Who has seen the future? I rather incline to J. Bradford DeLong, a former deputy assistant secretary of the US Treasury and now professor of economics at Berkeley.
Professor Delong has been assessing the internet’s longer-term prospects and he sees exciting but enervating times ahead, especially for ordinary wage-earners, white-collar managers and their subordinates.
“White-collar managers and employees – the brainpower that keeps the intricate global corporate machinery whirring, and once the backbone of the middle class – are no longer in such high demand,” he writes. “Many of their skills, which long underpinned their status, careers, and livelihoods, are becoming redundant.”
Indeed, the new economic landscape has meant great benefits for “only a fortunate few … those who combine innovative thinking with financial acumen”.
And yet, the internet has literally set us free to work towards the kind of Utopian egalitarian world of our dreams. It has, as Professor Delong says, delivered that “true marvel … creation of a parallel universe. Anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection can gossip with (or about) virtual friends; witness extraordinary events that may or may not have happened; or play games in a mock world of incomparable complexity.
“The Internet has created a dreamscape that is accessible to all and that can inspire us to still greater heights of imagination. Indeed, those who scoff at the value of this should remember that ever since Homer sang around the hearth fire about the wrath of Achilles, dreams have been our greatest source of pleasure and inspiration.”
I suppose it’s all about continuing the information technology revolution – promoting low-cost tablets like Haiti’s Surtab and India’s Aakash.