Tag Archives: individuation

New Media Chromodynamics – Part 1: Human Nature Augmented by Technology

Previous webpage: The Prism and New Media Chromodynamics

The ‘Greens’ — A New Gravity

When people’s access and choices of news, entertainment, and other information switches from relative scarcity to surplus, each person naturally gravitates to whatever mix of items from the entire surplus, no matter what the mix of providers and methods of access, best fits that individual’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes.

Since 2007, most of the New Media Business postgraduate courses I’ve taught at Syracuse University had been scheduled just prior to lunchtime. I thus found that the most compelling pedagogical metaphors and analogies I could use in front of characteristically hungry students involved food. Allow me use two to detail the single-sentence paragraph above.

Imagine that all your life you’ve been fed the same institutional or standardized lunch as every other person. This meal might consist of an entrée, a vegetable, and a beverage. Which entrée, vegetable, and beverage isn’t chosen by you but by a kitchen staff. One some days, this meal might contain some items that interest you, but on some other days little or nothing of it interest to you. However, you now have an alternative—a gargantuan buffet of entrées, vegetables, fruits, salads, breads, deserts, beverages, etc., from which you can select whatever you want, even if that means serving yourself. What would you likely do: continue to consume the institutional meal or use the buffet to select whichever items match your own individual needs, interests, and tastes? If you are like the vast majority of people (who have been known as the mass in the term Mass Media), you’ll likely forego that institutional meal and use the buffet, thereby finding a better mix of items that match your own unique needs, interests, and tastes than any institutional meal can provide. The desire to do so is human nature.

Still hungry before lunch? Imagine now that you and other people are walking into a grocery store.  As you and they enter, the store clerks stop all of you from browsing the shelves of the grocery store and instead hand each of you a bag. Each bag contains the same items that every other person in that store gets in their bag, items that are a selection which the store’s staff thinks are nutritional and might satisfy the greatest number of people. However, across the street is another grocery store that will let you browse its shelves, where you can pick and choose whichever items actually do satisfy your individual needs, interests, and tastes. Shopping at this other grocery store might initially take longer because you’ll initially need to find the shelf locations of the item you seek, although you’ll be able to remember where for future visits. Given the choice of shopping in either of these two grocery stores—one that doesn’t let you select the items you receive versus one which does—which of these two stores would you regularly use? If you’re like almost all people, you’ll choose to use the second grocery store because it lets you select items that much better match your own needs, interests, and tastes. Almost everyone prefers to make their own selections rather than simply accept what is institutional, standardized, or generic. This is what makes us individuals. Or as psychologists say, what individuates us. It is human nature.

Let’s now go to lunch about the effects of individuation on media contents. In the not-too-distant past, when you had no Internet access (how long ago depends upon your country), your only sources of daily-changing news, entertainment, and other information were (1) the daily newspaper (or perhaps you lived in a city where more than one newspaper was available); (2) between one to perhaps approximately 20 AM, FM, or MW radio stations receivable where you lived; and (3) one, two, three, or perhaps four television stations receivable there. Allow me to focus on the newspaper(s), although the effects are the same with broadcasters.

The newspaper was your only text source of international, national, regional, and local information about disasters, wars, fires, accidents, weather, politics, sports, business and finance, feature stories, horoscopes, crossword puzzles, and what products and services were on sale. However, it wasn’t produced specifically for you. When the staff of the newspaper decided which stories to select for publication in the daily edition, they choose those that they thought might either edify or satisfy the largest number of people in the locale where that newspaper is distributed. Depending upon the circulation size of the newspaper, its editors would select between approximately 20 and 100 stories from among the hundreds, or possible more than a thousand, stories that those editors received each day from their own journalists plus from newswire services and news syndicates to which that newspaper subscribed. They made their selection of stories not based upon your own individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes—they’d probably never met or knew you, but upon the general demographics of the community. They’ve produce and serve you a standardized or institutional selection, a bag of news containing items they hoped might edify or otherwise satisfy you. However, if you were like most people who read a newspaper, according to decades of surveys about such readers, you’d likely find only between five to 40 percent of the items that they’ve selected might match your needs, interests, and tastes on that day. That wasn’t a good match, but it was the only choice you had back then.

