As a child of the 80s, it’s hard to believe that the global economy was once based on an agrarian society. Back then, knowledge was tightly concentrated within families and small communities. People didn’t normally know about things from halfway around the world nor the country they lived in.
Then one day, inventions and technology – such as the printing press, hard-drive computers, and the Internet – come along and change society forever. No longer do we simply access data, information, and knowledge in new ways. We can now tap into the collective genius of everyone around the world.
Innovation and its economic and social impact
Let’s consider the printing press, for example. Before Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, books were printed by hand. This slow, mundane, painstaking process took more than a year to print a book – and still yet, mistakes in the final version were common. Because books were very expensive and in limited supply, they were only available to monks and scholars. As a result, knowledge of the world was only presented to a select few. And even still, not everyone knew everything that there was to know. So many things were left unknown and unexplored. As a book lover, I find this very sad when I imagine my peasant ancestors not having the opportunity to experience the joy of the written word and the knowledge and creativity that come from it.
But thanks to Gutenberg’s invention, printing shops were in every major European city in 1500. More than 8 million copies of books were produced – including Bibles, religious texts, romance, and classics by the Roman poet Ovid. Although many people couldn’t read, books spread knowledge to bakers and merchants as well as to noblemen, such as lawyers and knights. No longer did a student have to wait to be picked by the educated elite to learn a language or academic skill. They can now master these skills on their own.
The progress enabled by the printing press is not much different from what we are experiencing today. Information is reaching our homes, phones, cars, offices, and airwaves at an astonishing rate anymore. And for most regions of the world, every piece of information is available for free to whomever wants to consume it – anytime and anywhere.
Hear what Don Tapscott – one of the world’s leading authorities on innovation, media, and the economic and social impact of technology – has to say about the profound changes happening in business and society today. And discover how technology will continue to advance us forward.
What do you think? Do you agree with Don Tapscott?
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