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Content-Type: text/html; charset="Windows-1252" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Content-Location: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.09/newrules_pr.html Kevin Kelly is = Wired's executive editor."=20 name=3DAUTHORBIO>
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Issue = 5.09 - Sep=20 1997=20



New = Rules for the=20 New Economy
By Kevin Kelly

Twelve dependable principles for thriving in a turbulent world =


The Digital Revolution gets all the headlines these days. But turning = slowly=20 beneath the fast-forward turbulence, steadily driving the gyrating = cycles of=20 cool technogadgets and gotta-haves, is a much more profound revolution - = the=20 Network Economy.=20

This emerging new economy represents a tectonic upheaval in our = commonwealth,=20 a social shift that reorders our lives more than mere hardware or = software ever=20 can. It has its own distinct opportunities and its own new rules. Those = who play=20 by the new rules will prosper; those who ignore them will not.=20

The advent of the new economy was first noticed as far back as 1969, = when=20 Peter Drucker perceived the arrival of knowledge workers. The new = economy is=20 often referred to as the Information Economy, because of information's = superior=20 role (rather than material resources or capital) in creating wealth.=20

I prefer the term Network Economy, because information isn't = enough to=20 explain the discontinuities we see. We have been awash in a steadily = increasing=20 tide of information for the past century. Many successful knowledge = businesses=20 have been built on information capital, but only recently has a total=20 reconfiguration of information itself shifted the whole economy.=20

The grand irony of our times is that the era of computers is over. = All the=20 major consequences of stand-alone computers have already taken place. = Computers=20 have speeded up our lives a bit, and that's it.=20

In contrast, all the most promising technologies making their debut = now are=20 chiefly due to communication between computers - that is, to connections = rather=20 than to computations. And since communication is the basis of culture, = fiddling=20 at this level is indeed momentous.=20

And fiddle we do. The technology we first invented to crunch = spreadsheets has=20 been hijacked to connect our isolated selves instead. Information's = critical=20 rearrangement is the widespread, relentless act of connecting everything = to=20 everything else. We are now engaged in a grand scheme to augment, = amplify,=20 enhance, and extend the relationships and communications between all = beings and=20 all objects. That is why the Network Economy is a big deal.=20

The new rules governing this global restructuring revolve around = several=20 axes. First, wealth in this new regime flows directly from innovation, = not=20 optimization; that is, wealth is not gained by perfecting the known, but = by=20 imperfectly seizing the unknown. Second, the ideal environment for = cultivating=20 the unknown is to nurture the supreme agility and nimbleness of = networks. Third,=20 the domestication of the unknown inevitably means abandoning the highly=20 successful known - undoing the perfected. And last, in the thickening = web of the=20 Network Economy, the cycle of "find, nurture, destroy" happens faster = and more=20 intensely than ever before.=20

The Network Economy is not the end of history. Given the rate of = change, this=20 economic arrangement may not endure more than a generation or two. Once = networks=20 have saturated every space in our lives, an entirely new set of rules = will take=20 hold. Take these principles, then, as rules of thumb for the interim. =

1 The Law of Connection=20

Embrace dumb power

The Network Economy is fed by the deep resonance of two stellar = bangs: the=20 collapsing microcosm of chips and the exploding telecosm of connections. = These=20 sudden shifts are tearing the old laws of wealth apart and preparing = territory=20 for the emerging economy.=20

As the size of silicon chips shrinks to the microscopic, their costs = shrink=20 to the microscopic as well. They become cheap and tiny enough to slip = into every=20 - and the key word here is every - object we make. The notion that all = doors in=20 a building should contain a computer chip seemed ludicrous 10 years ago, = but now=20 there is hardly a hotel door without a blinking, beeping chip. Soon, if = National=20 Semiconductor gets its way, every FedEx package will be stamped with a=20 disposable silicon flake that smartly tracks the contents. If an = ephemeral=20 package can have a chip, so can your chair, each book, a new coat, a = basketball.=20 Thin slices of plastic known as smart cards hold a throwaway chip smart = enough=20 to be your banker. Soon, all manufactured objects, from tennis shoes to = hammers=20 to lamp shades to cans of soup, will have embedded in them a tiny sliver = of=20 thought. And why not?=20

The world is populated by 200 million computers. Andy Grove of Intel = happily=20 estimates that we'll see 500 million of these by 2002. Yet the number of = noncomputer chips now pulsating in the world is 6 billion! They are = already=20 embedded in your car and stereo and rice cooker. Because they can be = stamped out=20 fast and cheap, like candy gumdrops, these chips are known in the = industry as=20 "jelly beans." And we are in the dawn of a jelly bean explosion: = there'll be 10=20 billion grains of working silicon by 2005, a billion not long after. = Someday=20 each of them may be as smart as an ant, dissolved into our habitat.=20

As we implant a billion specks of our thought into everything we = make, we are=20 also connecting them up. Stationary objects are wired together. The=20 nonstationary rest - that is, most manufactured objects - will be linked = by=20 infrared and radio, creating a wireless web vastly larger than the wired = web. It=20 is not necessary that each connected object transmit much data. A tiny = chip=20 plastered inside a water tank on an Australian ranch transmits only the=20 telegraphic message of whether it is full or not. A chip on the horn of = each=20 steer beams out his pure location, nothing more: "I'm here, I'm here." = The chip=20 in the gate at the end of the road communicates only when it was last = opened:=20 "Tuesday."=20

The glory of these connected crumbs is that they don't need to be=20 artificially intelligent. Instead, they work on the dumb power of a few = bits=20 linked together. Dumb power is what you get when you network dumb nodes = into a=20 smart web. It's what our brains do with dumb neurons and what the = Internet did=20 with dumb personal computers. A PC is the conceptual equivalent of a = single=20 neuron housed in a plastic case. When linked by the telecosm into a = neural=20 network, these dumb PC nodes created that fabulous intelligence called = the World=20 Wide Web. It works in other domains: dumb parts, properly connected, = yield smart=20 results.=20

