The productive forces

3. The Information revolution

The period after World War Two we can characterize as "Scientific Technical Revolution". Its essence is that science (or rather knowledge in general) becomes a leading factor in production (as opposed to "land" during agricultural revolution, or industrial "factors of production", such as iron, coal, oil, labor-power, etc., during the Industrial revolution). Hence, the term "knowledge economy" is applied to modern economy.

The main aspect of the STR today is the information revolution. According to RAND report from 2003, "The information revolution is not the only technology-driven revolution under way in the world today, merely the most advanced. Advances in biotechnology and nanotechnology, and their synergies with IT, should also change the world greatly over the course of the 21st century".

This presentation on the information revolution we'd like to divide up into a number of sections: 1) A question  "what is information?" 2) Brief history of information technologies (IT). 3) Tendencies in development of computers. 4) The Internet. 5) Social consequences of the IT revolution. 6) The Information Revolution in the ex-USSR.

1) What is information?

The origin of the word is from Latin "informatio", meaning "explanation", "clarification", "exposition". The product of explaining something, clarifying, or making an exposition of something was called "an information".

"According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest historical meaning of the word information in English was the act of informing, or giving form or shape to the mind, as in education, instruction, or training. A quote from 1387: "Five books come down from heaven for information of mankind." It was also used for an item of training, e.g. a particular instruction. "Melibee had heard the great skills and reasons of Dame Prudence, and her wise informations and techniques." (1386)" (Wikipedia)

French physicist Pierre Brillouin (1930's) defined information as "negative entropy". Entropy means "a measure of disorder that exists in a system". Hence, "negative entropy" would mean a measure of order in a system, i.e. how well it is organized, how well it is structured. For example, if a course (book, site) is informative, it removes a great deal of disorder in the minds of students.

American electrical engineer Claude Shannon (1940's) presented a theory of information summarized by the following picture:


 

Soviet academician Glushkov (1960's) defined information as: 1) the degree to which matter-energy is distributed unevenly in the time/space continuum, or, how matter-energy is distributed in time-space continuum; 2) the measure of change which accompanies all processes in the world, or, how much something has changed, what kind of quantitative or qualitative changes have taken place.

Soviet philosophical dictionary, in 1975, writes that information is a measure of organization of systems; it is a negation of uncertainty, a reflection of the processes in nature (a synthesis of views of Brillouin and Glushkov).

Microsoft "Encarta '97"encyclopedia defines information as: 1) "a collection of facts or data"; 2) "a non-accidental signal used as input into a communications system".

Vadim Gorbachev of Ufa State University, a participant in the newsgroup "SU.PHILOSOPHY" in 2000, defines information as "an aggregate of material". "The binding of energy (i.e. formation of material structures) is possible precisely because energy is 'modeled' by information". He uses image of DNA modeling the structure of a cell, to explain how information models matter and energy.

Russian encyclopedia "Cyril & Methodius", 2003 DVD, defines information as data that has been initially transmitted between people, either orally or through various signals. Since the second half of XX century, information has been transmitted between machines and people, and between machines. Information also includes signals which are exchanged between organisms, such as plants and animals.

"Encarta 2004 Dictionary" defines information as "computer data that has been organized and presented in a systematic fashion to clarify the underlying meaning". Here, "information" is linked to computers.

On the Internet, at http://xray.bmc.uu.se/~kenth/bioinfo/glossary.html, we find following definition for information: "A measure of how surprising something is". This makes a lot of sense, for if something is informative, a person says "I find it surprising".

In my opinion, "information" is a philosophical category and hence is not well understood. It is similar to such categories as "knowledge" or "matter". Only when we understand "matter" as consisting of "elements", only then scientific knowledge begins.

Information is a raw material of knowledge. When information is processed, it is "enriched" (like some atoms) and produces knowledge. One form of knowledge may serve as a "raw material" for still another inquiry, and thus present itself as "information". Hence, we may define information as an intermediate process between nature and the knowing subject.

2) Brief history of information technologies

The nature of the media used to process information influences what type of people handle information, hence what information is and what effect it has on society.

According to "A History of Information Technology and Systems", by  by Jeremy G. Butler, University of Arizona, 1997, there are four basic periods in IT. These are: 1) Premechanical, 2) Mechanical, 3) Electromechanical, 4) Electronic.  

1) The Premechanical Age: from the Stone Age to 1450 A.D.

Initially, information was spread by the word of mouth. The oral tradition gives rise to such poems as "Iliad" and "Odyssey" (on the picture on the right: Homer).

Along the side of the oral tradition, cave painting developed. On the left, we see a cave painting by San people, on the territory of modern day Zimbabwe.

We note that the earlier forms of information technologies do not die, but continue to live, however, relegated to secondary place. The same applies to any phenomena in development.

