Can you keep up with the Relentless March of Technology?
I finally finished the book: Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. Wow, what a great read. The book is essentially about the impact and explosion ofcommunication and its impact on culture. Mr. Shirky states, “When wechange the way we communicate, we change society.” The printing presschanged the world 500 years ago and Mr. Shirky goes on to say, “We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race. More people can communicate more things to more people than has ever been possible in the past, and the size and speed of this increase, from one million participants to over one billion in a generation, makes the change unprecedented.”
The world has essentially three types of groups: private, public and unstructured. The internet is empowering the explosion of unstructured groups with 1 billion users and over 3 billion cell phone users. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are examples of unstructured groups quickly organizing with low internet communication tool transactional costs to make cultural statements. This is the technological imperative to lower costs and risk while improving revenue, profitability and productivity for organizations – essentially lower transactional costs. Ford Motor did it with the production line. Factories today use robots. How can we use internet tools to lower organizational transactional costs and risk?
Shirky talks about the promise, the tool and the bargain. New internet – IP based technologies today expand the possibilities. The means to gather and ability to make a contribution and receive a return on social capital has changed exponentially. I mean coffee after church, the local pub, bowling leagues, skating rinks, the local donut shop were the social venues when I was the Youth of America 35 years ago. Today cell phones, Facebook, texting, Twitter, YouTube and e-mail exponentially change and expand our social culture and impact forever. So Wikipedia, Linux, Facebook and blogging are examples of making a social impact along with a meaningful impact bargain.
This leads me directly to Mass Amateurization which is the phrase that Shirky coins. Essentially, businesses and organizations are creating value today by leveraging free online amateur content. Much of the book value of Google and Facebook are a direct result of the free content that you and I hand them. In the old days, this Youth of America 35 years ago received my news and information from Walter Cronkite on the 6 PM TV news or from the local newspaper. Isn’t a profession defined by scarcity? I mean ArtPrize here in Grand Rapids is fanning the flame of the professional artist. Surely only the professionals and learned can understand true art. And surely only professional journalists can write meaningful news reporting and editorials. Wrong. Matt Drudge has more readers than most major newspapers. Many Bloggers are read by tens and hundreds of thousands of readers. Today many of us are going to our doctors with Google diagnosis, “Check me out for this.” Cell phone communication and Twitter break news and deliver first reports of most major events today – from Tsunamis to the Arab Spring – not CNN, the 6PM news, or your local newspaper.
Lastly, Shirky talks about technologies that matter: was he growing up in theAtomic Age or the Space Age? He now believes that the two most important technologies of his generation are the transistor and the birth control pill. Really, energy and transportation haven’t changed much in the last 50 years. We still drive cars and fly fast in airplanes. We burn fossil fuels and split atoms for energy. We haven’t improved battery life much at all. But a smaller and smaller switch (transistor) is changing our local, national and world culture.
Which leads Shirky and me to the summary message of the book: change is constant and it’s going faster then ever. In fact Shirky observes that he spends more time unlearning the irrelevant and choosing what not to read or tool to use than what to read and use. Shirky states, “I’m old enough to know a lot of things. I know newspapers are where you get your political news and how you look for a job. I know that music comes from stores on plastic. Iknow that if you want to have a conversation on the phone with someone, you call them on the phone …” And I know that we look to professionals with awe for answers, news and diagnosis.
So the Millennial generation Youth of America have an advantage on us older Baby Boomers: they don’t have to unlearn stuff. Just like those young golfers, who were raised with a perfect swing, don’t carry the baggage of four decades’ bad habits that I do. They don’t have to unlearn all the stuff that I know. They don’t face the change that I face. Change is constant and the internet and transistor are accelerating the pace of that change through global and instant communication.
Hang on for dear life because technology marches on.Michael Ritsema i3 Business Solutions, LLC