Once, I spend an entire summer with Isaac Asimov’s The Foundation, according to many the best book series in the science fiction genre ever. Despite that, I don’t recall much of the story line, but one of the main themes is the principle of psychohistory: the more people are involved, the easier it gets to predict the future. So with the collective reasoning power of say an entire galaxy, forecasting becomes pretty accurate.
Imagine: all creatures of the universe connected, having their own page on Facebook and tweeting all the time. That’s what I call a social network.
Enterprise 2.0? Peanuts.
But I’m getting off subject. Another theme that I remember is that of declining civilizations. There is a planet that depends on very complex machines. With one little problem: their creators have left a long time ago. They are probably in another universe or just doing some time-travelling between two black holes (don’t e-mail me about erroneous details, I am just trying to illustrate a point). Anyhow, nobody knows anymore how the machines work and while one machine after another breaks down, the people on the planet sheepishly wonder how to go on.
A story with an obvious parallel to the fall of the decadent Roman empire. The thought crosses my mind this week. Freshly returned from a few weeks of touring through sunny Spain, I land up in a workshop with finance executives. The subject of the session: how new technology will change the role of the CFO in the future.

Yes indeed: after holidays it’s better to dive deep into work right away. Luckily, the discussion turns out to be interesting. I explain the ideas behind the cloud yet another time: raw processing power and storage, as well as complete applications are delivered from somewhere else, on the Internet. That is simpler, greener and cheaper. And it creates the headroom for other things, like outsmarting the competition, improving performance or creating new value.
Sounds feasible. Yet this future perspective works on the nerves of quite a few of the CFO’s in the workshop. Information and systems provide the core of the financial administration. They are the key to being in control. Some envision horror scenario’s of an organization that has outsourced everything and while doing that forgot how processes are supposed to work and how systems are being build and run: all that is left are the people, looking at the cloud in which incomprehensible things are happening. Out of control, they sheepishly wonder how to go on.
“Well, in that case you should not use your calculator anymore either” somebody remarks.
Excellent point. Clearly, some people start to grasp the change potential of the cloud. Yet, to others it still sounds like science fiction.
Does the cloud makes us dumb or smart? Fit or decadent? Out or in control? We need more discussion to understand. And maybe some powerful collective reasoning, Asimov-style.