We are entering a second revolution in information technology, one that may well usher in a new technological age that dwarfs, in sheer transformational scope and power, anything we have yet experienced.
We are already intimately familiar with the first revolution, now well underway. Information, computer, and communications technologies have transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, creating entirely new opportunities and challenges, and trailing some “inevitable surprises” in their wake.
In the science and engineering community, these revolutionary technologies have helped us scan the research frontier at velocities that are orders of magnitude faster than ever before. These tools are not simply faster—they are also fundamentally superior. They have raised the level of complexity we can understand and harness. That capability is growing at a breathtaking pace.
Just consider two revolutionary innovations in our tool kit: computer simulation and modeling. Combine these with new visualization and observational tools—such as sensor nets, satellites, and distributed observatories—and you have a flood of data that threatens to swamp our capacity to preserve, analyze, and apply. With these new capabilities comes the challenge to use them to cross new frontiers of discovery.
The engine of change for the next revolution is cyberinfrastructure (CI), a comprehensive phenomenon that involves the creation, dissemination, preservation, and application of knowledge. It adds new dimensions that greatly increase transformational potential.
Like other infrastructure—the electric power grid, the national highways—CI combines complex elements to create a dynamic system. It eclipses its many hardware and software components to enable people and their interactions with technology to become the central focus.
from American.com, 11 Jan 07.