We’ve all heard the expression, “history repeats itself,” and while no two things can be exactly the same, there are always similarities of the past which can help us thrive and prosper in a new era. That is, if we pay attention to the patterns. The Information Renaissance in the 21st century has resemblances of the European Renaissance that began in the 15th century. The Information Renaissance is centered around the technology and the application of information that has reshaped how our society interacts and communicates with each other. Was Steve Jobs to our society as Leonardo da Vinci was to 16th century Italy? Arguably so. Beginning in the 2000s, the Internet and innovative technology has had an explosive impact on our world. From children having social media accounts to mind controlled drones and driverless cars, the possibilities today are seemingly infinite. These strides have had a positive effect in many ways, including making information more accessible. The answer to all our questions lies at the tips of our fingers, a Google search away. For scientists, professionals, and leaders this can spark unfounded research and inspire open innovation. It also makes the sharing of knowledge globally possible and immediate.
Alas, where there is light, there is darkness. Dr. Jay Gillette states in his report, Leadership for the Information Renaissance: Clarity, Challenges, Opportunity, that “Renaissance times are paradoxically times of great human progress and great human conflicts” (p. 4.). In the European Renaissance, brilliant minds like Michelangelo and Shakespeare altered people’s perceptions on art, literature, and life itself. People started to think in a new way. With that reformation, current politics and religious policies were questioned. It let to many religious wars during that time. Dr. Gillette also describes the pattern of conflict that may arise in an age of renaissance, “old paradigms have awakened to the threats of the new ones, and the old fight back, often using the concepts, tools and weapons of the new paradigms” (p. 4). Much like the religious wars in the European Renaissance, the Information Renaissance is fighting cyberwars.
Security is critical in our generation because the Internet holds everyone’s world in its realm. Medical records, financial records, and intellectual property of nearly the entire global population are stored in some fashion online. This is not only individuals information, this is the military databases and even America’s power grid. As mentioned earlier, there are seemingly endless possibilities for the technology in the Information Renaissance. These possibilities can bring remarkable value to our society, but on the other side of the coin, it can also bring about destruction. An attack on our nation’s power grid, would cease the communication we now live by and destroy our country, much like the religious wars of European Renaissance.
The Information Renaissance brings with it an opportunity to improve our world, as well as new threats, but by learning from the past, we can thrive in the present, and develop our futures.