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The Information Society as Post-Industrial Society

Description

The Information Society as Post-Industrial Society is a book written by Japanese futurist Yoneji Masuda, one of the first persons discussing the arrival of the information society in the early 1980's. Masuda's project was actually a very early simulated Internet. It was highly favored by those inside and outside of Japan, and it's proposed cost was in the billions of dollars.

In 1974, a society of Japanese futurists proposed a billion dollar digital society plan called "The Information Society" as post-industrial society. The book is a report on that technological simulation Masuda performed with his research group. The project Masuda started was expensive and implausible given the state of technology in the 1970's. He was able to pull it off with funding and slight simulation techniques. After the project ended, Masuda stiched together his observations. He became excited about the idea of a future society that was connected by data and information. He imagined a future in which all television screens were connected and capable of sending and receiving signals through keyboards.

Masuda believed that society could not continue to sustain itself if it relied on consumption and waste as top social and economic values. Masuda's experiment involved connecting a group of Televisions together so that signals could be sent from one television screen to another. He installed these interactive television consols in various homes and tracked what happened. The project was tested in various households and included two-way communication systems that allowed users of the system to choose images to be displayed on their television screens as well as the ability to receive text messages by TV. Masuda also tested educational programs where students could learn from the screen were tested as well. A database which digitally handled emergency calls was also tested, and it worked.

Those who began to use the devices found that they could easily relay community information like local news and the weather to each other. They could also share images and speak to one another. Some individuals employed the interactive televisions as learning tools, setting up their own educational channels that could be viewed on any other interactive television set connected to the network.

One of Masuda's chief research interests was the impact of the Information Era on the aspects of everyday life. He wrote about the various stages of this impact in a chapter called "Societal Impact of the Information Epoch".

Masuda outlined Stage 1 as a stage "In which technology does work previous done by man", Stage 2, "in which technology makes possible work that man has never been able to do before", and Stage 3, "in which the existing social and economic structures are transformed into new social and economic systems". Finally, he outlined the Fourth and final stage of the Information Society, that of "Individual Based Computerization". "At this stage", wrote Masuda, "there will be a personal terminal in each household, used to solve day-to-day problems and determine the direction of one's future life".[1]

Another of Masuda’s conclusions described the information space as a field linked by networks of information and characterized by three main features:

  1. Information does not have boundaries like a territorial field.
  2. Information consists of "elements related by objective-oriented action".
  3. Information is hierarchical, contained, and organized by those who use and create it.

Masuda explored the idea of an information voluntary community as result of this information space. He described it as “a freedom from ties to a local place, a completely new type of voluntary community”. The fundamental bond to bring and bind people together will be their common philosophy and goals in day-today life; it is the technological base of computer communications networks that will make this possible”.[2]

Wikipedia is the most common example of an Information Voluntary Community, so is Yelp! and Google. When one site links to another, it informs Google. Google works so well partly because of speed, and partly because of billions of clicks and data trails. Google is half human, half machine, a human information database as vast as a million brains, made up of autonomous robots and humans.

References

  1. Masuda, 39: 1980. World Future Society.
  2. Masuda, Yoneji. The Information Society as Post-Industrial Society. World Future Society. 1979.