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Most information is intermediate because more than half of the work force is made up of office or knowledge workers. These employees and their machines are doing intermediate information work. Whereas final information is subject to the rules of supply and demand, intermediate information always goes toward enabling something else—eventually final information or, more often, physical final and intermediate products as well as services. Thus, the bulk of information has the important property of pointing to something else, leading to something, making something else possible.
The value of intermediate information is derived from what it points to. For example, at General Motors, all of the computers, software, and people working in the office represent the intermediate information that goes into making cars. The monetary value of all these activities is less than the value of the cars they sell and is derived from it. A huge amount of the U.S. economic basket is filled with physical goods and services. This means that there are many things for information to point to and derive value from. Employing computers and software makes a country more efficient and increases its wealth. In the United States, we value the hardware and software that point to these goods at 10 percent of the U.S. economy. On the other hand, in a poor country such as Bangladesh, the figure is less than 0.1 percent. This disparity illustrates that the rich countries (and people) value information much more than the poor simply because they have more economic goods to which information points. Also, since information technology helps those who use it to improve their productivity, we have an unstable situation in which the rich will get richer while the poor will stay behind. Left to its own devices, our technology is going to increase the gap between rich and poor. This calls for action and help on our part to ensure that it does not happen.
Let me now shift to what I call electronic proximity. Proximity and mobility are two sides of the same coin. The more mobile you are, the more people you can get close to. In the village age, we had about a couple of hundred neighbors whom we visited on foot, so our proximity was several hundred people. In the industrial age, cars increased our proximity by a thousandfold. We could drive a few hours and, potentially, reach hundreds of thousands of people. We did not have to know them all, but we could reach them. The information age will now give us another thousandfold increase—to hundreds of millions of people who will be within electronic reach. This is because we have 100 million computers connected today and (I forecast) will have some 500 million machines in five to seven years. This huge new increase in proximity is worrisome if we consider, by analogy, the problems that urban areas are facing today. We need to pay a great deal of attention to the problems of the forthcoming increased proximity.
When I think of proximity, I also think of telework. If people work from their homes, we are going to have a very interesting situation: a person will be an urban sophisticate by day, living in the world's markets; electronically commuting to Tokyo, Paris, and other major cities; carrying out all sorts of transactions, selling, buying, and fully exchanging knowledge and information. However, when the time comes to turn off the computer, the same individual will turn around and go out for pizza at a favorite local restaurant like a villager. She is an urbanite by day and a villager by night. We do not know which part of this split human will win the battle or even if both parts will learn to coexist within us.
Another point concerns nations and boundaries. Nations are located in one landmass because of their natural resources. France had wine. England and Germany had steel. We Greeks had grapes, knowledge, and democracy! Another reason nations remain physically compact is because they have a history, a set of traditions, and are protected by tribal unification forces. Now, the economic value of local resources has gone out the window, as the Japanese have shown the world. As for culture and history, consider this: In the future, I could dial up my high-speed network from Boston to Athens. I could sip ouzo while chatting with my friends in the Plaka, sing Greek songs, attend services at the Athens cathedral, or watch the sunrise on Santorini Island. I could partake of a lot of cultural, historic, and tribal ''food" in a way that is not available to me in Boston today. So, all the old factors I mentioned that bind a nation within a common landmass seem to be disappearing. Perhaps tomorrow's Greece will not exist as a compact landmass, but as the Greek network!
Let me close with a third consideration, which is psychological. I submit that we are, today, the same ancient humans that Socrates and other more "normal" ancient people were in the past. We have the same body, mind, and psychology. Yet, our hands have moved from the stone club to the steering wheel, to the jet aircraft stick, and to the WIMP (windows, icons, menus, pointing) interface—a huge change. How are we coping with it? Bread-and-