Tim O’Reilly, in his commencement speech at the Berkeley School of Information yesterday, dropped the pom-poms and provided a remarkably unutopian view of the Web 2.0 future:
If history is any guide, the democratization promised by Web 2.0 will eventually be succeeded by new monopolies, just as the democratization promised by the personal computer led to an industry dominated by only a few companies. Those companies will have enormous power over our lives – and may use it for good or ill. Already we’re seeing companies claiming that Google has the ability to make or break their business by how it adjusts its search rankings. That’s just a small taste of what is to come as new power brokers rule the information pathways that will shape our future world.
As a result, I urge you to think hard about the consequences of new technology. Don’t just take for granted that technology will bring us a better world. We must engage strenuously with the future, thinking through the dark side of each opportunity, and working to maximize the good that we create while minimizing the harm.