However, you now have an alternative: you have access to the Internet. Moreover, you probably have broadband access to it, maybe even wirelessly. It thus gives you virtually instant, ‘always-on’ access to the world’s largest buffet of news, entertainment, and other information. It not only gives you electronic access to your local newspaper’s stories but to those of all newspapers’, magazines’, radio and television stations’, and all other news organizations’ stories. The news ‘shelves’. It furthermore gives you access to the websites of corporations, governments, militaries, academia, and scientific and charitable organizations’ websites, plus to the world’s bloggers. You can soon discover that by browsing this informational supermarket or gargantuan buffet, you can find your owns selection of news, entertainment, and other information items that best match your own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes.  If you are like the majority of people in developed countries, who now have such access at home, at work, and on the go, then you’ll likely reduce your usage of the standardized or institutionalized (i.e., general-interest) media that you’d previously used for news, entertainment, and other information—newspapers, news magazines, and general-interest broadcast stations—and instead visit many dozens of different websites, gathering a selection of stories and other items that much better match your own individual needs, interests, and tastes. This is human nature augmented by technology.

Moreover, thanks to Social Media applications, you’ll also be aided by your friends and acquaintances, people whose needs, interests, and tastes are likely more similar to your own than those of a stranger or a newspaper editor who you’ve never met. Your friends and acquaintances will too be hunting these information ‘shelves’ or ‘buffet’ and gathering items which might interest you just as its interest them, items you yourself might not have found stories.

Because you have these new alternatives for satisfying your needs, interests, and tastes, how you gravitate to news, entertainment, and other information changes. As billions of people now have such access and choices, this new gravitations is reshaping the media environment as resolutely as if changes physical gravity itself was. The ramifications of this new gravitation for media companies, their business models, products, and practices, and the ramifications of this new gravitation for academic theories and doctrines of media, are profound and permanent.

The media environment is transforming from a shape created by centuries of Mass Media, in which editors or producers made selections about which items might satisfy the masses of people, to a new shape formed by Individuated Media, in which the individuals once known as the masses themselves each their own selections of what satisfies them.

Unfortunately the ‘legacy’ or ‘traditional’ media industries of newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations operate production practices and business models based upon Mass Media theories and doctrines: selecting items they hope will satisfy large demographic or topical interests. Those production practices and business models are rapidly becoming obsolete, replaced by those of Individuated Media, a transition that is devastating those ‘legacy’ or ‘traditional’ industries.

People nowadays use the entire Internet (as well as their cable or satellite television systems, aided by digital video recorders) to hunt and gather their own individual daily selections of news, entertainment, and information: their daily ‘edition’, their daily ‘program schedule’, their daily music ‘album’, etc. Each person might visit between a handful to dozens of websites daily, and not necessarily always the same websites each day. The person will visit those on their own impetus or in response to hyperlinks they’ve seen elsewhere, such as on other websites, signage, or posted by their friends on Social Media networks.

Moreover, the average person might jump via hyperlink directly to a story on one website, then jump directly to another website, never actually seeing those websites’ home pages or any other webpages on those websites. Relatively shallow and infrequent usage of those websites results, thwarting ‘legacy’ or ‘traditional’ media companies’ attempts to motivate those visitors to use the entire website as the electronic equivalent of a printed selection of stories or a broadcast program schedule.

For example, among the nearly 60 million registered users of The New York Times’ website, the average user visits that premiere daily newspaper’s site only four to five times per month—a frequency equivalent to about once per week; and sees fewer than 28 stories in all those visits, rather than the hundreds which that newspaper published online during that time. (The New York Times thus effectively becomes a weekly, rather daily, newspaper to most users of its website.) Less prestigious newspapers receive even less frequent and thin usage online.

Moreover, because most people use such websites only infrequently and thinly, they certainly aren’t willing to pay to do so. After four years of multimillion dollar marketing efforts to get to users of its website to pay for access—no longer permitting non-paying users to access more than ten stories per month, The New York Times has been able to motivate only 990,000 of the websites nearly 60 million registered users to pay at least $15 per month. That’s a conversion rate of less than two percent, no more than what a single direct mail (i.e., ‘junk mail’) marketing campaign elicits in other industries.

Thus, two ways in which people’s new gravitation to media content now that they have surplus, rather than relatively scarce, access to news, entertainment, and other information, are that ‘legacy’ or ‘traditional’ forms of media—such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and networks, and other forms of Mass Media—are being used much less, even if placed online, and producers and vendors of those forms of media are no longer able to get consumers to pay for those contents. The new gravitation has reshaped the media environment making it hostile to Mass Media but phenomenally lucrative to the companies and industries founded upon Individuated Media.

Next webpage: Part 2 – the Core Limitation of Mass Media

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

Personalization, Customization, Individuation, and New Media

Previous webpage: Social Media and Early Platforms for Individuation.

