Social Media Evolution & Regional Upward Spirals
Happy New Year 2012!
Here are a few thoughts on social media evolution from a service science perspective.
I try to relate social media evolution to regional upward spirals of technology, skills, jobs, and quality-of-life.
Daily Social Media Time
Seems more and more of us are using social media on a daily basis – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
Many questions pop up over and over again in various forms: Given the amazing growth in the popularity of on-line social media, how might someone go about developing the skills needed to earn a living from interacting with their extended social network? Is it possible for the average person to learn to design and manage one or more on-line persona and generate real monetary value in some way? Could people really follow their passions, and make this a sustainable life style? Or is this just the latest addiction, distraction, and/or time waster, sapping away people’s motivations for more mindful and socially productive activities?
Just now, signing onto LinkedIn for the first time in the new year 2012, I was informed that I have 1108 connections, 429,300+ two degrees away, and 10,207,000+ three degrees away. This week I was also informed by someone I follow on Twitter that if one can find a way to get 100,000 connections to click on ads on a website, obviously an engaging, well-designed website of course, then the owner of the website might make $100/day, or $36,500 per year. The GDP/Capita of the US stands about $47,487 (2010). The GDP/Capita of the world is around $9,263 (2010).
However, let’s be realistic – who could get 100,000 friends, or even friends of friends to want to click on their website ads that many times? Also, who wants to junk up their on-line persona with ads?
That’s when I flipped it around in my head. What about the work that I would have to do to reciprocate?
If 100,000 people are helping me every day, I would have to help 100,000 other people every day. That means I would have to click on at least one ad per day on 100,000 websites belonging to 100,000 different people – for example, my first and second order connections. I never really thought about “click work,” but that much clicking seems like an awful lot of work! Now my youngest son told me that sometimes when he and his friends are playing Starcraft, they each click about 1000 times per hour – so I suppose it might be possible for ten teenage boys to click 100,000 times in ten hours doing something they enjoy.
But isn’t it a scam, to just randomly click on ads to help someone generate income? In some jurisdictions it is called Click Fraud (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Click_fraud). Google and entities are working on identifying so called “fraudsters” and bringing them to justice (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFYMBs-PHd0).
Nevertheless, indulging the fantasy, I kept going with the thought experiment…
Furthermore, by extrapolating some trends it is relatively easy to see (1) there are socially productive and responsible ways to do all of this just around the corner, (2) there are skills that people creating and managing on-line persona can cultivate in order to generate sustainable incomes, (2) there are reasons why people would want to associate “ad-like information and click-thru seeking entities” to their on-line persona, and (4) there are good sustainable economic and social reasons why vendors would not view it as as a scam to have appropriate industrial scale “intelligent agent click work” on their ads.
However, before laying out how this all might unfold, let’s get back to my thought experimenting – how could I even begin to imagine reciprocating if 100,000 people are “mindfully” helping me every day via my social network?
The key word is “mindfully.”
So hypothetically, let’s say I commit one hour a day to do something “mindfully” for 100,000 1st and 2nd order connections in my social network, I have met and interacted with most of my first order connections or interacted with them via some on-line interaction, including checking out who they are and that I really want to connect with them, and I know we all share some things, really a diverse set of things, in common…
As part of my daily one hour “meditation” time (that is when I try to be most mindful, and today I using my meditation time to write this blog post). For me, this time is usually just as I wake up or as I am about to go to sleep, often associated with reading some portion of a book, for example, I just finished Richard Florida’s “Who’s Your City?” last night.
On average, I estimate that I need about 6 minutes to really clear my mind and concentrate mindfully on one thing completely, and then add to that searching the web (on my smart phone typically) to gain additional insights. So let’s say that I spend 6 minutes each, a total of ten times in one hour, with the help of advanced technology, to assemble ten times in one hour an 100 by 100 grid of friends of friends persona/websites with shared ad-like entities and insight-like entities associated with their website, to help me solve a problem or determine a gift to buy for someone.
