THIS NEW ECONOMY

As the world of chips and glass fibers and wireless waves goes,

…so goes the rest of the world.

In the face of history this bold assertion may seem naive. But every once in a while something big and new does happen. It must have felt that way to the home-craft Luddites who sensed that the industrial age was not just about newfangled looms, but foreshadowed deep, systemic changes with life-changing ramifications. Were they naive to think that machines would ultimately transform the ancient and holy act of planting seeds and harvesting the grain? Of breeding cows? Of the structure of communities?

Listen to the technology,” advises Carver Mead, one of the inventors of the modern computer chip. “Find out what it is telling you.” Following that lead, I have assembled these rules of thumb by asking these questions: How do our tools shape our destiny? What kind of an economy is our new technology suggesting?

Steel ingots and rivers of oil, smokestacks and factory lines, and even tiny seeds and cud-chewing cows are all becoming enmeshed in the world of smart chips and fast bandwidth, and sooner or later they will begin to fully obey the new rules of the new economy, as everything will. I’ve listened to the technology, and as best as I can determine, the technology repeats ten distinct refrains, as premiered in the following ten chapters.

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK