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This Note reviews some of the historical trends and events that suggest the scope and power of the information revolution. It speculates on how these trends and events may be interpreted in new models or theories of human affairs, in perhaps the greatest and most fundamental change since the latter part of the 18th century for human transactions of power of all kinds — political, economic, and military — and at all levels — global, national, and factional. Traditional hierarchies, based on the control of information, are being eroded and bypassed. At a time of great change, where institutions can provide for some measure of stability and continuity, many may be unable to function effectively given the new abundance of public information. The relationships among information, the information technologies, and conflict are complex and not universally positive; but positive effects are evident and pose apparent opportunities for harnessing the information technologies to inhibit conflicts. The authors describe some of these opportunities as they consider worlds in which anyone can hear or watch or broadcast anything they want on global networks. They conclude with an initial agenda for research into issues that must be addressed to properly support a program that explores and invests in high-leverage information initiatives that can open societies and enhance human rights.

This report is part of the RAND note series. The note was a product of RAND from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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