Many media executives and media academicians inadvertently conflate the differences between the terms personalization, customization, and individuation. The terms differ in meaning. Here is a primer about correct usage:

Personalization is a form of address or motif. Let’s imagine that your first name is John. You receive an unsolicited commercial postal letter (i.e., ‘junk mail’) that begins with ‘Dear John’ and that tries to entice you to purchase a product or service. Meanwhile, untold thousands of other people also receive the same unsolicited commercial letter, except that theirs begins with ‘Dear Susanne’ if their name is Susan or ‘Dear Mark’ if their name is market or ‘Dear Judy’ if their name is Judy, etc. That is a personalized letter. It’s a mass mailing of nearly identical content to thousands of people, with the only differences between the letters being that salutation in each uses its recipient’s name. Likewise, you might have or could receive a personalized gift such as a key fob embossed with your initials, or cuff links engraved with your initials, or golf balls on which your initials have been printed. Those gifts are basically identical gift that thousands of other people might have received, except for the initials.  These are examples of personalization, the hallmark of which is mass production of otherwise identical products, on each of which a recipient’s name or initials. The practice of personalization began mainly in the final century of the Industrial Era, when Mass Marketers began to realize that personalized (or customized or individuated) products are more attractive than impersonal or generic or common products of approximately the same price. Online products that use mere personalization aren’t per se innovative but merely online repurposing of marketing practices much older than their online producers. Although some might claim this is New Media, there is nothing new about it.

Customization differs from personalization in that some or much of the substance of what is received, not just its salutation, was specifically designed for that individual’s specific needs, interests, and tastes. This almost always starts with a common product that is then adjusted, generally by adding or removing parts or components, for whomever is to receive it. An off-the-rack dress that then is adjusted by a tailor for the purchaser’s body is an example. A home kitchen that is designed for that home owner, but which uses ready-made cabinets and mass-produced appliances, is another. Or a row of identical new homes, each of which is painted a color which that individual home’s new owner chooses, is another. Degrees of customization span a spectrum bordered on one end by personalization and on the other end by individuation. Customized products have existed for existed throughout the Industrial Era, if not earlier.

Individuation involves products that from the onset were specifically designed, or have immediately evolved to, the recipient individual’s unique needs, interests, and tastes. A bespoke suit or dress. A house designed and built to serve a specific individual. A sculpture fabricated for an individual purpose. Those are individuated, in contrast to merely personalized or customized, products. The term individuation comes from Jungian psychology in which it denotes the process by which the individual self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious. In media, the term is used to describe the production of a product that is uniquely differentiated from any other according to its recipient’s individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes. Individuated products have existed since the beginning of tool-making humanity.

Many, if not most, Mass Media executives and mass marketers nowadays mistakenly use the terms personalization or personalized when they instead mean customization or customized.

Furthermore, the respective lengths of time in which people have been producing personalized, customized, and individualized products are counter-intuitive.  Humans have always had individuated products, starting with the first flint knives during the Neolithic Era. Customized products predate the Industrial Era, perhaps dating from hand-copied books, each of which might have been embellished with calligraphic designs and illustrations designed to fit its individual owners interests and tastes. Yet personalized products do date from the Industrial Era because the underlying basis of those are mass produced.

What has changed now that the Informational Era has begun is that individuated products can now be mass-produced.

Nevertheless, a trichotomy (three-part division) appears when the limitations of media during the Agrarian, Industrial, and Informational eras are examined:

  1. The primary mode of communications that existed during the During the Agrarian Era, (as well as earlier during prehistoric times, was Interpersonal. This is the aboriginal mode of communications, arising were basic animal communications, and predate humans and their technologies. It evolved into human language(s) in the form of human conversation. The Interpersonal mode is still the most basic and common medium of communication. Technologies have increased its speed and reach, via such vehicles as postal letters, telephone calls, electronic mail, text messaging (SMS), etc. The hallmark characteristics of the Interpersonal mode of media are that each participant has equal and reciprocal control of the content conveyed and that the content can be individualized to each participant’s unique needs, interests, and tastes. However, that equal control, as well as individualization of the content, degrades into cacophony as the number of participants increases beyond two. Although some marketers nowadays mistakenly refer to any online media as ‘one-to-one’ media, the only truly one-to-one modes of media are Interpersonal mode, such as those listed in the middle of this paragraph. A website that is communication with many users simultaneously is obviously engaged in ‘one-to-many’ communications.
  2. A second mode of communications also developed during prehistoric times and the Agrarian Era was the Mass I disagree with most media academicians that Mass Media originated during the Industrial Era; I use a much stricter definition of a mass. Mass Media predates mass production and even all technologies. The earliest forms of mass communications were the utterances and speeches of tribal leaders, kings, and priests. They communicated directly with their masses. Like the Interpersonal mode, the Mass mode isn’t necessarily dependent upon technology. For example, an actor or speaker can perform directly before a mass audience without any technologies. What technologies have done is extend the speed and reach of the Mass mode of communications. Forms of the Mass mode include oratory, sermons, edicts, scriptures, theater, books, newspapers, billboards, magazines, cinema, radio, television, bulletin boards, most webpages and streaming media. The Mass mode generally conveys content from a single person’s viewpoint (the orator, the actor, the author, the broadcaster, etc.) to many people simultaneously. Thus, the hallmark characteristics of the Mass mode are that exactly the same content goes to all recipients simultaneously and that the one who sends it has total control over the nature and substance of that content. The disadvantages of the Mass mode is that its communications cannot be individualized to each recipient’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, and that the recipients have no control over that content.Note that the Interpersonal and the Mass modes have reciprocal advantages and disadvantages. For millennia until recently, people were limited to only those two modes of media. A person could communicate customized or individualized contents but generally just to one person at any time. Or else the person could communicate to many people simultaneously but not customize or individualize the contents for each individual recipient. There was no way to deliver truly individualized contents to many people simultaneously. That dilemma of media and marketing—customization/individuation versus reach—existed for millennia.
  3. Yet technology has not shattered that dilemma. The rise of computerization has made it possible to produce mass customization or mass individuation. This is the Individuated It combines the advantage of the Interpersonal and Mass modes but without their reciprocal disadvantages. The hallmark characteristics of Individuated mode is that highly customized or truly individualized contents can simultaneously be delivered to a potentially infinite number of people and that the consumer and the producer shares equal and equal or reciprocal control over those contents. Unlike the Interpersonal or Mass modes, the Individuated mode is entirely dependent upon technology, which is why it arose quite recently. It arose only during the Informational Era.[4]

Much as media and marketing companies have learned that personalized contents are more attractive to people than otherwise impersonal or generic or common products of approximately the same price and that customized products are even more attractive, it becoming obvious that truly individuated products are the most attractive.

Individuation is the true definition of the New Media plus a key to the future of marketing. For too many media executives, marketers, and academicians, the phrase New Media has become conflated and confused. Some use it simply as the combination of an adjective and a plural noun: there are new media. Online media are new media at the turn of the millennium, just as the telegraph and telephone were new media during the 1800’s. In that usage of the phrase, the meaning of New Media simply becomes a matter of chronology and those media to which it refers were be new media and then not new media. This meaning shouldn’t be capitalized: it should merely be new media rather than New Media. The meaning of New Media as capitalize must be more distinct and refer to a mode or a hallmark characteristic or attribute that is distinct from merely the passage of time or any past, present, or future technologies that eventually become historically ephemeral. That is why the definition of New Media mustn’t be tied to semaphore flags or telegraphs or radio or television or digital transmissions or electronic computers or any other technology that could obsolesce and become ephemeral in history.

For those reasons, I state that the definition of New Media is an entirely new mode of communications in which highly customized or even individuated contents can be delivered simultaneously to a potentially infinite number and that these consumers and the producers of the contents share equal or reciprocal control over the nature and transaction of those contents. This differs from Interpersonal Media (conversation, postal letter, telegraph, telephony, text messaging, etc.), in which both parties share equal and reciprocal control over the nature and transaction of the contents but in which the number of people to whom the contents can be communicated without cacophony is limited (normally no more than two and practically no more than a congress), and from Mass Media (oratory, edict, scripture, theater, book, billboard, newspaper, magazine, cinema, radio, television, most webpages, etc.), in which the producers of the contents hold virtually total control over the nature of the contents and preponderant control over the transactions of those contents.

As civilization evolves, it inevitably reaches a technological level at which communication that has mass reach but also simultaneous customization or individuation of that communication becomes possible. That level has been reached, a new era of communications begun.