To make it more concrete, and since I enjoy reading books so much, let’s assume the insight-like entities that people put on their web sites are in fact quotes from or reflections on the content of books they have read and enjoyed, and the ad-like entities are ways I can click-thru to buy the book or register for a related conference, by the author perhaps, etc. …
Now assume, also that I then “mindfully” click once every 6 minutes, sending my software robots (softbots) to click and perform analytics on the 10,000 persona/website including insight-like entities and ad-like entities – 10,000 (100 x 100) is a reasonable statistical sample, and my softbots come back with the 10 most relevant insights for me to “mindfully” scan from these 10,000 persona/websites each six minutes, I am conceivably helping 10,000 friends of friends with each click, and myself with a manageable number of top, relevant insights.
If I did this once every six minutes, I would in the course of an hour have had my softbots click on 100,000 website ads of friends of friends, and I would have found about 100 insights in that hour – which is not too bad for one hours work.
Would I actually buy anything in this one hour period? Perhaps, but that is for discussion below, and one should be careful to note that value-cocreation can come in many forms.
So my colleagues who work at LinkedIn know what I want for Christmas in 2012 – build me the 100×100 tool described here. For those who do not believe intelligent agents or softbots will be doing this in a few years, I recommend they read managerial-economist Erik Brynjolfsson’s “Race Against the Machine” and especially his very recent article on “Winning the Race With Ever Smarter Machines” (http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/2012-winter/53208/winning-the-race-with-ever-smarter-machines/). In his book and article, Brynjolfsson and co-author McAfee, refer several times to IBM’s Watson Jeopardy! supercomputer, as a sign of more to come.
My reciprocation, that is clicking on 100,000 ad-like entities for 100,000 persona/websites in one hour, would be complete, thanks to advanced technology and ever smarter machines. However, would we all have co-created enough value to sustain all the relevant stakeholder entities – that is the key question that a service scientist should ask him or her self. It is relatively easy to be of value to an entity, it is a different thing altogether for a group of 100,000 entities to be co-creating sustainable value for each other…. when you think of 100,000 people, think of some of the earliest cities many thousands of years ago.
Now this already reminds me of something else, perhaps something that is not so “mindful” but something related to the way our minds actually “work” — so just now I did a quick web search and re-discovered that the brain has about 100 billion neurons, and each neuron is connected to about 10,000 (100×100) other neurons by synapses, the connection points, and the patterns of firings can happen around 100 times a second. Makes my six minute cycle above seem quite slow – oh well. The number of people on Earth is expected to reach 10 billion people later this century. Well before the end of the century, the majority of people will probably be connected by smart phones and social media with web pages and softbots helping everyone perform daily analytics on mountains of data, or doing whatever the evolution of these innovations end up becoming to be of most service to people. IBM is also working on the synapse chip to develop lower-energy-supercomputers with novel computing architecture (http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/business_analytics/article/cognitive_computing.html).
I am also reminded that my IBM colleagues and I look at city-university-units around the world as linked via idea flows and value-cocreation relationships (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2br2_twHfw). Whether neurons, persona, or cities, we are talking about complex systems of systems.
Many people have had thoughts like these about social media, ads, advanced technology, brains, cities, etc. – they pass through our consciousness occasionally, because it seems like we all wonder about these sorts of things from time to time. I certainly do a lot of this kind of thinking during my daily meditation time.
Daily Meditation Time
Let’s circle back to the one hour meditation time per day routine for just a minute – social media can be part of a “mindful routine” time, not just a “mindless ad-hoc” time, that is a way to kill time while waiting in line at the supermarket.
So let’s think about mindful social media time, that allows one to follow one’s passions — because this really gets to the essence of “mindful” value-cocreation between entities.
By meditation and mindful time, I simply mean focused activity thinking about the world, one’s world view, one’s family, friends, colleagues, and others, and, of course, thinking about oneself and what one plans to do next, one’s responsibilities, interests, aspirations, feelings and emotions, etc.
While I realize my personal meditations are probably quite atypical, I want to be concrete, so let me share them with you now.
