Pondering the Big Reboot

I’m not a doomer, but I *do* believe that the accelerating rate of technological change (i.e., Moore’s Law) will continue to cause disruptions in our society and the global economy, and that these disruptions will likely increase in amplitude as the future acclerates toward us.

In that spirit, I’ve been following with interest the mainstreaming of the idea that the current economic downturn isn’t just the business cycle at work, but rather a structural refactoring of the global economy. When the idea hits the front page of the New York Times, you can be sure that the mainstreaming is nearly complete. And while the Times treated the question with its customary objectivity, Jeff Jarvis offered a commentary on the piece titled The Great Restructuring that spells it out a little more starkly:

The change in our society and how it is structured are both causing and necessitating change in the economy and its industries. The crisis is bigger than it appears in the rear-view mirror. It’s more than jobs lost and companies folding. It’s a new economy built on a new society that we are only just beginning to recognize if not understand.

My inner contrarian bristles at the hyperbolic certainty in this statement – the future is never so clearly viewed in advance, nor does it arrive as quickly or evenly as the breathless pundits predict it to – but the basic analysis feels correct to me: technology (and Web technology in particular) is creating a transparency and connectedness that is toxic to certain kinds of businesses, and that cannot be undone. The collapse of the global asset-pricing bubble is the root cause of the current crisis, but it is technology and not just economics that will prevent Humpty Dumpty from ever being put back together in quite the same way again.