At a conference last week, an audience of chief executives and other VIPs was lectured on the information revolution and what to do about it. One of its star speakers was the management guru Peter Drucker.
The starting point of the conference was familiar: that the changes wrought by the personal computer are comparable to the industrial revolution. This has become such a cliche that it is tempting to challenge it. The Industrial Revolution - the substitution of machinery for human and animal power - was a change so profound that parts of the world have yet to catch up with it. Are personal computers really that fundamental? Drucker's response to that question was forthright. There is no real comparison with the Industrial Revolution, he said. What is happening now is far more profound. His argument is that the comparison is mistaken. The real analogy is with what he terms 'the first information revolution' - Gutenberg's invention of moveable type, and the advent of the printed book.
In Drucker's view, the first information revolution - like the second - differed from the Industrial Revolution in two crucial respects. First, it spread much faster. Second, it immediately changed not just methods of production, but what was produced. 'The Industrial Revolution,' he says, 'was mechanically very fast and socially very slow. It was not until the railways came in the 1840s that ordinary people became aware of change at all. When I was born in 1909, the revolution had just started to affect the home. People still had oil lamps - electric light had arrived only around 1900.
And, he points out, it was not until after the end of the Napoleonic wars - 50 years after the first introduction of textile machinery - that the revolution moved outside the UK. Contrast, he says, the first information revolution. 'Printing took just 50 years to infiltrate the entire West. Gutenberg's invention was in 1455. By 1465, the number of printed books was six to ten times as great as the number of manuscripts. It was that fast. By the end of the century, the handwritten manuscript was as obsolete as the adding machine on which I worked as a young banker in 1930.'As for his second point: ‘The Industrial Revolution did not replace a single commodity. It made existing commodities available and plentiful, and it made them as like the hand-made version as possible. Factory-made shoes were so close to hand-made ones that only the expert could tell the difference.
'The steam ship was as like the sailing ship as possible: it followed the same routes. The first new product of the Industrial Revolution was the railroad.' Not so with the information revolution: '50 years before it, literature meant the Bible and the Greek and Roman classics. Not long after, it meant Shakespeare and Cervantes.' Or take him huge growth in printed maps. 'Without those, you could not have had the age of discovery.
By Tony Jackson, from the Financial Times
I am going to render the contents of the article under the title “The first and the second information revolutions”. It is taken from the newspaper The Financial Times’. The author of this article Tony Jackson focuses on the importance of technological changes that have affected us recently. He describes the conference about the information revolution where the management guru Peter Drucker was one of the main speakers.
The central part of the article is devoted to the differences between the two information revolutions and the Industrial revolution. According to Drunker the first information revolution – the invention of moveable type of printing – was more profound than the Industrial Revolution. The second information revolution – the personal computer - should be compared in its effect to the first one. In Drucker’s view there are two key differences between the two information revolutions and the Industrial Revolution. Unlike the Industrial Revolution, the first information revolution spread much faster. The Industrial Revolution caused goods to be much cheaper, but there were no totally new goods.
In the final part of the article the author compares the roles and importance of the revolutions. He thinks that the first really new product of the Industrial Revolution was the railway, but changes in book and map production due to the invention of printing were much more profound.
In conclusion I’d like to say that I find the article fairly infesting and I absolutely agree with the author that the great discoveries couldn’t have been made without the invention of printing.