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April 17, 2006

Futurist Alex Pang to give talk on 'End of Cyberspace' April 25

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, research director of the Institute for the Future, will give a talk on the "End of Cyberspace" on Tuesday, April 25, at 4 p.m. at McHenry Library Special Collections. Light refreshments will be served

Alex Pang brings a strong historical and theoretical perspective to his work on the future of pervasive computing, the end of cyberspace, and the coevolution of technology and society. He is a founding editor of the Institute for the Future's Future Now, a blog on emerging technologies. He holds a Ph.D. in history and the sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

In his own words, Pang will address the relationship between information technology and society and the limits of cyberspace:

"According to futurists writing in the early years of the personal computer age, by 2005 printed newsletters were supposed to be obsolete, books a rarity, libraries an anachronism. Digital media were creating an alternate dimension of information and thought: cyberspace. In cyberspace, information would roam free of the constraints of pages and books, becoming accessible anywhere to anyone, unstoppable by borders, unmanageable by jealous professions and priesthoods.

"Yet libraries are still here, filled with books. Academics still have offices and teach in classrooms. Corporate offices are no less opulent, real, or necessary than they were 50 years ago. What's going on?"

"It should surprise no one when the future unfolds differently than we expect. But we can learn from our mistakes. Studying futures that don't happen can help us better understand the world we inhabit, and the world we'll inhabit in the future. This is a particularly good time to think about why computers and the Web didn't mean the end of books and libraries, for in the coming decade, a new generation of information technologies is likely to dramatically change the relationship between information, technology, and the world, rendering the very concept of "cyberspace" obsolete. Understanding why the present has taken the shape it has could help us make better choices in this coming world."

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