Reel Opens - The Information Society - 1980
Show opener - KCET Hollywood animated graphics
Funding by announcer - National Science Foundation and additional funding by other various foundations
Opening slate - film by the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies
Var talking heads on the streets and various other locations giving their opinion of the "information society".
Host and Producer, Marc Porat talks about the topic of this special production, the advent of technology and information..
Man walking down street while reading a newspaper, girl walking carrying a folder. Businessmen carrying briefcases, shot from waist down, shots of smoggy industrial plants. Host, unseen, narrates about most people think the "Industrial Age" still dominates American life.
Host Marc Porat, Fellow from the Aspen Institute, looking into camera, talks about the beginning of a new age, a revolution in communication and information.
But this show is not about the end of an era. Rather, it's about the start of a new one. It's about the beginning of a new age, launched by the tremendous force of a revolution, a revolution in communication, and information.
Computer processors circa early 1980's
Host Porat, holding up a couple of simple tools, wrenches, and talks about how simple tools altered the path of civilization beginning 5,000 years ago
Marc Porat 2:15
You know, tools are wonderful things, and sometimes are extremely important. In fact, there are a few instances in history, when a tool has come along that was so profoundly important that it altered the path of civilization. It actually created a new age.
Ancient drawings on a stone wall of horses and plow. Other drawings of the ancient Egyptians of civilizations 5,000 years ago in the Nile Valley.
Porat unseen talks about how the technology of the plow was revolutionary in that it created the agricultural age and provided the tools for civilization, division of labor and private property
Marc Porat 2:34
The first time about 5000 years ago, somewhere in the Fertile Crescent, between the Mesopotamian plains and the Nile Valley, the plow was invented. Now that technology was revolutionary. The Plow created all the conditions necessary for civilization, division of labor, private property, law, politics, record keeping, and the tax collector. The Plow created the Agricultural Age
B&W photo still, Scottish Inventor of the steam engine in the late 1700's, James Watt from Glasgow, Scotland
the second time, about 1765 in Glasgow, Scotland, James Watt invented the first practical steam engine in it, along with mechanization and the assembly line was another of those extraordinary technologies. This one brought the workers out of the fields and into the factories.
B&W photo still steam engine factory circa late 1700's
Porat talking into camera about the revolutionary period of the steam engine and its influence on the beginning of the Industrial Age. He states the new information tools (of the 1980's) are creating the third technology to change the course of civilization.
Marc Porat 3:25
The steam engine created the second major stage of civilization, the industrial age. Today, many people believe that information tools are the third technology to change the course of civilization, changing our relationship to nature, to each other, to the very way we experience reality.
Tilt down on a large office space, void of people, papers and phones. A clean looking space with with two computers on a large desk, circa early '80's . CU on the early computer complete with keyboard and attached screen.
Marc Porat 3:48
Of all information tools, the computer is probably the most powerful. And it's come to stand as a symbol for the information age, just as a steam engine became the symbol for the industrial age.
INSERT DISCUSSION - Carl Hammer, Computer Scientist
Carl Hammer 4:02
in this country. And about 400,000 more and the rest of the world. That is there are 800,000 computers all told. Now that's not counting those little devices, which are built into the radar ovens. These are real computers, computers of this kind. The interesting number is that these 400,000 machines do the work of about 5 trillion people, 5 trillion clerical workers, the whole world has only a population of 4 billion people. These machines do the work of 1000 times more people than the whole world has.
Pan a huge office space with dozens of workers at computers sitting side by side
CONTINUED DISCUSSION - CARL HAMMER
Carl Hammer 4:50
Every technology that mankind has ever developed, sort of rises sharply and then continues up and eventually sort of flattens out. Now The technology curve usually is curved, that takes about 70 years. We think of sailboats, or steam boats, or diesel boats or airplanes, whatever computers, we're still down here, we are still down here we are on our way up to the real phenomenal impact of these machines. That is a that is a future, which is marvelous, where knowledge becomes instantaneously available to everybody at the touch of a button.
INSERT INTERVIEW - WALTER WRISTON, CHAIRMAN, CITICORP
Walter Wriston 5:32
The velocity of invention and change in the last 50 years has just been mind boggling. But each generation that comes along takes the last as a given. So I don't see any compression of problems in handling it. Because while I had to learn how to wind up Morton Salt box with a coil to build a crystal set, my grandson will have a home computer tied into JC Penney's or somebody to order directly from the home. And he will not regard that with any more or than I regarded the slide rule when they handed it to me in college. So I think we, each generation learns how to live with a level of technology that the previous one created.
Back with Host Marc Porat sitting at computer talking into camera about the Information Society and how it affects us. He holds up a graph of the U.S. work force from 1880 forward. He points and explains the changes that happen in stages of what we do for a living.
Marc Porat 6:31
With could spend a whole evening taking a close look at the tools of the Information Society. They're the healthiest and most dynamic part of the US economy today. But I don't want to dwell on the tools. You've seen them on other programs. And the information industries IBM at&t, Xerox, spend millions of dollars telling you how small and cheap and powerful these tools are. But the real story of the Information Society is how they're affecting us. For one thing, there's been a fundamental change in what we do to earn a living. This is a picture of the US workforce going back to 1880, you can clearly see three stages of development. Stage one, the plow is still the dominant technology, the largest group of workers are farmers, followed by industrial workers, and information workers way down here. Stage two machines are now the dominant technology. In 1907. The industrial workforce takes the lead from the farmers and keeps it for over 50 years. And now, stage 3 1957. And from then on the largest group of workers or information workers, they now make up over 50% of the workforce and growing industry, about 25%. Agriculture, three and a half percent. Well, that's the information society in numbers. And these numbers mean real changes in our lives. change as you can see for yourself, almost anywhere in America.
Porat standing points to a map of the United States. He points to a small town on the map, Lancaster, PA, a good example of where you could see the obvious stages where the Agriculture Age was overtaken by the Industrial Age and in turn is now being taken over by the Information Age.
Marc Porat 8:06
I searched for a place a single town where you could clearly see these three stages, a town where the Agricultural Age had been overtaken by the industrial age, which in turn is now being overtaken by the information age. And I chose Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a city of 58,000 people and in many ways, a perfect microcosm of America. Lancaster became a productive agricultural community in the early 1700s. Soon after, was settled by Dutch, German, Swiss and English farmers and craftsmen.
Silhouette of a large farm against a setting sun.
Screen door opens on porch of farm house. Firewood stacked against the wall, three folk come out of house. Narrator introduces the people as a family of descendants of original immigrant farmers. CU on the face of older man, Walter (?). They talk to each other about the chores of the day, getting the ground ready, bringing in the celery crop.
Two men walk toward tractor on farm. Four people sitting on large type of tractor (plow) moving slowly through a field of vegetable crop.
Cutaway. Cars driving along the first paved turnpike in America in Pennsylvania, built in 1792
WS of farmer pushing a manual seeding machine. Cows are seen grazing in field in bkgd.
Historic B&W group photos of railroad workers standing on Railroad tracks and farmers sitting with two giant wagon wheels in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Talking head man, Jack Loose, Lancaster County Historian talking with unseen interviewer about the old Lancaster work ethic, you have to work, and work hard.
Jack Loose 10:34
typical character of the Lancaster County and although it probably could not be a stereotype, and nevertheless is is the epitome of the Protestant work ethic. Everybody believes that you've got to work and you should work hard. There's probably no greater crime in Lancaster than not giving a full day's work for a full day's pay.
Pan the old b&W photo of very proud looking farm workers.
Var vintage B&W photos from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1800's early 1900's: The Conestoga National Bank; an old bank contract; rendering of an old factory; an umbrella factory; large brick building with "Safety Buggy Company" sign painted on the brick, workers in a buggy factory.
Talking head older country couple from Lancaster sitting in their living room and talking with unseen interviewer about what it was like to see the first automobile coming down the road.
Tilt down early shot of Lancaster early 1900's, row house homes, telephone poles, cars parked on street
Marc Porat 11:50
Lancaster had changed. There were still farms on the outskirts of town. That industry now defined its consciousness. The industrial age but a profusion of cheap manufactured goods to Lancaster, sold right here in Mr. Woolworths first five and 10 cent store. Something else was being manufactured by the industrial age information tools. It was between Lancaster and Harrisburg that the country's first commercial telegraph Link was established, and the telephone followed soon after. Lancaster was becoming more and more connected to the rest of America. The people of Lancaster flourished and prospered. Their tastes became sophisticated. Times were great.
POV train engine - train (unseen) moving along railroad tracks in rural farm area
B&W photo still - Mr. Woolworth standing at door of the original Woolworth's Five and Ten Store in Lancaster (the first store opened in NY but failed)
Pan out from photo still downtown Lancaster, dozens Telegraph poles lining the streets. Narrator unseen states during the Industrial Age the first telegraph link in the nation was established between Lancaster and Harrisburg, PA
B&W photo of an estate type home in Lancaster, man mowing front lawn - a depiction of how the people flourished during the Industrial Age.
B&W photo stills downtown Lancaster, a prosperous city during the Industrial Age: a bustling city; Opera House program; stylish ladies posed doing the Charleston dance
Cutaway to photos depicting abandoned agricultural equipment on a farm, abandoned plants - the results of the Depression and the impact it had on the thriving city of Lancaster.
Lancaster New Era newspaper article about the beginning of World War II. Narrator unseen explains how the war revitalized industry as it began to make suipplies for the war.
Workers in an early automobile factory back at work - male workers working on chassis, Forklift going by, a woman factory worker working manually screwing in parts.
Ext. rows and rows of red forklifts or farm equipment lined up in a lot, man on forklift driving by. New modern industry.
Var shots of hundreds of eggs on a conveyor belt and the automatic equipment placing them in egg crates a dozen at a time. Boxes of eggs rolling down the assembly line.
Industrial factory equipment spewing sparks.
B&W photo still circa 1946, two girls and a man sitting around table and watching the first tube television set by RCA
Cut to 1980's, interior RCA plant in Lancaster, people at work stations, putting together technical parts for tv cameras, and computers. CU's of hands working with tiny tools.
Talking head male
So they're doing the work that is needed to become electronics experts. To get into the telecommunications ends of things
B&W photo still - workers at the original Hamilton Watch Company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, late 1800's. Then cut to workers in the modern times of the 1980's working at the same work stations but seen working with chips for communication devices.
CU digital clock on a radio or a communications device. Hands working with small chips and tiny tools
Woman typing on an early day computer, screen attached to keyboard
Interior warehouse, an automatic moving pallet on tracks is seen transporting boxes of hampers
Man closing the rear door of a Woolworth's truck. Door reads, "Another Truckload of great Values..."
CU Large sign outside the Sperry New Holland industrial park. The building and cars seen parked in lot in the bkgd
Ext signage for ITT Grinnell Valve Co., Inc
Ext b&w photo still the Lancaster New Era newspaper printing office building
Man in fgd working at his desk on a computer, he answers phone and continues typing with phone in his ear.
Talking head woman outside, Libby Snyder talking with unseen interviewer:
Libby Snyder 15:40
I'm very much more in touch with the world now. I think because it's so easy. Let's put it that way. And there's so much coming at me all the time. We have cable television here so as I say you got it from Philadelphia. We get it from Baltimore, all the different programs. And we have the newspapers but everything is coming fast from the city.
Vintage B&W photo still of the old Conestoga National Bank with a horse drawn (many horses!) covered wagon parked out front. Lancaster, PA
Int. circa 1980's the Conestoga National Bank. Customer making transaction with woman behind counter.
B&W pan down photo still of the original City Hall building in Lancaster., folk out front on the sidewalk.
Cut to modern high rise Lancaster City Hall building, pan to top reveals large satellite on the roof.
Talking head male outdoors speaking with unseen interviewer
Jack Loose 16:26
Among Lancaster County's attempts to keep up with the the technological advances comes a great deal of information. Our colleges have it our industries have it. It is piling in there's that's now trade expression, but we have what is called an information explosion. But we're handling that.
Police officer driving car and speaking on police car radio
Tilt down on police officer working on computer - narrator states the police are now connected thanks to technology to the FBI's national crime systems
Vintage B&W photo still - interior Lancaster Hospital large desk, looks like pharmacy.
Woman working on computer, CU shot of data on computer screen
Patient, male, lying on table and going into a medical CAT Scanner machine, a new type of scanner circa 1980's, probes the body without surgery. Patient on machine waves to camera as his body enters the machine.
Female doctor or technician, studying the scanned results on computer equipment. Picture on computer screen from CAT Scanner.
Covered pick up truck circa early 1980's driving down residential street of row houses in Lancaster. Shots of suburban white collar area, homes with neat manicured front lawns. Small orange car pulling up to nice driveway of suburban home. Narrator, unseen, states white collar workers are now mixed with blue in suburbia.
Same older couple from earlier talking with unseen interviewer. Old woman states she is now used to the conveniences and wouldn't want to go back.
WS man crossing busy street in downtown Lancaster, PA (1980's)
Animated opening slates for next segment - The Power Centers
Tilt up on modern city skyscrapers, sun rays shining down between buildings.
Pan foggy New York City skyline - POV poss helicopter
Talking head, Fritz Machlup, N.Y.U Economics Professor talks with unseen interviewer
Fritz Machlup 18:41
If we are here in New York and you go to go to the large office buildings, the people in there do produce nothing but information. There are the information flow from the top down and from the bottom to the top. This is all information there's no one else there people do absolutely nothing somebody dictates to a Secretary the Secretary puts it down this is tight because sub goes into the computer some comes from the computer computer printouts. That is that is the telephone all the time and conferences. People do nothing but talking and writing and reading and and so on.
Int office space with many desks, woman standing at man's desk , then walks away while writing; African American woman typing at her computer next to her is a row of desks with computers, computer screen with data, cu man on telephone, phones can be heard ringing, people working in busy office.
Pan huge office space with row after row of people working on computers at their desks.
Tilt up on New York City skyscrapers
Host Marc Porat -
Marc Porat 19:34
in an information society, our society, the difference between success and failure, survival and defeat, between being powerful and powerless hinges more than ever before on understanding the value and importance of information. How to get it, organize it, protect it, use it, sell it and not get overwhelmed by it. In an agricultural society, the source of power is land. In an industrial society, the source of power is capital. Where's the power in an information society?
Marc Porat 20:24
Today, the lifeblood of every corporation, its very essence is information. In the corporate world, information is power. And to see the we chose a single corporation that could stand as a symbol for them all. Citicorp. Headquartered in New York City Corp is a multinational financial institution with assets of $100 billion. It combines the talents of 50,000 information workers in 92 countries around the world. It's what we used to call a bank.
Shot from waist down, legs of mostly businessmen walking in a city, carrying briefcases
Hustle bustle city scenes, people standing outside the Simon Schuster Building waiting for bus or taxi, bus and traffic going by.
Quick shots exteriors var buildings in Manhattan - The Exxon building with fountains, Time & Life sculpture; McGraw - Hill; Central Savings Bank with digital clock next to sign; ABC skyscraper;
Businesswoman, shot neck down, carrying briefcase and large bundle of folders; businessmen, neck down, going through revolving doors
Ws New York City skyline - the white Citicorp skyscraper standing out amongst other buildings.
Pan interior rows of information workers at desks on computers, z'in young woman at desk top computer phone system
Walter Wriston, Chairman, Citicorp
Walter Wriston 20:57
We operate today in in a global marketplace. And the streams of electrons that are going around the world today have created a true revolution. And I would remind you that bloodiest battle of the war of 1812 was fought almost a month after the peace treaty was signed in England, because the sailing ship couldn't get here in time, and 1000s of people died. Today, if the president of the united states holds a news conference, it shows up in the cross rate on the dollar Sterling market in London, in less than 60 seconds. So that the front page of the Wall Street Journal is printed by bouncing electrons off a satellite, and so is our general ledger. And so it's a computer switch and Bahrain or Hong Kong or London. So we have tied together a database in the world, which is capable of telling anybody anywhere in the world, almost anything immediately.
Color photo still President Reagan at podium at press conference
Several Wall Street Journals stacked
Photo Planet Earth with a satellite hovering
Var shots - different folk from around the globe working on or with computer technology - East Indian man, Hong Kong, London
Int. shots workers from different countries in Citicorp's foreign exchange room. American man, Japanese man, and Europeans on phones working the markets.
Pan around the very large space with rows and rows of desks with computers, and workers
Talking head male from Citicorp foreign exchange room explains to unseen interviewer that they buy and sell currencies against the dollar.
"Basically what we do is we buy and sell currencies against the dollar. We do it both for our own account and for the account of our customers. The key feature here is speed trying to follow what's going on in the international markets so that we can anticipate and catch trends as they occur."
Shaggy hair'd male with two phones, talking on both at once.
Huge screen on wall with Dow Jones tape information coming across second by second.
CU attractive African American girl at the Citicorp foreign exchange room talking with unseen interviewer, talks about how fast changes in the market happen
Shots of the various foreign exchange workers, working fast, talking on phones, communicating with each other as exchange market info comes through from dow jones.
Business men, including Walter Wriston (Banker and Former Chairman and CEO Citicorp - known as the single most influential commercial banker of his time) seated around conference table having a meeting with other bankers and finance guys.
Cutaway. Pan U.S. government building in Washington, D.C. POV moving vehicle.
back with Fritz Machlup
Fritz Machlup 25:57
The government not only is in the business of information, you can always say the government is an Information Industry. Because what do the government people do? They push paper. They're all the paper pushers in the various government departments are knowledge producers or information transmitters.
z'out from a huge information technology work room, hundreds of computer desks and workers are seen.
Leonard Schaeffer, Dept. of Health and Human Resources.
Leonard Schaeffer 26:45
Medicare and Medicaid combined and the Health Care Financing Administration, we have a few other things as well. It's the third largest agency in the federal government $45 billion going on 53 Next year, current trends continue. We will be the largest federal agency in 10 years bigger than Defense Department bigger than HEW, there is nothing growing as fast as healthcare. And we are perceived as the epitome of a fat, self satisfied bureaucracy. Right 46 million beneficiaries. We are not simply buying one yellow pencil for every American, we're trying to do is serve the most vulnerable among our population, there is no way that I can talk to 46 million Americans, there's no way I should, we got to hand these tapes, because they represent all those people. If we didn't have the advanced technology we have now in this country, we couldn't provide those services. And those very vulnerable people would not get the kind of health care this country can't afford and is willing to give them.
