is Accelerating Change Important?
such as Brian Arthur of the Santa
Fe Institute, have observed that accelerating and diversifying
social interaction is a prime way to create economic value
in modern society.
late 19th century, the railroads transformed and greatly accelerated
U.S. society. When the golden spike was driven at Promontory
Point, Utah in 1869, transcontinental travel time was reduced,
ever after, from six months to six days, culturally accelerating
and unifying our nation. By
1903, a handful of railroad companies had become the largest,
most capitalized firms in the U.S., U.K., and Japan.
1910's, the assembly line compressed Model T production time
from several days to 90 minutes, catalyzing many domains of
industrial production and social interaction. At the same
time, automobiles themselves greatly accelerated human social
computation, spurring highway and city development. By 1937,
the auto company General Motors had become the world's largest
we have entered the era of the Network Economy. Telecommunication
and computer companies, and the supply chain management and
solutions companies they enable, have become our leading drivers
of change. Wal-Mart is now #1 on the Fortune 500, a network-centric
company whose business model involves creating a few pennies
of greater value than its competitors, to very large numbers
of suppliers, manufacturers, and consumers. Old-economy companies,
which make large amounts of money on small numbers of customers
(such as military) through largely political affiliations,
have become less valuable in this new network-rich environment.
Acceleration continues unchecked, and it periodically delivers
new value to human society in a process of permanent phase
change or paradigm shift.
economic and social opportunities (e.g., ubiquitous sensing,
wired and wireless communication, simulation, social software,
the conversational user interface, persuasive computing, digital
identity) are being enabled today due to accelerating change?
Which are still too soon to emerge? What types of acceleration
are we confident must continue, and which are much less certain,
more influenced by near-term business strategy and market
choice? What great political, legal and social forces are
set in motion by accelerating technological innovation?
are among the most interesting and important of the coming
decades. As Everett Rogers notes, our independent
technology innovation, diffusion, assessment, and policy (IDAP)
processes present many subtleties and opportunities for our
evolutionary free choice, yet technology can also impact us
in grand and unstoppable waves of developmental change. In
such cases we either recognize and adapt to the new realities
or are caught unaware and unprepared.
20th century's Industrial Society soon became the late 20th
century's Information Society, which is now becoming the early
21st century's Technologically Globalized, Digital Content-Rich,
Simulation-Enabled, Network-Centric Society. American executives
and technical workers will either become managers, employers,
and partners of the world's rapidly developing technological
workforce, or will become candidates for retraining within
someone else's more efficient, more productive infrastructure.
Wack and Roger Rainbow at Shell's
Scenario Planning Group would say that this type of globalization
is an internet-driven TINA trend: 'There
Is No Alternative.' Are political, educational, and social
systems ready to recognize that the world has yet again changed?
roadmapping expert Richard Albright explains
Can Past Technology Forecasts Tell Us About the Future?,"
TF&SC, 2002), various forms of technological
capacity growth have been uniquely predictable for more than
half century, at least. If
the developmental record of 20th century computing continues
for only another thirty years, we must rapidly and permanently
move to a very different world. Are we presently best prepared
to enter that world? We can already tell it will be a place
where simulation-enhanced versions of many types of human
interaction will be both socially and economically preferred
to may of our present activities in slow and expensive "real
space." Even the U.S. Amish have become enamored of today's
cellphone, a still-primitive communications technology.
internet will eventually educate and interact with virtually
all planetary denizens through a powerful, ubiquitous "conversational user interface." How soon might this occur given present
trends? How will this improve the economic and social prospects
for the youth of the world? We will eventually see a planet
where ubiquitous sensing and communications technology has
not only heightened world security, but also in many places
created a "transparent society." How can we ensure
this guarantees civil rights and a stronger and more accountable
we manage, and how might we mismanage, the modern forces of
accelerating change? How do we best minimize the disruptive
and destabilizing effects of change? What are the most promising
technologies to accelerate? Which should we avoid or presently
minimize? How can we ensure that the actions we take today
lead to a more, not less, humanizing future?
we best define, benchmark and measure accelerating change?
Which products, services and systems are affected most dramatically
today? In five years? Which developments are highly probable,
perhaps even effectively inevitable? Which others are a matter
of personal or institutional choice? What can we control,
and what controls us?
and dialog in using and directing accelerating change has
become our prime political, economic, social, and personal
Change is a community of interest to explore
accelerating domains of science and technology, and their
implications for the near future of business and society.
hope you can join us each year in Palo Alto as we investigate
some of the most fascinating and important issues of the modern