Technological Change, Feeding on Itself, Seems to Be Increasing at a Rate Where the Only Certainty Is Ever-More-Rapid Change
Gulker, Chris, The Independent (London, England)
An e-mail from the UK the other day bemoaned a failure to find success with an Internet-based virtual enterprise.
The writer asked for my advice - which was promptly offered. Advice, like other information, has the wonderful quality of being cheap and easy to give away. Besides, if you're wrong, people usually forget; if you're right, they think you're a genius.
From the front porch here at gulker.com, it looks as if the world has begun a turn the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Industrial Revolution. The move from industrial economies to information economies is moving fast and has the potential to create as much disruption as benefit. In fact, technological change, feeding on itself, seems to be increasing at a rate where the only certainty is ever-more-rapid change. Which means it's getting harder to guess how this will all unfold, harder, even, than it may have been for people during the late 18th century in Britain. Steam engines? Who needs 'em? I got a good horse right over here. In fact, the pace is so fast that many savvy corporate types decided they needed to go off and form a whole new strategy to cope with this new scheme of things. Problem was, six months into their effort, they found themselves laid off in a corporate re- engineering. Circumstances were overwhelming traditional economic strategies faster than managers could divine new ways to do things. Case in point: it takes about two years to design and prototype a new computer. These days, a computer model may only have a shelf-life of 90 days, before a faster and cheaper generation comes along. How can people be reasonably expected to forecast demand for a 90-day period two years from now? Put differently, could a DOS user accurately predict the demand for a Windows 95 computer? The best computer companies, burned frequently in the past, have given up trying and switched to "just- in-time" manufacturing techniques that allow them quickly to go where the market is. In fact, today's highly interconnected global markets heap a mind- numbing combination of factors such as local tastes, mains voltages, language, phone standards, cultural preference and other issues on top of the rapid pace of change. The world is getting so complicated so quickly that it's a good thing that humans, at their core, are remarkably consistent in their interests. Put another way, if sex and status ever lose their universal appeal, advertisers are going to be in big trouble. Constant change dictates that companies and workers change frequently, too, or risk losing relevance to their respective markets. In this scenario, workers who can find useful information in a timely fashion are likely to be highly valued. Imagine knowing ahead of time that VHS would beat Beta, or, better, that …
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Publication information: Article title: Technological Change, Feeding on Itself, Seems to Be Increasing at a Rate Where the Only Certainty Is Ever-More-Rapid Change. Contributors: Gulker, Chris - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: May 5, 1998. Page number: N3. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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