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Animation by Storagepipe

December 6th, 2011

Storagepipe kindly made of my thinking on information. It can be seen here I’m really excited!

The paper it came from is available here.

Part VII: Conclusion and Implications

November 8th, 2011

The introduction to this part starts with a challenge issued by my sister to rewrite the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights today looking through the lens of information revolutions.

What has become clear in the discussion of information revolutions is that the United States has been in the forefront of innovation. The founding documents of the United States are consistent, with what is intrinsic to winning information revolutions. The challenge is not in the documents it is in how they are interpreted and how seriously they are taken.

The introduction discusses, how, in this new world of information, what – perhaps – in the past was moral but not always perceived as practical has become vital, practical and essential. Before, the United States could often coast on “lip service” to these principles, buffered by its great wealth and its relatively greater freedoms. Now, investment in current success may stand in the way of winning in this information revolution.

The introduction concludes that that the only way we can maintain some semblance of past international political and economic preeminence is to let go of the conviction that the United States is and must be the first among nations.

In short, it’s time to take the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the principles that animate these documents, as seriously as profit maximization and security

Part VI: The Digital World

October 29th, 2011

The digital revolution, like the electric information revolution has technological waves – mainframes, personal computers, and the internet. Like the telegraph, mainframes needed specialists to operate it. Personal computers brought computers to common folk. And, the internet, like the telephone, is interactive and is becoming available to all. Like the electric information revolution, each technological wave has its own first and second phase. Currently much of the world is in the middle of the second phase of the personal computer and at the end of the first phase of the internet.

This is also the latest information revolution, and since it is still in progress, it is necessary to know what choices are important for those who would be winners.

As the book looks forward it is like a weaver with the vision to teach his sons to read but not like someone creating new ways of managing production. The Digital Natives or Generation G (for generosity) – those who have never lived in a world without the internet are the people to watch.

This part will bring together what can be observed, and what about those observations fits with what has happened in previous information revolutions.

Part V: The Electric Information Revolution and the Industrial World – 1830 to 1940

October 20th, 2011

This part of the book investigates how trains, telegraph, and telephone changed the way people organize themselves.

The electric information revolution had two major technological periods: trains and telegraph, followed by telephone. The first wave of technology – trains and telegraph – was controlled by an elite: specialists were necessary to operate it. The second wave of technology – telephone – made instant communication available to common folk. Each technological wave had two phases. During the first phase, people used the technology to make what they already did more efficient. During the second, people changed the way they organized, being able to take the technology for granted.

The electric information revolution introduced people to new ways of thinking about business organizations, political organization, and even family organization, which in turn affected how people think about themselves as individuals.

It presented people with a new metaphor for thinking about the world: continuous flow and constrained hierarchy, that was inspired by the continuous flow of electricity through a switching network.

It changed the way buildings were built, cities were structured, and children were educated. It made the modern nation-state possible and necessary.

Identifying winners and losers:

  • The information intensive North won the Civil War in the United States.
  • The United States was the economic ‘winner’ with respect to England and Europe.
  • Business organizations that were professionally managed were ‘winners’ compared to those using ‘natural management’.

Part IV: The Print Revolution – Birth of Modernity

October 15th, 2011

This part is about the print information revolution. The press has had a greater affect on the way people think, and do things, and the lives and status of women and children than anything since the invention of scarcity and agriculture. It was made possible by the breaking of the tripartite elite.

It presents an informal model of how information revolutions work giving us a way to think about all other information.

A new theory of the origins of capitalism is presented; we owe capitalism to the printing press. Countries with information freedom innovated and invented capitalism. Thus, capitalism originated in Holland and England rather than in Spain, Italy, Byzantium, Islam, China, or Korea. Thus, Holland and England and the Protestant countries ‘won’ economic and political dominance. Spain and the Catholic Countries lost.

The economic dynamic shown in the model and its application gives the rule for all subsequent information revolutions – the context with the freest information wins.

Part III – The Fall of Rome: One Step Back Two Steps Forward?

September 28th, 2011

This part of the book presents an entirely new perspective on the fall of Rome – that Rome became ungovernable because the government had reached the information limit of writing and the tripartite elite form of organization.

As a consequence of the fall of Rome, information ownership and control changed.
The winners in this information revolution were the common people, the Church, and local chieftains and kings. The losers were the educated elite and, except for Church, the tripartite elite.

Part II: Writing – From Agriculture to Rome

August 13th, 2011

This part of the book presents the evolution of symbol systems in early agricultural villages that led to writing and made kingdoms and empires possible.

Writing was a necessity for the rulers of early-states. It fostered a new organizational form – the tripartite elite, consisting of the king, the military, and the priesthood. The rise of the tripartite elite brought class hierarchy, slavery, the marginalization of women, and war.

The winners in this information revolution were those willing and able to use information, their access to information technology, and force to take what they wanted either for themselves or for their group. The losers were women, children, and the subjugated.
The culmination of this world view was Rome.

Part I – Information in Prehistory

July 18th, 2011

Although today is described as an Information Age or an Information Economy, there is no real idea of what that means. Yet, for most of humankind’s time on earth, people were hunter/gatherers living on information (knowing where a wild plant or animal was) rather than on owning material goods.

Contrary to popular imagination, Pleistocene hunter/gatherers worked little and lived well in a world of actual and perceived plenty; theirs was the original information culture. Agriculture was a miserable step down in the quality of life. It was not the result of new knowledge of animal husbandry and plant cultivation – practices long familiar to them – but rather the addictive side effect of a perceptual shift from plenty to scarcity. – Hunter-gatherers relied on information (I-adaptation) for their security; the first farmers relied instead on material goods (M-adaptation).

There were no winners in this information revolution: all had lost the freedom that goes with the perception of plenty.

Hunter-gatherer culture and the first information revolution have much to teach the world as it experiences the sixth information revolution and learns to live in a new information culture.

Chapter X: Perceptions – The Press and How We Think

July 5th, 2011

This chapter has three sections explaining how the technology, the artifacts (books), and the people, changed how people saw their world and themselves.

The first section overviews the history and ‘fun facts’ of the press.

The next section explains how ‘the book’ changed people’s perceptions making the world:

  • More replicable so more understandable.
  • Future instead of past oriented
  • Vernacular or common rather than classical and elite

The final section looks at the impact of the print information revolution on printers, scholars, women, and children.

As part of looking at scholars and scholarship the chapter looks at the difference between the West and the East – Byzantium, China and Islam.

The printed book presented a standardized, replicable, world where books were reliable, useful and pointed people toward the future. Printers were socially, economically, and geographically mobile, capitalists in touch with the intellectual trends of the day. Ordinary men from the crafts-producing class were ‘winners’. All women and children were excluded because they were illiterate in a world that now equated adulthood with literacy – they became ‘losers’ in this information revolution.

Strategy + Business Interview: A Long-Wave Theory on Today’s Digital Revolution

May 20th, 2011

Recently, I sat down with Art Kleiner to discuss the ideas explored in this blog and in my upcoming book.

I’m excited and grateful that Strategy+Business just posted the interview, A Long-Wave Theory on Today’s Digital Revolution. (You’ll have to register- for free – to read the interview. Do it – well worth it, for the quality and depth of content – and of course, for my interview.)

If you’ve read the interview and would like to dig deeper into some of the topics we covered: