )”