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INTRODUCTION J. C. R. Licklider Massachusetts Institute of Technology Thanks very much, Lou, and welcome all of you to what just could be a very important symposium because we have a technology that is improving in cost effectiveness at a rate something like double every two years. We have a country that has gotten so deeply into services that services and information account for more than half the gross national product, and the figure is still rising; and we haven't learned to be efficient in working with information or in providing services. Our great claim to fame was to develop a real skill, a real expertise at farming the ground and manufacturing stuff out of solid metal. We got pretty efficient at that and showed the world how to run a country. Now, in my view at least, we are showing the world how difficult it is to get on top of the information business. So, part of our opportunity is to get in there and do with information some of the magic that we learned to do with things. We have a technology that is just knocking on the door saying, "Hey, I am very efficient. I am capable. . I am not just for numbers. I am a general information processing technology. Why don't you get on the ball and put me to work and get going again?" Well, that is one of the themes, in my view, of this morning. It is the theme of productivity, of cost effectiveness, of efficiency, of doing things right in the information sector. There is another theme that is a close second and in many eyes comes before that. It is that work tends to be — especially efficient, highly routinized work — humdrum, unrewarding, uninteresting and machines threaten from some perspectives to reduce the amount of it available for people to do. In short, there is a whole quality of life issue in this, especially since more than half the people work in offices and the big prospect now for the next ten, fifteen years is that information technology will do something about offices. So, we ought to be thinking about - What will it do? Will there be substantial reorganization? Will the nature of jobs and human relationships inside offices change, or will this just be
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another thing, like bringing the electric typewriter into the office? I surely think not the latter. I think there is a revolution to be had. I have had this fantastic experience now, since the late '50's, of sitting at a computer console several hours a day and I know that it can be absolutely fascinating. It is, at least for me and for a lot of people I know, in fact almost everybody I know up at Cambridge who has the opportunity, finds it exciting. It changes careers. People who start off thinking they are just going to learn about the computer in order to use it in a particular task — well, I might as well be personal about this. I was a psychologist. I was making models of the auditory systems, trying to figure out really how hearing works. And the models got a little more complicated than would fit on the back of an envelope and they certainly were not amenable to conventional mathematical expression. It was obvious to me I had to know about computers to do computer modeling. And, I have never gotten back. The computer field has just been more fascinating than the modeling of hearing. Tnat has happened to a lot of people I know. I think it is going to happen to a lot of people in offices. They are going to say, "Oh, I am a substantive office person and I just happen to be bright and understand what is happening here. I will just learn a little about the computer so I can put it to work in our office". I suspect that a lot of those people will be saying after five years, "Gosh, I don't know whether I am a substantive professional in the insurance business or whether I am a computer professional". I think there are going to be a lot of people who are both. So, the second theme has got something to do with quality of life, with involvement, with how to make jobs exciting, interesting, as well as efficient and productive. And it includes the organization of the things we call offices, what they are like, what the career paths, what the skills, what the tasks are. Now, there is a third theme which has got to do with putting the technology to work to do something about productivity and quality of life in offices. What I see is kind of a conflict between top down planning and the natural, American, market-driven, bottom-up procedure. Here is a word processor that looks promising, let us buy a few and see what happens. Ah, here is an electronic message system for sale or rent or lease, let us get into that and see what happens. Oh, yeah, we have got to have data management so we will get a data management system. Then, a couple of years later, scratching the head, gosh, I wish that when I typed this letter in the word processing system it would fit somehow into tne electronic message system and when I get messages I could put them into a data management
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system, but nothing works. Nothing articulates, besides which, I have equipment from four manufacturers and they obviously didn't get together. They are pure from an anti-trust point of view. This is a third theme that just seems tremendously important to me. We are obviously doing this pretty much from the bottom up if you look at the coutry as a whole. Companies in the office automation business, insist they are providing integrated systems for office work and are planning from the top down. But, the top down planning is within corporations that are in the business of seeing the stuff. It is not nationwide, it is not government-wide. A real conflict, almost a national predilection to unplanned bubbling up from the bottom. If we are going to go blasting off into the future with goals of increased efficiency and effectiveness let us figure out what we are going to do first and then do it. So, maybe in our discussion today, there will be some germs of planning. Who knows? We absolutely didn't want to get into this by saying, let us invite ten corporations who manufacture stuff and come give you ten technology push talks about how great it is going to be. At first, we thought, "Let us not have any vendors. Let us just have people who are trying to use it. Let us talk about the users' problems". But that is not balanced either. We want to have a kind of balanced discussion. We are going to have some insight from the corporations who are really trying to make available stuff that will improve offices. We are going to have some from companies and a government agency or an organization that is trying to use it. To start off, we are going to have a university professor who has been consulting with a lot of these companies and with the government and who has been doing research. I know him well, he's in the next office to me at MIT, Mike Hammer.
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