A trillion dumb chips connected into a hive mind is the hardware. The = software that runs through it is the Network Economy. A planet of = hyperlinked=20 chips emits a ceaseless flow of small messages, cascading into the most = nimble=20 waves of sensibility. Every farm moisture sensor shoots up data, every = weather=20 satellite beams down digitized images, every cash register spits out bit = streams, every hospital monitor trickles out numbers, every Web site = tallies=20 attention, every vehicle transmits its location code; all of this is = sent=20 swirling into the web. That tide of signals is the net.=20

The net is not just humans typing at each other on AOL, although that = is part=20 of it too and will be as long as seducing the romantic and flaming the = idiotic=20 are enjoyable. Rather, the net is the collective interaction spun off by = a=20 trillion objects and living beings, linked together through air and = glass.=20

This is the net that begets the Network Economy. According to MCI, = the total=20 volume of voice traffic on global phone systems will be superseded by = the total=20 volume of data traffic in three years. We're already on the way to an = expanded=20 economy full of new participants: agents, bots, objects, and machines, = as well=20 as several billion more humans. We won't wait for AI to make intelligent = systems; we'll do it with the dumb power of ubiquitous computing and = pervasive=20 connections.=20

The whole shebang won't happen tomorrow, but the trajectory is clear. = We are=20 connecting all to all. Every step we take that banks on cheap, rampant, = and=20 universal connection is a step in the right direction. Furthermore, the = surest=20 way to advance massive connectionism is to exploit decentralized forces = - to=20 link the distributed bottom. How do you make a better bridge? Let the = parts talk=20 to each other. How do you improve lettuce farming? Let the soil speak to = the=20 farmer's tractors. How do you make aircraft safe? Let the airplanes = communicate=20 among themselves and pick their own flight paths.=20

In the Network Economy, embrace dumb power.=20

2 The Law of Plentitude=20

More gives more

Curious things happen when you connect all to all. Mathematicians = have proven=20 that the sum of a network increases as the square of the number of = members. In=20 other words, as the number of nodes in a network increases = arithmetically, the=20 value of the network increases exponentially. Adding a few more members = can=20 dramatically increase the value for all members.=20

Consider the first modern fax machine that rolled off the conveyor = belt=20 around 1965. Despite millions of dollars spent on its R&D, it was = worth=20 nothing. Zero. The second fax machine to roll off immediately made the = first one=20 worth something. There was someone to fax to. Because fax machines are = linked=20 into a network, each additional fax machine sliding down the chute = increases the=20 value of all the fax machines operating before it.=20

So strong is this network value that anyone purchasing a fax machine = becomes=20 an evangelist for the fax network. "Do you have a fax?" fax owners ask = you. "You=20 should get one." Why? Your purchase increases the worth of their = machine. And=20 once you join the network, you'll begin to ask others, "Do you have a = fax (or=20 email, or Acrobat software, etc)?" Each additional account you can = persuade onto=20 the network substantially increases the value of your account.=20

When you go to Office Depot to buy a fax machine, you are not just = buying a=20 US$200 box. You are purchasing for $200 the entire network of all other = fax=20 machines and the connections between them - a value far greater than the = cost of=20 all the separate machines.=20

The fax effect suggests that the more plentiful things become, the = more=20 valuable they become. But this notion directly contradicts two of the = most=20 fundamental axioms we attribute to the industrial age.=20

First hoary axiom: Value came from scarcity; diamonds, gold, oil, and = college=20 degrees were precious because they were scarce.=20

Second hoary axiom: When things were made plentiful, they became = devalued;=20 carpets no longer indicated status when they could be woven by the = thousands on=20 machines.=20

The logic of the network flips these industrial lessons upside down. = In a=20 Network Economy, value is derived from plentitude, just as a fax = machine's value=20 increases in ubiquity. Power comes from abundance. Copies (even physical = copies)=20 are cheap. Therefore, let them proliferate.=20

Instead, what is valuable is the scattered relationships - sparked by = the=20 copies - that become tangled up in the network itself. And the = relationships=20 rocket upward in value as the parts increase in number even slightly. = Windows=20 NT, fax machines, TCP/IP, GIF images, RealAudio - all born deep in the = Network=20 Economy - adhere to this logic. But so do metric wrenches, triple-A = batteries,=20 and other devices that rely on universal standards; the more common they = are,=20 the more it pays you to stick to that standard.=20

In the future, cotton shirts, bottles of vitamins, chain saws, and = the rest=20 of the industrial objects in the world will also obey the law of = plentitude as=20 the cost of producing an additional copy of them falls steeply, while = the value=20 of the network that invents, manufactures, and distributes them = increases.=20

In the Network Economy, scarcity is overwhelmed by shrinking marginal = costs.=20 Where the expense of churning out another copy becomes trivial (and this = is=20 happening in more than software), the value of standards and the network = booms.=20

In the Network Economy, more gives more.=20

3 The Law of Exponential Value=20

Success is nonlinear

The chart of Microsoft's cornucopia of profits is a revealing graph = because=20 it mirrors several other plots of rising stars in the Network Economy. = During=20 its first 10 years, Microsoft's profits were negligible. Its profits = rose above=20 the background noise only around 1985. But once they began to rise, they = exploded.=20

Federal Express experienced a similar trajectory: years of minuscule = profit=20 increases, slowly ramping up to an invisible threshold, and then surging = skyward=20 in a blast sometime during the early 1980s.=20

The penetration of fax machines likewise follows a tale of a 20-year=20 overnight success. Two decades of marginal success, then, during the = mid-1980s,=20 the number of fax machines quietly crosses the point of no return - and = the next=20 thing you know, they are irreversibly everywhere.=20

The archetypical illustration of a success explosion in a Network = Economy is=20 the Internet itself. As any old-time nethead will be quick to lecture = you, the=20 Internet was a lonely (but thrilling!) cultural backwater for two = decades before=20 it hit the media radar. A graph of the number of Internet hosts = worldwide,=20 starting in the 1960s, hardly creeps above the bottom line. Then, around = 1991,=20 the global tally of hosts suddenly mushrooms, exponentially arcing up to = take=20 over the world.=20

