Because communication--which in the end...

... is what the digital technology and media are all about -- is not just a sector of the economy. Communication is the economy.

This vanguard is not about computers. Computers are over. Most of the consequences that we can expect from computers as stand-alone machines have already happened. They have sped up our lives, and made managing words, numbers, and pixels quite extraordinary, but they have not had much more effect beyond that.

The new economy is about communication, deep and wide. All the transformations suggested in this book stem from the fundamental way we are revolutionizing communications. Communication is the foundation of society, of our culture, of our humanity, of our own individual identity, and of all economic systems. This is why networks are such a big deal. Communication is so close to culture and society itself that the effects of technologizing it are beyond the scale of a mere industrial-sector cycle. Communication, and its ally computers, is a special case in economic history. Not because it happens to be the fashionable leading business sector of our day, but because its cultural, technological, and conceptual impacts reverberate at the root of our lives.

Certain technologies (such as the integrated circuit chip) spur innovation and novelty in other technologies; these catalysts are called "enabling technologies." Occasionally an economic sector will leverage power and accelerate the advance of other sectors in an economy. These can be thought of as "enabling sectors." Computer chips and communication networks have produced a sector of an economy that is transforming all the other sectors.

Only a relatively small number of people have ever been directly employed in the world of finance. Yet ever since the days of the Venetian bankers, financial innovations such as mortgages, insurance, venture funding, stocks, checks, credit cards, mutual funds, to name only a few, have completely reshaped our economy. They have enabled the rise of corporations, of market capitalism, of the industrial age, and much more. Unlike many previous heroic industries such as the electrical power industry or the chemical industry, this small sector has influenced how all business is done, and how we structure our lives.



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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