From primitive paintings developed pictorial writing. The most famous example is Egyptian hieroglyphs (on the left).

Simplification of picture writing has led to the invention of letters. For example, modern letter "M" was initially a picture of a wave, meaning "the sea". In French, the sea is "la mere". We notice that the word sounds similarly to the word "mother".

One of the earliest attempts at developing letter writing was by the people of Sumeria around 4000 years ago. They wrote in stone and clay tablets in a system called "cuneiform" (click picture on the left).

After stones, people used papyrus scrolls. This media developed in ancient Egypt and later spread throughout the world. In the picture on the right, we see people working with scrolls in the library of Alexandria, in Egypt.

A system of writing on parchment was invented in a town of Pergamum, which is in modern day Turkey. This was a system of writing on animal skin. Several sheets of "Pergamum" were then first bound together to form a prototype of a modern book. In the photo on the left, we see a Qur'an, dating 8-9 century, written on parchment. This media is longer-lasting than papyrus.

2) The Mechanical Age: 1450 - 1840

Gutenberg originally was trained as goldsmith. "Encarta 2004" writes: "in about 1450, Gutenberg formed another partnership, with the German merchant and moneylender Johann Fust, and set up a press on which he probably started printing the large Latin Bible associated with his name". Thus, book printing was due to a partnership of an artisan and a capitalist. Similar partnership we notice in another key invention of the Industrial revolution, the steam engine. James Watt was a mechanic, and Bolton was a capitalist.

3) The Electromechanical Age: 1840 - 1946

The discovery of ways to harness electricity was the key advance made during this period.

The telephone was invented in 1876, in the United States, by Alexander Bell. Picture on the left: "early models of the telephone include Edisons 1879 wall-mounted phone (left), the candlestick design common in the 1920s and 1930s (bottom), and a 1937 cradle telephone" (Encyclopedia "Encarta").

According to "A Journey through the History of Information Technology", by Kathleen Guinee, "Through the first half of the century, having a private telephone line run into your house was expensive and considered a luxury. Instead of a private line, many people had what are called "party lines." A party-line was a phone line shared by three different households. An extension would be placed in each house, and if another person who shared the line was on the phone when you wanted to make a call, you would have to ask them to please get off. As the century continued into its second half, telephone technology became less expensive for the consumer".

From a conversation with an electrician, who installed telephone jacks in my new apartment in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2006, having a telephone line run into his house, 10 years ago, i.e. in 1996, cost him $500 in bribes. Today, one gets a telephone officially, through a number of companies, at a price of 240 Ukrainian hrivnas (less than $50). This, however, is true for the new buildings. Having a telephone line run into a village home still costs around 1000 hrivnas, and one has to wait for years. 

After the telephone, the next step in development of information technologies was a radio. According to Western sources, such as Encyclopedia "Encarta", Italian inventor Marconi, from a family of a rich landowner, experimenting on his own against the will of his father, invented the radio (or "wireless telegraphy", as it was called then). In 1896 he transmitted a signal at a distance of 1.6 km. Later, improvements followed, with most famous case being the "Titanic" using radio signals to transmit "SOS", in 1912. However, the Russian sources, such as Encyclopedia "Cyril and Methodius", 2003, claim that radio was invented by A.S. Popov; in 1895, he transmitted signals at a distance of 600 m.

The next step was television. After numerous experiments in 1920's and 1930's, public broadcasting of TV started in London in 1936, and in the United States in 1939. However, this was interrupted by World War II. The TV really hit the public in 1950's. In 1955, 65% of American homes have had a TV.

4) The Electronic Age: 1946 - Present

Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was assembled in 1946 (picture on the left). It used vacuum tubes (not mechanical devices) to do its calculations. Hence, this is the first electronic computer. People behind it were: mathematician John von Newmann, a physicist John Mauchly, an electrical engineer J. Prosper Eckert, as well as the U.S. government, the Defense Department in particular.

Personal computers date to 1976, when Apple I appeared (picture on the right). The people behind it were Stephen Wozniak and Steven Jobs (see an excellent interview with S. Wozniak at http://www.thetech.org/exhibits/online/revolution/. Steven Wozniack was a son of an engineer who was fascinated by science fiction and was encouraged to be creative in his elementary school). Apple II was released to public in 1977. It initially sold for $1,195 (without a monitor) and had 16k RAM. In 1981 IBM PC appeared. Apple and IBM compatible computers compete with each other, with Apple being more aesthetic, while the IBM being more of a market monopolist, and hence having more useful applications written for it.  

