Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
November, 20th 2008

When you read Sam’s speech, it’s obvious what a smarter planet would mean for the large, complex systems that constitute the way the world works. It’s obvious that our cities, organizations, supply chains, economies and the planet’s environment – from water systems to climate systems to forests and beyond – could become manageable and sustainable in wholly new ways.

Chubby_planet_150_3But what does a smarter planet mean for the individual? The short answer, I think, is that this is a last-shall-be-first moment. If the job of leaders is, as Sam describes it, to act more like followers – by listening, facilitating, collaboration, acknowledging that they are not in control, opening up, becoming far more transparent, etc. – then perhaps the job of "followers" (i.e., the world’s poor, the new populations joining the middle class, employees, global citizens, et al.) may be to act like leaders – to be bold, to act like they own the place, to experiment, to expand their horizons.

How might individuals begin to do that? I’d suggest three ways:

  1. Go Web 2.0. Embrace the long tail.
  2. Look at your own area of responsibility through the lens of ‘smarter planet,’ and see what this frame lights up… what it transforms… what it could expand.
  3. Personally engage in the big-picture societal work that is newly possible.

Sam’s speeches so far have been directed to leaders. For them, the challenge is to seize this moment, to embrace the world’s eagerness for change and use it to be bold, game-changing.

But as families, as neighbors, as employees, as partners, as suppliers, as scholars, as global citizens… we can seize the same opportunity, too – the chance to change our lives, our work, our communities, our future. And the way to do that is to participate, to co-create, to network, to jam. The key is to understand that these amazing new capabilities make the planet’s infrastructure available to the individual, to every individual, without regard to wealth or physical location or power.

In other words, the exponential increase in connectivity — and therefore in ‘smart’ connections — means an exponential increase in new ideas, new products, new businesses, political and economic relationships and institutions and new communities. That’s the deeper promise of a smarter planet – far larger and more consequential than the initial increases in efficiency it will drive.

So, for instance, any of us could choose to get involved in any of the big-picture societal/planetary possibilities Sam tees up: an Energy Internet (see Tom Friedman’s new book), monitoring natural systems, social epidemiology, microfinance, access to clean water, etc. For IBMers, things like On Demand Community and World Community Grid are directly related to the new capabilities we’re describing. Any of the systems described in Sam’s speeches is going to have its primary transformation from billions of diverse, unconnected but networked individuals acting locally and collectively having an enormous impact.

So, a Linda Richman moment…

Discuss: Web 1.0 was the Information Web. Web 2.0 is the Social Web. And Web 3.0 (a.k.a. the smarter planet) is the Societal Web.

Here’s another: If a smarter planet is going to become sustainable (ecologically, politically, humanistically) – in other words, if our species is going to survive – it will be because the billions of people on the Net make it so.

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September 18, 2016
8:20 am

thanks for great article

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Posted by: Carry Laport
November 10, 2011
7:16 pm

The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I do know it was my choice to learn, however I really thought youd have one thing interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you can fix if you happen to werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

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September 6, 2011
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Posted by: facebook ssl fanpage
December 12, 2008
4:34 pm

An interesting question related to this post came up today: what can the individual, or the small company, or the family, do to prepare themselves or be ready for the seismic changes we believe are coming?
While the individual can no more hasten the kind of societal scale systems we’re talking about than they can, say, build an interstate highway system, they can get a full lay of this new landscape and then do what, as Mike would say, us humans do: imagine the possibilities….consider the implications. And dream, baby.
A wise person seeing the rise of interstate highways might envision the new kinds of businesses they would give rise to, like the need for more gas stations, or the value of suburban property.
So individuals anticipating a smarter planet can and should think about practical things, like what would I do with virtually unlimited bandwidth, storage and processing?
How will education and learning be impacted by an ocean of information not just a mouseclick away, but a word or thought away?
In other words, the way for each of us to prepare is to ask a simple question: what kind of smarter planet do I want to live on?

Posted by: Jack Mason
December 12, 2008
11:59 am

Grace……Here’s a link to information about IBM’s Transition to Teaching program that we hope will address just the issues you highlight:

Posted by: Marian Lawlor
December 1, 2008
10:08 pm

Grace: Another interesting link:

Posted by: george faulkner
November 28, 2008
1:01 pm

Grace — Thanks. IBM has a very long history of developing progressive approaches to education. They’re far too numerous to describe here — but you can find out about them at and and… and at some of the other sites listed on these sites. In particular, I think you will see the congruence between the company’s perspective on “open education” ( and the topics being explored on this blog.
Edward — Thanks. This is an interesting effort.

Posted by: Mike Wing
November 27, 2008
7:32 pm

I think that it also means for individuals and households to become a sort of mini companies fully integrated, see (my hobby project).

Posted by: Edward de Leau
November 23, 2008
10:22 pm

It’s encouraging to see IBM focusing on global systematic change in such interesting areas; your approach of decentralizing the conversation to include the masses is rarely if ever seen for a company of your size and stature.
Having read through some of these posts, there is one important topic I do not see – the need to fix our nation’s education system. Here in the United States, a huge disparity exists between rich and poor communities in access to quality education. The DC and New York metropolitan areas are examples. There’s moreover a general lack of funds allocated toward teacher training or development of information and communication technology.
Is this something IBM has an interest in discussing and supporting? I wonder what our country’s education environment might be like if we had some sort of mandatory service – like some countries have with their military service – where all citizens with college degrees are required to spend a period of time working to improve our schools. I feel the failures of our education system amount to nothing short of a national security risk. If ignored, it could lead to an increase in disparities for generations to come.
While multiple factors play into the formula for a country’s prosperity, I believe that investing in human capital is a crucial one. I would love to see some discussion about this.

Posted by: Grace
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