Part1: The Digital Future
I was challenged to forecast changes in economic systems based on both my knowledge of spatial economic systems and on my experiences with computers, data networking, and automation. What I have come up with is a four part article on the digital future.
Since I normally tend to build to a thesis like any good engineer designing a product, instead of stating my thesis and then defending it, like lawyers, and journalists normally do, I will take a shot at the thesis of this paper first.
We have entered the Digital Age in which Capitalism, which describes the economic system of the Age of Print will be succeeded by Economic Services Oriented Architecture producing Mass Customization. It will be an age where consortiums are formed small and entrepreneurial organizations to produce products, systems, and services the customer wants. This architecture will replace the current organizational architecture of a single large organization producing a large quantity of products that “satisfice”, that is, they come somewhat close to satisfying the customer’s requirements—they suffice.
The article is constructed in five parts. This part, Part 1, discusses the economic history of humankind based on how they have communicated and stored data and information. I feel it’s important to provide the context for my forecast.
The Second Part is a discussion of the coming of the Digital Age based on my experiences seeing it over the past 50+ years. I’ve found a structure in pattern in the seeming chaos of change in data and information storage. This pattern leads me to architectural pattern changes that lead to my forecast.
The Third Part is a more detailed discussion of this new architectural pattern called Services Oriented Architecture (SOA). I will give a couple of examples to demonstrate how SOA will work economically.
The Fourth Part will consider how SOA and the Digital Age will change an individual’s life by giving three examples.
The Fifth Part will show how converting to SOA will create changes as drastic as the changes from the feudal economic architecture to the Industrial architecture. In this part, I will forecast the change to a number of industries. Most of these changes are already starting to occur, though in a very minor way.
An Exceedingly Brief History of European and American Civilization
There have been four ages for humankind.
The Age of Speech
The age of speech (verbal communication), from circa 300,000 BC to circa 6,000 BC was when for the first time data, information, and knowledge could be transferred and store within and between generations. This was the first time when clans and tribes formed. And, according to archeologists, there was a glacially slow revolution from hunting and gathering and stone to agriculture and metals. This was the economic architecture of the time. During this period, the shaman, or priest was holder of the tribal information base.
The Age of Writing
The age of writing (written communication), from circa 6,000 BC to 1455 AD, was when data, information, and knowledge could be more accurately transferred longer distances and stored for much longer time periods (in fact, there are documents and records over this entire period). Political institutions increased from tribes migrating all over the landscape to settled (or at least apparently) settled city states, and then to regional and national states. This was the second form of an economic architecture.
During this age the first known libraries and colleges formed; for example, the library and museum (college/research center) at Alexandria. And again, more than 600 years later, after the various barbarian tribal invasions sent Europe back to the talking age, (during the dark ages) up to 900 AD when Carolus Magnus (or Charlemagne) manage to very slightly reintroduce writing and then colleges were formed in what is now Italy.
The Age of Printing
The age of printing, (printed communications), from 1455 AD to between circa 1942 to 1992, data, information, and knowledge, became much more readily available to humankind. Thanks, in large part to Martin Luther insistence that everyone should be able to read the Bible, Northern Europe learned to read and read ideas and concepts that were not part of the Catholic Church Doctrine.
By 1776, Adam Smith had described how wealth was created, together with the growth of engineering knowledge, and the ability of individuals to take risks and fail or succeed, Humans entered the era of Mass Production and Liberty. This is the basic economic architecture of the Age of Printing.
Included in the mass production was mass production of education, based on a school for all teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. This has led to the mass production educational systems of today.
Knowledge and Wealth
You should note that with the speech, humanity grew significantly wealthier than other animal species. The reason is that they could accumulate more and better data, information, and knowledge through speech.
With writing, humanity accumulated a much more wealth. This wealth was exceedingly badly distributed. Nonetheless, looking at places like Pompeii, even some of the slaves could accumulate small wealth (while “the bread and circuses” form of socialism led to the eventual destruction of the Roman Empire).
With printing, a much large chunk of humanity created orders of magnitude more wealth. The accumulation of knowledge of how the Universe works has led to mass production, which meant mass wealth. For example, if there is a disaster now, people expect the restoration of power, water, fuel, and communications immediately; this was never true for even the “wealthiest in the age of speech, writing, or even for most of the age of print. This demonstrates how exceedingly rich even the poor are today, when compared with the rest of human history (This is something the liberal entitlement generation has forgotten).
The Digital Age: The next Age
The next Age has begun. It began, in a real sense with WWII. It gestated throughout the 1950s to the mid-1960s. I will discuss this period and beyond in the next part of this article.