Next webpage: The Maelstrom as Flow Changes

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

Corollaries of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interactions

Previous webpage: When Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interact on Media

Here are some corollary effects resulting from observable dynamics of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws. These go beyond the computer and telecommunications industries from which those dynamics directly stem and beyond the media industries which are the subject of this particularly work you’re reading, and pertain to virtually all industries now and in the future, as well as to societies, culture, and civilization. The ramifications of these corollary effects demonstrate the sheer scale of changes that the dynamics of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws have engendered:

Mind-boggling increases in the pace of change. The single most remarkable effect of the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws is an ever-increasing pace of technological acceleration. Humanity never before has had to deal with such a meteoric pace of change. To put this in perspective, compare the current pace of technological change with that of previous revolutionary technologies. If the capabilities of the powered-flight aviation technologies invented by the Wright Brothers in 1903 had accelerated at even the slowest pace of the three laws I’ve mentioned (i.e., Cooper’s Law), then by 1978 the average airliner would have been capable of conveying a quarter billion people at the Speed of Light (a flight which, of course, would probably be impossible due to the size of the craft but certainly due to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity!) Likewise, if the capabilities of the automotive technology invented by Karl Benz in 1885 had accelerated at that pace, then by 1982 any auto would have been capable of carrying everyone in the world at the Speed of Light. If the printing technology invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450 had advanced at that pace, the capabilities of the average printing press today would denude the Earth of trees for paper in less than a second. Mind-boggling! Clearly, no previous technology, no matter how revolutionary that people considered it, has ever progressed at the paces of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws. When I tell my university students, “You’re a unique generation,” some at first think that I am patronizing them; but I justify my statement by explaining to them that, “You’re a generation who will have to adapt to more changes than any previous generation of humans who’s ever lived, changes no previous generation imagined. If you think that you’ve seen changes during the past ten or 20 years, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Ever shorter ‘mature’ phases for products and ideas. On a more practical level, one aspect of the accelerating pace of change will be increasingly short ‘mature’ phases for many, if not most, technologies and products. Traditionally, industries and businesses have enjoyed long commercial lifespans for products, amortizing the products’ developmental costs over their ‘mature’ period. However, the accelerating pace of change almost guarantees quicker product obsolescence and thus shorter ‘mature’ product lifespans. It will become increasingly likely that many, if not most, new products’ commercial lifespans will be ever shorter as the pace of technological progress continually accelerates. New products will become obsolete ever more quickly. Thus, businesses and industries will need to adopt their product development and accounting models to ever more quickly (if not immediately) recoup development costs, and will need to continuously improve and update their products more and more. Financial profits relying on a durable ‘mature’ phase of products’ lifespans will increasingly become an obsolete concept.

Increasingly frenetic need for businesses and industries to change. Indeed, the paces of change engendered by the three laws clearly mean that businesses and entire industries will have to adapt to ever‑accelerating changes. If they don’t quickly adapt, they will fail. A newspaper executive who was unfamiliar with the dynamics of the three laws and the unprecedented technological changes they are engendering, recently asked me, “When will all the change in our industry end?” Although I was tempted to joke, “Next Thursday,” the changes affecting his and others’ industries aren’t about to stop but will accelerate until the paces of change become, well, somewhat mind-boggling. Only an economic depression or widespread war can slow or stop the ever-accelerating pace of technological change. Otherwise, an ever-widening array of traditional products, tradition business models, traditional business practices, traditional devices, and traditional trades and employments will increasingly be disrupted, uprooted, replaced, or eliminated. This has begun to happen and will happen ever more quickly than during previous years, decades, or centuries. It means increasing instability for traditional companies and traditional industries. There will be ever more business mergers, bankruptcies, closures, even failures of entire industries. Some industries will meld or incidentally blur with others. (For example, who a decade ago would have predicted that Nokia, rather than Kodak, would become the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer cameras? Or that Nokia, which had the world’s dominant share the mobile phone handset market, would itself largely implode within the span of only four years? Or Apple Computer Company would become a major vendor of recorded music and of mobile phone handsets?) As the pace of technological changes continues to accelerate and waves of change come ever more quickly, businesses and industries will need to implement organizational and production changes ever more quickly to survive. One can’t surf behind a wave of change. The most successful organizations during the 21st Century will be those that can predict the figurative hydrodynamics of its environment and ride ahead of each wave.

