In a superb and revolutionary article in Wired, Kevin Kelly described the Twelve Principles of the Network Economy. (Read New Rules of the New Economy here.) According to Kelly, the emerging new economy represents a tectonic upheaval in our commonwealth, a social shift that rearranges our lives. More than mere hardware or software ever can. It has its own distinct opportunities and its own new rules. People playing by the new rules will prosper; people ignoring them will not.
Four Axes of the new rules
Kelly argues the new rules governing the global restructuring revolve around 4 axes:
- Wealth in this new regime flows directly from innovation, not optimization; that is, wealth is not gained by perfecting what is known. But by imperfectly seizing what is unknown.
- The ideal environment for cultivating the unknown is to nurture the supreme agility and nimbleness of networks.
- The domestication of the unknown inevitably means abandoning the highly successful known – undoing what was perfected.
- In the thickening web of the Network Economy, the cycle of “find, nurture, destroy” happens faster and more intensely than ever before.
Twelve Principles of the Network Economy
The following 12 principles of the Network Economy were supposed to provide new rules for the internet period:
- The Law of Connection. Embrace the dumb power: Of the collapsing microcosm of chips and the exploding telecosm of connections.
- The Law of Plentitude. More gives more: Mathematicians have proven that the sum of a network increases as the square of the number of members. In other words, as the number of nodes in a network increases arithmetically, the value of the network increases exponentially.
- The Law of Exponential Value. Success is nonlinear: During its first 10 years, Microsoft’s profits were negligible. Its profits rose above the background noise only around 1985. But once they began to rise, they exploded.
- The Law of Tipping Points. Significance precedes momentum: In epidemiology, the point at which a disease has infected enough hosts that the infection moves from local illness to raging epidemic can be thought of as the tipping point. The contagion’s momentum has tipped from pushing uphill against all odds to rolling downhill with all odds behind it. In biology, the tipping points of fatal diseases are fairly high, but in technology, they seem to trigger at much lower percentages of victims or members.
- The Law of Increasing Returns. Make virtuous circles: Value 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 shall get.
- The Law of Inverse Pricing. Anticipate the cheap: Through most of the industrial age, consumers experienced slight improvements in quality for slight increases in price. But the arrival of the microprocessor flipped the price equation. In the information age, consumers quickly came to count on drastically superior quality for less price over time. The price and quality curves diverge so dramatically that it sometimes seems as if the better something is, the cheaper it will cost.
- The Law of Generosity. Follow the free: Now, giving away the shop for free is an applauded, level-headed strategy that banks on the network’s new rules. Because compounding network knowledge inverts prices, the marginal cost of an additional copy (intangible or tangible) is near zero. Because value increases in proportion to abundance, a flood of copies increases the value of all the copies. Because the more value the copies accrue, the more desirable they become, the spread of the product becomes self-fulfilling. Once the product’s worth and indispensability is established, the company sells auxiliary services or upgrades, enabling it to continue its generosity and maintaining this marvelous circle.
- The Law of the Allegiance. Feed the web first: The distinguishing characteristic of networks is that they have no clear center and no clear outer boundaries. The vital distinction between the self (us) and the nonself (them) – once exemplified by the allegiance of the industrial-era organization man – becomes less meaningful in a Network Economy. The only “inside” now is whether you are on the network or off. Compare: Organization Chart.
- The Law of Devolution. Let go at the top: The biological nature of this period means that the sudden disintegration of established domains will be as certain as the sudden appearance of the new. In the Network Economy, the ability to relinquish a product or occupation or industry at its peak will be priceless.
- The Law of Displacement. The net wins: The question “How big will online commerce be?” will have diminishing relevance, because all commerce is jumping onto the Internet.
- The Law of “Churn”. Seek sustainable disequilibrium: The Network Economy moves from change to “Churn”. Change, even in its toxic form, is rapid difference. “Churn”, on the other hand, is more like the Hindu god Shiva, a creative force of destruction and genesis. “Churn” topples the incumbent and creates a platform that is ideal for more innovation and birth. It is “compounded rebirth.” And this genesis hovers on the edge of chaos.
- The Law of Inefficiencies. Don’t solve problems: In the Network Economy, productivity is not our bottleneck. Our ability to solve our social and economic problems will be limited primarily by our lack of imagination in seizing opportunities, rather than trying to optimize solutions. In the words of Peter Drucker, as echoed recently by George Gilder, “Don’t solve problems, seek opportunities.”