The progression by which the old economy...

...migrates toward the new follows a relentless logic:

  • Increasing numbers of inert objects are animated by information networks.
  • Once the inert is touched by a network, it obeys the rules of information.
  • Networks don't retreat; they tend to multiply into new territories.
  • Eventually all objects and transactions will run by network logic.

One is tempted to add "resistance is futile." The overwhelming long-term trend toward universal connection may seem Borg-like, as if all things will lose their identity and become part of one large mindless swarm. Two things should be made clear: 1) constant, ubiquitous connections do not per se eliminate individuality; and 2) by "all" I mean an ongoing trend that approaches an asymptote, not a finality.

One might say that industrialization eradicated hand-crafted production to the point where all objects are machine-made. That is true by and large, and it accurately describes the destination of a trend. But the trend has a few notable exceptions. In an era of objects made completely by machines, hand-made items are a scarcity and thus command very high prices. A few--but only a few--shrewd artisans and entrepreneurs can make a living crafting items by hand, items such as bicycles, furniture, guitars, that would ordinarily be stamped out in a factory. Resistance is marginal, but profitable.

The same will be true in the networking of the economy. Resistance will not be futile. In a world of ubiquitous connection, where everything is connected to everything else, scarce will be the person not connected at all, or the company not pushing ideas and intangibles. If these mavericks are able to interface with the networked economy without losing their distinctivness or value, then they will be sought out, and their products priced high. One can imagine a successful idea-artist in the year 2005 who does no email, no phone, no videoconferences, no VR, no books, and who does not travel. The only way to get her fabulous ideas is in person, face-to-face at her hideout, live. The fact that she is booked 8 months in advance only adds to her reputation.



Archives - This site operates under a Creative Commons License.

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