A Statement of the Time

Written by  on April 10, 2008

This story in Information Week helps provide the justification by which the Tempus Dictum hypothesis (TDH) will graduate to a full thesis:

Solo Entrepreneurs: Big Bucks From Tiny Computing Startups

The TDH states that, if the information explosion continues its general trend, human organizations will tend toward smaller and smaller clusters.

The TDH is an informal combination of the concepts of scale-free networks, libertarianism, and distributed problem solving. As I explained in The Motivation behind Tempus Dictum, we are, banally and somewhat facetiously, just a collection of misfits who find greater efficacy when operating “in the wild”, as it were. But the deeper message is that TDI presages an emerging trend in the way humans apportion their attention and efforts. Large bureaucracies are efficient and effective at exploiting coherent circumstances. Small organizations are more agile and much more effective (if not efficient) at discovering potentially coherent circumstances. In a relatively stable system, small organizations form in co-evolution with emergent coherence in circumstances. The small organizations reinforce the coherence and “blaze” the trail for the large organizations that follow.

However, as the world becomes more connected (via the internet but also other more robust factors like the homogenization of cultures through air travel), the potential coherency of any set of circumstances decreases. I.e. the phenomena and patterns that emerge are much more fragile when there are more paths to the same objective. And as humans become more connected, there are more feasible paths to the same objective.

This means that we need fewer large organizations to achieve our objectives because, if one particular path is capital or infrastructure intensive, it’s likely there is another path that is less so, making it achievable with a smaller organization.

Granted, we will still need some large organizations to achieve the objectives to which we can’t find easier paths. For example, space exploration and colonization is still capital and infrastructure intensive. Another example is the burgeoning epidemiological problems brought on by increased connectivity. Higher connectivity means higher homogeneity means more susceptibility to epidemic. Finding solutions for problems like the loss of honey bees, influenza, and Kraken will also be capital and infrastructure intensive.

However, if we mis-read this trend, we may be inclined to coerce ourselves into big money, big infrastructure solutions where such are unnecessary and, worse, wasteful and obstructionist. Big organizations form naturally when the discovery mode (many small organizations trying to achieve some objective by different means) wanes. Prematurely establishing artificially large organizations to solve improperly explored solutions is the primary risk during our evolution from a mostly heterogeneous, cliquish population into a mostly homogenous, connected population.