Each of these curves (I owe Net Gain author John Hagel credit for = these four=20 examples) is a classic template of exponential growth, compounding in a=20 nonlinear way. Biologists know about exponential growth; such curves are = almost=20 the definition of a biological system. That's one reason the Network = Economy is=20 often described more accurately in biological terms. Indeed, if the Web = feels=20 like a frontier, it's because for the first time in history we are = witnessing=20 biological growth in technological systems.=20

At the same time, each of the above examples is a classic model of = the=20 Network Economy. The compounded successes of Microsoft, FedEx, fax = machines, and=20 the Internet all hinge on the prime law of networks: value explodes=20 exponentially with membership, while this value explosion sucks in yet = more=20 members. The virtuous circle inflates until all potential members are = joined.=20

The subtle point from these examples, however, is that this explosion = did not=20 ignite until approximately the late 1980s. Something happened then. That = something was the dual big bangs of jelly bean chips and collapsing = telco=20 charges. It became feasible - that is, dirt cheap - to exchange data = almost=20 anywhere, anytime. The net, the grand net, began to nucleate. Network = power=20 followed.=20

Now that we've entered the realm where virtuous circles can unfurl = overnight=20 successes in a biological way, a cautionary tale is in order. One day, = along the=20 beach, tiny red algae blooms into a vast red tide. Then, a few weeks = later, just=20 when the red mat seems indelible, it vanishes. Lemmings boom and = disappear. The=20 same biological forces that amplify populations can mute them. The same = forces=20 that feed on each other to amplify network presences into powerful = overnight=20 standards can also work in reverse to unravel them in a blink. Small = beginnings=20 can lead to large results, while large disturbances have only small = effects.=20

In the Network Economy, success is nonlinear.=20

4 The Law of Tipping Points=20

Significance precedes momentum

There is yet one more lesson to take from these primeval cases of the = Network=20 Economy. And here, another biological insight will be handy. In = retrospect, one=20 can see from these expo-curves that a point exists where the momentum = was so=20 overwhelming that success became a runaway event. Success became = infectious, so=20 to speak, and spread pervasively to the extent that it became difficult = for the=20 uninfected to avoid succumbing. (How long can you hold out not having a = phone?)=20

In epidemiology, the point at which a disease has infected enough = hosts that=20 the infection moves from local illness to raging epidemic can be thought = of as=20 the tipping point. The contagion's momentum has tipped from pushing = uphill=20 against all odds to rolling downhill with all odds behind it. In = biology, the=20 tipping points of fatal diseases are fairly high, but in technology, = they seem=20 to trigger at much lower percentages of victims or members.=20

There has always been a tipping point in any business, industrial or = network,=20 after which success feeds upon itself. However, the low fixed costs,=20 insignificant marginal costs, and rapid distribution that we find in the = Network=20 Economy depress tipping points below the levels of industrial times; it = is as if=20 the new bugs are more contagious - and more potent. Smaller initial = pools can=20 lead to runaway dominance.=20

Lower tipping points, in turn, mean that the threshold of = significance - the=20 period before the tipping point during which a movement, growth, or = innovation=20 must be taken seriously - is also dramatically lower than it was during = the=20 industrial age. Detecting events while they are beneath this threshold = is=20 essential.=20

Major US retailers refused to pay attention to TV home-shopping = networks=20 during the 1980s because the number of people watching and buying from = them was=20 initially so small and marginalized that it did not meet the established = level=20 of retail significance. Instead of heeding the new subtle threshold of = network=20 economics, the retailers waited until the alarm of the tipping point = sounded,=20 which meant, by definition, that it was too late for them to cash in.=20

In the past, an innovation's momentum indicated significance. Now, in = the=20 network environment, significance precedes momentum.=20

Biologists tell a parable of the lily leaf, which doubles in size = every day.=20 The day before it completely covers the pond, the water is only half = covered,=20 and the day before that, only a quarter covered, and the day before = that, only a=20 measly eighth. So, while the lily grows imperceptibly all summer long, = only in=20 the last week of the cycle would most bystanders notice its "sudden" = appearance.=20 But by then, it is far past the tipping point.=20

The Network Economy is a lily pond. The Web, as one example, is a = leaf=20 doubling in size every six months. MUDs and MOOs, Teledesic phones, = wireless=20 data ports, collaborative bots, and remote solid state sensors are also = leaves=20 in the network lily pond. Right now, they are just itsy-bitsy lily cells = merrily=20 festering at the beginning of a hot network summer.=20

In the Network Economy, significance precedes momentum.=20

5 The Law of Increasing Returns=20

Make virtuous circles

The prime law of networking is known as the law of increasing = returns. Value=20 explodes with membership, and the value explosion sucks in more members, = compounding the result. An old saying puts it more succinctly: Them = that's got=20 shall get.=20

We see this effect in the way areas such as Silicon Valley grow; each = new=20 successful start-up attracts other start-ups, which in turn attract more = capital=20 and skills and yet more start-ups. (Silicon Valley and other high tech=20 industrial regions are themselves tightly coupled networks of talent, = resources,=20 and opportunities.)=20

The law of increasing returns is far more than the textbook notion of = economies of scale. In the old rules, Henry Ford leveraged his success = in=20 selling cars to devise more efficient methods of production. This = enabled Ford=20 to sell his cars more cheaply, which created larger sales, which fueled = more=20 innovation and even better production methods, sending his company to = the top.=20 While the law of increasing returns and the economies of scale both rely = on=20 positive feedback loops, the former is propelled by the amazing potency = of net=20 power, and the latter isn't. First, industrial economies of scale = increase value=20 linearly, while the prime law increases value exponentially - the = difference=20 between a piggy bank and compounded interest.=20

Second, and more important, industrial economies of scale stem from = the=20 herculean efforts of a single organization to outpace the competition by = creating value for less. The expertise (and advantage) developed by the = leading=20 company is its alone. By contrast, networked increasing returns are = created and=20 shared by the entire network. Many agents, users, and competitors = together=20 create the network's value. Although the gains of increasing returns may = be=20 reaped unequally by one organization over another, the value of the = gains=20 resides in the greater web of relationships.=20

