Writer promotes institutional changes to utilize new tech

Writer Don Tapscott believes that the world should embrace technology. (credit: Jonathon Carreon/Photo Editor) Writer Don Tapscott believes that the world should embrace technology. (credit: Jonathon Carreon/Photo Editor)

The world must rebuild its institutions around the internet, said author, executive, and business consultant Don Tapscott on Tuesday, in a speech which nearly filled Rashid Auditorium.

Speaking in the second Carnegie Mellon Innovators Forum, Tapscott gave a short talk. He then held a facilitated conversation with Heinz College Dean Ramayya Krishnan before taking questions from the audience and signing copies of his newest book, Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World.

The Innovators Forum is hosted by Carnegie Mellon to bring topical speakers to campus who will facilitate interesting discussion, with the stated aim of “connecting the world’s top innovative minds with the university community.” This second forum succeeded in gathering a large audience, including individuals from outside the university community.

In his speech, Tapscott addressed the current global financial crisis and contrasted his opinion on analyzing global phenomena with that of economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, with whom he had often been booked on speaking tours. Tapscott stated that he was not in favor of the future predictions regarding the global markets. “The future is not to be predicted, it is to be achieved,” Tapscott said.

Speaking further on the concept of the evolution of the global economy, Tapscott went on to claim that, “arguably, the industrial age has come to the logical end of its time.” Instead, he stressed the need to embrace the internet.

Tapscott remarked that workplaces are currently facing a “generational firewall,” or barrier between their older and younger employees. He stressed the importance of older generations obtaining a “reverse mentor,” a technologically adept teacher to assist them in their integration into a digital world.

Per audience request, Tapscott used the remainder of his address to discuss the internet’s effect on social justice in the modern era.

Drawing an analogy between the introduction of the printing press ending feudalism and the use of social media in the Arab Spring uprising, Tapscott described how websites such as Twitter are key in facilitating a new era of “user-generated social justice.”

Tapscott addressed the potential of the new digital age, speaking on the possibilities of open government and the crowdsourcing of raw data. “You can not only read an encyclopedia, you can write one,” he said.

The forum also accepted audience questions, one of which was submitted via Twitter. The topics discussed ranged from the role Twitter has taken in culture, to the effect of anonymity on the internet, to the issue of pornography and internet filtering.

One topic which particularly piqued the audience’s interest was the effect of digital communication on social abilities. Referencing his book Grown Up Digital, Tapscott cited evidence that increased technology and computer use by teens has only cut down on time spent in front of the television.

“I don’t see any systematic evidence anywhere that this generation is losing their social skills,” he said.

The event was well received, with many attendees discussing it as they exited the auditorium. In addition, a number of people actively tweeted the event, using the hashtag “#TapscottCMU.”

Reactions from Twitter were largely positive, with posters such as ThePGHA writing, “This is a great conversation ... future of technology, communication, social justice.”

However, a few users were not as content, with Twitter user clcatga writing, “I thought he was going to focus one idea [sic].”

First-year mathematics and history major Nick Takaki had mixed feelings. “Tapscott was very charismatic, and it was clear he had done his research and thinking,” he said.

Takaki did express doubts on whether the power of the internet was a new topic to the audience at hand.

However, he said, “It’s a credit to Don Tapscott that he’s both figured this out and is able to communicate that sentiment in lectures.”

Tapscott did touch upon many subjects in his address, even the potential downsides of the technology that he proposed that the world should embrace. “The internet is a reflection of everything that is good and bad in society,” Tapscott said. “We need curators.”