3) Tendencies in development of computers

One tendency of modern computers has been a constant increase in speed of computing. On February 25, 2002, we read: "International Business Machines Corp. said it has built the world's fastest microchip, which will enable communications systems to run far more quickly. The integrated circuit runs at more than 110 GigaHertz, or 110 billion cycles per second, meaning it will be able to process more than 2.8 million pages of text per second." A supercomputer, announced in May 2004, will be funded by a grant of $50 million and built in Oak Ridge National Lab in USA. The speed of the computer will be 50 trillion calculations per second. "Ultra-fast supercomputers are considered essential in today's scientific research, from analyzing climate change and developing fusion energy to understanding cellular structures, Energy Department officials said."

Second tendency of modern computers is a constant increase in the amounts of information stored. My first notebook computer, "Packard Bell", purchased in 1995, had an HDD of 400 MB. A Toshiba Satellite, purchased in 2000, had an HDD of 2 GB. A Toshiba Satellite purchased in 2003 has an HDD of 60 GB. The same model in 2004 featured 120 GB of storage.

A third tendency is development of multi-functionality. For example, a modern laser printer is also a scanner and a Xerox.

A fourth tendency is a decrease in size and hence an increase in mobility. The users switch from desktop models to notebooks. Palm computers have appeared. Palm computers are a fusion of computers, cell phones and video-camera. However, the keyboard of palm computers is not very comfortable for text processing. Hence, computers the size of "palm" will require voice input of information. The screen of modern "palm" computers is too small. An answer to this problem may be a flexible electronic screen (picture on the left: an "e-paper", from Philips, 2004). Another possibility is combining "palm" with multimedia projector, producing 3-D images that we've seen in the last "Star wars" movies. Finally, the camera in palm does not produce very good images. This will require biotechnology to produce a device small enough to fit into a "palm", but with the quality of an eye.

If we're to follow the methodology proposed above, which is that of dividing the information technologies according to the type of the media used as carriers of information (pre-mechanical, mechanical, electromechanical, and electronic eras), and we remember that the Scientific-Technical revolution is tending towards nanotechnology, then we can suppose that the future of information technologies will be in molecular and atomic realm. For example, Seymour Cray, an inventor of supercomputers in 1970's and 80's, said in an interview on May 9, 1995:

"My view is that as machines become faster and faster they have to become smaller and smaller because we have basic communications limitations which are speed of light communication. If I extrapolate as I did at this workshop, the sizes that we have now which are in the micrometer range, to what we should be doing to accomplish the goals twenty years hence, we have to be in the nanometer dimensions. Well nanometer devices are the kinds of things that proteins are made of. They are molecular sized devices and if one let's one's mind run on the subject and one thinks "well, we're going to build computers in this time frame that are molecular in size", then here we are suddenly face with the same dimensions and structures as we have in biological molecules".

The future computer will not be a "mechanism" but an organism, possessing "an eye", for example, and artificial intelligence enabling it to understand live speech. This will be a part of the nanotechnology revolution.

4) The Internet 

Information on computers is shared via the Internet. "This first network was called Arpanet. It was constructed in 1969 by building links between four different computer sites: UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UC-Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City" (1995: Kathleen Guinee, "A Journey through the History of Information Technology"). Organizationally, Internet was promoted by the U.S. government, specifically Department of Defense, and not private capitalists, as in the case of key inventions of the Industrial revolution.

The person who transformed the Internet from a scholarly network into WWW is Timothy Berners-Lee (see photo). It's curious to observe his background, as we strive to understand who the modern revolutionaries are: "I am the son of mathematicians. My mother and father were part of the team that programmed the world's first commercial, stored-program computer, the Manchester University 'Mark I,' which was sold by Ferranti Ltd. in the early 1950s".

It's curious to observe how the WWW was invented. Timothy Berners-Lee: "Inventing the World Wide Web involved my growing realization that there was a power in arranging ideas in an unconstrained, weblike way. And that awareness came to me through precisely that kind of process. The Web arose as the answer to an open challenge, through the swirling together of influences, ideas, and realizations from many sides, until, by the wondrous offices of the human mind, a new concept jelled. It was a process of accretion, not the linear solving of one well-defined problem after another".

The WWW was designed by Timothy Berners-Lee (TBL) with the goal of sharing knowledge, not selling it: "The idea was that everybody would be putting their ideas in, as well as taking them out". Or, in another place, we read: "the Web initially was designed to be a space within which people could work on an expression of their shared knowledge".

The idea of knowledge that TBL has is not that of passive absorption of David Hume, the "empiricism", but rather that of "intercreativity", or interaction between people with the purpose of creating something new. TBL says: "I wanted the Web to be what I call an interactive space where everybody can edit. And I started saying 'interactive', and then I read in the media that the Web was great because it was 'interactive', meaning you could click. This was not what I meant by interactivity, so I started calling it 'intercreativity' ... What I mean is being creative with others. A few fundamental rules make this possible. As you can read, so you should be able (given the authority) to write. If you can see pictures on your screen, why can't you take pictures and very easily and intuitively put them up there?"

Internet came into our homes in late 1990's.  "One survey found that there were 61 million Internet users worldwide at the end of 1996, 148 million at the end of 1998, and an estimated 320 million in 2000." In 2006, there were over 1 billion Internet users world-wide. The first place among Internet users is occupied by the U.S., with 59% of population, or 175 million people, using the Net. The second place is occupied by the European Union, with 50% of its population, or 233 million people, using the Net. In China, almost 10% of population use the net, or 111 million people. The Latin American countries have the fastest growing "Internet population". The number of users has increased by 70%, vis-a-vis 2005, and made up 70 million people. There are 315 million Internet users in Asia-Pacific region. In Ukraine, a republic of the former USSR, there were 3 million people using the Internet (the general population being around 43 million people), i.e. less than 10% of people were using the Net. More than half of these were in Kiev, the capital.

The Internet has a tendency to go faster, from "dial-up" connection to a "broadband" connection. "The New York Times", in 2004, wrote: "These days, when the Internet teems with complex Web sites and oversized files for downloading, broadband is no longer a luxury: it's a necessity. The need to get high-speed access to rural areas is analogous to the rural electrification project that began to transform America in the late 1930's."

Internet has a tendency to go wireless, e.g. via Wi-Fi and satellites. In 2002, in the U.S., there were 10 million users of wireless Internet. Most of the wireless internet users are people between 18 and 34. Thus, we can expect the Internet to be accessible in any part of the globe, including the oceans and the outer space.

The next project after Internet is "Semantic Web". Wikepedia, the free encyclopedia, defines it thus: "The Semantic Web is a project that intends to create a universal medium for information exchange by giving meaning (semantics), in a manner understandable by machines, to the content of documents on the Web". Timothy Berners-Lee is heading the Semantic Web project. He defines it thus: "The goal of the Semantic Web initiative is to create a universal medium for the exchange of data where data can be shared and processed by automated tools as well as by people".

However, there is a problem in making "meaning" understood by machines. For example, one trend in computer programs and Internet content has been of making it visual, and multimedia in general. For example, we use "icons" instead of commands.  A picture or a song may be worth a thousand words, they are more laconic. Moreover, objects of art, such as pictures, are open to interpretation. Understanding them depends on the perceiving subject, is not "objective information". Hence, we suppose that some sort of information can be codified for machines, made meaningful, but some can be understood by people only.

The development of the Internet finds its limit in development of Artificial Intelligence.  

5) Social consequences of the IT revolution

The price of computers has been coming down. For example, a Toshiba Satellite notebook cost around $2500 in 2003, but only around $1400 in 2006. This makes computers, and in particular notebooks, more accessible to general population.

According to Gartner group, in 2005 218 million computers were sold worldwide, which is 15% more than in the previous year. The sales of notebooks increased by around 25%, while the sales of desktop computers increased by 5.3 - 10%. Thus, we see a growth of global spread of information technologies, with a parallel increase in mobile lifestyles.

Private property vs. free information

Licensed software, aimed at making a profit, is being superceded by free or "pirated" software. For example, Microsoft products such as "Windows" operating system  are being replaced by Linux OS, a "freeware" (see cartoon, from "The Economist", where the products of Microsoft appear as dinosaurs).

Shawn Fanning (picture on the left), an inventor of "Napster", a music-sharing program, has been called "an Antichrist" by music companies. "The New York Times", on November 20, 2005, wrote: "Album sales are 30 percent below their level the year when Mr. Fanning let Napster loose, and 10 times as many songs are downloaded from file-sharing services as are bought from paid services like iTunes" (see graph on the right). When sales are decreasing, while sharing is increasing, we can say that the concepts of "commodity", "deficit" and "economy" are on the way out.

People have to invent a new way to produce, which involves sharing. In "The Economy of Ideas" John Perry Barlow asks: "If our property can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed all over the planet without cost, without our knowledge, without its even leaving our possession, how can we protect it? How are we going to get paid for the work we do with our minds?" One possible answer is in doing w/out money, on both sides of the issue, i.e. the products of programming will be free, but also all other necessities of life.

Sources of information that charge money are being superceded by free sources of information. One example is the rise of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "With 45,000 registered users adding some 1,500 articles each day, Wikipedia ranks 37th as one of the most-visited sites on the Internet". According to a recent report, the standard of articles in Wikipedia is comparable to Encyclopedia Britannica. "The confirmation that the collaborative work is as accurate as well-known encyclopedias could spell problems for online pay-to-play encyclopedias, such as Britannica Online and MSN's Encarta."

The case of Wikipedia illustrates the tendency towards intercreativity on the Net, proposed for by the creator of the WWW, Timothy Berners-Lee. That means readers both read and write the articles for the encyclopedia. Growth of article count in Wikipedia, in different languages, is given by the graph on the left. 

Another example of "intercreativity" is Linux program. In "Copyleft vs. copyright: a Marxist critique" by Johan Söderberg, we read: "The program is the biggest and most widely recognised free software project and is of particular significance. Being an operating system, Linux is of relevance to a wide range of computer applications. And of major symbolical importance, Linux is challenging Microsoft's key product, Windows. Linux is based on the efforts of at least 3,000 major contributors of code, scattered over 90 countries and five continents. Even in the highly organised and hierarchical corporate sector, it is hard to find engineering developments comparable in size and geographical reach to that undertaken by the Linux project".

Changes in society

IP telephony threatens private and state telephone companies. Programs like "Skype" allow to make telephone calls and videoconferencing, from computer to computer, for free.

People buy more and more things through the Internet, by-passing the middle men. According to Forester Reserch, the volume of Internet sales in 2006 in the United States was $96 billion, which is 26% more than in the previous year. Internet shopping is done mostly by people who deal with computers and Internet on everyday basis. The author of these lines recently bought a multimedia projector through an Internet store in Kiev, and saved around $200 (around 15%) in comparison to a store price. Before that, I have bought a drying machine through the Net since I couldn't find one in a store (people are used to drying clothes on a rope). And still earlier, I bought a spare part for my Toshiba notebook computer from an American Internet store since it was not available in Kiev. I paid for it with "Visa" card, and it was shipped to Ukraine within days with DHL and the total price was cheaper than if bought in Ukraine. However, as a RAND 2003 report notes, e-commerce is making transaction taxes (e.g., sales taxes) difficult to collect. "Regulation and licensing are becoming increasingly difficult when service providers are beyond national jurisdictions" (RAND). That means the state is being gradually superceded.  

Computers lead to empowering people. Bill Gates: "Give your workers more sophisticated jobs along with better tools, and you'll discover that your employees will become more responsible and bring more intelligence to their work. One-dimensional, repetitive work is exactly what computers, robots and other machines are best at - and what human workers are poorly suited to and almost uniformly despise. In the digital age, you need to make knowledge workers out of every employee possible."

Computers undermine bureaucracy. Bill Gates writes: "Paper consumption was only a symptom of a bigger problem, though: administrative processes that were too complicated and time-intensive". In running a company, he advocates a switch from paper documents to electronic documents. In the Soviet cartoon on the left, we see a manager bringing a roll of paper to a secretary.

The structure of Internet implies that a less hierarchical global society. Timothy Berners-Lee (TBL) remembers: "There was a lot of people I spoke to initially wanted the Web to be hierarchical because they wanted the hierarchical feeling of control". However, TBL had an own vision of society: "I'm very interested in a more fractal, less hierarchical structure arising in society". WWW for him is "a vision encompassing the decentralized, organic growth of ideas, technology, and society. The vision I have for the Web is about anything being potentially connected with anything". "There is the idea that society can run without a hierarchical bureaucratic government being involved at every step, if only we can hit on the right set of rules for peer-peer interaction".

Internet leads to development of "teleworking", which means " working on a job from afar via telecommunications technologies". This is an opportunity for a mobile lifestyle, such as a car trailer or a yacht. That signifies the end to cities. People living such a life are more likely to develop both intellectually and physically, opening for a possibility of a classless society.

Political implications

People who yesterday went to a library or turned on a TV, today turn to computers and Internet. This change in the source of information means that the quality of information is changing. Bill Gates: "Anytime we have new forms of communication it changes behavior whether it is political or business or any type of behavior. Radio and T.V. did that. The PC will be classed as big or bigger an advancement in communications than those devices were. So far it is mostly electronic mail, printing, newsletters. But even at this stage that means that it is so much harder to suppress word getting out about things. You know printing presses used to be big, expensive, and easy to locate. And now, anytime you let people have PCs you are letting them have a printing press that can do very high-quality work and can send electronic messages around with great ease across national borders and to people all over the world. So, certainly, it is a tool that will change politics amongst other fields".

The young people play games that upset the government. In 2001, we read on CNN news: "I would definitely rather be sitting at a computer right now," said a 19-year-old who cofounded a hacker group called Global Hell, or "gH". The shelves and sockets in his apartment are now bare following an FBI raid. Global Hell was the name splashed on the official Web site of the White House after it was hacked in May".

Another example of the "Fronde" is "Flash mobs". On July 3, 2003, we read on "Wired News": "Inexplicable "flash mobs" are starting to form all over. Flash mobs are performance art projects involving large groups of people. Mobilized by e-mail, a mob suddenly materializes in a public place, acts out according to some loose instructions, and then melts away as quickly as it formed. In New York, the city's finest turned out in force to block the city's third mob gathering last Wednesday evening. Set to gather at 7 p.m. at Grand Central Station for what promised to be an elaborate "mob ballet," the crowd of about 250 was greeted by a "huge" police presence, according to the Mob Project's anonymous organizer known only as Bill. Bill said the mob moved to the Grand Hyatt next door instead. The crowd walked quietly upstairs to the hotel's mezzanine and gathered shoulder-to-shoulder around the balcony. "At 7:12, we burst into thunderous, screaming applause for 15 seconds, and then dispersed, just as police cars came screaming around the corner to where we were," said Bill. "It was fabulous." Let's note that "Fronde" was a series of revolts by French nobility against the monarchy in XVII century. It is a sign of the things to come.

Finally, Internet is a new tool of social and political organization. For example, to organize English courses before, it was necessary to pass out flyers, leaflets, or other information of printed nature. Now, it is possible to create a site and wait for the people to turn up.

New kind of revolutionaries

Revolutions in methods of production are conducted by the same group of people which engage in social revolutions. (In general, a social revolution is a general case of a revolution in methods of production.) One example of this we've seen in the Industrial revolution (headed by craftsmen, mechanics, traders, travelers, bourgeoisie, factory owners, etc) and the French revolution (led practically by the same group of people). So, it's curious to observe what kind of people lead the Information revolution.

The hold on IT is shifting from Americans and Western Europeans to Chinese, Russians, Indians, etc. The RAND 2003 report reads: "the United States and parts of Western Europe are not producing an adequate supply of workforce entrants with high-level IT-relevant competencies in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology". In "The New York Times", from Sept.13, 2004, we read that around 200 companies a year establish their research centers in China. Other countries which do "outsourcing" computer work are India, Russia and Eastern Europe. The leading notebook company on the world market today is not the IBM or even Toshiba, but Asus (China).  

WWW was conceived in CERN, the European Particle Physics Lab that crosses the boundaries of two states (see picture). We already saw that Timothy Berners-Lee was a son of mathematicians, and he himself got a degree in physics and became interested in electronics.

The first people who seem to have understood the significance of Semantic Web were people in the biological community. TBL says: "The whole area of life sciences and healthcare has been hopping with excitement as work is done to take down the boundaries between different silos of information across the field. We had a very vibrant workshop in the area, and Semantic Web was the talk of the recent BIO-IT conference". TBL continues: "These communities (High Energy Physics, Life Sciences) are full of people who have very big challenges to tackle, and are largely scientifically minded people who understand the new paradigm."

But Information revolution also involves philosophers. The Semantic Web (SW) is involved in philosophical issues. In an article in "Scientific American", 2001 issue, TBL says: "For the semantic web to function, computers must have access to structured collections of information and sets of inference rules that they can use to conduct automated reasoning. Artificial-intelligence researchers have studied such systems since long before the Web was developed. Knowledge representation, as this technology is often called, is currently in a state comparable to that of hypertext before the advent of the Web".

So, SW involves "knowledge representation", or, better to say, knowledge organization. For this, the entire human knowledge must be surveyed and mapped. This is a project similar to the "Encyclopedia of Sciences, Arts and Trades" of the European Enlightenment. One example of current work in this direction is "Digital Aristotle" ("Project Halo", http://www.projecthalo.com/), financed by Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft. In an article that served as inspiration for the project, "How We Will Learn", by Danny Hillis, November 9, 2000, we read: "(Digital) Aristotle would begin by asking you how much time you're willing to devote to this project and the level of detail you want. Then Aristotle would show you a map of what you need to learn". "A Map of Knowledge" is what we need to sketch and develop.

In addition, the Semantic Web involves dealing with problems of logic, again a traditionally philosophical discipline. TBL says: "Adding logic to the Webthe means to use rules to make inferences, choose courses of action and answer questionsis the task before the Semantic Web community at the moment."

6) The Information Revolution in ex-USSR

The spread of computer technologies goes hand-in-hand with automation of production. According to "Computerization as a pre-condition of a socialist revolution", by Vladislav Bugera, 1998 , this leads to manual workers being replaced by human overseers of equipment. That means workers are becoming managers manipulating information supplied. V. Bugera continues: "within the world proletariat there is a growing (although yet rather thin) layer of of workers who, in their everyday activity, obtain the skills of self-management, through the medium of the computer systems".  Hence, Bugera draws conclusions for political activity: "No political organization from those that exist can pretend to be a modern revolutionary proletarian party if its program doesn't include the following:

free education in computer literacy by all members of society...

free supply of computer equipment to such organizations as trade unions and workers' political organizations...

development of computer methods of control (by workers) over all management, on any scale...

development of computer systems which allow large masses of workers to take management decisions...

