This is a remarkable time in human history. Our real world is rapidly becoming digital and our digital worlds are rapidly becoming real. Ubiquitous digital worlds such as online shopping and auctions, stock and equity trading systems, electronic banking, social networks, and the e-‘s (e-government, e-health, e-commerce, e-business) contribute to our rapidly expanding Digital Universe that is as fascinating in the 21st Century as the physical universe was in the 20th Century. Digital worlds have an enormous, and far from understood, impact on our real world and vice versa. The growth, adoption, and power of these digital worlds and the amazing opportunities and threats that they offer suggest a forthcoming Digital Industrial Revolution. The Digital Industrial Revolution, accelerated by the Web, will have far reaching effect, as did the Industrial Revolution, accelerated by printing press. Both revolutions unleashed natural social, economic, and political forces and both flattened the world through transparency and openness. But the Digital Industrial revolution, because of the phenomena surrounding the Web and its interactions with society, is occurring at lightning speed with profound impacts on society, the economy, politics, and more.
Our Digital Universe is leading to fundamental changes in human endeavors – how people interact, how science and business is conducted, and how governments operate, leading in turn to planned and unforeseen consequences such as universal and instantaneous access to information and other resources, globalization of enterprises and industries, as well as economic and social crises, and threats to security and civil liberties. No longer do computer systems provide back-office, administrative support; they are emerging as platforms for digital ecosystems of automated and human agents that operate real business, social, and government processes; thus creating digital worlds that are an integral part of our real world. Yet we build them with little understanding of these digital worlds or their impacts on our real world. Stated simply, the Web is unleashing natural social, economic, political, and other forces – for good and for ill.
This talk explores our expanding Digital Universe that has been emerging slowly for half a century but has reached a tipping point due to the convergence of technical and world trends such as the Web and its continuously astounding adoption. We investigate key contributors to this remarkable time of change and transformation. Digital worlds are being used to transform social, business, scientific, and government activities creating the potential that we can redefine our world. But how do we redefine our world? Where do we start? We look at the need for fundamentally new methods to understand our digital worlds and their actual and potential interactions with and impacts on our world; and for the conception, design, development, and use of digital worlds (previously called “applications” presumable of computing) and the real and digital worlds with which they interact. Since the problems being addressed are real, so is the problem solving. No more “boffins in the back room”. The related problem solving methods must be holistic, multi-disciplinary, and collaborative and that facilitate problem solving across technical, social, and other domains to develop secure, realistic, and robust digital worlds. The need for such methods is illustrated with a healthcare information system failure costing £12.4 billion and a corresponding success due largely to its multi-disciplinary life cycle. We examine examples of these methods by applying Jarvis’s Google Rules to failing real worlds and their growing digital counterparts. The emergence of our Digital Universe and its impact on and potential for our world raises the challenge to aspire to the principles of Web Science to work collaboratively across relevant disciplines to create digital worlds that contribute to improving our world.
Michael L. Brodie
Dr. Michael L. Brodie is Chief Scientist of Verizon Services Operations in Verizon Communications, one of the world's leading providers of communications services.
Dr. Brodie works on strategic Information Technology opportunities and challenges to deliver business value from emerging technologies and practices in large-scale, distributed operational environments. He is concerned with the Big Picture including business, economic, application, and technical aspects of information systems, core technologies, and integration; and has an active interest in Web Sciences and the Semantic Web.
Dr. Brodie holds a PhD in Databases from the University of Toronto and has authored over 150 books, chapters, and articles and has presented over 150 keynotes or invited lectures in over 30 countries.