by Cato 10/9/14
21st Century social media … like Brad Nelson’s website, in which the like-minded can exchange ideas and comforts … has certainly changed things. Is this change for the better or the worse? If one contexts the comments to my post “The 4th Technological Age” in this frame of reference, one would have to think we all have been degraded by the serial advances in silicon, transistor, integrated processor, personal computer, and internet.
The under-30 generation is proof, unquestionably, with their mobile devices replacing eyeball to eyeball contact, that technological change brings with it cultural and social alterations. To some, apparently from the comments to that posted essay, this is distressing. But bear in mind as you rage against the machine, few of us on ST have ever met or are likely to, eyeball to eyeball. There is community here, just not your father’s definition of community. All that said, the comments miss the larger point of my pensée.
What makes advanced countries advanced … the reason the US is not the western hemisphere equivalent of Afghanistan … is simply the ability to sustain organizational integrity in the face of rapidly advancing social, political, commercial and technological complexity. The inability to organize effectively is the hallmark of ‘third world’ countries. In fact, the rejection of precisely that organizational base, which we refer to as modernity, is precisely what characterized Islamic terrorism. Is it not?
For the last 400 years that interacting, advancing quartet of forces … social, political, commercial, technological … has created the first world as we have come to know it. The merger of raw science and useful technology has become for better or worse in the last decade the centerpiece of that advancement.
Kessler’s three historic waves … mainframe, PC and internet … have over the last 60 years increased the complexity of our social and commercial environments dramatically. And disruptively, no question. The 4th wave will be even moreso, as it seems destined to carry with it not just disruption in the way we individually communicate and transact, but disruption to the very form and function of governmental and commercial enterprises. How many revolts and uprisings have been empowered by smart phones just in the last four years? How many industries have been rendered obsolete?
The list of large, world-class firms being carved up, as mentioned in the original post, alongside the list of nations facing break up from internal independence movements is growing daily. These two developments are not unrelated and are being driven by the much deeper forces Kessler points to. One of those disruptive forces is the advancing empowerment of individuals inherent in the continuing evolution of communicative and commercial technology.
To my mind this has been and will continue to be positive disruption, very much in the “creative destruction” thesis of Schumpeter. Were the drive, organization and innovation that is creating these serial earthquakes to end we’d all be the poorer for it.
Cato blogs at Cato’s Domain.
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