Huge amounts of cash may pour toward network winners such as Cisco or = Oracle=20 or Microsoft, but the supersaturated matrix of increasing returns woven = through=20 their companies would continue to expand into the net even if those = particular=20 companies should disappear.=20

Likewise, the increasing returns we see in Silicon Valley are not = dependent=20 on any particular company's success. As AnnaLee Saxenian, author of = Regional=20 Advantage, notes, Silicon Valley has in effect become one large, = distributed=20 company. "People joke that you can change jobs without changing car = pools,"=20 Saxenian told Washington Post reporter Elizabeth Corcoran. "Some say = they wake=20 up thinking they work for Silicon Valley. Their loyalty is more to = advancing=20 technology or to the region than it is to any individual firm."=20

One can take this trend further. We are headed into an era when both = workers=20 and consumers will feel more loyalty to a network than to any ordinary = firm. The=20 great innovation of Silicon Valley is not the wowie-zowie hardware and = software=20 it has invented, but the social organization of its companies and, most=20 important, the networked architecture of the region itself - the tangled = web of=20 former jobs, intimate colleagues, information leakage from one firm to = the next,=20 rapid company life cycles, and agile email culture. This social web, = suffused=20 into the warm hardware of jelly bean chips and copper neurons, creates a = true=20 Network Economy.=20

The nature of the law of increasing returns favors the early. The = initial=20 parameters and conventions that give a network its very power quickly = freeze=20 into unalterable standards. The solidifying standards of a network are = both its=20 blessing and its curse - a blessing because from the de facto collective = agreement flows the unleashed power of increasing returns, and a curse = because=20 those who own or control the standard are disproportionately rewarded.=20

But the Network Economy doesn't allow one without the other. = Microsoft's=20 billions are tolerated because so many others in the Network Economy = have made=20 their collective billions on the advantages of Microsoft's = increasing-returns=20 standards.=20

In a Network Economy, life is tricky for consumers, who must decide = which=20 early protocol to support. Withdrawing later from the wrong network of=20 relationships is painful - but not as painful as companies who bet their = whole=20 lives on the wrong one. Nonetheless, guessing wrong about conventions is = still=20 better than ignoring network dynamics altogether. There is no future for = hermetically sealed closed systems in the Network Economy. The more = dimensions=20 accessible to member input and creation, the more increasing returns can = animate=20 the network, the more the system will feed on itself and prosper. The = less it=20 allows these, the more it will be bypassed.=20

The Network Economy rewards schemes that allow decentralized creation = and=20 punishes those that don't. An automobile maker in the industrial age = maintains=20 control over all aspects of the car's parts and construction. An = automobile=20 maker in the Network Economy will establish a web of standards and = outsourced=20 suppliers, encouraging the web itself to invent the car, seeding the = system with=20 knowledge it gives away, engaging as many participants as broadly as = possible,=20 in order to create a virtuous loop where every member's success is = shared and=20 leveraged by all.=20

In the Network Economy, make virtuous circles.=20

6 The Law of Inverse Pricing=20

Anticipate the cheap

One curious aspect of the Network Economy would astound a citizen = living in=20 1897: The very best gets cheaper each year. This rule of thumb is so = ingrained=20 in our contemporary lifestyle that we bank on it without marveling at = it. But=20 marvel we should, because this paradox is a major engine of the new = economy.=20

Through most of the industrial age, consumers experienced slight = improvements=20 in quality for slight increases in price. But the arrival of the = microprocessor=20 flipped the price equation. In the information age, consumers quickly = came to=20 count on drastically superior quality for less price over time. The = price and=20 quality curves diverge so dramatically that it sometimes seems as if the = better=20 something is, the cheaper it will cost.=20

Computer chips launched this inversion, as Ted Lewis, author of The = Friction=20 Free Economy, points out. Engineers used the supreme virtues of = computers to=20 directly and indirectly create the next improved version of computers. = By=20 compounding our learning in this fashion, we got more out of less = material. So=20 potent is compounding chip power that everything it touches - cars, = clothes,=20 food - falls under its spell. Indirectly amplified learning by shrinking = chips=20 enabled just-in-time production systems and the outsourcing of very high = tech=20 manufacturing to low-wage labor - both of which lowered the prices of = goods=20 still further.=20

Today, shrinking chip meets exploding net. Just as we leveraged = compounded=20 learning in creating the microprocessor, we are leveraging the same = multiplying=20 loops in creating the global communications web. We use the supreme = virtues of=20 networked communications to directly and indirectly create better = versions of=20 networked communications.=20

Almost from their birth in 1971, microprocessors have lived in the = realm of=20 inverted pricing. Now, telecommunications is about to experience the = same kind=20 of plunges that microprocessor chips take - halving in price, or = doubling in=20 power, every 18 months - but even more drastically. The chip's pricing = flip was=20 called Moore's Law. The net's flip is called Gilder's Law, for George = Gilder, a=20 radical technotheorist who forecasts that for the foreseeable future = (the next=20 25 years), the total bandwidth of communication systems will triple = every 12=20 months.=20

The conjunction of escalating communication power with shrinking size = of=20 jelly bean nodes at collapsing prices leads Gilder to speak of bandwidth = becoming free. What he means is that the price per bit transmitted = slides down=20 an asymptotic curve toward the free. An asymptotic curve is like Zero's=20 tortoise: with each step forward, the tortoise gets closer to the limit = but=20 never actually reaches it. An asymptotic price curve falls toward the = free=20 without ever touching it, but its trajectory closely paralleling the = free is=20 what becomes important.=20

In the Network Economy, bandwidth is not the only thing headed this = way.=20 Mips-per-dollar calculations head toward the free. Transaction costs = dive toward=20 the free. Information itself - headlines and stock quotes - plunges = toward the=20 free. Indeed, all items that can be copied, both tangible and = intangible, adhere=20 to the law of inverted pricing and become cheaper as they improve. While = it is=20 true that automobiles will never be free, the cost per mile will dip = toward the=20 free. It is the function per dollar that continues to drop.=20

