Rules for a Wired World

NEW YORK: We hear much about the "new economy", based on networking and globalization. Is this "new economy" really new, or just the same old thing with a few new wrinkles?

The world has fundamentally changed. The first thing that changed - and is still changing - is the velocity of change itself.

It took 40 years for radio to get 50 million listeners in America. It took 13 years for television to gain a like number. It took 4 years for the World Wide Web to get 50 million domestic users, and its use is growing 1000% a year. The rule that the speed and number of transistors double every 18 months is now more than matched by the expectation that total bandwidth of the world’s communication systems will triple every 12 months. As bandwidth grows the cost of information transmission will move toward zero.

Although this historically unprecedented velocity of change makes generalizations more hazardous than usual, it is safe to say that one basic way in which the world has changed is the manner in which wealth is created. When this happens the old ruling classes find it difficult to see themselves as obsolete. Just as the landed gentry ridiculed the new industrialists who sullied farmland with huge factories, so some industrialists ridicule today’s knowledge workers, calling them hamburger flippers. The more strident complain of "de-industrialization."