In The New York Times Sunday Magazine for April 03, 2005, Thomas Friedman has a powerful essay: It’s a Flat World, After All
The core of his argument is this:
This has been building for a long time. Globalization 1.0 (1492 to 1800) shrank the world from a size large to a size medium, and the dynamic force in that era was countries globalizing for resources and imperial conquest. Globalization 2.0 (1800 to 2000) shrank the world from a size medium to a size small, and it was spearheaded by companies globalizing for markets and labor. Globalization 3.0 (which started around 2000) is shrinking the world from a size small to a size tiny and flattening the playing field at the same time. And while the dynamic force in Globalization 1.0 was countries globalizing and the dynamic force in Globalization 2.0 was companies globalizing, the dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 — the thing that gives it its unique character — is individuals and small groups globalizing. Individuals must, and can, now ask: where do I fit into the global competition and opportunities of the day, and how can I, on my own, collaborate with others globally? But Globalization 3.0 not only differs from the previous eras in how it is shrinking and flattening the world and in how it is empowering individuals. It is also different in that Globalization 1.0 and 2.0 were driven primarily by European and American companies and countries. But going forward, this will be less and less true. Globalization 3.0 is not only going to be driven more by individuals but also by a much more diverse — non-Western, nonwhite — group of individuals. In Globalization 3.0, you are going to see every color of the human rainbow take part.
As far as it goes, Friedman makes a valuable contribution to the conversation about our future we have been avoiding. It will be hard and will require much of us if we are take advantage of the situation. However, Freidman does not discuss four concepts that that would have made his case even stronger:
1] Change in the role of the center vs the edges of the network
2] The technology platform that has enabled and supported the changes he discusses is about to be obsolete. The new platform will dramatically increase the speed of the changes Friedman enumerates.
3] Freidman does not point to current research projects that illuminate the handwriting on the wall.
4] A change in the number of dimensions we citizens naturally operate in. The paradox is that as the world loses dimensions, we the people are gaining them.
1. As we move to embrace the architectural and network model used so very successfully by the internet, the center is being emptied and made generally obsolete. The action, responsibilities, opportunities and threats are now at the edges. As Bob Frankston says, “He with the most infrastructure loses”.
Consider that the legacy communications companies can only depreciate their hugely expensive investments in central switching gear over a period of decades. Compare this to the innovation cycle in voice over the internet technologies. It is measured in months. This mis-match between legacy depreciation cycles and the innovation cycle of the VoIP market spells death for the legacy companies. This will be just one example of the “creative destruction” Friedman writes about.
2. Friedman does not see the coming of Cognitive platforms connecting via Reality Broadband [40 gigabits of symmetrical connection] over Open Spectrum. This is just around the corner. The handwriting is on the wall for all to see.
Note: we all want reality so we all will want 40 gigabits of connectivity. Why would we want to settle for less? What does this make the connectivity offered today by the telcos and cable companies: Tinyband. Of course this also means the real name for G3 bandwidth provided over cell phones is: Nanoband.
Everything Freidman writes about assumes that we will only have to deal with today’s dumb, rule following computers connected over tiny-band via spectrum artificially treated as a scarce resource with a very finite capacity to carry bits.
Today’s computers are dumb because they do not know what or where they are, have no meaningful awareness of their environment, the other devices in that environment, nor how to cooperate with those others to achieve results greater than the sum of the parts. This is what David Reed calls “Cooperative gain from collaborative actions at the edges.”
The future will belong to the coming platforms that will be goal seeking [heuristic] cognitive devices communicating and cooperating with each other at reality bandwidth speeds over Open Spectrum that has no known limits to its bit transporting capabilities. In fact, there is reasonable evidence that Open Spectrum’s capacity to carry bits actually increases with the number of users.
Here is a link for more on Societies of Cooperating Cognitive Devices
As Friedman points out, the West’s legacy business baggage, in this case the FCC and ITU, is currently preventing us from adopting this more advantageous approach to spectrum management. I should note that Freidman does not discuss the barriers to the future that the FCC and ITU are throwing up as they try to preserve the antiquated notions of spectrum management. How long can we afford to sustain this competitive disadvantage?
3. Freidman does not point to current research projects that illuminate the handwriting on the wall. Three of these are:
4. Lastly, all of the above will allow us to accelerate the change that is already afoot. In the Industrial past, citizens were too often seen as one dimensional consumers who were expected to behave like Pavlovain dogs in response to marketing and political messages sent at them. Today, we are already seeing regular citizens use all of the technologies Friedman talks about to become creative producers of content they then distribute, as well as consumers. Citizens are becoming multyi-dimensional. For more on this see The Tyranny of the Industrial Hub & Spoke Paradigm
Freidman is correct, however, when he asks if we will be wait to be shown the future or will we be the inventors of it? The truth of the matter is that we ain’t seen nothing yet. It is the new platform that will be the true steroids that drive “creative destruction” to undreamed of extremes. Just like that super volcano near Java. If it blows ….