For consumers, this is heaven. For those hoping to make a buck, this = will be=20 a cruel world. Prices will eventually settle down near the free (gulp!), = but=20 quality is completely open-ended at the top. For instance, = all-you-can-use=20 telephone service someday will be essentially free, but its quality can = only=20 continue to ascend, just to keep competitive.=20

So how will the telcos - and others - make enough money for profit, = R&D,=20 and system maintenance? By expanding what we consider a telephone to be. = Over=20 time, any invented product is on a one-way trip over the cliff of = inverted=20 pricing and down the curve toward the free. As the Network Economy = catches up to=20 all manufactured items, they will all slide down this chute more rapidly = than=20 ever. Our job, then, is to create new things to send down the slide - in = short,=20 to invent items faster than they are commoditized.=20

This is easier to do in a network-based economy because the = criss-crossing of=20 ideas, the hyperlinking of relationships, the agility of alliances, and = the=20 nimble quickness of creating new nodes all support the constant = generation of=20 new goods and services where none were before.=20

And, by the way, the appetite for more things is insatiable. Each new = invention placed in the economy creates the opportunity and desire for = two more.=20 While plain old telephone service is headed toward the free, I now have = three=20 phone lines just for my machines and will someday have a data "line" for = every=20 object in my house. More important, managing these lines, the data they=20 transmit, the messages to me, the storage thereof, the need for = mobility, all=20 enlarge what I think of as a phone and what I will pay a premium for.=20

In the Network Economy, you can count on the best getting cheaper; as = it=20 does, it opens a space around it for something new that is dear. = Anticipate the=20 cheap.=20

7 The Law of Generosity=20

Follow the free

If services become more valuable the more plentiful they are (Law = #2), and if=20 they cost less the better and the more valuable they become (Law #6), = then the=20 extension of this logic says that the most valuable things of all should = be=20 those that are given away.=20

Microsoft gives away its Web browser, Internet Explorer. Qualcomm, = which=20 produces Eudora, the standard email program, is given away as freeware = in order=20 to sell upgraded versions. Some 1 million copies of McAfee's antivirus = software=20 are distributed free each month. And, of course, Sun passed Java out = gratis,=20 sending its stock up and launching a mini-industry of Java app = developers.=20

Can you imagine a young executive in the 1940s telling the board that = his=20 latest idea is to give away the first 40 million copies of his only = product?=20 (It's what Netscape did 50 years later.) He would not have lasted a New = York=20 minute.=20

But now, giving away the store for free is an applauded, level-headed = strategy that banks on the network's new rules. Because compounding = network=20 knowledge inverts prices, the marginal cost of an additional copy = (intangible or=20 tangible) is near zero. Because value appreciates in proportion to = abundance, a=20 flood of copies increases the value of all the copies. Because the more = value=20 the copies accrue, the more desirable they become, the spread of the = product=20 becomes self-fulfilling. Once the product's worth and indispensability = is=20 established, the company sells auxiliary services or upgrades, enabling = it to=20 continue its generosity and maintaining this marvelous circle.=20

One could argue that this frightening dynamic works only with = software, since=20 the marginal cost of an additional copy is already near zero. That would = misread=20 the universality of the inverted price. Made-with-atoms hardware is also = following this force when networked. Cellular phones are given away to = sell=20 their services. We can expect to see direct-TV dishes - or any object = with which=20 the advantages of being plugged in exceed the diminishing cost of = replicating=20 the object - given away for the same reasons.=20

The natural question is how companies are to survive in a world of=20 generosity. Three points will help.=20

First, think of "free" as a design goal for pricing. There is a drive = toward=20 the free - the asymptotic free - that, even if not reached, makes the = system=20 behave as if it does. A very small flat rate may have the same effects = as=20 flat-out free.=20

Second, while one product is free, this usually positions other = services to=20 be valuable. Thus, Sun gives Java away to help sell servers and Netscape = hands=20 out consumer browsers to help sell commercial server software.=20

Third, and most important, following the free is a way to rehearse a=20 service's or a good's eventual fall to free. You structure your business = as if=20 the thing that you are creating is free in anticipation of where its = price is=20 going. Thus, while Sega game consoles are not free to consumers, they = are sold=20 as loss leaders to accelerate their eventual destiny as something that = will be=20 given away in a Network Economy.=20

Another way to view this effect is in terms of attention. The only = factor=20 becoming scarce in a world of abundance is human attention. Each human = has an=20 absolute limit of only 24 hours per day to provide attention to the = millions of=20 innovations and opportunities thrown up by the economy. Giving stuff = away=20 garners human attention, or mind share, which then leads to market = share.=20

Following the free also works in the other direction. If one way to = increase=20 product value is to make products free, then many things now without = cost hide=20 great value. We can anticipate wealth by following the free.=20

In the Web's early days, the first indexes to this uncharted = territory were=20 written by students and given away. The indexes helped humans focus = their=20 attention on a few sites out of thousands and helped draw attention to = the=20 sites, so webmasters aided the indexers' efforts. By being available = free,=20 indexes became ubiquitous. Their ubiquity quickly led to explosive stock = values=20 for the indexers and enabled other Web services to flourish.=20

So what is free now that may later lead to extreme value? Where today = is=20 generosity preceding wealth? A short list of online candidates would be=20 digesters, guides, cataloguers, FAQs, remote live cameras, Web splashes, = and=20 numerous bots. Free for now, each of these will someday have profitable=20 companies built around them. These marginal functions now are not = fringe;=20 remember, for instance, that in the industrial age Readers Digest is the = world's=20 most widely read magazine, that TV Guide is more profitable than the = three major=20 networks it guides viewers to, and that the Encyclopaedia Britannica = began as a=20 compendium of articles by amateurs - not too dissimilar from FAQs.=20