Brand names are decreasingly a defense against change or decline. As the pace of technological advancements continues to accelerate, as waves of change become ever more frequent and the ‘mature’ phase of products and services become ever shorter, traditional companies that hope their established brands will extenuate or palliate that turbulence or turmoil will discover that the ‘goodwill’ value of their brands will become increasingly less. There primarily are two factors for this:

The first is simply that the inertial momentum of an establish brand can itself hobble or thwart that adaptation. A long-established brand can easily become an anchor, chaining consumers’ perceptions of that company to its old and now obsolete products rather than adapted products. For examples, during the past decade separate studies by the Medill University’s Readership Institute and by the  Media Management and Transformation Centre at Jönköping International Business School in Sweden have shown that many United States daily newspapers’ established brands, brands established and known for printed newsprint products, imparted no greater, and even sometimes negative, value to those same companies’ products put online. Consumers identify the brand with the old, not the new. Early in 2000 during a conference in New York City, the chief of Time Warner’s online efforts was asked what his corporation’s New Media strategy was. “We don’t yet fully understand the changes going on,” he said. “But Time Warner has been one of a handful of great media corporations during the 20th Century. So, we expect our brand to be one of the great New Media corporations during the 21st Century, just like American Online, Amazon, Ebay, PayPal, Google, and Yahoo!” I don’t think he realized the unintentional paradox of his claiming that his corporation’s will axiomatically place it among wildly successful New Media companies whose own brands were virtually unknown or even non-existent only nine years earlier. (Or the irony of how later that year his corporation would itself be purchased by one of those brands –, in the most financially disastrous merger in business history.)

The second and more ultimately powerful reason why brands are decreasingly a defense against change or decline is that the branding’s rise as what had been a formidable marketing tool was rooted in scarcity. Brand initially arose as logotypes in cultures centuries ago when few people could read. A wooden carving of a shoe, hanging above the entrance to a shoemaker’s or cobbler’s shop showed the illiterate what that business was. Names themselves later became brands and logotypes. The strength of brands or logotypes lay in providing consumers with a sense of comfort and reliability about those brands’ or logotypes’ products or services. Having relatively scarce access to current reviews of all similar products and services available, perhaps seeing a review for one or another of those products or services one a year or less in a monthly magazine, consumers bought the product or service a brand they knew or perhaps trusted from previous purchases. As James Surowiecki of The New Yorker magazine recently remarked:

“When consumers had to rely on advertisements and their past experience with a company, brands served as proxies for quality: if a car was made by G.M., or a ketchup by Heinz, you assumed that it was pretty good. It was hard to figure out if a new product from an unfamiliar company was reliable or not, so brand loyalty was a way of reducing risk. As recently as the nineteen-eighties, nearly four-fifths of American car buyers stayed loyal to a brand.

“Today, consumers can read reams of research about whatever they want to buy…..what’s weakened the power of brands is the Internet, which has given ordinary consumers easy access to expert reviews, user reviews, and detailed product data, in an array of categories. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eight percent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of studies have logged the strong influence of those reviews have on the decisions people make. The rise of social media has accelerated the trend to an astonishing degree: a dud product can become a laughingstock in a matter of hours.”[3]

What has caused that is the epochal switch from relative scarcity to surplus in people’s access and choices of information about products and services. Some traditional branding consultants, attempting to adjust to that switch, claim that brands become ever more important now that consumers no have relative scarce access to information. Yet Surowiecki and others note that a recent study by Ernest & Young reported that only 25 percent of Americans said that brand loyalty now affects how they shop.

Start-up companies have an ever-increasing advantage over traditional ones. If there’s a fourth ‘law’ atop the three I’ve mentioned, it’s Darwin’s[4], which dictates that in a changing environment the nimblest and the quickest to adapt have advantage over the biggest, fleetest, best fed, or the even sharpest-toothed. The ever-accelerating paces of changes favor start-up companies and start-up innovators (although too many attempt innovation without first understanding the underlying dynamics of the changes).

Academia will tend to adapt ever more slowly in proportion to the changes underway and certainly ever more slowly than people, companies, or industries do. A prime reason why is that most academics are employed for their expertise in traditional practices. They tend to be older individuals, many of whom haven’t worked for years (sometimes very many years or even decades) in the professions or trades that they teach. Changes can undercut their expertise. The faster the changes, the more insecure these older academicians can become and the more likely they will be to resist those changes, no matter if the changes have become manifest in their professions or trades. These older academicians hold senior positions (department chairman, faculty senators, etc.) and have tenure in institutions where the doctrine of Academic Freedom[5] is considered inviolate, so feel no great motivation to adapt their syllabi and teach something different that is becoming manifest. Many do adapt, but many others prefer to continue teaching what they best: the expertise of earlier times. Compounding this resistance, younger academicians who seek tenure, a sinecure granted by senior academicians, often find its pursuit safer if they focus on traditional rather than changed practices, particularly when changes are accelerating and volatile. That is particularly true of those younger academicians who’ve never actually worked in the professions or trades they teach, who’ve become academicians immediately after their own graduations. These overall systemic problems tend to make academia lag, even resist, at adapting to changes.

