Welcome to the End of Big website. A strange way to open an initial blog post, welcoming you to a virtual space that you will in all likelihood never experience chronologically; a virtual space dedicated to a book that was conceived as a physical object you will one day hold in your hands. But regardless, welcome.
My book grew out of a decade of consulting, mostly for large institutions, about how they might take advantage of the internet. After sitting in countless meetings with state and federal government agencies, with large non-profits and even larger corporations, I gradually came to the conclusion that the internet isn’t much good for you if you are “big.” The advantages of the internet are advantages primarily when compared to the traditional barriers provided by scale and incumbency. For more about that, buy & read the book.
At the same time that I was trying to figure out how my clients could make use of the internet, I also felt profoundly adrift in American culture. Our institutions seemed to be failing. Ron Fournier put it best in a recent article in the National Journal:
Government, politics, corporations, the media, organized religion, organized labor, banks, businesses, and other mainstays of a healthy society are failing. It’s not just that the institutions are corrupt or broken; those clichés oversimplify an existential problem: With few notable exceptions, the nation’s onetime social pillars are ill-equipped for the 21st century. Most critically, they are failing to adapt quickly enough for a population buffeted by wrenching economic, technological, and demographic change.
Our institutions are failing us in a fundamental sense. At the same time, our technology empowers many emerging alternatives to these institutions. That is enormously exciting, and part of what I love about technology and our modern era. It’s an exciting time to be alive, and a nerd.
That last bit is the rub – ‘and a nerd’. The institutions of Western civilization may be failing us in some respects, but they were birthed for some good reasons, reasons steeped in thoughtful consideration and argument. I began to get nervous about what the technology-powered alternatives represent – and so my book journey began.
I hope you’ll join me as I try to engage in smart argument and imagination about what kind of world we want to live in, and how we can bring it into existence. What are the twin roles of technology and institutions? As the old Big Institutions become history, what about them do we want to save and enshrine in new institutions? What should we jettison altogether? What are some of our new institutions, and what challenges and perils do they face?
Thanks for reading this post, and for thinking about these issues. I hope you buy the book and engage in some discussion about it. I’m going to do my best to provide some venues for discussion, on this website and beyond. Stay tuned…