Hello, and welcome back!
This is the second in a series of blogs on the act and art of conversation by Thrive – a conversational learning platform that uses cognitive neuroscience principles to turn short electronic interactions into powerful and effective learning conversations.
As we mentioned in Part 1 of this series, conversations have evolved alongside human beings for over 100,000 years, starting at first as ancient symbology.
The First “Conversations”
The first “conversations” consisted of marks on bones and drawings on cave walls that could have depicted quantities or even hunting techniques. In fact, advancements in the way we communicate – the Sumerian alphabet, Hieroglyphics, Ancient Middle Eastern Languages, all the way to English – came about only a thousand years ago.
During those thousands of years conversations remained the main method for moving information across distances and generations, because hand creating strong tablets, or even books, was time consuming and expensive.
The Printing Press and Large Scale Conversations
Five hundred years ago, the printing press was invented, changing the ways humans communicate. This innovation enabled “conversations” at large scale – this was one of the largest paradigm shifts in our history and few things have impactful our societies more than the printed word.
In the subsequent centuries growing efficiencies in the distribution of letters started to enable individual conversations at a distance. These were called “slow considered conversations”, a form that has grown more scarce in our increasingly fast paced world where even abbreviations aren’t short enough for some conversational modes.
The second of the major paradigm shifts we encounter during this exploration of conversation is brought to us by James Maxwell. Maxwell created the framework to understand, create and work with Electo-Magnetic energy in the mid-1800’s and the ability to converse expanded at breakneck speed, as it resulted in the prediction and discovery of radio waves.
A series of inventions over a little more than 100 years has driven the cost of remote communications from something that was elite and expensive to something that is virtually free.
Maxwell’s work fed into a series of genius thinkers: Mach, Einstein, Edison, Westinghouse all built on Maxwell’s foundation to allow the Telegraph, Telephone, Computers, the Internet, and now wireless smartphones for people to talk to more people regardless of location.
Now in this century we are seeing the emergence of the Internet of Things, where the ability to conduct narrow and specific conversations have been extended to devices that can compute and connect wirelessly to growing ecosystems.
New Opportunities…New Problems…
One by one our conversations have moved across various media in a series of wanting to say more things, more easily to more people, more often. This, like most advances, has created a new set of problems.
Like most things when they become more valuable, there is a new set of opportunities to create wealth that come into play and new moral hazards for society as it manages the ethical and moral considerations around that inexhaustible desire for wealth.
In Part Three of the series we will talk about the role of economics in the Information Age, how language became the most valuable product in the world – overtaking steel, gold, and even diamonds. Finally, we’ll also discuss how even though the value of conversation is clearly immense within in a system like a company, it can be very hard to measure.
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Many workplace attributes have changed dramatically as the result of Knowledge Work becoming the dominant driver of progress and profits. Today’s Knowledge Economy, as it's often called, is one in which growth is dependent not on the means of production, but rather on the quantity, quality, and accessibility of information.