The law lags ever more behind. The slowest of all sectors of society to adapt to change are laws and regulations. These will lag ever further as the change accelerates. The number of discrepancies, incongruities, and outright collisions between old laws and the new capabilities of technologies will increase not only in number but spread to codicils yet untouched. This is primarily because laws and regulations, rather than foster revolutionary change, tend to protect the companies and industries that are traditional and well-established. Those companies and industries, and their lobbyists, use laws and regulations as cudgels against prospects of change. Yet however blunt or heavy, these legislative and regulatory cudgels ultimately never reach far enough, matter how bloodied, change ineluctably wins.

One observable macro-effect of the three laws’ interactions is the ending to the ‘Digital Divide’ (i.e., poor people not being able to afford computer technologies and online services). The effects of Moore’s Law constantly decrease the expense of technologies. Likewise, Cooper’s and Butters’ Laws is constantly increasing the ease and access by which people can connect and use such technologies. During the Industrial Era, decades used to elapse before the poor could afford the technologies of the rich, but the meteoric pace of change brought by computerization is ever shortening that lapse. For examples, there are now more mobile phones used by Africans than Europeans or North Americans, despite those two other continents having more than 20-times Africa’s per capital incomes. A recent survey in Honduras, the second poorest country in the Americas, found that even the lowest-income households (i.e., those likely to lack running water) possessed not only a mobile phone (handset street price equivalent to USD5 plus rechargeable ‘pay-as-you-go’ calling credits) but a LCD‑screen DVD player (street price USD20) and a microwave oven (which are cheaper to purchase than conventional ovens and require no physical installation). A few years ago in South Africa, I met a successful local entrepreneur whose business in the huge ghetto township in which he resided was to solicit collection of  mobile phone videos of weddings, anniversaries, and other events, and to turn those videos into DVDs, which he then sold for $0.50 each as an electronic form of community newspaper. He succeeded because so many people in the township owned mobile phones and DVD players.

Poor countries are beginning to afford and utilize advanced technologies that only rich countries had been able to afford. In some cases, poor countries are leap-frogging rich countries in technological infrastructure. Countries such as Mongolia or Montenegro now have more advanced telephone infrastructures than do the United States or the United Kingdom, simply because not only are new technologies for telephones now less expensive to purchase but are easier to install in less developed countries that don’t have vested legacies and that delay installing advancement until the costs of older technologies are amortized. Moore’s and Cooper’s laws made mobile telephony relatively inexpensive and easier to deploy than copper-wired telephony.  Meanwhile, Moore’s and Butters’ laws are causing wired systems to be replaced by photonics, which is phenomenally cheaper signal-carrying capacity/costs than copper wire.

Increasingly large technological gaps within peer groups. Although the three laws’ interactions are closing the ‘Digital Divide’, an odd macro‑effect is that the interactions are causing technological fissures within peer groups. When the paces of change were slower, the technologies affordable and used by a demographic rank were generally the same for long durations. For example, audio recordings sold in the form of vinyl discs for gramophones (i.e., phonographs), a technology invented in 1889, were for some 100 years the primary musical entertainment technology for consumers. Audio recorded on Compact Discs (‘CDs’) began superseding gramophone discs around 1989, but themselves had much shorter popularity before beginning to be superseded in turn by directly downloaded audio recordings. For video recordings, the progression from Video Home System (‘VHS’) tapes to Digital Versatile Discs (‘DVD’s) to directly downloaded video recordings showed even shorter technological ‘half-lives’. The progression from analog mobile telephone handsets to digital ones to Internet-equipped digital ones to broadband Internet-equipped digital ones to ‘smartphones’ has shown remarkably short technological ‘half-lives’.  Consumers have to adjust to new technologies ever more quickly.

The result is that households within demographic peer groups are increasingly less likely to all be using the same levels of technology. This result occurs less among younger peer groups, who always tend to adapt more quickly than any other demographic, but this result is becoming ever more easily observable among older peer groups. It seems increasingly unlikely that all consumers—even most peers within a demographic rank—will ever again all be using the same platform, nonetheless using any one platform for a decade or more. Our grandparents or parents might have used gramophone records or Compact Discs for decades, but our children probably won’t use any one medium platform or device for long. Last year in a popular restaurant in my town, I overhead a foursome of ladies in their seventies discuss whether or not they used personal computers much, while nearly another table of women the same age was comparing various speech-to-text software programs. Wide technological gaps like that within a common demographic were highly unlikely in previous generations, but will probably be common occurrence for the future. As science fiction writer William Gibson quipped, “The future is here, just unevenly distributed.”

