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Information Hunter-Gatherers

All modern humans were hunter-gatherers until around 10,000 years ago when we invented farming at least three separate times. Since that time most of the world’s societies have become agricultural, growing and farming for subsistence. We’ve also specialized allowing fewer people to produce food for everyone. Our behavior with information has some interesting parrallels to this evolutionary progression.

For a particular subject area we start off as information-gatherers, reading blogs, articles, and boards looking for information. Then if we have the ability, we become information-farmers, producing information on a particular topic by writing posts or contributing to threads. Finally, we start to specialize and people or blogs or boards become authoritative about topics and the rest of us allow them to feed us.

No doubt the Internet has democratized information but I think we’re starting to see a specialization in the production of content. Like our ancestors who sat around the campfire telling stories, some people created them and others retold them. Continuing the food analogy, a few people create the food but we all buy, cook, and serve it to our families and friends. Today, we are still participants in the process of information delivery but most of us are doing it by retelling the stories. We do this by sharing, “liking”, and +1 information that we enjoy.

Besides the parallels between our evolution from hunter-gatherers to agricultural or pastoral based societies the other interesting aspect of information is how this specialization requires us to build and maintain reputations. In the past reputations as experts were denoted by rank, class, or title that were bestowed upon people by a select few. In today’s world we get to decide on who is an expert and who isn’t.

Bringing this back to something practical, we should all be thinking about this idea of expertise for our careers and our organizations. The world gets to denote who is an expert and who isn’t. If you work hard and earn the reputation as an expert in an area you’ll likely be sought out and rewarded for it.


Comments RSS TrackBack 1 comment

  • Sherry

    in October 15th, 2011 @ 09:28

    That’s really thninikg out of the box. Thanks!