Dozens of sheets of papers flowing from an unseen printer regarding Medicare Hospital, Extended Care and Home Health Benefits Records
Pink sheet of paper with "Critical Case" written across top, hand holding pen writing notes
Woman at desk with phone tucked in ear, talking on phone and working at same time
two sets of hands typing on keyboards. Z'out revealing middle aged man and woman at their desks, large fan keeping them cool.
Various other workers from the Dept of Health and Human Resources, working on computers and printers. African American man talking with unseen interviewer about the paperwork and information they deal with
Z'out from top of the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
The White House pov moving vehicle
Peter Lakeland, Counsel to Sen. Javitts
Peter Lakeland 28:52
the propaganda base has grown considerably more quickly, then the actual information base in my judgment, many more people are now active in the field in terms of stating positions. And there are many more organized lobby groups in Washington were seeking to affect senatorial judgment and senatorial decisions.
with is government. And then government decide that is afraid that it will lose the argument. We'll try to delay a decision with the argument that there is some more information that needs to be produced. So information can serve a bureaucratic purpose in procrastination, and if you can't get you away, at least preventing somebody else from getting his way,
Peds walking by giant "Information" sign on a building with a detailed map of the city.
Hustle bustle downtown, peds crossing streets, pan up the skyscrapers
Var. talking heads, for eg. male in an office plus a bearded man on a farm, female office workers and others, speaking with unseen interviewer about how they feel about "bureaucracy"
Ernest Boyer, Former Commissioner of Education; Hermann Kahm(?); Carol Bellamy, President, N.Y. City Council; Marc Porat, Host and Producer; Alan Westin, Privacy Expert
Ernest Boyer 30:56
Well, there's no question that if you stop the person on the street and say government, they're going to say bureaucrat, and you say what bureaucrat and they say someone who's inept, doesn't know how to get things done, who loves paper, who loves confusion? Who cann't answer a simple letter clearly, and that's widely shared, and it's growing worse, the attitudes are leading to a shattering loss of confidence, which may be one of the most important and serious problems, Fallout effects of our current information society.
Herman Kahn 31:29
I have been working with the United States government, more or less closely since 1950. When we first went to work with them, they were really great. saying the President and the department had got together put up a little building. But 30 months later on two and a half years, you'd walk into that building. Today, it takes like 10 years. Now 10 years means who there's no fun of it, who cares?
Carol Bellamy 31:52
One does not feel some failure in in yourself for having not made a decision, because you are comforted within the bureaucracy that's that you need to make that decision. So so it is a it is a it's a it's a law, it's a blanket, it's a Linus like blanket, bureaucracy that protects you it is it is a protective covering
Herman Kahn 32:19
The US is increasingly operating, like a Latin American government, which had the problem of this kind of red tape will actually be fairer and more likely an Egyptian or an Italian government that Americans are actually much better than that.
Ernest Boyer 32:34
The concerns about environment and the concerns about safety, which we have all demanded, have placed increasingly on government agencies responsibilities of oversight and concern that weren't there 20 30 years ago, these are not simple trade offs. Does that mean the government get should get out of the business of environmental concerns or get out of the business of personal health and safety, or get out of the business of human rights?
Marc Porat 33:00
Obviously not. You see, the problem is larger than our discontent with our bureaucracies. The problem is that our institutions are often paralyzed by too much paperwork, regulation, red tape, and that part of the information society can be terribly demoralizing. And there's another reason for this feeling this malaise. And a two involves the information society. It is, ironically, there were two well informed, we know too much. We've lost forever, the opportunity to live in innocence, about how our society works, or doesn't work.
Alan Westin 33:40
It's very difficult for people to live by the old myths about how institutions really work and how politics really work, or how people just as individuals really work in an age of such open and intensive information as we now have. Because if you really know how decisions are made, and people's weaknesses as individuals, if you know about the medical problems, that sexual problems about the way they lead their lives, the old false facades by which we govern Victorian society, or the days of the early republic, where a very small number of people really knew what was going on. But generally people didn't know. It just isn't possible anymore. So the crisis of institutions in part is a crisis of information about how they really work being broadly disseminated to the masses in in societies,
Marc Porat 34:32
information is a tremendously valuable and costly resource. The question is, how effectively do our leaders and institutions use that resource?
Audience shot from rear of large auditorium. Hand holding pen taking notes on pad.
Pan inside a large data center room, var servers, storage systems.
