Half-Way Around The World

Earlier this week a local philanthropic organization gave millions of dollars to a university’s school of business. I saw in a sub-headline that one of the school’s officials speculated that with this money, it would be very soon when a group of college students studying business in Indiana could huddle around laptop computers and, with the latest in video-communication technology, interact with business executives half-way around the world. 

The unwritten assumption was this: “and what a marvelous world it will then be.”

I wrote a while ago about the tendency—a tendency so evident that it has to have its own name as “such-and-such’s Law”—of communication and information technology to run far ahead of our ability to use them in a meaningful way. The length or span between the forward edge of that change and the current state of our everyday usage, I argued, furnished us with the space for befuddlement, bewilderment, and bemoaning that defines the state of the public mind. Things always seem in shift in this length or span and thus our lives, we conclude, are in similar shift. Always.

Go back to the announcement that I summarized above. What exactly is gained when one group talks with another on a different side of the planet? The simple act of doing so really does and means very little. The simple act of being able to do so carries no greater impact. It’s what is said and done, thought and felt, that counts for the most. The content of ideas, facts, speculation, rumor, and much more is the heart of the value. The way in which it is carried or transmitted is interesting, to be sure, and there is lots of money to be made there, lots of jobs and careers to be pursued there. But we confuse the object of mild interest with an outcome of heavy substance.

The school of business ought to be thinking more about the content of things rather than the conveyance of things or, at least, the equalizing of their importance in education and personal development.