Jim Whitehurst presented on Saturday morning at the 2012 installment of TEDxRaleigh, speaking to a sold-out crowd in Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre. Now in its third year, TEDxRaleigh has brought together local innovators, researchers and thought leaders to give local flair to a wildly successful national event.
This year’s fifteen speakers represented the diversity of Raleigh’s industries, both established and fledgling. Fitting the chosen theme of “alchemy”, TEDxRaleigh organizers asked “What are the elements, processes, and reactions that turn ideas into reality?” and received answers from a variety of sources including Larry’s Beans, Symbology Clothing, the NC Film Institute, and the BioFuels Center of NC.
During his speech, Whitehurst wove the story of the “Information Revolution” beginning with the assertion that current advances in technology will reach farther beyond gadgets, software and tangible results, ultimately affecting our lives and society. As Whitehurst described the “major players” in the Industrial and Information Revolutions, including the auto-lathe, transportation systems, microprocessors, and cloud computing, he noted an important difference that the Industrial Revolution was about making things more efficient, while the Information Revolution will hinge on more efficient use of what society has already made.
“This may sound subtle, but the results are profound. Many economists estimate that well over half of all activity is waste. In reducing this waste lies the next great leap forward in human welfare,” Whitehurst said.
Whitehurst then described different shifts that will accompany the Information Revolution, changes that would occur when rote tasks become automated and an evolving workforce will be challenged to leverage initiative, creativity and agility to create value in the workplace. “This will require an entirely new leadership paradigm, as traditional command-and-control systems are efficient at directing rote tasks, but notoriously poor at generating creativity,” Whitehurst said. These shifts, he added, would be assisted by emerging and current networks that surround us every day, as networks are able to self-organize and leverage the power of rich information to coordinate everyday activities in an efficient manner.
The speech concluded with a focus on the role of education and its transformations, where Whitehurst predicted that learning how to collaborate, taking initiative, and applying critical reasoning will shape the growth of a knowledge-capable population. “Education is the new oil”, Whitehurst asserted at the conclusion of his speech, closing with a slide of “Information = Massive Change” over an interconnected, constellation background.