The truth is I really like to start each day recapitulating the history of the universe, starting with The Big Bang… – yes, you read me right – The Big Bang is a logical starting point, because it is to the best of our knowledge the physical starting point for our universe; at least as near as we can tell. For example, I really enjoy browsing Philip Brown’s History of the Universe website (http://www.historyoftheuniverse.com/) – I find it puts me in a good contemplative mood, and allows me to better see the big picture, and not get all tangled up in inconsequential distractions.
I like to think about the evolution of phenomena in the universe, how scientists go about studying those phenomena, how educators go about inspiring the next generation of students to be eager to learn about these phenomena, and how entrepreneurs and policymakers, with keen insights into customer and citizen aspirations and potentials, build new ventures and institutions that are enabled in part when engineers find ways to apply science of real-world phenomena to build tomorrow’s enabling technological innovations.
To me the evolution of diverse phenomena in the universe is about simpler things combining over time to make more complex things. I am especially intrigued with the evolution of what the late great systems-thinker, economist, computer scientists, and cognitive scientist Herbert Simon in “The Sciences of the Artificial” called hierarchical complexity, or little things combining to make bigger things over time (http://once-cs.csregistry.org/tiki-download_wiki_attachment.php?attId=420). As little things combine to make bigger things, diversity and the potential for even more diversity grows, for example, nuclei become configured to form heavier atoms (in stars), atoms become configured to form molecules (on planets), or molecules become configured to form living cells (when there is just the right amount of energy), or living cells become configured to form organisms (again when there is the right amount of energy, and time-periods with appropriate cycles of energy), or people become configured to form businesses or even cities (when there is enough trust between strangers – as in economist Jeremy Rifkins “Empathic Civilisation” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g), we see diverse populations of new entities arising through time as new configurations of entities that arose during an earlier period in time.
I confess, this fascinates me to the point of obsession.
Last week, I finished reading the very challenging book by biological-anthropologist Terrence Deacon called “Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged From Matter.” As soon as I finished the book, I called Terry at his office at Berkeley, and urged him to write a short version accessible to more of the public. Yes, it is safe to say I am obsessed with these matters. He has some truly amazing insights about how thermodynamics, morphodynamics, and teleodynamics work in the universe to allow little things to combine to make bigger things, without – and this is key – without forgetting about “what is not there.” Mathematician Tobias Dantzig, the father of George Dantzig the creator of linear programming, is quoted as saying “in the history of culture, the discovery of zero will always stand out as one of the greatest single achievements of the human race.” Deacon gives us the “zero” we needed to begin to truly understand the evolution of hierarchical complexity in the universe.
For some reason this progression of phenomena through time, starting with The Big Bang and arriving at the world we live in today, fascinates me, so I think about it almost every day. I also think of economist Brian Arthur’s recent book about “The Nature of Technology: What It Is And How It Evolves” and how component pieces of technology are configured and re-configured over time to form newer technologies. So I am most concerned with thinking about change, and combinatorial possibilities, and the possibilities that have arisen, what might have arisen, but didn’t, and of course what still may arise, that we all may someday experience as new technologies or new organizations and institutions. I also think about the work of journalist James Burke, and his personal perspective realized in his production of the “The Day The Universe Changed” and his Connections series, as well as a recent talk by physicist-turned-political-economist Cesar Hidalgo at the MIT Media lab, that talks about the importance of scientists who understand phenomena, engineers who build new things, artists who design new things, entrepreneurs and policymakers who build new organizations and institutions, and others who contribute to this exploration of phenomena and possibilities. Hidalgo talks about people and nations, and their capabilities in interesting ways, see Networks Understanding Networks – 6 minutes in – (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwIjcv7OWMo).
Learning is so key to hierarchical complexity forming in social systems, that I also think about social scientist James March, the father of organization decision-making, who worked closely with Herb Simon in their early careers. March described the decisions that organizations and learning systems make choosing between exploitation (routine) and exploration (challenge). This can in turn be related to the “Flow” work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (my mnemonic is Six Sense My Holy) and the decisions individuals make routine (exploitation) and challenge (exploration), and Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development in learning. It can also be related to the work of biologist and complex systems researcher Stuart Kauffman’s “At Home in The Universe” and balancing on the edge of chaos (challenge) and order (routine). And then add a dose of the evolutionary-biologist Mark Pagel, on copying versus innovating (http://edge.org/conversation/infinite-stupidity-edge-conversation-with-mark-pagel), as well as a dose of physicist and complex systems research Geoffrey West (http://edge.org/conversation/geoffrey-west) on urban metabolism and innovation, or even the work of urban study theorist Richard Florida on the spiky world, of populations, economics, and innovation (patents, citations) densities.
People, organizations, and cities are all learning systems, making choices.
For me the pageant of natural and human history is inspiring, and deeply wonderful in the sense that Herbert Simon talked about wonder – filling a person with a sense of wonder, and deep appreciation for the world around us. These are the kinds of things that I like to try to find one hour a day to deeply consider and reflect on as part of daily meditations, just as I wake up or fall asleep at night. Could mindful use of social media help me, and others like me, think about these topics more constructively? Could social media help me, and others like me, make choices that positively impact the world? Boy, that would really be swell if it were possible. But how?
Daily Service Science Time
How can social media persona co-create value with other social media persona, in a sustainable manner?
Social media persona are a new type of entity, owned and operated by people, businesses, and governments.
As new types of entities evolve, can their capabilities increase to the point that they form a diverse, self-sustaining ecology?
With the help of advanced technology, the kind of advanced technology that Brynjolfsson & McAfee write about, I think the answer is “yes.”
Before exploring the answers to these questions, as service scientists, we need to step back and think about how smarter service systems improve the quality-of-life of real people in their real “mindful” day-to-day lives…
Last year, I kicked off 2011 with a blog post about “Whole Service” (http://service-science.info/archives/1056) – and thinking about smarter cities, smarter nations, smarter building, and more. Whole service is what all of us need as customers every day, explicitly or implicitly, to experience a high quality-of-life – including flows (e.g., transportation, water, food, energy, communications), development activities (e.g., buildings, retail, finance, health, education), and governance (e.g., city, state, and national levels).
At IBM we talk about improving quality of life for people in terms of working together to build a smarter planet. IBM’s Smart Planet (htttp://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet) is about the world becoming more instrumented, interconnected, and intelligence – to both decrease wasted resources and increase the capabilities of individual and institutions, including cities around the world. Constantly learning how to do more with less, and simultaneously boosting the capabilities of individuals and institutions is about creating more opportunities for everyone to become an innovator. Last year IBM’s “Next Five in Five” talked about every person with a smart phone becoming a sensor, and emergence of a class of “citizen scientists” – I like and believe in this vision very much (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anKiEoxkpxM).
In 2011, after thinking about service science and IBM’s Smarter Planet initiatives to improve service systems, the service research pioneer Evert Gummesson challenged me to find ways to ensure the service science community was learning from the policymaker community, and that policymakers were learning from service science pioneers. I recently gave a talk at the Otago Forum in New Zealand summarizing some of these activities (http://www.slideshare.net/spohrer/service-science-and-policymaking-20111203-v1). In fact, most of what I have learned came from a pointer that Gummesson provided me to the work of 2009 Nobel Laureate in economics Eleanor Ostrom’s work on “Understanding Institutional Diversity” (http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8085.pdf).
So let me try to summarize what we may know, from a fresh perspective, and how it might be related to daily social media and meditation time – we can call it “daily service science time” for lack of a better phrase. For those still uncomfortable with the phrase “service science,” we could also call this “daily sustainable value-cocreation time” and for me at least, those are very close synonyms, and the essence comes down to increasing capabilities of entities through interactions with other entities.
A fresh perspective comes from the book I finished reading last night. In “Who’s Your City?” the author Richard Florida writes about the fact that each of life’s stages brings the opportunity to reconsider a simple but important aspect of our daily lives – how the choice of “where we live” affects our economic status, life-style, and well-being. He writes about “The Three Big Moves” that many people experience (1) when we graduate from school, (2) when we settle to raise children, and (3) when the children move out. He shows that cities/regions as places to move may be specialized – Los Angeles/Hollywood movies, Silicon Valley computers and software, Nashville music, Washington DC government, etc. and provides a lot of food for thought about the interaction between how who we are (our skills and interests) and where we live (the regional specialization and personalities of places) interact to impact our economic status, life-style, and well-being.
Stepping back even further (I warned you about my passion above), let’s imagine an idealized life of one hundred years as medical technology advances, broken up into three different stages – (1) youth – first twenty years, (2) core – roughly next sixty years, and (3) aged – last twenty years. Again this is idealized, so do not sweat the details. Also, in the core phase of life, let’s assume most people will have a series of jobs contributing to society – probably in one or more roles helping to provide some aspect of “whole service” to society – flows (e.g., transportation, water, food, energy, communications), development activities (e.g., buildings, retail, finance, health, education), and governance (e.g., city, state, and national levels). For example, some people may work for a business, others may work at home raising children or taking care of disabled or elderly family members, others may work in government or defense, still others for non-profits or foundations, still others as faculty, entrepreneurs or executives, while others may be retired, unemployed, disabled, imprisoned, or switch between these roles through a series of life events. The point is that there is a diversity of roles that individuals play in society as they pass through the three stages of life.
What it means to be “mindful” in each of these “life stages and roles” is a skill that must be learned, and we learn faster when we can “see and appreciate” what others are doing in similar roles and situations Rethinking or reframing institutions, Rifkin calls this the “empathic civilisation” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g). Reframing our reactions and why we “mindfully,” not simply rationally or symbolically, do what we do, human performance coach Anthony Robbins calls this “understanding the difference between lack of resources and lack of resourcefulness/tapping emotions in ourselves and others” which is the belief that decisions shape destiny – which is finding a calling, or what Steve Jobs calls finding your passion, what you really love (http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_robbins_asks_why_we_do_what_we_do.html). Reframing innovation, Mark Pagel (http://edge.org/conversation/infinite-stupidity-edge-conversation-with-mark-pagel) calls this the evolution of ideas, a new kind of evolution that allows cultural complexity to develop orders of magnitude faster than biological evolution through natural selection.
Since we are imagining life for people later this century, when smart phones and social media are ubiquitous, we can wonder about the nature of technology, skills, jobs, and quality-of-life. Some envision a world dominated by hyperspecialization – for example, future of work researcher Thomas Malone has presented this as a big idea possibility (http://hbr.org/2011/07/the-big-idea-the-age-of-hyperspecialization/ar/1). We have already discussed the types of ever smarter machines that will augment our cognitive and social labor, the way machines of the 19th century augmented physical labor, realizing “the augmenting human performance” vision of the early computer technology pioneer Douglas Engelbart (http://www.dougengelbart.org/about/vision-highlights.html).
Thomas Malone talks about the hyperspecialization of workers in the coming global economy – “The Future of Work 2.0” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slK1RbPPGqY). Richard Florida talks about the specialization of cities in the global economy – and others have seen in specialization of individuals and cities a paradox – one that requires even broader social skills and ability to communicate across specialization boundaries (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/10/where-the-skills-are/8628/).
So paradoxically, too much specialization of regions can decrease diversity needed for future innovations – this is part of the message of Cesar Hidalgo – concerning a Global Product Space (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRp382ynu-Q).
Too much much specialization of people can decrease their diversity needed for future innovation as well. At IDEO, Stanford, IBM, and many other places, you here talk about T-shaped people who have depth but also breadth (http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/cio/pdf/wp-enbusflex_raw11032-usen-00_hr.pdf).
So whether we are talking about people, businesses, cities, nations, or any of a large number of other types of service system entities, it appears that both specialization (depth) and diversity (breadth) are important for lifelong learning and maintaining future innovation potential. It is as James March said there must be a balance between exploitation (high performance use of routine knowledge) and exploration (higher risk use of non-routine knowledge to take on new challenges). Author and management consultant Geoffrey Moore’s recent book “Escape Velocity: Free Your Company’s Future From The Pull of the Past” describes the the specialization of Apple, IBM, and other companies that have successfully re-invented themselves has shifted over time (http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2725). Successful people, businesses, and nations have this ability to be both specialized for a time, but with enough diversity, openness, and breadth to re-invent themselves over time as well. Moore describes alignment of category power, company power, market power, offer power, and execution power to be successful.
Through the lens of Stephen Vargo and Robert Lusch’s world view of Service-Dominant Logic (http://sdlogic.net/), which views service as the application of resources (e.g., skills, knowledge, etc.) for the benefit of another entity, and through the lens of service science, which views service as value-cocreation between evolving learning entities, we are now asking some new and interesting questions, about social media persona as new types of resource integrators, also known as service system entities…
(1) What are social media persona evolving toward with the help of smarter machines as well as new institutions and rules?
(2) How does value-cocreation become mindful and sustainable in vast new networks of stakeholders that include social media persona?
So what’s the punch line? We have already hinted at it…
Daily Upward Spiral Time
‘Media’ and ‘meditation’ are two nouns that are hypothesized to share common Latin and Proto-Indo-European roots.
The Latin root adjective “medius” means “middle, half, moderate, undecided” and root verb “meditari” means “to consider, to ponder, to exercise one’s mind.”
Going back further, the Proto-Indo-European root ‘med’ means to “measure, advise, heal.”
Therefore, we may want to think of social media persona as evolving to become resource integrators or types of service system entities that are truly advanced mediators, or “ones that connect, go between, and help mediate” certain aspects of our lives, where we need to learn quickly from many others.
If another person has an insight that can help us solve a problem, then let’s copy/learn that quickly (http://systemsblog.info/learn-rest/).
If another person has purchased a gift for themself or another, then let’s copy/consider that quickly (http://www.givebuttons.com/).
And how do we thank another person when we benefit directly or indirectly from insight-like-entities or ad-like-entities that are part of their social-media-persona? Out social-media-persona softbots do a little bit of “clickwork” to say thank-you.
It is important to understand that direct and indirect benefit are both quite valuable. Indirect benefit may be the fact that your social-media-persona was part of the 10,000 (100×100) sample that allowed the “cream to rise” to the top in a real-time statistical analysis. To me this is related to what Deacon is getting at when he writes in “Incomplete Nature” about the importance of and value that can be derived from “absential factors.” We derive benefit from, and therefore should be grateful to those possibilities that did not become realized, but which might have been realized under different circumstances.
But how does all this become sustainable value-cocreation?
To answer this question, we need to understand a bit more about regional upward spirals….
Richard Florida in “Who’s Your City?” provides evidence that we live in a spiky world. In our spiky world, a few super-cities have learned two types of superior performance: (1) Population: A few super-cities have enormous and growing populations because they lower the energy, environmental impact, and therefore economic costs of providing a high quality-of-life to their citizens, and (2) Innovation: A few super-ciites have enormous and growing populations because they have found ways to increase their capacity to create new ideas, patents, and innovations that matter to the world.
My one criticism of Florida’s book is that he did not do enough (he did some, but not enough) to highlight the important role of universities to the success of these super-cities. He did mention that while it is not necessary for the creative class to have a college degree, in fact most of them do. He did mention that one measure of innovation is citations by top scientists that live in a region, but he did not do enough to explain most of these top scientists work at or have strong affiliations with local universities.
When it comes to super-cities and mega-regions, it is super-universities which are in fact mini-cities within cities that provide the knowledge engines sustaining the creative class. For example, of 832 IPO executives, Stanford leads the pack with 32 executives who are Stanford graduates, ahead of second place Harvard (24) and third place Berkeley (23) (see http://tinyurl.com/7v9y3mf). Also, some 651 new companies were formed using intellectual property generated at universities, according to a national survey of 183 top schools (http://www.mercurynews.com/health/ci_19451964).
Understanding super-cities and their super-universities, sustainable value-cocreation leads to regional upward spirals of self-reinforcing technology, skills, jobs, and quality-of-life (http://www.slideshare.net/spohrer/embracing-societal-transformation-20111005-v1).
As super-cities demonstrate, it really is just this simple – environmental and economic sustainability come from lowering costs per person (for sustainable high quality-of-life) and increasing innovation per person (for sustainable high quality-of-life).
Thus, I conclude to achieve sustainable value-cocreation between interacting social-media-persona (and all the stakeholders they represent – people, businesses, non-profits, and governments), then social-media-persona must ultimately evolve to become a way to increase the capabilities of entities toward the purpose of promoting regional upward spirals of technology, skills, jobs, and quality-of-life. Furthermore, I would claim this is true to some degree for of all sustainable service ecology, including nations, states, cities, universities, families, and individuals – the nested, networked holistic product-service systems that make up the world we live in (http://service-science.info/archives/1056).
The evolutionary trends are quite clear: A large component of the cost of an new offering is on an asymptote to a tiny epsilon of GPD/capita for just three secondary cost components (1) routine exploitation of existing configuration & organization knowledge: the commodity energy-and-material cost of any physical and symbolic stuff that must be re-configured to make up the offering, (2) routine exploitation of existing transportation & communication knowledge: the commodity transportation & communication cost of spatially locating the offering so a user can gain benefits from access to it, and (3) challenging exploration of new innovation & incentive knowledge: the reward to the entrepreneurial/policymaking teams that created the innovation for the benefit of a new venture (and the customers) and/or societal institution (and the citizens).
However, there is a primary cost left out of these secondary configuration & organization, transportation & communication, and innovation & incentive costs.
Ironically, as human society approaches master of these secondary costs associated with super-cities which Richard Florida writes about so well, the primary cost of complex offerings is being largely neglected. Over the last 20,000 years, from the peak of the last glacial period, humans have gone through stages of work practice, from primarily hunter-gathering work, to primarily agricultural work, to primarily factory work, to primarily urban tool work, and now the dawn of something new. In these earlier stages, the number of people needed to maintain quality of life was small, and an single individual could know a large percentage of what was required to maintain the standard quality-of-life expected. For example, Cesar Hadalgo explains “We live in a peoplebyte world, with personbyte people!” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwIjcv7OWMo). This point is quite humorously made by Thomas Thwaites and his toaster project (http://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_thwaites_how_i_built_a_toaster_from_scratch.html). Even building the cheapest toaster in the world from scratch requires mountains of knowledge embedded in people, technology, organizations, and university courses all over the planet. Thwaite reminds us that small scale production often requires finding knowledge from further back in time, that is lost to modern industrial scale processes and systems.
Nevertheless, we do occasionally get reminded of the hidden primary costs when we try to rebuild “normal” family life after disasters (Japan Daichi Disaster; New Orleans Katrina) or wars (Iraq, Afghanistan), or when we read geographer Jared Diamonds books “Guns, Germs, and Steel” or “Collapse: How Societies Choose To Succeed or Fail” and consider the hidden primary costs of maintaining “normal” family life in diverse societal contexts.
Recently, I was reminded about just how wonderful and amazing the world is becoming when I watched the future of food presented by food innovators Homaro Cantu and Ben Roche (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk52YkSV8PE), who literally plan to turn any local plants into food to save the world from the dual threats of shortage (famine) and obesity (abundance). The have created a knowledge-intensive service that can turn watermelon into something that looks and tastes like tuna (http://www.ted.com/talks/homaro_cantu_ben_roche_cooking_as_alchemy.html). Their alchemy may very well save the world, but does their solution make society more or less resilient to societal collapse? If a large number of people depend on a knowledge-intensive service, and that service is disrupted, how easily can it be rebuilt from scratch with locally available resources (recall the definition of a holistic-service-system from last year’s new year blog post http://service-science.info/archives/1056)
The primary cost of truly sustainable value-cocreation is absent until after a collapse. The unforgiving path dependency of evolution of service systems means that as systems become more wonderful and amazing, they become harder for an individual or family to re-create on their own, even with Wikipedia as Thwaite jokes.
How has nature addressed this problem of complexity, path dependence, and dealing with collapse? We see one hint in the phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recapitulation_theory).
