We live in a highly asymmetrical world full of social contrasts and challenges. To change the world, we must solve these asymmetries. And to solve these asymmetries, we must empower each individual to realize their full potential through the sharing of knowlegde and information.
Technology has played an important role in helping people to share knowledge and information, from the printing press to the advent of the personal computer and the Internet.
Perhaps one of the best examples is the Web. In the 90s, after Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web at the CERN research center, users around the world were able to share information with their peers by setting up their own personal websites. The key concept behind the Web was the hyperlink, which allowed users to link and browse Web documents across different networks.
However, with the popularization of the Web, browsing just didn't scale well. While the community and the number of documents were still small, users were able to navigate through their social networks to share information. As the community and number of documents grew, it became more difficult to organize and find information.
So by the turn of the millennium, the advent of search engines came to people's assistance, most notably from a search engine created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while at Stanford University. Powered by sophisticated algorithms, search engines would rank and present Web documents to users based on keywords.
However, with further popularization of the Web, searching again didn't scale well. The top-down presentation of Web documents selected from a huge global collection by an algorithm has created a very undemocratic way of sharing information. The Web, which started out small, has now turned into a very large and complex network of documents, where only the most popular ones gain visibility.
Throughout the years, we have seen the rise of websites, blogs, feeds, search engines, forums, and social networks. They have empowered people to share information and ideas in unprecedented ways. They have enabled people to easily and at almost no cost to be both producers and consumers of information world-wide.
However, the information-sharing problem still remains. From the consumer's point of view, how is it possible to find what's relevant amidst all this avalanche of information? From the producer's point of view, how is it possible to stand apart and reach those to whom the information is relevant without bothering those to whom it is not?
Current approaches still do not address the information-sharing problem and, in fact, only contribute to information overload. This is specially true for social networks, where instead of helping individuals to spread relevant information in a bottom-up manner, in fact bombard users with a very low signal-to-noise stream from peers mixed with popular information from mainstream media. If what's being shared is already popular, then it has further reach within the social network. Otherwise it's likely to remain in obscurity.
We must replace the top-down model of information-sharing and give place to a true bottom-up model, where each person has a unique voice and equal opportunity to contribute and benefit.
While the first decade of the Web was about browsing and the second decade was about searching, the next decade will be about syndicating. Users will connect with their personal social network to receive and disseminate information in a bottom-up manner.
By doing so, we'll unleash the great deal of untapped potential of the collective intelligence to organize information. We'll bring people closer together to discuss common interests and share information in a more open and democratic manner.