INCREASING RETURNS

Technology has become our culture,…

… our culture technology.

Technology is no longer outside, no longer alien, no longer at the periphery. It is at the center of our lives. “Technology is the campfire around which we gather,” says musician/artist Laurie Anderson. For many decades high tech was marginal in presence. Then suddenly–blink–it is everywhere and all-important.

Technology has been able to infiltrate into our lives to the degree it has because it has become more like us. It’s become organic in structure. Because network technology behaves more like an organism than like a machine, biological metaphors are far more useful than mechanical ones in understanding how the network economy runs.

But if success follows a biological model, so does failure. A cautionary tale: One day, along the beach, tiny red algae suddenly blooms into a vast red tide. A few weeks later, just when the red mat seems indelible, it vanishes. Lemmings boom, then disappear as suddenly. The same biological forces that multiply populations can decimate them. The same forces that feed on one another to amplify network presences creating powerful standards overnight can also work in reverse to unravel them in a blink. The same forces that converge to build up organizations in so biological a fashion can also converge to tear them down. One can expect that when Microsoft’s fortunes falter, their profits will plunge in a curve inversely symmetrical to their success. All the self-reinforcing reasons to join a network’s success run in reverse when the success turns to failure and everyone wants to flee.

 

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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