Perhaps an easier to understand example is the Boy Scouts. I recall as a Boy Scout learning to make things from scratch and we joked about having the construction and first aid knowledge to rebuild society if we had to – and showed all the merit badges that might help along the way.
A few years ago, my IBM colleague John Cohn got a chance to experience some of the challenges of “rebuilding society after a collapse” as one of the stars of a reality TV showed called “The Colony” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Colony_%28U.S._season_1%29). John Cohn uses this experience and others to inspire the next generation of student to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the so called STEM disciplines.
The primary cost goes well beyond simple good engineering into what I call good education. Good engineering works to make sure that bridges and buildings don’t fall down, and that planes do not fall from the sky. However, good engineering assumes massive amounts of distributed knowledge throughout society, so many hidden dependencies and costs. Good education is like the Boy Scouts, and their motto “Be Prepared.” Good education implies an ability to “reconstruct” knowledge and systems if needed from scatch, just the available resources, and this has to be part of the future of learning as the pace of technological change accelerates (http://www.learndev.org/dl/DenverSpohrer.PDF).
Which brings us back to daily social media and meditation time… For the past year, I have been Tweeting about regional upward spirals advancing technology, skills, jobs, and quality-of-life. I have also begun talking to colleagues about the possibility of building a game that might be called “Gistory” or “The Gist of History.” Perhaps, social media could be used to build a game like Gistory that could help inspire the next generation of students to build it better (see Slides #52-#55 in http://www.slideshare.net/spohrer/the-future-of-cities-and-regions-20110929-v4).
In 2012, we will likely soon witness Facebook’s gigantic IPO (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203935604577066773790883672.html). We also see governments opening up their data like never before to enable citizens to re-invent participatory democracy (http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/thoughtleadership/ibv-open-government.html). Gov 2.0 efforts are rapidly developing (http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/12/2011-gov2-year-in-review.html) We will also witness machines getting smarter at an accelerating pace (http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/2012-winter/53208/winning-the-race-with-ever-smarter-machines/).
The potential for harnessing a next generation of smarter social media tools to create regional upward spirals of technology, skills, jobs, and quality of life has truly never been greater.
However, in our enthusiasm to embrace a brighter, smarter future, let’s be especially mindful of the important lessons learned over the past 20,000 years of human history. The systems-discipline framework of the emerging transdiscipline of service science, the the rudimentary “gistory” pedagogical idealization, and the worldview that sees our world as evolving nested, networked holistic product-service systems, can each be seen as steps to build a Smarter Planet by raising the capabilities of all people to become more informed citizen scientists (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anKiEoxkpxM).
Reading, writing, and arithmetic are three fundamental skills for the jobs of the past. Social media literacy and big data analytics may very well be fundamental skills for the jobs of the future (http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/MGI/Research/Technology_and_Innovation/Big_data_The_next_frontier_for_innovation). To inspire the next generation of students to build it better, by becoming social media literate innovators, lifelong learners, and citizen scientist capable of big data analytics – we should strive to make sure they all have the opportunity to try to build it from scratch as well. I am convinced the key will also be to apply service innovation techniques once used by businesses to nations as well, including what innovation researcher Henry Chesbrough calls Open Services Innovation (http://books.google.com/books/about/Open_Services_Innovation.html?id=hw-jk5u9xvwC). Perhaps, we need to make sure every students knows the equivalent of how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together (yes, it is very knowledge-intensive to do it well); Perhaps in the 21st Century this is learning how to make a 3D Printer or Makerbot that can make a copy of itself (http://wiki.makerbot.com/abpv1), and be the equivalent in our technological world of recapitulation theory in the biological world where “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” Perhaps we need to take Thomas Thaite’s “Toaster Project” quite seriously (http://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_thwaites_how_i_built_a_toaster_from_scratch.html).
The science of value-cocreation and service system evolution is slowly but surely taking shape. The next generation of value-cocreation enabled by smarter social media persona will most likely be created in 2012.
Happy New Year 2012, to the pioneers of service science everywhere!