Finally, Bugera proposes a slogan: "Computer is the weapon of proletariat". But, can we call "proletarians" those who: 1) work through computer systems, 2) obtain skills of self-government? It is true, that many of these, although not all, are wage workers, for when a person learns to organize himself, s/he no longer wants to work for somebody.

In an article "Information revolution and modern International relations" by D. G. Baluev, 2001, we read that a consequence of the information revolution is a weakening of the hierarchical structures. This happens because there is a shift from a relative poverty of information to its abundance, thus allowing individuals to circumvent those who attempt to control the society through controlling information and knowledge. And knowledge is a form of a social activity...

Russia

The Restoration of capitalism has thrown the society backward. While in 1990, there were 1.6 million scientific workers in Russia, 10 years later only half of the number remained. By August 2000, 30 thousand Russian scientific workers emigrated abroad. Yet, Jason Horowitz, a director of the project "Sun" notes that Russian programmers are good in problems requiring strong mathematical skills. According to him, the Irish, Indian, Israeli and Czech programmers are not as good. In 2000, from 5 to 8 thousand Russian programmers were involved in "offshore programming". 

While in 1990, there were 23 million telephone lines in the country, by 2000 there were 31 million lines, an increase of 30%. However, in 2000, for every 100 people there were 22 telephone lines. By contrast, in Germany - 61 telephone lines, and in the United States 70 telephone lines, and much better quality than in Russia.

In the same year, there were 2.8 million subscribers of mobile telephone service in Russia, and the number doubles every year.

In January 2001, 3/4 of Russians surveyed never used computer. Yet, in 2001, the number of Internet users has increased in Russia by 39%, in comparison to 2000, and made up 4.3 million Internet users. 

According to a state report, in Russian schools in June 2001 there was 1 computer for every 500 students. Only 1 school out of 50 have had access to Internet. In the United States, almost all elementary and junior high schools have had access to Internet.

According to RAND report "Russia and the Information Revolution", from July 2002, the Russian government has started a program called "Electronic Russia". Its goals are to provide access to Internet for all places of higher learning by 2005, and for all public schools by 2010.

In 2002, according to the Russian Ministry of Communications and Information, the number of computers in the Russian Federation has grown by 20% in comparison to 2001. The volume of the IT market has grown by 9% and made up $9 billion.

In 2003, the Russians bought 3.8 million computers. Over the course of the year, the market has grown by 263%. The fastest growing segment of the market is notebooks.

In Russia, the sales of desktop computers in 2005 was 4.8 - 5 million units, which is an increase of 10.5-12% in comparison with 2004. The sales of notebooks has grown at a faster pace. In 2004, 3 out of 4 computers were desktop. In 2005, there were 2 out of 3 desktop computers.

The number of Internet users has been growing in Russia in following manner:

  fall 2002 winter 2002 spring 2003 summer 2003 fall 2003 winter 2003 spring 2004 summer 2004 fall 2004 winter 2004
daily users 2.1 million 2.8 3.2 3.0 3.2 3.8 3.3 5.0 5.6 5.2
weekly users 4.5 million 5.5 6.4 6.1 6.9 8.2 8.5 9.5 10.1 10.3
monthly users 6.5 million 7.7 7.9 9.0 9.9 11.6 12.0 13.4 13.7 14.2

In "A typical portrait of a user of a RU net", from 21 December 2005, we read:

1) Approximately 15% of Russian citizens have access to Internet.

2) A typical RU net citizens has over 4 years of experience on the Net.

3) The most important uses of the Net for Russians is information (89.3%), e-mail (84.7%), news (71.1%), communications (53.1%). Shopping accounts only for 16.8% of uses of the Net. 

4) 41% of those surveyed have access to broadband.

5) 7.8% of respondents have "free" Internet, e.g. they use it at work. Most spend from 21 to 30 dollars per month on Internet service.

According to "C-News - a publication about high technologies" (in Russian), the dynamics of the "business to customer" electronic market in Russia is given by the following diagram:

Most frequently, the people buy computers on the Net. The second place is occupied by appliances, such as washing machines.

On 31.03.05 we read that Moshkov, an editor of www.lib.ru, one of the biggest Russian Internet libraries, was fined X thousands of rubles for publishing on his site a copyrighted book. The writer of the book, Edward Gevokian, was supported by a right-wing "KM online". KM is known for supporting such reactionary measures as introducing property requirement for voting (in Russia) and such politicians as Edward Limonov, a leader of NBP (Nationalist Bolshevik Party).

