Don Tapscott's giant global computer

Thumb_donT’is the season of digital utopianism. If Kevin Kelly is noisily crystal-ball gazing again, then Don Tapscott, Mr New Paradigm, can’t be far behind. Lo and behold, Tapscott has an upcoming new book called Wikinomics: Collaboration and Innovation in the Age of Linux, MySpace and Wikipedia (due to be published by Porfolio on December 28, 2006).

I heard Tapscott’s version of the digital future yesterday at the American Book Expo in Washington DC. Here’s his definition of web 2.0:

"A digital multimedia, hyperlinked, tagged, geo-spatial, content database, accessible everywhere on many devices and delivered through high value services."

Whew! That’s a mouthful, even for Mr New Paradigm. So he took a breath and thought again. This time around, Tapscott was more concise:

"A giant global computer."

That’s better. Tapscott nailed it. A giant global computer! So what will this mean to our politics, to our social life, to our economics, to our culture, to our politics, to the international system?

To Tapscott, the consequences of the world turning into a giant global computer are entirely positive – democratization, innovation, collaboration, blah blah blah. To me, however, the consequences of this are profoundly troubling. I don’t want to live in a world which is a giant global computer. This is a new dark age. It will flatten culture, impoverish the economy and transform our democratic political system into mob rule.

Tapscott has clarified things. Do we want civilization to turn into a giant global computer? Is this the fate of man? Is it really the best we can do?