Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ahead The Road Ahead

It is now the time to say goodbye to a legendary person who has made our world be different. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, left his Redmond office (possibly forever) at Friday, June 27, 2008. I could not help myself picking up an old book written by him---The Road Ahead. What would be the road ahead of what Bill had already accomplished? I would like to ask this question.

Bill is a great visionary. Along with Paul Allen, he imagined a time when computers would be affordable to most of the people and software would do amazing things. From 1970s to early 1980s, such a dream "seemed very crazy." But Bill realized it through Microsoft. When we are now talking about how World Wide Web is bringing human society a great new transition, we must not forget that it is Bill Gates who has made computers be personal. Without the prevalence of PC, there would be no World Wide Web.

What was the road ahead? In his book, Bill told us that he had dreamed of the question "What if computing were nearly free?" Microsoft Windows was his answer. By providing users affordable and easy-to-manipulate operating system, the use of personal computers entered normal people's life. Also in the book, Bill asked the second question, which was his road ahead at the meantime, "What if communicating were almost free?" From the time to now, Microsoft was trying to make itself the leader of the so-called information highway. Unfortunately, however, after more than 10 years we have to say that Microsoft has not been so successful on this goal as it had succeeded in the previous one. An important reason of this failure is the imprecise vision of Internet. Primarily, Internet is an information net in contrast to an information highway system. Due to this confusion of Internet modeling, Microsoft missed the timing of Web 2.0. Google, instead, stole the oppotunity. Now, Gates and Ballmer have to confess that Web search would be the future of the company. This statement finally exclaims that Microsoft no longer seeks for the role of highway patrol but to look for the new role of librarian.

In Bill's two questions, he has particularly emphasized a word---"free". Unquestionably, free is a great feature especially when we would try to engage as many users as possible for a new product. After the product being popular, however, things start to change, especially when the product itself becomes the base of new production lines. The role of Web users is in a transition from mainly as consumer and viewer to be also as producer and publisher. The ones who consume a publisher-oriented Web are information consumers. The ones who consume a viewer-oriented Web are information producers. This important switch of roles appeals a new trend on the Web---"paid" instead of "free".

This switch of roles is actually easy to explain. When you are a consumer, you expect products be free. Once you become a producer, however, you expect your product not to be free. In fact, you expect to make profit out of your knowledge and your hard work. Hence when normal Web users start to realize that they are producers in addition to consumers of information on the Web, they will gradually accept the concept of "paid mind" (not free) on the Web. Web resources thus become mind asset.

Farewell, Bill. You have done excellent work and you will always be remembered as one of the greatest visionaries ever in human history. But there is still much road ahead of the road you have already walked. We will continue the journey and make our world be better and better.


Anonymous said...

I think that Bill Gates, ultimately Bill Gate`s vision of the importance of having a personal computer on every desk is more important than Google`s vision of "organising the world`s information and making it universally accessible and useful" because Bill`s vision talks about the "Why" and the "Why" is personal. Its part of a trajectory of augmenting individual intelligence. Now whilst, undoubtedly, Google and search have greatly amplified individual intelligence, there is sence that the information is more important than "I" and hence by extension more important than "Us" The next stage of computing and the internet will be about reclaiming the value of the mind of each individual and co-operating to create new intelligence. I am also convinced that as a new economy based on "mind assets" starts to emerge people will expect to be be paid for access to their mind - I am not sure however, whether this will mean that people will be expect to be paid for access to their resources, I think that more likely these resources will become "branding" for their mind asset and intellectual capital which people will contribute to projects in return for employment/consulting contracts and equity.

Anonymous said...

Yihong, I have posted the previous comment as a note in Imindi which is enriched with thought links back to my mind.

Anonymous said...

I have also posted this to our blog and to our forum on Twine.

Yihong Ding said...


I agree with you. Bill's mission is indeed more important than Google's mission with respect to mankind. Windows builds up a standard digital environment for people to present mind. By contrast, Google is trying to index the embodied human mind uniformly by eliminating the specialty of individual. In short time, Google's approach improves the accessibility of embodied mind. In long term, however, Google is leading the Web to a direction that produced information becomes more valuable than the producers. Certainly, we believe that this must not be the correct direction of the future.

I believe that Imindi will try to lead the way back to weight human creativity heavier than what human has created. We are going to let people know that creator is always more valuable than what have been created, no matter how great the creation is. Due to digital form of presentation, creation has been cheaper and cheaper because of the easiness of digital copy. However, there is one thing that can never been copied, i.e., the ability of creation. People can steal any embodied mind, but no one can steal the ability of embodying great mind. This is where the real value of mind asset sits.

I agree to what you name the "mind branding model". The really branded thing is not any already embodied mind, however. The branded thing is the ability of embodying those already embodied mind. By this mean, the human value is finally realized by their internal ability of creativity, which is the ultimate gift from God.


Anonymous said...