What is the Question for Which the WWW is the Answer?

Of all inventions, the World Wide Web had one of the highest rates of acceptance of any technology while solving a problem no one thought they had. This is why the question 'what is the question for which the World Wide Web is the answer' is important.

I've always believed that the World Wide Web would have never been developed if someone were trying to solve a problem. The problem-solving mindset just doesn't do it here, nor do its frameworks. When inventing things like the World Wide Web or the electric motor, we are not seeking to solve problems, we are searching for a new way of life, for a wide field of possibility that will open up multiple behavior spaces to be imagined and implemented by the ones that come after us.

It was on August 6, 1991, that Tim Berners-Lee emailed the, by now the famous, 'short summary of the World Wide Web project' at the address 'groups: alt.hypertext':

The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system. The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups.

The WWW world consists of documents, and links. Indexes are special documents that, rather than being read, may be searched. The result of such a search is another (‘virtual') document containing links to the documents found. A simple protocol (‘HTTP') is used to allow a browser program to request a keyword search by a remote information server.[1]

Priceless in its precision, simplicity and purpose. But for everyone else outside the group to whom the email was addressed, within the frameworks they were operating from at the time, the question was pretty basic: what is the problem for which the World Wide Web is a solution? Here we have again an example of a question asked from a mindset that ignores the existence of a new framework for existence. This is the question asked from the mindset of a problem>solution framework, when in effect we are dealing with a question>answer framework. Failing to identify a problem that had a wide market need for a tactical solution objectified by the WWW, a lot of industries, and a lot of corporations and governments, lived for a few years with the illusion that nothing much will change. They lived the illusion that the World Wide Web was an option, that it was an elective they may or may not decide to take at one point in the future, and if conditions dictated the need to do so.

This is almost like believing that, at one point after electricity and the electric motor became mainstream, the organization you are a part of will somehow be exempted from any involvement with either electricity, or the electric motor.

After all, there is no money to be made with either electricity or the World Wide Web at the time of their introduction, as they solve no problem we know of, and no users need this outside of the few enthusiasts involved in the technology. On top of that, the value chain you are using at this time just doesn't fit this new thing. But what if you ask what is the question for which the WWW is the answer?

What answers would that reveal? What would you discover? The desire to explore and continue asking questions? The desire to play and the urgency to communicate one's ideas, artistic creations, daily experiences? The search for others of like mind or with similar interests, that may live thousands of miles away or just a few blocks around the corner? The desire for community and fellowship? The compelling empowerment of collaborating with others without geographic barriers? How about all of these!

The World Wide Web became a social phenomenon because it released our latent behaviors of curiosity, nosiness, and continuing search for becoming better by understanding more. Our instinct for becoming as much as our tools allow us to reveal, was now made possible by a new technology, with the capability to create the experience most conducive to emerge our latent behavior.

Human life is a quest for the higher life experience. As we learn from experience, we transform ourselves and our goals in a dynamic and synchronic fashion with the quality and quantity of the experiences we have. We seek a better experience in order to build on a previous experience. All in a quest for pleasurable moments, and for beauty, because beauty and pleasure are value-positive experiences. When looking at human action and the compelling motivation that makes us engage in actions, we notice that no metrics apply. All of these motivators are ambiguous in nature. It is this ambiguity that creates a fertile ground for interpretation and for diversity in the creation of products and services. And it is also this ambiguity that creates the need for dynamic enterprises, because the sources of value that engage the intrinsic motivation of people are in a perpetual dynamic.

  • [1] Manu, A. (2006). The Imagination Challenge. Berkeley, CA: New Riders/PeachPit Press, 132-3.
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