The “most important inventions” of the last 50 years?

Never mind mapping the human genome, or even the PC- or the Internet- two technologies from the Internet may be the key says Kevin Kelly in a New York Times Sunday Magazine article called “Scan this book!”

The link and the tag may be two of the most important inventions of the last 50 years. They get their initial wave of power when we first code them into bits of text, but their real transformative energies fire up as ordinary users click on them in the course of everyday Web surfing, unaware that each humdrum click “votes” on a link, elevating its rank of relevance. You may think you are just browsing, casually inspecting this paragraph or that page, but in fact you are anonymously marking up the Web with bread crumbs of attention. These bits of interest are gathered and analyzed by search engines in order to strengthen the relationship between the end points of every link and the connections suggested by each tag. This is a type of intelligence common on the Web, but previously foreign to the world of books.

Not only does this explain search engine algorithms well- it makes you realize how over time- the collective intelligence of the planet will all connect.

Another interesting point Kelly makes, is that the model of mass producing “Atoms” of “bits” is going down the tubes- atoms being the paper, film or CD’s we make from our digital files for sale- all started as data- and should remain such:

As copies have been dethroned, the economic model built on them is collapsing. In a regime of superabundant free copies, copies lose value. They are no longer the basis of wealth. Now relationships, links, connection and sharing are. Value has shifted away from a copy toward the many ways to recall, annotate, personalize, edit, authenticate, display, mark, transfer and engage a work.

Blogs/sites are an excellent way to build your relationships, links and connections- and share your knowledge. The Blogosopher Seminar explains this.

Optimizing your content for search is really about optimizing your content for value:

search has a “transformative purpose,” adding new social value to what it searches. What search uncovers is not just keywords but also the inherent value of connection. While almost every artist recognizes that the value of a creation ultimately rests in the value he or she personally gets from creating it (and for a few artists that value is sufficient), it is also true that the value of any work is increased the more it is shared. The technology of search maximizes the value of a creative work by allowing a billion new connections into it, often a billion new connections that were previously inconceivable.

Kevin Kelly is the “senior maverick” at Wired magazine and author of “Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World”.

I’ve been reading “Wired” for a long time now- and find it the most valuable publication I receive. It’s the only magazine I read cover to cover- every month. I can’t recommend it to my budding blogosophers enough.


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