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Is There Life Beyond Google?

What we need above all is to be able to act co-intelligently

In one of my (several) former professional lives, I used to publish books about the future, including, for example, the world's first full-length book about groupware.

That was back in 1994 and the book was called Groupware on the 21st Century. If I'd been clairvoyant, I guess I would have called it simply The Future Is Google, but the Web hadn't yet taken off, let alone Google, Inc. - mainly because Sergey Brin and Larry Page were both still only 21 years old.

Fast-forward 12 years and the landscape has changed so much. It turns out the world was neither flat, nor round, but Google-shaped. Because much of what is said and done on the Web is currently said or done via Google.

What comes after Google? Where will the Web, the Internet, the whole nexus of telecommunications, i-Technology, and the quest for a better world take us?

My strong sense is as follows: if Web 2.0, as the joke goes, is about how we can make money out of Web 1.0, then Web 3.0 is going to be about how we can extract insight out of Web 2.0.

Those who know me professionally - and a few have had to weather that particular storm for well over a quarter of a century already - will recognize my (to them) familiar refrain: that "insight capture" is the key to the 21st century, just as it was the key to the 19th, or the 20th...or the 14th, or the 16th, for that matter.

Unless we can first capture and thereafter harvest - asynchronously, as and when it is most needed and most relevant - the collective wisdom of our time, how can it be deemed "wisdom"? None of us has time any longer to attend all the conferences we'd like to, or to join all the societies or support all the causes that appeal to us for attention, time, and money. What we need above all is to be able to act co-intelligently. While co-intelligence is what we need, our actual opportunities for meaningfully interacting with our peers are in some respects growing in inverse proportion to the variety of ways in which we can execute the interaction.

We send e-mails about phone calls, make phone calls about e-mails, send IM messages about videos, write blogs about IM messaging...and send videos about there being too many ways to communicate - because, let's face it, do we have time to keep up with each other's communication stream? On a good day, barely; on a regular day, heck no!

Welcome to the World Beyond Google. In this post-Google world that I am positing, the responsibility for extracting the good from the rich new seams of inter-communication would pass in part from the individual to the collective - not quite the Wisdom of Crowds idea, which is more like a "broadband" version of this vision, but certainly the wisdom of many, on the basis of "none of us is a smart as all of us."

How does it work, co-intelligence? It's almost easier to say how it doesn't work. Co-intelligence begins when trying to outsmart the other guy ends. When we are proud to bring our pebble to the building site and help build the tower of perspective; we don't need to insist on being the chief architect if all that the titular folly-swaddle achieves is that what gets built instead is not a tower but a small woodshed.

Small is powerful, less is more. We need fewer ways to communicate, not more, and better ways to distill what's being communicated. There will most certainly be Life Beyond Google, but it will be insightful only if we plan for insight right now, in every piece of software we develop and every single communication and/or networking application that we build.

Social networking without some kind of insight functionality is like mashing up all the world's transport systems - the road network, the railroads, the navigable rivers, the flight paths - and then hoping it will work without the simultaneous invention and development of maps.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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