Predictions from 1995 about the Global Information Society

thomas Futurist Thinking

My winning Entry for the GII Junior Summit 1995. The GII Junior Summit was organised by the G7 Roundtable to gather youth insight about how how new internet technologies could solve World problems, based upon an insight by Isao Okawa (former Chairman of Sega) who observed that kids learn computers faster than adults.  Written in June 1995.  See it on WayBack machine here. 

Note to readers: The first half of this explores principles but the second half includes many ideas that didn’t exist then, yet we take for granted today.


Summary: The GIS would have the effect of pulling the whole world together, people from around the world will be able to work on common aims together, without having to be physically near each other, therefore we can avoid wars caused by the lack of communication, trade disputes and other problems.

First and foremost, the main component which plays a part in helping to solve the worlds problems, greatly facilitated by the global information society, is communication. Lack of communication causes wars, trade disputes and other problems. The global information society can help this, allowing and encouraging more communication. With common consensus of opinions, peoples of the world will reach the general conclusion that they would like to live in peace with each other. More communication (and the Internet facilitates this making communication cheaper and faster) promotes a better understanding of people.

For the global information society to succeed in its ideal form, it must be democratic and all must have access to it. The Internet is (in my experience anyway) non- discriminatory, whether or not you listen to someone is not based on who or what they are, but what they say. The anonymity of it makes it harder to discriminate between anyone, and also allows people to be themselves and be more open if they choose to be. There is no pressure to conform to anything that you are not already, opinions may be expressed by people with little worry of those opinions having repercussions which affect their personal lives. People using the Internet are therefore more able to express what they feel, and thus can be more open. There are indeed news groups for all kinds of people, and this puts them in touch with others who share the same ideas. The Internet is also non-discriminatory as to who you can communicate with (providing you have access to the Internet or e mail) in the sense there is no cost per distance per e mail. With other methods of communication, both cost and time can often be prohibiting factors. It is simply not practical to wait several days for someone to receive a letter in the US. from England, and the cost of a phone conversation is prohibitive. With e-mail however, none of these problems exist.

There must be, however, access to the global information society for all. This is essential for the maximum benefit of the G.I.S. Ideally, everyone in the entire world would have computers in their homes. This may not be as impossible as it may seem, the price of computers if produced in such quantity would fall dramatically, and as technology advances prices fall all the time. The entire population also must have access to phone lines to communicate via. Failing that, there should be terminals in all available community places, Internet terminals should be made available in libraries, in net-shops in high streets, in town halls and even in post offices.

The global information society will have a strong environmental impact in a good way, it will substantially reduce pollution (as it has already) by the replacement of the transport of matter to digital media. The largest impact must have been the use of e-mail instead of conventional letters; an incredible amount of paper has been saved and there has bee less fuel used for transport. In the same way as e-mail replaces conventional letters, there are similar processes for available for video, pictures and audio. Transmission via digital media will promote itself and will be used more as it becomes cheaper and faster than terrestrial methods. For the meantime, certain processes are more expensive as they have only recently been introduced and the technology available at present is limiting, but with time, and the advance of technology, these costs will come down. The use of computers conserves resources as the equipment and information used, being digital can be used over and over again with no degradation of quality. The G.I.S. will reduce pollution in a big way. Less trees will die as there will be less need for paper as newspapers, magazines, and books will all be available via a computer.

More communication will mean faster progress as if students, professors, teachers and researchers can all share there ideas and thoughts and pool their knowledge. This will allow people to be more innovative and realistic, and speed up progress throughout the world. People in specialised areas will greatly benefit from this, as they can talk to their counterparts and discuss ideas, results, interpretations, understandings whereas before they may not have been able to . The increase in communication with peers will make people more interested in their work, and more competitive. A greater knowledge of concepts and theories allow people to think more flexibly about various problems, with more understanding it is possible to think of more possible solutions and thus there is a greater chance of the best solution being found. The educative effect the G.I.S. should have will allow this, and greatly aid mankind. I have found it fascinating to find news groups on the Internet which are relevant to my own interests, and it is invaluable to be able to communicate with other people from around the world about my interests, ideas, experiences and opinions.

Concepts such as these are not new, as such, but they have not been successfully implemented as of yet. The Internet should have the effect of educating people to a greater degree. With a better understanding people can better decide what they actually want and act appropriately. This encourages people to be more responsible and more aware, as well as more productive as they are working towards what they want. The G.I.S. has to, ultimately, increase levels of education. This will help to solve a wide range of problems which largely exist because of lack of education and understanding, for example, if people are better educated on how AIDS spreads, and ways in which they may get infected with HIV, then they are less likely to get infected by it. Similarly, if people are more aware of the damaging effects of drugs then they are less likely to take them. With a greater knowledge of exactly what causes environmental damage and the effects it has, then people are less likely to promote such activities, and in this way companies will have to become more environmentally friendly. The reason so much pollution takes place is because consumers are not entirely aware of the causes and implications of pollution. They then do not feel its importance, and pollution is allowed to continue. If they were more aware (as mankind is not inherently intentionally self destructive) then actions taken, opinions expressed, and behaviour formed would lead to a fall in the levels of pollution. Indeed an apathy to these problems inspired by ignorance is the problem in itself, once people know more, then more ways can be thought of, invented and implemented to reduce problems such as Aids, pollution and war. The G.I.S. will help reduce this apathy by allowing people to find out and learn more, as the wealth of information in the G.I.S. grows.

A good start would be to have government funded Internet pages, much in the same way as the governments fund anti smoking and anti drug campaigns on the TV. The cost of setting up pages should be lower than that of advertising on TV, and links to these Internet sites could be built into the other sites around the world.


I have had many ideas about helping to solve some of the worlds problems, and I have explained them below.

In the UK, in each police district, the police hold their records mainly in paper files, and thus accessing information is slow. It is also much more difficult to access information from other districts as they are all run unto themselves, and in order to get information from another district the police must contact that district and request they send the information. This process is needlessly time consuming. Plainly and simply, in order to speed up their system, and make the police more effective in combating crime, all the police records should be put onto a computer database. There is no reason why this should not be an national database, so access to information between counties would no longer take time or be a problem. In the future, it is only common sense for such a system to be put in place, and if similar systems were to exist across the world then a Global information system for the police would be constructed. For example, Police from England would be able to gain information on drug dealers from around the world, and would be more effective in combating the spread of drugs. Police forces would be able to liaise and work together in order to combat international crime.

Similar systems should be put into place for medical, scientific, academic and research institutes through out the world. Surgeons throughout the world would be able to call up cases of similar patients suffering from unusual diseases, and then be better able to decide to appropriate course of actions. Medical research institutes throughout the world trying to find cures for cancer would be able to pool their ideas, experimental results and conclusions and progress towards a cure much faster. Scientific labs would be able to exchange information on many different areas, and they too would progress faster.

Although this may not be appropriate for business research because of its competitive nature, it would be relevant in many areas where there is a common goal, e.g. to find a cure for Aids or Cancer, and information shared in this way can only be of benefit to society as a whole.

A great many people will start to work from home as technology improves and it is possible to. This will massively reduce pollution, particularly in cities, as people will no longer have to travel to work and cause congestion and pollution from driving their cars. This will greatly help the many recently industrialised countries which suffer from pollution because of the volume of traffic in their cities.

With databases of available jobs, the unemployed can be better matched to the available jobs, and be more aware of the jobs available. Similarly, employers in the future will get a better grasp of the workers available (assuming that workers post their CV’s on the Internet.) I have seen various web sites about jobs available, and although some seem to be quite good, they do not reach their potential as there are not enough people using them. These databases will eventually make the job market more of a market, it will be easier and clearer to see what jobs are available and with greater knowledge of the job market at a precise moment in time the government will be able to manipulate it for the good of the economy. Government training schemes, by being able to monitor the areas where there is demand for workers, can implement training schemes to match that demand with supply of workers, this will allow the work force to be better trained, and make whole countries more productive.

Public information, such as laws, can be made more public by putting the information onto the Internet. It is relatively easy to transfer a file into .html format and that is all that is required. It would be much more difficult and costly to put new laws, proposed laws, and regulations in print where everyone could know or see it. Advertising in news papers is expensive and a web site, for say UK law would allow people who wanted to find out specific things to find them out. This would also remove the disincentive for finding out about the exact law in that looking laws and regulations up is a very time consuming process involving large amounts of paper and files. By increasing awareness of laws and regulations, people will know where they stand more clearly and be able to act within the law more effectively.

Eventually, when bandwidth and technology increase to a sufficient degree, it should be possible for musicians to play together and hear each other, but not actually be near each other. This would require a far more high quality version of CUSeeMe with better audio, but it will be possible. Musicians in a band producing records will not have to be near each other in order to do so. This will make bands more international, and because the members of each band would not be confined to who lives near enough/who they have access to, they will be able to choose from a wealth of people across the world and they are then more likely to find people with exactly the same musical tastes and suit each other better. It will also be possible for pupils to learn how to play instruments and be tested by the computer. This exists today with midi interfaces, but it can and will evolve to a great degree and be useful for learning to play all kinds of instruments.

I can envisage that where required there will be total educational facilities available on the net. It will be possible to study degrees and all kinds of exams on the Internet. Video based lessons will exist and the best teachers can speak to many students. Then anyone who didn’t understand something, or wanted to know something, or had an idea would be able to talk to one of many teachers there to give advice and get personal responses and explanations via e-mail or IRC. There would be more people available and experts in their field on specific subjects and this would aid pupils. For example, Students studying French would watch an explanation of pronunciation from a French linguistics teacher. Then, any pupils with problems could contact the linguistics department on the Internet and get a reply from one of the many French linguists there. There could be on-line exams where pupils talk to assessors via a more advanced system of CUSeeMe.

Already on the Internet I am finding invaluable information on say Memory techniques for studying for exams. (this is available at and in the future with more information like this with other similarly useful information (e.g. organisational skills) it will prove to be a very valuable resource. In the future this will expand at a phenomenal rate to a massive size. This may eventually largely replace conventional teaching. Although there will still have to be some structure for what people learn, it will also give far more choice for courses available. People will no longer be restricted to which college they go to for which a levels they can study, this will make the education system fairer, as all pupils will have access to all courses and be taught at the same standard by the best teachers. Like the job database system, it will mean that the whole system works entirely on a market basis, i.e. education is provided where it is demanded. This will require that everyone has a computer, but this should be possible too as if mass produced on a scale to provide everyone a country with a computer, the cost will decrease, particularly in some time and the relevant advances in technology (say 10 – 15 years)

Eventually, I can imagine that the global information society would have the effect of pulling the whole world together, people from around the world will be able to work on common aims together, without having to be physically near each other. Video conferencing will allow people to be in the place where they want to be and conduct their business from where they are via computer.

I think that as many people may reduce their social interaction as a result of the Internet, now is the time for governments to pursue policies to promote sports and leisure activities, so by the time this technology is in place there is an established culture strong enough to resist the lack of need to go out as you can get everything on the Internet. By promoting sports, the population will become fitter, happier and more productive in their healthiness. By getting people to be more health conscious (through provision of information, or by getting them interested in associated issues) then people will want to learn more about their health and become more responsible for themselves.

It would be wrong to restrict the freedom of speech on the Internet as it is, but the net does have to be governed in some way to stop material which may be considered harmful from being transmitted. For this to be in place, I think that the G.I.I. should form some kind of international regulatory body for the Internet, and the main emphasis being that people would be responsible for their own actions and this should be largely achievable through better education.

Areas I would like to discuss are education through the G.I.S. , provision of access to the G.I.S. to all, i.e. the best ways in to give everyone access to the Internet and G.I.S. I would also like to discuss ways of combating the foreseen problems with the Internet such as people going out less and being less sociable, more withdrawn. I’d like to discuss measures to stop this problem occurring from the beginning and such as promoting and providing sports and sociable activities.