Thursday, August 18, 2011


The rise of the information age combined with the growth of globalization has produced a cottage industry of forecasters that specialize in "Endism."  The power of new technology and globalization is widely predicted to bring about the end to the following.  This is where we currently stand:
  • The end of the press, television, and mass media.  Not ended, but certainly changed.  From The New York Times, to Borders, to Fox News, to Blockbuster - - this is an industry in transition as profound as the transition with the printing press.  Still a huge work in progress.
  • The end of brokers and other intermediaries.  From travel agents to stock brokers - - an entire class of people and occupations that were in the middle no longer exist.
  • The end of firms, bureaucracies, and similar organizations.  The largest company in the world (in terms of value) is Apple.  Apple doesn't look anything like a Ford, or an Exxon, or a GE.  The combination of information technology and globalization has placed a premium on having a horizontal orientation with decentralization versus vertical and centralized.  This trend is just beginning.
  • The end of universities.  We still have the Rose Bowl and March Madness, but the delivery of educational services is rapidly changing.  A free online course at Stanford University on artificial intelligence, taught this fall by two leading experts from Silicon Valley has attracted more than 58,000 students around the globe - - a class nearly four times the size of Stanford's entire student body.
  • The end of politics.  Information filtering and political segmentation have probably produced just the opposite in the United States.  Two University of California, San Diego professors found that ideological divergence in Congress was the highest in at least 120 years.  More information filtering + more information access = more polarization.
  • The end of government.  The Arab Spring was a product of globalization and information technology - - where the end can come very quickly for very old governments and leaders.  But Libya and Syria also demonstrate that endings can still be long and ugly.  Calls for greater transparency and "What have you done for me lately?" attitudes are powered by information technology and social networks.
  • The end of cities and regions.  The death of certain cities and regions also produces new opportunities fueled by population growth, globalization, information technology, and the need for creative classes to work and live close together.  This new birth will produce megacities - - many in the developing world.
  • The end of the nation-state.  New winners - - China and Brazil are examples.  Old losers, such as Greece and Spain, will have a difficult time as one looks into the future.

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