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Itís a Numbers Game

Donald G. Perrin

Modern communications is making increasing use of numbers to support its messages, whether it be a sports game, economic news, health services, or politics. We are surrounded by numbers Ė phone, cell, social security, bank accounts, mortgages, insurances, year-month-day-hour-second, age, birthdates, and calendars. The information highway adds IP addresses and turns text, pictures, videos, and interactive communications into digital formats of ones and zeros.

Hiccup!!! Even music and classical art work has been digitized. Analog has become digital.

Of course there are advantages. Rare and expensive technologies are now commonplace. The computer can emulate or simulate almost any machine. We can be our own print shop, publisher, video editor, flight trainer, or travel service. We can access great libraries, visit distant lands, and attend closed meetings or public performances without leaving our arm chair. The virtual world is becoming seamlessly attached to our real world and in some instances replacing it.

Google searches are even more popular than Starbuckís coffee. We have instant communications to everywhere about everything. The World-Wide-Web is complemented by email, instant messaging, blogs, chat rooms, internet phones, video-conferencing, net meeting, and many other systems. Access to information is easy and it is instant. And there is increasing use of expert systems and artificial intelligence to simply the user interface and reduce redundancy.

The disadvantages are also real. Couch potatoes get heart attacks. Internet crime hurts real people by stealing money, destroying data, and vandalizing computers and networks. Spammers litter and jam the channels of communication. It costs billions of dollars each year to protect against intrusion and repair damage caused by unknown assailants (Internet Terrorists).

Education and training is part of the equation because it is everywhere and ubiquitous. Internet learning is scalable to meet changing needs. It has taken its place side by side with conventional methods of instruction and made education accessible anywhere, anytime, to anyone.

Electronic communication is instant communication. As the car replaced the horse-and-buggy, snail-mail is replaced by email and instant messaging. Communication is more mobile, and smart cell phones are adding email, internet, music, videos, and global positioning systems. It is predicted that in a few years there will be more internet searches from cell phones than from PCs!

Interactive has become the criteria for all communications. And control has moved from the sender to the receiver. We determine when and where we want to watch a movie, attend a class or have a conversation. We use the resources of the internet to check the diagnosis of our doctor and the price of goods and services. We can go shopping on the Internet. Some people live, seek their mate, and even get married on the Internet.

I have to end here to attend a meeting (on the Internet). Later I will visit the Smithsonian (on the Internet), then blog some current issues with friends around the globe (on the Internet).

But first I must pick up the #2 off the carpet and take the puppy for a walk.

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