HARMONY by Arno Penzias


Business, Technology, and Life After Paperwork
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 A world-class scientist's upbeat appreciation of what the rapid gains in computer and communications technology could mean in the workplace. Before assessing where commercial enterprise may be headed in the wake of the so-called information revolution, Penzias (Ideas and Information, 1989) reviews where it has been. To begin with, the Nobel laureate in physics observes that mass manufacturing (which swamped cottage industry in the 19th century) eventually gave way, in the second half of the 20th century, to a shift in emphasis from quantity to quality. This latter period, dating back only to the late 1970s, has been marked by team-based rather than hierarchical business organizations, value derived from performance rather than volume, and associated manifestations of fundamental change. At hand, according to the author (who's director of research at AT&T's Bell Laboratories) is an era of harmony in which humankind could make ever more effective and productive use of the machines at its disposal. He doesn't deny the convulsive displacements that have resulted from swift advances in technology, and he sees little long-term future for the drones who earn their livings by running errands between computer-based systems--e.g., retrieving facsimile transmissions or routing documents. But Penzias, ever the optimist here, does argue that continuous retraining, new work styles, and related adjustments could actually enhance job markets as the Global Village installs an information infrastructure that promises to create one vast, integrated network. By the same token, he's outspokenly, albeit vaguely, bullish about the prospect of breakthrough goods and services that would be easy to use and would improve the ties that bind human beings one to another. An authoritative, user-friendly perspective on the shape of things to come on a small planet.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1995
ISBN: 0-88730-742-8
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995