About ten years ago, when first developing the notion of wirearchy, a friend who at the time was the Dean of a well-known business school in Canada said: “Interesting idea – and so what?“
Here, from October 2000, is what was my first stab at that question of “so what“.
Many knowledgeable people have suggested that the impacts of the interconnectedness of the Internet will be large. I think that’s obvious to most of us. Many have also said that the Internet will eventually usher in as much change as did the Gutenberg printing press. I think that, too, is correct … but the changes to be visited upon us will not take as long as did the full scope of the impacts of the printing press.
But the large changes the Internet will bring will not all be realized overnight, and much depends upon the degree(s) to which governments and corporations end up controlling what happens, and how, on the Internet.
1. For all intents and purposes, personal computers didn’t exist 40 years ago. In fact, 25 years ago they were quite rare.
2. In the same sense, (a very rudimentary form of) the Internet ‘began’ roughly 35 – 40 years ago.
3. For most people, mass consciousness of the interconnected World Wide Web began about 15 years ago – in 1994/1995.
4. Today, there is a globe-girdling infrastructure of interconnectedness, which only continues to grow.
5. Wireless capabilities do not nullify the concept of ‘wirearchy’, because wireless capability will always be built upon the completely-interconnected wired infrastructure. (NB … as of 2010 wireless capabilities continue to grow rapidly)
6. Through the development of the “Semantic Web”, it’s likely we will have more access to more structured and context-based information, and the purpose and uses of processing structured information in context will expand in important ways.
7. Using interconnected knowledge, we (collectively) MAY continue to move along a continuum from using Data to build Information to create Knowledge from which to derive Meaning.
8. Due to interconnectedness and the behavior of networks, organizations will become more and more ‘transparent’ to networks of customers and stakeholders.
9. Hierarchy is still a necessary condition for decision-making – about where to direct efforts and how to go about doing some things. Think about temporary and adaptive hierarchies.
10. However, the nature of traditional hierarchy will be strongly impacted, in a real sense, by ubiquitous access to information and knowledge. As decision-making and control is pushed or pulled out to customers and employees, fundamental aspects of power and control are dispersed to the edges – to multiple nodes of networks.
11. There’s so much information and knowledge available that filters (both intelligent and social) are required to manage the double-feedback loop that includes executives, managers, customers and employees. (NB .. this is more true in 2010 than it was in 2000).
12. This will over time create fundamental shifts in power and control. For better and for worse, living and working in electronically-networked environments will (eventually) necessitate more open and fluid organizational structures and dynamics (organizations will have to be more open and more focused at the same time).
13. The logical conclusion (in my opinion) to this shift is a new and emergent organizing principle called Wirearchy.
14. Over time (the next 10 – 20 years ?), the evolution of Wirearchy implies that certain patterns of decision-making will work their way into peoples’ daily lives – both work and personal. These patterns will be embedded in software, the Internet and the personal tools used by people (such as clothes, appliances, vehicles, and personal and work spaces).
15. It will become apparent that information, knowledge and trust eco-systems will be created. This interconnected electronic ‘atmosphere’ will continuously become smarter and more useful. It will also offer us more noise, confusion and create a wide range of polarities in human activities.
This in turn will lead to patterns of behavior, and the use of knowledge and decision-making tools and processes, that will drive a real evolution of both conscious and unconscious dynamics.
These major changes will accumulate and reinforce the buildup of control and power embedded in the interconnected capabilities of the Internet.
Some of that will be ‘bottom-up’ and democratizing in its direction and intent. Some of that will be ‘top-down’ on the part of governments and corporations, mainly, and will represent a soft or quasi-invisible fascism.
These developments will be both good and bad for us. But they will be real.
Jon – thank you for re-posting this – I’ve never, until now, really understood what you meant by wirearchy – now I do 🙂 Now I can go get confused about other things LOL
Doug … now that you’ve understood, next question.
Does it make any sense to you ?
Yes (I think) – I think it’s going to be interesting to see how hierarchies i the corporate world cope with the flood of information. Traditionally corporate hierarchies were somewhat predictable with those at the top controlling the flow of information and, generally, being middle aged or older (I know I’m generalizing terribly but …) as the mass of information explodes exponentially the ones who are best equipped to deal with that information will actually be those at the bottom of the traditional corporate pyramid as they have grown up within that milieu of information and the tools needed to contain and parse it. People my age who did not get CS degrees or similar exposure back in the 70’s-80’s – in other words people who did not grow up as geeks in the 60’s/70’s – have a very tough time dealing with the world of information as it is today. The people I work with blow me away and I walk away feeling very stupid at times 🙂 – so my point (assuming I can figure it out) is that control over information in the digital age. especially during this transition stage from the analog to digital world will necessarily flow up and sideways rather than down.
Am I making sense and more importantly – did I pass 🙂