This presentation was given at the TED6 conference in Monterey. It didn’t go over very well… I got some absolutely, uncalled for, violent attacks and some really enthusiastic, congratulations. It wasn’t hard to figure out who was threatened and who was excited. The metaphor of a strip-tease was just too much for most people to handle. It’s unfortunate because it’s a great analogy. Understanding and information function in layers all around us and to get to meaning (to understand), we must learn to peel away the data and the lower levels at each turn. You can’t ever get to the point of generating Wisdom without being ready to deal without yourself on an intimate level (hence the near nudity).

Oh, well. Perhaps, the virus has stuck anyway. I have already had some great conversations as a result of the presentation, and it should, at least, be memorable. Here are the notes without many visuals (not quite a transcript). You can be your own judge.

Warning: I am here to infect you. Questions at end or in group Q&A session. There is a lot to say, so I’m going to speak fast. Pay attention, take notes if you have to, and let’s go.

Clothes: White clean-room suit with Information Laboratories logo or Information Hazard logo on back.

Issues: Data is not information.We have been living in the Data Age and the Information Age is only now beginning.In order to progress we must recognize the difference and how to employ the proper techniques to change things. Otherwise, we will stagnate at this level. Factoids are worthless (and CNN is not even embarrassed at using this word). We must learn to distinguish the two so prevent overload and anxiety. This is the domain of Research and Creation. Data is for producers and not consumers (or else you aren’t providing any value). Access and Privacy issues apply here.


Clothes: Jacket and Tie

Issues: Information is data put into context with thought given to organization and presentation.This is the domain of both producers and consumers.

The organization and presentation of data can profoundly change the understanding of it. These presentations can affect the knowledge people build and the experiences people have-even on an emotional level (as in the case of the Vietnam War Memorial.

We have decent skills with which to deal with data, but not for information.

MIS, IT, and CIOs are traditionally merely MDS, DT, and CDOs unless they are addressing issues other than just technology. The true technology is the process and the information skills, and not the machinery.This is where the productivity paradox is taking place. It is a problem of process and application and not speed or cost.This is the domain of information design and, of course, everybody does this but few people realize that they are doing so.

Stop calling things information appliances. All the marketing dollars in the world aren’t going to change them from data appliances. Lotus Notes is probably the only information tool on the market and this will be quite a market eventually. Get into the Information business. Build, sell, and market truly informing products and services.

Examples: Vietnam War Memorial, Periodic Table


Clothes: T-shirt with Information Virus symbol and Shorts

Issues: Knowledge is about experiences and the richer the experience, the better the communication.We need to teach people the process to create great experiences, transform data into knowledge, tell good stories, and make use of the tools and techniques. Then we must give them the access to the tools so they can do this. This is necessary to have a true Information Age.

Compare this to the Scientific Revolution that didn’t start until well after Guttenberg’s press. People had to learn to read and write and use the printing technology.

Conversation and storytelling are examples of knowledge-enabling experiences. The competitors to new media are not CD-ROMs, TV, Interactive TV, or other technologically advanced products. They are concerts, dinner parties, sleeping, sex, conversations, festivals and circuses. People are just as able to turn off their TV and go play tennis or sleep or dine as they are to play interactive CD-ROMs or video games. They are just as able to shop by mailorder catalog or in a mall as they are by QVC or En Passant. If these new media do not provide experiences as compelling or rich as established ones, they will never succeed. This is the problem with interactivity so far–none of it is.

We need to create a taxonomy of experience.Those who have been trained as performers: dancers, musicians, actors, storytellers, and comedians know how to use these techniques better than anyone. We must listen to them and learn from them.It is the core of education and learning-whether formal or casual.

This is the domain of interaction design and performance.We should be building products and experiences that build knowledge.


Clothes: Boxer shorts

Issues: Wisdom is a personal, even intimate, process and can’t be taught directly. The only thing we can do is value wisdom in others and teach people the skills that will help them develop wisdom for themselves. We can also introduce them to the concept that they can become wiser and how to use the tools to do so.Wisdom is about introspection, contemplation, retrospection, and interpretation and it is not possible to achieve unless we are ready to deal with the world around us on an intimate level (and this includes people).


Information Viruses
Clothes: Silence=Death t-shirt

Issues: I have a secret to share but there isn’t much time left. All communication is viral. Richard Dawkins described the concepts of memes in his book, the The Selfish Gene. Ideas and information are an ecosystem of life that is one layer higher than DNA/RNA just as DNA is one layer higher than crystals and muds as they are higher than quantum phenomena.This ecosystem contains a complete taxonomy of storage and transmission systems analogous to the ones we are now discovering in biological systems–but for ideas.This includes the ability to create anti-virals and strengthen our own information immune systems.

Understanding these mechanisms will allow us to create even more compelling communications and products-especially on the corporate level. Products like PostScript and TeleScript are technology viruses that show the power of these concepts–although unintentionally. There are techniques that can be use to turn all information into compelling information and technological viruses and these will be extremely important to those companies, individuals, and organizations who understand this.

Biological evolution is essentially dead. Our bodies are not evolving. They are merely receptacles for our brains which are merely receptacles for our minds which our merely receptacles for our thoughts and ideas (memes). The future of evolution will be played-out in the information ecosystem.