The War of The Worlds — 3. The Third Wave

The third wave of the industrial revolution started around the same time when modern physics challenged Newtonian rule. A new world view originated from a greater insight into the physical world — compared to the one that had existed before. And with this new concepts of economies and corporate structures were to come. Isn’t it a strange coincidence that Heisenberg, Gödel, Turing and many others “of the first hour” were contemporaries? You will have guessed by now that we consider software the next wave of technology that affected industry — aided by digital communications. Software is the something like the “long distance force field” of the new world — the gravity of the new world that distorts the old: War of the Worlds.

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The War of the Worlds — 2. The Traditional Industry

What we call the “traditional” industry today is the result of a major upheaval: the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution reduced the value contribution of labor in the world’s economies by shifting from craft to mechanization and automation. The scientific and technological foundation is a mechanistic and reductionist understanding of the physical world — the Newtonian world. The conceptual model of this world is deterministic: you can predict the result of any action based on the knowledge of the behavior of the components — all you need is sufficient resources to compute this output. This understanding of the material world also forms the basis of a deterministic model of human motives and behavior. Societal behavior is the aggregate of the behavior of individuals. This understanding was aptly described by Adam Smith in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations [Smith 1776]:

Adam Smith: Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776

“… every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command. It is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of society, which he has in view. But the study of his own advantage naturally, or rather necessarily, leads him to prefer that employment which is most advantageous to the society.”

This is still the fundamental dogma of capitalism. This is not meant as an oversimplified presentation of Adam Smith’s work. We are not intending to write a detailed historical account, we are looking for patterns, for drivers, which influence the governance of organizations. And the quote from Adam Smith’s work is still the credo of society: man is first and foremost selfish. This paradigm has influenced the development of modern society and the organization that make up the “traditional” industry we are examining.

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The War of the Worlds — or: How the Internet of Things Will Change Your World

War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast
[Newseum | The Power of Radio: Is Hearing Believing? – edited by Hans-Jürgen Kugler]

Have you heard of the panic caused by Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of the Martian invasion? [audio|bg=0x0000ff|righticon=0xff0000|align=left]

The book “The War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells was greeted with great interest in 1898, however, neither its publication nor the previous serialization had an impact that was comparable to that of the radio broadcast. Applying new technologies can significantly increase the impact of something, even if this something isn’t new. Something to remember for the new changes about to happen.

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The First Renaissance — 4: Initial Summary of Drivers Identified

The previous three post about the Renaissance gave some examplary evidence about epochal changes. In this first wrap-up about the First Renaissance in the following table we offer a condensed look at some of the technological and social drivers of the first Renaissance. Continue reading

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The First Renaissance — 3: Changes in Communications

The previous post dealt with changes in society and arts. Hence, the impact of these artistic — and the consequential scientific — achievements would not have had such a rapid influence across different domains of human endeavor without the development of new representation technologies — the media of today. And the capabilities of the artists would not have spread that far geographically that quickly. The increased demand in arts, engineering and building projects required non-verbal and traceable communication record of a greater durability than wooden tablets with clay or wax. Parchment was available, but was far too expensive. During the Renaissance paper manufacturing, which was probably invented in China around 100 AD, was mastered and paper mills set up across Europe. Advances in pencil making — first with “leads” and then with graphite [Lindgren 1997] — complemented the paper development and enabled affordable written communication. In German the word for pencil still is “Bleistift”, with “Blei” being the word for lead (plumbum.) Even before literacy become more widespread sketches and drawings were used to communicate.

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The First Renaissance — 2: Changes in Society and Arts

The drivers mentioned in the last post as causing turmoil also influenced each other. The established — “God given” — order took particular offense with the new humanist thinking, which threatened the very foundation of church power. Two world views collided. Outspoken Renaissance men and women could literally put their lives at stake. Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), for instance, postulated the infinity of the universe in space and time. He was burnt at the stake. However, many of the famous artists of that period were supported by what we would now call “business angels” and were granted protection, support, and encouragement. More often than not these were (visual) artists — many were also writers, musicians, architects and more. The support for these artists came initially mainly from the ruling class, made up of aristocracy and even church hierarchy. Increasingly the support changed to the increasingly more powerful and growing city states. Their financial power was grounded in trade. Of particular importance for the development of the Renaissance were the cities of what is now Northern Italy. By 1320 Italy had 23 cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants. Venice had about 100,000 and Florence about 96,000 inhabitants indicating that more then 25% of the Italian population lived in towns [Lachmann 2002.]

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The First Renaissance — 1

Sandro Botticelli: La nascita di Venere

The Renaissance – translated to English “rebirth” – is the progressive, intellectual, and cultural epoch in the 14th-17th century starting in North Italy and spreading out to countries in central Europe. As early as 1550 Giorgio Vasari [Vasari 1550] coined the term “Rinascità” later used to refer to this era.

“The Renaissance marks the rise of the individual, the awakening of a desire for beauty, a triumphal procession of joyful life, the intellectual conquest of physical realities, a renewal of the pagan pursuit of happiness, a dawning of consciousness of the relationship of the individual to the natural world around him.” [Huizinga 1920].

As you might expect, we do not intend to write about art history – so why do we concern ourselves with a period of our past about 500 years ago? And what does this mean for the challenges we face today? In this article we shall address the first question. The parallels and the lessons to be learnt will be addressed in another contribution in the future.

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Will the Internet of Things & Services Address Real World Challenges?

The term Internet of Things introduced earlier distinguishes between the past generation of the internet — the internet of people — and a new level of ubiquity and interconnection, which will allow direct linking and communication between “things” (devices, products, sensors, apps, etc.) without human intervention. The interactions will be driven by data accessible to or produced by these “things.” As we have not found a simple definition of the term “Internet of Things” we refer to this phenomenological definition in our Glossary although there are several suggested definitions. Clearly we are talking about a system of systems. The complexity of this network will far surpass what human intellect has created before, and the rate of innovation and growth will accelerate.

Internet Minute

We can expect a rapid growth in dynaxity. “Dynaxity” is an artificial word created to express both growth along the complexity dimension and the accelerating rate of change (dynamics) [Rieckmann 2000]. Dynaxity is a property of living and social systems. The Internet of Things and its subsystems will exhibit growing dynaxity. This dynaxity cannot be mastered by mastering the subsystems of the Internet of Things. We need a holistic systems approach.
A thing is not just an object. “A thing is an object invested in by people with care in the context of power,” according to Adam Greenfield. Martin Heidegger’s discussion in his German essay “Das Ding” [Heidegger 1950] can be translated as: the term thing has two meanings. On the one hand it defines relevant objects. On the other hand the term thing (Old English and Icelandic: þing) describes the governing assembly of the free people in the communities of Germanic societies. The relationship of things and their communities was lost over time and might be re-born.
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