Western Civilization famously changed everything with innovations such as market economics, democracy, mass education, and science, empowering millions to compete, cooperate, and invent as never before. But there's been a price. Each generation must deal with sudden expansions of vision, memory, and attention . . . now accelerating faster than ever.
Today, some forecast that vast information flows will empower tomorrow's citizens to converge and tackle problems with greater agility than governments or corporations—an era of creative "smart mobs." Is this plausible? Can new innovative visualization and collaboration tools boost millions of new problem solvers? Underlying all of this is a deeper question: Can our civilization maintain its 200-year commitment to openness, transparency, accountability, and confident belief in progress, or will a growing "relinquishment movement" fight back against the onrush of change?