Seeking Sustainable Disequilibrium

In the industrial perspective, the economy was a machine that was to be tweaked to optimal efficiency, and once finely tuned, maintained in productive harmony. Companies or industries especially productive of jobs or goods had to be protected and cherished at all costs, as if these firms were rare watches in a glass case.

As networks have permeated our world, the economy has come to resemble an ecology of organisms, interlinked and coevolving, constantly in flux, deeply tangled, ever expanding at its edges. As we know from recent ecological studies, no balance exists in nature; rather, as evolution proceeds, there is perpetual disruption as new species displace old, as natural biomes shift in their makeup, and as organisms and environments transform each other.

Even the archetypal glories of hardwood forests or coastal wetlands, with their apparent wondrous harmony of species, are temporary federations on the move. Harmony in nature is fleeting. Over relatively short periods of biological time, the mix of species churns, the location of ecosystems drift, and the roster of animals and plants changes as they come and go.

So it is with network perspective: companies come and go quickly, careers are patchworks of vocations, industries are indefinite groupings of fluctuating firms.

Change is no stranger to the industrial economy or the embryonic information economy; Alvin Toffler coined the term "future shock" in 1970 as the reasonable response of humans to an era of accelerating change.



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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