INTERVIEW - Daniel Yankelovich, Pollster; Carol Bellamy, Henry Kissinger
Daniel Yankelovich 34:41
The more information we have, the less people understand about the kind of world we live in and the choices that are available to them? So there's obviously a perversion in the use of inflammation. There's obviously a perverted growth in the giantism of Institutions
Carol Bellamy 35:01
I think the decision maker has to be able to digest the information that comes to him or to her. And then be prepared to be bold, to take risks, to move in some direction, to make mistakes, to fall down to get back up, brush yourself off, move forward. I think we're missing that today. That's if that's my sense of some minor crisis of leadership. And I think in some measure, it is, it is a sense of the need to have information that makes us indecisive today,
Henry Kissinger 35:36
if you are a decision maker, you must be willing to stake yourself on your judgment. In the final analysis, you're alone in the final analysis, you have to judge and it gets awfully still around you when you do that. But also, that I always found that in those critical moments, there was a certain serenity attached to it, because fretting Did you know good at all. And if you don't have the capacity to put the word might have been out of your mind. high positions will destroy you.
Marc Porat 37:56
Welcome back, so where are we? We've seen how the information society is transforming America, and how the power centers are critically dependent on information. But every revolution produces both benefits and problems. And the information revolution is no exception. Problem number one, invasion of privacy. You've all heard about it, maybe even experienced it.
Animated slate, Intermission
Abstract computer generated animations
Animated slate - third segment. Issues, Privacy, Information Overload
Host Marc Porat, at desk in office, welcomes viewers back.
Marc Porat 37:56
Welcome back, so where are we? We've seen how the information society is transforming America, and how the power centers are critically dependent on information. But every revolution produces both benefits and problems. And the information revolution is no exception. Problem number one, invasion of privacy. You've all heard about it, maybe even experienced it.
Hands of office worker flipping papers and tapping the data on keyboard
African American woman typing on computer
Drive through suburban area, pov moving vehicle. Passing parked yellow VW bus, cars in driveways
WS industrial factory with smoke coming out of smokestacks
Huge stacks of data binders
Young woman, talking head, in data storage room talking with unseen interviewer about her job and the types of data on various people that is stored.
Var talking heads male and female, on the street in New York City, talking with unseen interviewer about privacy issues brought on by computer technology
Back with Porat. He sums up the privacy issues and the potential damaging results that computer technology has brought along with it.
Var shots everyday life - Group of teens sitting at a picnic table, a young couple walking through a park, Black man flying a kite as kids slide down slide in a park, folk on a park bench fanning themselves, folk dancing in the park, kids all around
INTERVIEWS - about privacy
Alan Westin 39:21
We found that the United States with certain very clear notions about the private life versus the life that was fought and engaged in in the public arenas. That worked for about 150 170 years, essentially because the tools of intrusion was so crude. And because you couldn't get into somebody's brain and you couldn't look through the walls. You couldn't take the sound from a rowboat in the middle of the lake. There was a fit between our theory about the importance of the private life and the private arena and the existential world of intrusion. Privacy has become the word we use it For a set of problems in the relationships of powerful organizations to people, for which we don't have another word, it's not equality, it's not free speech, it's not quite what we're used to when we use the word liberty. So for want of a better term, privacy has become the key word that means how a large organizations using the power of information technology over people,
Daniel Yankelovich 40:23
for most people, they experienced the invasion of privacy in the form of junk mail, junk phone calls, or threats to credit rating, which still are on the margins of their life. But supposing our political freedoms begin to be interfered with, they as things are going, that could happen. And if that does happen, these information banks, these profiles of people, this completeness, of documents, documentation of everybody's life, is a fearful potential threat. Information is the bloodstream of bureaucracy, it's the nerve center of bureaucracy. The thing that has saved us up to now is that the bureaucracies haven't been that efficient. Now with this new information, they have a mechanism of control it that is what information is used for. The question arises, who is the information for? I think one of the things that causes people to feel uneasy, is a feeling that the information is for everybody, but the public, for everybody but the consumer, for every special interest, but not for the general interest, not for me, not for you, not for the people down the block. But for institutions to do their number. And then number is a number that is often is not done on me.
COMMENTARY BY HOST MARC PORAT - the conflic of interest between the privacy issue and the benefits of computer technology
Marc Porat 41:55
the privacy issue brings up a real conflict and values. as concerned as we are about privacy. We also want the benefits of the Information Society, instant reservations, instant credit, instant medical information. And that poses a contradiction. For example, a perfect crime information system, one that really works perfectly robs every one of their privacy, not just criminals. It looks to me as though we may have to give up some of our privacy in exchange for the fast, accurate personal attention. We've come to demand. Whether that's a fair trade is for you to judge. Alright, problem number two, one you may be feeling right now. Information overload. There's obviously been an information explosion in this country, there are more people than ever generating more and more information, using newer and faster tools to process and transmit this stuff in overwhelming quantity. We seem to have lost our discipline, if we ever had it, for knowing when information is useful and valuable. And when it's useless. Bureaucracies are definitely part of the problem. They seem to instinctively require information, whether they need it or not. And the media are also part of the problem. The quantity of information they produce enormous, the quality, dubious. What's the result of this bombardment? We feel confused, frustrated, resentful, alienated, overloaded, we turn off. TS Eliot wrote something right to the point. Where's the wisdom? We have lost in knowledge. Where's the knowledge we have lost in information.
Man leafing through hanging data binders, woman filing stacks of folders filled with paperwork
Herman Kahn 43:53
But wisdom is to have very good judgment and a sense of the larger issues. Knowledge says, tells you how to build a bridge. wisdom says do you want a bridge there?
Walter Wriston 44:04
If you have a machine can store billions of bits of information on a real time basis. The temptation, management's learning to operate in an alien philosophy, which we're now in, is to confuse all of that data for information. And the more skilled the technician, the more they want to lay on you. So the struggle of management is to attempt to get information, which means something as opposed to vast printouts of data that tells you really more than you want to know,
CU computer data storage unit, lights flashing
CONTINUING INTERVIEWS including Kissinger, Porat, Bellamy, Prof. Machlup
Walter Wriston 44:04
The temptation, management's learning to operate in an alien philosophy, which we're now in, is to confuse all of that data for information. And the more skilled the technician, the more they want to lay on you. So the struggle of management is to attempt to get information, which means something as opposed to vast printouts of data that tells you really more than you want to know,
Daniel Yankelovich 44:46
the process, the kind of minds needed to accumulate data and the kind of mind needed to interpret it and understand its meaning, a different kinds of minds. so that you don't have an increase in efficiency, or in humanity simply because you have an increase in the amount of information that's available. In fact, you probably have a net loss.
Henry Kissinger 45:11
With all the information available. There's the danger that you finally become dependent on the briefer, the man who can package it for you in a way that is comprehensible. And the prefer, in turn may have more the qualities of an actor than other thinker. And anybody who's ever studied, the subject seriously knows that the first thing that comes to your mind is almost always wrong, even though it sounds plausible. And yet, when you are overwhelmed with so much information, you usually act, you're tempted to act on the first thing that you think you understood. So I would say, one, we have to live with it. Second, is a great allocated as an opportunity, you're always better off knowing something there not knowing it. Third, it puts a special obligation on leaders and decision makers to explain what they're really doing.
Marc Porat 46:03
Assuming that the leaders themselves know what they're doing. If they don't, we certainly don't. The last person who didn't know everything, or so it was said, was a 19th century English philosopher, and economist, linguist baldness theologist, chemist historian and feminist, John Stuart Mill. But we may never again have a John Stuart Mill, for one reason, this machine right now contains too much information for this machine to absorb. Could it be as some people hope that computers are somehow the answer to information overload? I personally don't think so. Because what computers really do is organize information. And you see knowledge is information that has been distilled, and then understood, not by machine, but by far more complex instrument, the thinking and feeling human being. So there's the problem. There's just too much information, good information around. And by necessity. We've become narrow specialists in a world which I feel desperately needs generalists.
Carol Bellamy 47:21
We glorify the expert today. And we think we can't move because unless there's some expert information available, we've given up on the generalist. So what So this, this desire for expertise and making decisions means that we have to satisfy ourselves that there are sufficient papers, I happen to believe in the generalist, I think you need people who are well versed and, and have some excellence in areas, but I don't think that you have to be so advise to the enth degree of the expert, or from the expert, that you can't move,
Fritz Machlup 47:56
the increase in the flow of new knowledge in the flow of information has made it practically impossible for anyone to keep up with his own field. I am an economist and have been so for 55 years. But I can now no longer see what's going on in my own field. That the number of journals, the number of articles in the journals has increased so immensely that it is out of the question that I can read, all this stuff that's published.
Marc Porat 48:34
And perhaps the information society requires a new kind of person, someone who refuses to be overwhelmed by bureaucratic nonsense. Someone who knows not only how to get information, but also how to select what's valuable. Unfortunately, some of us seem to be going in exactly the opposite direction. And that brings us to problem number three, the information poor. Today, one out of five adult Americans is lacking the most basic information skills, one out of five of us is in real trouble, in Information Society.
Traffic going by, '70's cars, folk hanging around on street corner, pedestrians
COMMENTARY - WELL KNOWN, JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, HARVARD ECONOMICS PROFESSOR
John Kenneth Galbraith 49:09
One has now the view that they class structure is divided is between those who have information and those who do not those who have access to information, and those who must function out of ignorance. I made this argument over 20 years ago in the affluent society, arguing the term was not original with me that there was developing a new class in all of the democratic societies which had its power as the result of its access, not to money, not to property, but to knowledge. And this I believe, to be the case, and I think part nine I think there is a class division and modern society. As between people who have access to information access to knowledge, and those who do not. This is the reason why we have a certain angry reference to elites from time to time. This was, I suppose, part of the reason why Spiro Agnew man who no one would accuse accused of being excessively informed, expressed himself so angrily about the snobbish, elite. It's not something to be accepted as inevitable, because it is a form of class distinction that can be eliminated by education. And I would suppose is part of the great modern case, for more and better and more egalitarian educational opportunity.
