HUMANKIND'S NEXT EVOLUTIONARY STEP
This chapter is about a new evolutionary step in human society made possible by information technology and telecommunication. My purpose is not to focus on the pertinent technology, as it has been discussed elsewhere, 1 but to reflect on the meaning of this step--in particular to education.
Let me start by describing the emerging global communication network, comprising multiple interconnected "nodes"--where a node is defined as a human being with a computer. The nodes can be of many kinds, such as an ordinary citizen with a personal computer, a professional with an advanced computer-based expert system, a librarian and a major data bank, or a scientist with a computer-accessible laboratory. We have today, thanks above all to the personal computer, potentially about 10 million such nodes. The number is expanding very rapidly, so that we can expect in the not-too-distant future to see hundreds of millions of these nodes.
As a point of reference, in American elementary and secondary schools alone there are now 2.25 million computers--an order of magnitude increase from the 250,000 in 1983. 2 As the global network constituted by these nodes comes into being, it offers us some unprecedented opportunities. In the first place, it enables us to have what can be called "affinity" networks--that is, networks linking nodes engaged at any given time in the same kind of activity. Through these networks, for instance, we can sense globally, that is, we can instantaneously gather all sorts of information from around the globe. We can also market, design, consult, model, do assessments of technologies, and make forecasts. We can socialize. If we are interested in Ottoman history, we can communicate with people