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Monday, August 08, 2005

Inevitable is not the same as immediate: The Miniaturization Age


Are we at Bastiat Free University decades too soon?


While what we are entering is called the information age, there is much more to the dynamic than just data manipulation. Information alone will not impel this change. We will "soon" see self replicating robots, nano technologies, and processes that are inconceivable to us now; just as jets, radio, and comic books would have been beyond the understanding of the Greek sages.

I expect the transition from industry to information to be much faster than the centuries long change from agriculture to industry. It will not be a surprise if this change only takes decades.

Early in the agricultural age almost everyone was involved in agriculture; they either grew things, or they formed armies to steal what others grew. In industrial nations a few now grow food for the many, the many work as part of a machine, armies now seek factories and resources. The first step of the information age was factory workers becoming service workers and data manipulators.

We instead may call the information age the age of miniaturization. The optimum size required for success of enterprise, technology, and government are all shrinking quite quickly. Of course what historians are likely to call us in a few millennia is "the dark ages."

As miniaturization continues those that create can take their process and rewards with them; they will not have fields or factories to be held hostage by armies and looting governments. We may find a new network society where those governments desiring growth compete for the mobile innovators that create wealth. These creative types have been one of the drivers of everyone's lifestyle improvements. Entrepreneurs may network, share, and compete as part of small fluid organizations.

In this Network Society knowledge and reputation will be very important. What you say about yourself will not matter compared to what you do and how you do it. These entrepreneurs have always been few in number, but were harvested by the many as if there were an inexhaustible supply, the innovators lack of mobility made them easy targets.

Agricultural society was essentially feudal. A local gang would build a fort, or latter a castle, and control the locals as they contested over farm land against other gangs. The economics dictated small spans of control, to simplify: King over Barons over Knights over peasants. This slowly changed as industry and markets grew. All spans of control widened and organizations of all types centralized and focused power in the hands of a few.

With the miniaturization age, span of control will eventually shrink again, possibly back to family or tribal size units, perhaps in many cases to the individual them self. "Eventually" may be a very long way away.

Our huge bureaucracies are doomed, but they will not die easily, they will not cease to exist just because they are no longer relevant. Well after the fall of Rome, I am sure there were those who talked with pride of their Roman citizenship. We place a date in a history book, they lived the reality. Vestiges of Roman thought and government structure long survived Rome.

Schools will become like the new Bastiat Free University in the future. Renaissance education, the mixing of diverse learning and action, will be necessary to develop the next generation of leaders.

The huge obsolete universities of today that resent "popular expression" and enforce ancient form are just barely functional. They will attract students for a very long time, perhaps centuries, based on their tradition as store houses of knowledge; they just no longer create graduates prepared for the emerging reality of the miniaturization age.

Prepare yourself.



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