But the migration from ad hoc use to commercialization cannot be = rushed. One=20 of the law of generosity's corollaries is that value in the Network = Economy=20 requires a protocommercial stage. Again, wealth feeds off ubiquity, and = ubiquity=20 usually mandates some level of sharing. The early Internet and the early = Web=20 sported amazingly robust gift economies; goods and services were = swapped, shared=20 generously, or donated outright - actually, this was the sole way to = acquire=20 things online. Idealistic as this attitude was, it was the only sane way = to=20 launch a commercial economy in the emerging space. The flaw that science = fiction=20 ace William Gibson found in the Web - its capacity to waste tremendous = amounts=20 of time - was in fact, as Gibson further noted, its saving grace. In a = Network=20 Economy, innovations must first be seeded into the inefficiencies of the = gift=20 economy to later sprout in the commercial economy's efficiencies.=20

It's a rare (and foolish) software outfit these days that does not = introduce=20 its wares into the free economy as a beta version in some fashion. Fifty = years=20 ago, the notion of releasing a product unfinished - with the intention = that the=20 public would help complete it - would have been considered either = cowardly,=20 cheap, or inept. But in the new regime, this precommercial stage is = brave,=20 prudent, and vital.=20

In the Network Economy, follow the free.=20

8 The Law of the Allegiance=20

Feed the web first

The distinguishing characteristic of networks is that they have no = clear=20 center and no clear outer boundaries. The vital distinction between the = self=20 (us) and the nonself (them) - once exemplified by the allegiance of the=20 industrial-era organization man - becomes less meaningful in a Network = Economy.=20 The only "inside" now is whether you are on the network or off. = Individual=20 allegiance moves away from organizations and toward networks and network = platforms. (Are you Windows or Mac?)=20

Thus, we see fierce enthusiasm from consumers for open architectures. = Users=20 are voting for maximizing the value of the network itself. Companies = have to=20 play this way, too. As consultant John Hagel argues, a company's primary = focus=20 in a networked world shifts from maximizing the firm's value to = maximizing the=20 value of the infrastructure whole. For instance, game companies will = devote as=20 much energy promoting the platform - the tangle of users, developers, = hardware=20 manufactures, etc. - as they do to their product. Unless their web = thrives, they=20 die.=20

The net is a possibility factory, churning out novel opportunities by = the=20 diskful. But unless this explosion is harnessed, it will drown the = unprepared.=20 What the computer industry calls "standards" is an attempt to tame the=20 debilitating abundance of competing possibilities. Standards strengthen = a=20 network; their constraints solidify a pathway, allowing innovation and = evolution=20 to accelerate. So central is the need to tame the choice of = possibilities that=20 organizations must make the common standard their first allegiance. = Companies=20 positioned at the gateway to a standard will reap the largest rewards. = But as a=20 company prospers, so do those in its web.=20

A network is like a country. In both, the surest route to raising = one's own=20 prosperity is raising the system's prosperity. The one clear effect of = the=20 industrial age is that the prosperity individuals achieve is more = closely=20 related to their nation's prosperity than to their own efforts.=20

The net is like a country, but with three important differences:=20

1) No geographical or temporal boundaries exist - relations flow 24 = by 7 by=20 365.=20

2) Relations in the Network Economy are more tightly coupled, more = intense,=20 more persistent, and more intimate in many ways than those in a country. =

3) Multiple overlapping networks exist, with multiple overlapping=20 allegiances.=20

Yet, in every network, the rule is the same. For maximum prosperity, = feed the=20 web first.=20

9 The Law of Devolution=20

Let go at the top

The tightly linked nature of any economy, but especially the Network=20 Economy's ultraconnected constitution, makes it behave ecologically. The = fate of=20 individual organizations is not dependent entirely on their own merits, = but also=20 on the fate of their neighbors, their allies, their competitors, and, of = course,=20 on that of the immediate environment.=20

Some biomes in nature are shy of opportunities for life. In the = Arctic there=20 are only a couple of styles of living, and a species had better get good = at one=20 of them. Other biomes are chock full of opportunities, and those = possibilities=20 are in constant flux, appearing and retreating in biological time as = species=20 jockey toward maximum adaptability.=20

The rich, interactive, and highly plastic shape of the Network = Economy=20 resembles a biome seething with action. New niches pop up constantly and = go away=20 as fast. Competitors sprout beneath you and then gobble your spot up. = One day=20 you are king of the mountain, and the next day there is no mountain at = all.=20

Biologists describe the struggle of an organism to adapt in this = biome as a=20 long climb uphill, where uphill means greater adaptation. In this = visualization,=20 an organism that is maximally adapted to the times is situated on a = peak. It is=20 easy to imagine a commercial organization substituted for the organism. = A=20 company expends great effort to move its butt uphill, or to evolve its = product=20 so that it is sitting on top, where it is maximally adapted to the = consumer=20 environment.=20

All organizations (profit and nonprofit alike) face two problems as = they=20 attempt to find their peak of optimal fit. Both are amplified by a = Network=20 Economy in which turbulence is the norm.=20

First, unlike the industrial arc's relatively simple environment, = where it=20 was fairly clear what an optimal product looked like and where on the=20 slow-moving horizon a company should place itself, it is increasingly = difficult=20 in the Network Economy to discern what hills are highest and what = summits are=20 false.=20

Big and small companies alike can relate to this problem. It's = unclear=20 whether one should strive to be the world's best hard disc manufacturer = when the=20 mountain beneath that particular peak may not be there in a few years. = An=20 organization can cheer itself silly on its way to becoming the world's = expert on=20 a dead-end technology. In biology's phrasing, it gets stuck on a local = peak.=20

The harsh news is that getting stuck is a certainty in the new = economy.=20 Sooner, rather than later, a product will be eclipsed at its prime. = While one=20 product is at its peak, another will move the mountain by changing the = rules.=20

There is only one way out. The organism must devolve. In order to go = from one=20 high peak to another, it must go downhill first and cross a valley = before=20 climbing uphill again. It must reverse itself and become less adapted, = less fit,=20 less optimal.=20