Ernest Boyer 50:55
If you look at society as simply the collective contribution of millions of human beings, who carry in themselves certain power and influence and emotion, and every time you you turn the switch off of one of those persons, you've dampened the glow, we cannot afford to increasingly see society controlled by a smaller and smaller group who deal with narrower and narrower specializations, because we not only distort, and limit we caricature, but you might, in almost a spiritual sense, see the total beauty of the total contribution. So I see this not only as a matter of being kind to someone else, in a kind of self serving, sentimental way, it's the fundamental question of whether this society is going to find a way to make itself as as rich and as powerful. And if you will, as beautiful, as potentially it can be,
Tilt down - American Flag in foreground, dozens of peds on crowded city streets
COMMENTARY - MARC PORAT
Marc Porat 51:53
if every revolution divided society into the haves, and the have nots, the information revolution is also dividing us into two classes, information rich, and the information poor. And that's really too bad. Because to be information rich, you don't need strength, or land or capital, or to be white or male. All you need is your mind. And problem number four, Future Shock, the struggle we all experienced trying to keep up with this incredibly rapid change.
B&W photo still side shot of an old gentleman with a long white beard
Montage of office workers; CU man leafing through data paperwork, women working together, woman at computer keyboard, computer equipment, spinning room.
INTERVIEWS CONTINUED - All commentators summing things up - Porat, Bellamy, Schaeffer
Ernest Boyer 53:15
And I don't think we really tested that because I doubt that society. I doubt this society has gone through such dramatic escalations at such pace. But we may be testing the outer limits of the individual as well as the collective response to conditions that go faster than our emotions, and maybe even our physical systems are willing to tolerate, in which case, we're going to see ourselves I think, fly apart, because the world that we've created, will keep tumbling along driven by specialists while the rest of us pull back and say, No, we're not going to go along and I think the end result would be probably enslavement.
Marc Porat 53:59
enslavement. Is that where the information society is taking us? No, I don't think so. The previous age, the industrial age just happened to us for better meant for worse, we did little or nothing to foresee its dangers. And we're still paying for that lack of awareness. Can we do any better this time? Well, maybe so. After all the essential tools and skills of the information society can show us what choices we have. And then will allow us to do something we've never done before. Consciously shape our destiny.
Carol Bellamy 54:37
It's part of the challenge of the 80s in the 90s in the year to 2000 and on is to take the information we have make it manageable and be able to function with some some degree of security with all that information.
Alan Westin 54:52
Information is power in especially in the sense that it is available for those who are already powerful. And the great problem, one of the great problems I think we face is that we don't know how to deliberately as a society, move that power to the people who are powerless, or who need more power to get fairness, equity, justice, and to redistribute the opportunities to make decisions in the society.
Leonard Schaeffer 55:19
And watch the kids look at the at the little games the kids now have they play football on a little machine, and they have little tanks, and now go around and you know, watch that that's where it's going to start. Those kids are not afraid of computers, they'll use advanced technology, it will enrich their lives, they'll understand about the world, they won't just listen.
Daniel Yankelovich 55:38
I've been in the public opinion field for three decades. I've read and examined millions of statistics and gone through hundreds and 1000s of interviews with cross sections of Americans. And that experience has deepened my belief in democracy. You can say that a person who's live the way I have with people sometimes are poorly informed and sometimes have foolish views would have made me into a cynic on the subject smacked On the contrary, it's given them a lot more confidence in the judgment of the American people than in the direction of our institutions.
Ernest Boyer 56:29
I suppose my gutsy response is to is to be is to be romantic about an earlier period when things were slow. I can I can have fun recalling my early days when the only magazine that came into our house was National Geographic. I grabbed it and read from cover to cover. We played radio, we didn't listen to radio, we had no TV that seemed the in my memory bank. Kind of innocent, satisfying world. But intellectually, I know it's not for me. When I put aside my sentiment, and come to my intellectual interpretation, I say this is a magnificent world.
End The Information Society - credits roll over Executive Producer and host Marc Porat walking down streets, and various shots from the film
Description: The Information Society - 1980. The small town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania is used as an example of the impacts on society and civilization from the evolution at the beginning of time of the tool, to the industrial age and finally, the information age. Issues brought about by the Information Age are discussed, specifically, ie. privacy.
Keywords: Industrial Age
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