INCREASING RETURNS

Everyday we see evidence of biological growth…

… in technological systems. This is one of the marks of the network economy: that biology has taken root in technology. And this is one of the reasons why networks change everything.

Here’s how this happened. Most of the technology in the early part of the century was relegated to the inside of a factory. Only businessmen cared about advancing technology–cheaper production methods or more specialized materials. The consumer products this advanced technology spun off into homes were, more often than not, labor-saving devices–sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, water pumps. They saved time, and thereby enhanced the prevailing culture. But the devices themselves (except for the automobile) were merely gadgets. They were technology–something foreign, best used in small doses, and clearly not the social and economic center of our lives. It was once very easy to ignore technology because it did not penetrate the areas of our lives we have always really cared about: our networks of friendship, writing, painting, cultural arts, relationships, self-identity, civil organizations, the nature of work, the acquisition of wealth, and power. But with the steady advent of technology into the networks of communication and transportation, technology has completely overwhelmed these social areas. Our social space has been invaded by the telegraph, the phonograph, the telephone, the photograph, the television, the airplane and car, then by the computer, and the internet, and now by the web.

 

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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