Ukraine

The story in Ukraine is similar to that in Russia. The number of computer users has been steadily increasing. In 1998, from 90 to 200 thousand computers were sold (the exact number is unknown for many transaction are "illegal", to avoid paying taxes and extortion fees). In 2000, from 140 to 280 thousand computers were sold.

The total number of computers in Ukraine was (in thousands):

1.01.1999 1.01.2000 1.01.2001
404.6 630.6 965.5

Thus, we see an increase of around 50% a year.

In 2001, under pressure from the West, the Ukrainian government attempted to combat "computer piracy". Thus, while "Microsoft Office XP" costs around $580 in the U.S., on the Ukrainian market the same operating system sells for $2.20. At some point, it became harder to buy "unlicensed" software, but then things returned to status quo.

While in 1990's the companies only sold imported computers, in 2000's we see companies in Russia, Ukraine, etc. which assemble computers from parts imported from Taiwan or China. One example of such a company is "Versia" in Ukraine. The company was created in 1994. In 1996 they assembled their first desktop computers. In 2001, they started to produce notebooks (see photo, circa 2003). In 2003, they produced their first palm PC's. (However, later the market was glutted by the Chinese brands, such as "Acer" and "Asus", which made it unprofitable to assemble computers in Ukraine. The author of these lines has bought an "Asus" computer in the fall of 2006 with following characteristics: 1) processor Intel Core Duo T2250 (1,73GHz), 2) 1 GB of RAM, 3) 100 GB of HDD, 4) a Web camera. The price was 6900 hrivnas (around $1190). A similar notebook from "Versia" would cost around 9000 hrivnas.)

In 2003, the computer market has grown by 82.4% in comparison with 2002. The sales of notebooks has increased by 99.9%, and the sales of servers by 52.%.

On 18th October 2005, Hewlett-Packard began a production of computers in Ukraine. The potential of the factory is 100 thousand computers per year. They will be $40-100 cheaper than similar computers produced in Europe.

As for Internet, we have the following statistics:

In December 2000 - 500 000 users, June 2001 - 750 000, October 2001 - 2 million, 2006 - 3 million. Main reason for relatively low number of Internet users in Ukraine was poverty. 90% of the population concentrate on buying the basics, such as food and clothes.

Internet rates in Kiev, 2002, dial-up service:

Company name hours and rates    
Viaduk 8-20: 80 cents/hour 20-23: 40 cents/hour 23 - 8: 20 cents/hour
Svit 9-21: 70 cents/hour 21-9: 30 cents/hour weekends: 30 cents/hour
Goodwin 9-20: 40 cents/hour 20-9: 20 cents/hour  

In 2004, access to Internet via provider called Zeos cost: from 9-19: 40 cents/hour, from 19-0: 30 cents/hour, from 0-9: 18 cents.

In 2006, at our home in Kiev we have used 2 Internet providers for dial-up service: "Prosto" and "Express". The prices were no longer quoted in U.S. dollars, but Ukrainian hrivnas, which makes the Internet access much more accessible. As of September 2006, 1 U.S. dollar = 5.03 Ukr. hrivnas, 1 hrivna = 100 kopecks.

company name hours and rates    
Prosto 8 a.m.- midnight: 60 kopecks/hour (i.e. around 12 cents/hour) midnight - 8 a.m.: 30 kopecks/hour (i.e. around 6 cents/hour)  
Express 8-12: 50 kopecks/hour midday - 1 a.m.: 1 hrivna 60/hour (around 32 cents/hour) 2 a.m. - 8 a.m. - free

To summarize: in 2002, I used "Viaduk" and could afford to work only during the night, from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., at the price of 20 cents/hour. As a result, the nights were often sleepless. In 2006, I could afford to use the Internet during the day (Prosto), and I paid around 12 cents an hour. In other words, over 4 years, the price for Internet dial-up service has come down more than 50% (accounting for being able to work during the day).

In addition, in 2006 I moved into a new apartment and got connected to broadband service, working at 10 Megabits/second. The provider, "Delta", charged 18 kopecks per megabyte, or 180 hrivnas per Gigabyte of traffic, i.e. around $36, with no monthly fees.

In addition, satellite Internet appeared. One provider was "Data Group". The prices were: $240 for installing the equipment, $109 per month for 64K of unlimited traffic. We can suppose that in a few year the satellite Internet will decrease in price, as did the dial-up service.

Addendum: in 2008 I have started using mobile Internet, in a provincial town in Ukraine. For that, I bought a new cell phone, to serve as a modem. This I connected to my notebook, which I was using on my yacht. The price was reasonable: 5 hrivnas per day (1 dollar) plus 5 (or 10) kopecks for each megabyte.

 


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