The best skill to learn is how to learn new skills. During previous centuries and generations, the skill one learned young generally was the skill one used all one’s life. For example, if you apprenticed as a baker, it was very likely that you’d be a baker all your life. However, this dynamic began ending two or three generation ago, and has now become ever more unlikely. It’s not unusual for educated people in developed countries to have not only more than one job during their lifetimes, but a career spent in more than one industry. As the ever-accelerating paces of change make previous technologies increasingly obsolete, and with those obsolete technologies more and more businesses, trades, and industries, archaic, obsolete (‘disrupted’), or defunct, many skills learned young (such as in college) will also become archaic, obsolete, or defunct. This new dynamic will put increasing pressure on the traditional system of providing education primarily before people are aged in their mid-twenties. People that old have the majority of their careers ahead of them, during which they will experience an extraordinary amount of changes – likely more changes than all previous human generations combined. They will thus probably need constant retraining and continuing education rather than relying upon only what they learned in consecutive years of secondary and higher education during their teens and early twenties. They will need to learn how constantly to learn new skills. I believe the business models of colleges and universities, in order for such institutions to survive and be relevant in the 21st Century, must change to focus primarily on continuing education rather simply than educating young people.

Increasingly polarized societies. Fear of change is called metathesiophobia. Change causes anxiety and stress in most people: indeed, in most creatures. History holds many precedents showing that when stressed by change, large numbers of people will seek comfort in traditional values, theories, and practices, rather than accept change. As the English historian A.P.J. Taylor explained (using the British term for this macro-effect), “Toryism rests on doubt in human nature; it distrusts improvement, clings to traditional institutions, and prefers the past to the future. It is a sentiment rather than a principle.” (Some historical examples are the Roman Catholic Church’s retreat from, and later persecution of Galileo and other heliocentrics; the German people’s conservative electoral swerve during the Great Depression; or the rise of the American conservative movement once the practical limits of United States global hegemony or power were reached during the 1970s.) Many people, including those who offer pay lip-service to change, retreat into the seeming sanctuary of tradition as a defense against change. This sociological effect by itself exacerbates cultural or industrial adaption to change, creating turbulence, difficulties, and polarization of large segments of society. Given the ever‑accelerating paces of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws, those problems might become more formidable, even chaotic, during coming years.

An appointment with Fermi’s Paradox. Indeed, as Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws double their paces every nine to 30 months, creating hyperbolic technological progress, some reputable futurists believe that during the first half of this century the sheer pace of change — unless checked by war or economic depression — will ultimately skyrocket so rapidly it will merge into a ‘singularity’ that will “rupture the fabric of human history”. According to their predictions, new products, services, business models, even new ideas, will eventually become almost instantly obsolete, almost immediately replaced by newer, until our technological capabilities will eclipse our caution and comprehension. This concept of a technological ‘singularity’, which some other futurists criticize as alarmist or as a techno-utopian fantasy, might seem absurd to laymen, yet the observable validity of Moore’s, Cooper’s, Butters’ laws, and similar dynamics, indicates its possibility. I hope the truth will be somewhere between those two contrasting views. Perhaps people’s (i.e., individual’s, households’, industries’, societies’, and governments’) limited human capabilities to deal with such a pace of change will create a sufficient behavioral constraint on such hyperbolic changes that no mind-boggling absurdities become reality. If not, however, the instabilities of human actions or reactions to ever-accelerating technologies will probably lead to war or economic chaos or worse: human inability to be a species that transcends what’s known as Fermi’s Paradox. During a casual lunchtime conversation with other physicists in 1950, the Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi ventured a series of rapid calculations estimating that the probabilities of earthlike planets and possible intelligent life elsewhere among the billions of stars in our galaxy are good; that some of those other forms of intelligent forms might be millions or billions of years more advanced than humans; and that such unimaginably advanced civilizations might have technologies that easily permit or otherwise have had time for vast interstellar travels. Yet “Where are they?” a mystified Fermi exclaimed. That scientific mystery has become known as Fermi’s paradox. Many possible answers to it have been postulated, one of which is that technological civilizations may usually or invariably destroy themselves before or shortly after developing nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

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