This brings us to the second problem. Organizations, like living = beings, are=20 hardwired to optimize what they know and to not throw success away. = Companies=20 find devolving a) unthinkable and b) impossible. There is simply no room = in the=20 enterprise for the concept of letting go - let alone the skill to let go = - of=20 something that is working, and trudge downhill toward chaos.=20

And it will be chaotic and dangerous down below. The definition of = lower=20 adaptivity is that you are closer to extinction. Finding the next peak = is=20 suddenly the next life-or-death assignment. But there is no alternative = (that we=20 know of) to leaving behind perfectly good products, expensively = developed=20 technology, and wonderful brands and heading down to trouble in order to = ascend=20 again in hope. In the future, this forced march will become routine.=20

The biological nature of this era means that the sudden = disintegration of=20 established domains will be as certain as the sudden appearance of the = new.=20 Therefore, there can be no expertise in innovation unless there is also=20 expertise in demolishing the ensconced.=20

In the Network Economy, the ability to relinquish a product or = occupation or=20 industry at its peak will be priceless. Let go at the top.=20

10 The Law of Displacement=20

The net wins

Many observers have noted the gradual displacement in our economy of=20 materials by information. Automobiles weigh less than they once did and = perform=20 better. The missing materials have been substituted with nearly = weightless high=20 tech know-how in the form of plastics and composite fiber materials. = This=20 displacement of mass with bits will continue in the Network Economy.=20

Whereas once the unique dynamics of the software and computer = industry=20 (increasing returns, following the free, etc.) were seen as special = cases within=20 the larger "real" economy of steel, oil, automobiles, and farms, the = dynamics of=20 networks will continue to displace the old economic dynamics until = network=20 behavior becomes the entire economy.=20

For example, take the new logic of cars as outlined by energy = visionary Amory=20 Lovins. What could be more industrial-age than automobiles? However, = chips and=20 networks can displace the industrial age in cars, too. Most of the = energy a car=20 consumes is used to move the car itself, not the passenger. So, if the = car's=20 body and engine can be diminished in size, less power is needed to move = the car,=20 meaning the engine can be made yet smaller, which means that the car can = be=20 smaller yet, and so on down the similar slide of compounded value that=20 microprocessors followed. That's because smart materials - stuff that = requires=20 increasing knowledge to invent and make - are shrinking the steel.=20

Detroit and Japan have designed concept cars built out of = ultralightweight=20 composite fiber material weighing about 1,000 pounds, powered by = hybrid-electric=20 motors. They take away the mass of radiator, axle, and drive shaft by=20 substituting networked chips. Just as embedding chips in brakes made = them safer,=20 these lightweight cars will be wired with network intelligence to make = them=20 safer: a crash will inflate the intelligence of multiple air bags - = think smart=20 bubblepak.=20

The accumulated effect of this substitution of knowledge for material = in=20 automobiles is a hypercar that will be safer than today's car, yet can = cross the=20 continental US on one tank of fuel.=20

Already, the typical car boasts more computing power than your = typical=20 desktop PC, but what the hypercar promises, says Lovins, is not wheels = with lots=20 of chips, but a chip with wheels. A car can rightly be view as headed = toward=20 becoming a solid state module. And it will drive on a road system = increasingly=20 wired as a decentralized electronic network obeying the Network = Economy's laws.=20

Once we see cars as chips with wheels, it's easier to imagine = airplanes as=20 chips with wings, farms as chips with soil, houses as chips with = inhabitants.=20 Yes, they will have mass, but that mass will be subjugated by the = overwhelming=20 amount of knowledge and information flowing through it, and, in economic = terms,=20 these objects will behave as if they had no mass at all. In that way, = they=20 migrate to the Network Economy.=20

Nicholas "Atoms-to-Bits" Negroponte guesstimates that the Network = Economy=20 will reach $1 trillion by 2000. What this figure doesn't represent is = the scale=20 of the economic world that is moving onto the Internet - that grand net = of=20 interconnected objects - as the Network Economy infiltrates cars and = traffic and=20 steel and corn. Even if all cars aren't sold online right away, the way = cars are=20 designed, manufactured, built, and operated will depend on network logic = and=20 chip power.=20

The question "How big will online commerce be?" will have diminishing = relevance, because all commerce is jumping onto the Internet. The = distinctions=20 between the Network Economy and the industrial economy will fade to the=20 difference of animated versus inert. If money and information flow = through=20 something, then it's part of the Network Economy.=20

In the Network Economy, the net wins. All transactions and objects = will tend=20 to obey network logic.=20

11 The Law of Churn=20

Seek sustainable disequilibrium

In the industrial perspective, the economy was a machine that was to = be=20 tweaked to optimal efficiency, and, once finely tuned, maintained in = productive=20 harmony. Companies or industries especially productive of jobs or goods = had to=20 be protected and cherished at all costs, as if these firms were rare = watches in=20 a glass case.=20

As networks have permeated our world, the economy has come to = resemble an=20 ecology of organisms, interlinked and coevolving, constantly in flux, = deeply=20 tangled, ever expanding at its edges. As we know from recent ecological = studies,=20 no balance exists in nature; rather, as evolution proceeds, there is = perpetual=20 disruption as new species displace old, as natural biomes shift in their = makeup,=20 and as organisms and environments transform each other. So it is with = the=20 network perspective: companies come and go quickly, careers are = patchworks of=20 vocations, industries are indefinite groupings of fluctuating firms.=20

Change is no stranger to the industrial economy or the embryonic = information=20 economy; Alvin Toffler coined the term future shock in 1970 as the sane = response=20 of humans to accelerating change. But the Network Economy has moved from = change=20 to churn.=20

Change, even in its toxic form, is rapid difference. Churn, on the = other=20 hand, is more like the Hindu god Shiva, a creative force of destruction = and=20 genesis. Churn topples the incumbent and creates a platform ideal for = more=20 innovation and birth. It is "compounded rebirth." And this genesis = hovers on the=20 edge of chaos.=20

