Seeing the movie ‘The Social Network’ left me both inspired and concerned. On the one hand it was great to finally see Hollywood give some credit to the folks behind the creation of the technology we take for granted. But it also made me realise how little the average company understands about the astonishing leaps and bounds we are making in computing, and how the traditional, narrow-minded office managers are stunting innovation.

The work that I do sees me interacting with companies who are trying to manage their internal policies with regard to protecting their data. There is increasing pressure on the IT manager to protect what’s on the company’s network. The result is often draconian internal policies, which either ban sites like Facebook and YouTube outright, or allow minimal access to selected social networks over the corporate network.

Now I get how worried these guys are. It would be foolish to ask for them to take it less seriously than they do. But what I don’t get is that so many companies are acting out of fear and uncertainty, rather than taking a moment to see how they could be embracing aspects of social media into their company’s culture. Change is inevitable and to try and restrict it can only lead to disaster.

The staggering leaps we are seeing in super-fast computing will take IT as we know it today, and roll it up and drop kick it out the window. We are entering an age where the new space race is in computing power. China and America are pitted in a heated battle to own the world’s fastest, most powerful computers. News just in says the Americans are due to launch two 20-petaflop systems by 2012 – outstripping the Chinese Tianhe-1A which is a mere 2.5-petaflop ensemble.

Now the best way to explain this mind-boggling computational power is to take it down to what we know. In computing, FLOPS is an acronym meaning FLoating point OPerations per Second. It’s similar to the older Instructions per second – which was used to measure how fast a machine could compute a single query. So, for example a handheld calculator, which would seem to process almost instantaneous calculations, would only ever require around 10 flops to be considered functional.

These sorts of machines are capable of running the most complex of calculations at phenomenal speeds. And it won’t stop there either. We are expecting to see modelling systems which will be ready for exascale systems (1 000 times faster than peta). In real terms, this would mean we could simulate a whole living cell at atomic detail, where every atom would be explicitly represented.

What does this mean for the average insurance company IT manager? Well, if we are living in a world where computing is so advanced and so powerful as to handle cellular modelling at an atomic (and pretty soon at a quark) level, you can only imagine what it will mean for the internet. Who knows what we will be capable of doing from our desks?

All of this brings me back to The Social Network. In reading the reviews, I was struck by a review of the film by renowned IT guru Lawrence Lessig, who was somewhat miffed that the real hero of the story – the internet – was not given more credit.

I think he’s right. Were it not for this incredible network we would never be in a position to communicate the way we do. We would not be looking at a world were people who have never seen, let alone worked on, desktops can now transfer money around the world from a simple and cheap cellphone. We would never be in a position to collide protons at speeds approaching the speed of light so we can finally understand how our universe was created.

The internet will soon be the only place we store, manipulate and use all the data we need for modern living. If we are not making use of it, if we are not allowing our workers to experience it in its fullest power, we will be stuck with a workforce that is cut off from the rest of the world, that is deprived of the most basic understanding of what it is to collaborate and what it really means to be part of the knowledge economy.

So yes, to all those managers out there who are paranoid about security and productivity, by all means employ whatever security is needed to safeguard your data. Create KPIs and performance management policies for your staff that measures what they get done, not how they get it done. But please, don’t allow your company to be filled with people who are not deeply familiar with the internet.

Cultivate a culture of curiosity – encourage your staff to research and to come up with their own thoughts about how your internal problems could be solved. Allow them to freely search the Net, whenever they need. The result will be a much higher level of collective IP, and who knows, you may even find yourself nurturing the next Mark Zuckerberg in your own company.