Isn’t it funny how things come full circle?

Ross Mayfield has an extensive post up today about what is, ostensibly, “Social CRM” — though he touches on so much stuff that I hate to characterize it as simply that (bottom line: go read it).

In that post, he said one thing that really caught my eye:

People are the platform, and when you empower them, great things flow between them. While their abilities can be augmented by automating low level tasks, it is they who best provide the intelligence. Either as individuals or even as collective.

“People are the platform” — I love that. Ross also mentions “Soylent Green” – which made me flash over to our opening keynoter, Andy Kessler (“Be Soylent – Eat People”) – and, ultimately, resulted in this post.

While I’m sure that folks like Chris Locke (defrag speaker) will recoil at being a “platform” (I’m poking and having fun), I also think it is a real insight into the future of things. If you check out this Gartner Hype Cycle for emerging technologies, you’ll see a couple of things:

1. 2-5yrs out: cloud computing, social software suites, microblogging, social network analysis, idea managment, wikis.

2. 5-10yrs out: context delivery architecture.

I think that “defrag” as a topic lives at that 5 year mark (and extends in both time directions into the areas). And I think that the common uniting foundation is that “people are the platform.”

The key to people are the platform comes in Ross’ follow-on: we can augment low-level tasks, but people provide the intelligence.

I’m not sure if I agree with that wholly or not. The “grand challenge” that we have before us at Defrag is *can* we begin to move past low-level augmentation and into an area where technology “accelerates the process of insight” — or provides intelligence in some form (and I don’t mean AI). Can we make software that is more “intuitive?” Not intuitive in the UI sense, intuitive as in “holy crap- that piece of software helped me discover X before I really knew I needed/wanted it!”

That moves us way beyond collaboration, and firmly into fertile, untilled innovation ground.

So, what’s the “full circle” I referred to?

Ten years ago, Cluetrain asserted that “people were the platform” (in it’s own way). Ten years later, we’re reuniting the Cluetrain bunch to take a look forward once again. If the coming decade is anything like the last one, we’re in for one helluva ride.

Kudos to Ross for the post — I hope you’ll help us come work on the problem at Defrag.