Donald Hicks of the University of Texas studied the half-life of = Texan=20 businesses for the past 22 years and found that their longevity has = dropped by=20 half since 1970. That's change. But Austin, the city in Texas that has = the=20 shortest expected life spans for new businesses, also has the = fastest-growing=20 number of jobs and the highest wages. That's churn.=20

Hicks told his sponsors in Texas that "the vast majority of the = employers and=20 employment on which Texans will depend in the year 2026 - or even 2006 - = do not=20 yet exist." In order to produce 3 million new jobs by 2020, 15 million = new jobs=20 must be created in all, because of churn. "Rather than considering jobs = as a=20 fixed sum to be protected and augmented, Hicks argued, the state should = focus on=20 encouraging economic churning - on continually re-creating the state's = economy,"=20 writes Jerry Useem in Inc., a small- business magazine that featured = Hicks's=20 report. Ironically, only by promoting churn can long-term stability be = achieved.=20

This notion of constant churn is familiar to ecologists and those who = manage=20 large networks. The sustained vitality of a complex network requires = that the=20 net keep provoking itself out of balance. If the system settles into = harmony and=20 equilibrium, it will eventually stagnate and die.=20

Innovation is a disruption; constant innovation is perpetual = disruption. This=20 seems to be the goal of a well-made network: to sustain a perpetual=20 disequilibrium. As economists (such as Paul Romer and Brian Arthur) = begin to=20 study the Network Economy, they see that it, too, operates by poising = itself on=20 the edge of constant chaos. In this chaotic churn is life-giving renewal = and=20 growth.=20

The difference between chaos and the edge of chaos is subtle. Apple = Computer,=20 in its attempt to seek persistent disequilibrium and stay innovative, = may have=20 leaned too far off-balance and unraveled toward extinction. Or, if its = luck=20 holds, after a near-death experience in devolution it may be burrowing = toward a=20 new mountain to climb.=20

The dark side of churn in the Network Economy is that the new economy = builds=20 on the constant extinction of individual companies as they're outpaced = or=20 morphed into yet newer companies in new fields. Industries and = occupations also=20 experience this churn. Even a sequence of rapid job changes for workers = - let=20 alone lifetime employment - is on its way out. Instead, careers - if = that is the=20 word for them - will increasingly resemble networks of multiple and = simultaneous=20 commitments with a constant churn of new skills and outmoded roles.=20

Networks are turbulent and uncertain. The prospect of constantly = tearing down=20 what is now working will make future shock seem tame. We, of course, = will=20 challenge the need to undo established successes, but we'll also find = exhausting=20 the constant, fierce birthing of so much that is new. The Network = Economy is so=20 primed to generate self-making newness that we may find this ceaseless = tide of=20 birth a type of violence.=20

Nonetheless, in the coming churn, the industrial age's titans will = fall. In a=20 poetic sense, the prime task of the Network Economy is to destroy - = company by=20 company, industry by industry - the industrial economy. While it undoes = industry=20 at its peak, it weaves a larger web of new, more agile, more tightly = linked=20 organizations between its spaces.=20

Effective churning will be an art. In any case, promoting stability,=20 defending productivity, and protecting success can only prolong the = misery. When=20 in doubt, churn. In the Network Economy, seek sustainable = disequilibrium.=20

12 The Law of Inefficiencies=20

Don't solve problems

In the end, what does this Network Economy bring us?=20

Economists once thought that the coming age would bring supreme = productivity.=20 But, in a paradox, increasing technology has not led to measurable = increases in=20 productivity.=20

This is because productivity is exactly the wrong thing to care = about. The=20 only ones who should worry about productivity are robots. And, in fact, = the one=20 area of the economy that does show a rise in productivity has been the = US and=20 Japanese manufacturing sectors, which have seen about a 3 to 5 percent = annual=20 increase throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. This is exactly where = you want=20 to find productivity. But we don't see productivity gains in the = misnamed=20 catch-all category, the service industry - and why would we? Is a = Hollywood=20 movie company that produces longer movies per dollar more productive = than one=20 that produces shorter movies?=20

The problem with trying to measure productivity is that it measures = only how=20 well people can do the wrong jobs. Any job that can be measured for = productivity=20 probably should be eliminated.=20

Peter Drucker has noted that in the industrial age, the task for each = worker=20 was to discover how to do his job better; that's productivity. But in = the=20 Network Economy, where machines do most of the inhumane work of = manufacturing,=20 the task for each worker is not "how to do this job right" but "what is = the=20 right job to do?" In the coming era, doing the exactly right next thing = is far=20 more "productive" than doing the same thing better. But how can one = easily=20 measure this vital sense of exploration and discovery? It will be = invisible to=20 productivity benchmarks.=20

Wasting time and being inefficient are the way to discovery. The Web = is being=20 run by 20-year-olds because they can afford to waste the 50 hours it = takes to=20 become proficient in exploring the Web. While 40-year-old boomers can't = take a=20 vacation without thinking how they'll justify the trip as being = productive in=20 some sense, the young can follow hunches and create seemingly mindless = novelties=20 on the Web without worrying about whether they are being efficient. Out = of these=20 inefficient tinkerings will come the future.=20

In the Network Economy, productivity is not our bottleneck. Our = ability to=20 solve our social and economic problems will be limited primarily by our = lack of=20 imagination in seizing opportunities, rather than trying to optimize = solutions.=20 In the words of Peter Drucker, as echoed recently by George Gilder, = "Don't solve=20 problems, seek opportunities." When you are solving problems, you are = investing=20 in your weaknesses; when you are seeking opportunities, you are banking = on the=20 network. The wonderful news about the Network Economy is that it plays = right=20 into human strengths. Repetition, sequels, copies, and automation all = tend=20 toward the free, while the innovative, original, and imaginative all = soar in=20 value.=20

Our minds will at first be bound by old rules of economic growth and=20 productivity. Listening to the network can unloose them. In the Network = Economy,=20 don't solve problems, seek opportunities.=20


Kevin Kelly is Wired's = executive=20 editor.



Copyright =A9=20 1993-2002 The Cond=E9 Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved.=20

Copyright =A9 1994-2002 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights = reserved.=20

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