July 6, 2013

Señor Jonathan Borlée, it has been a long time since I’ve picked up the metaphorical pen and put something up on the blog.  I think the statement that there are only so many words a person can write in a given time period does apply to me.  However I don’t think it is the microblogging that has been consuming my words; it has been the words in academic conference papers—I’ve never written so many in a short period of time.  Additionally, conscientiously completing two MOOCs (one on epidemiology and the other on poverty economics) required a consistent effort.  I also wonder what effect getting a smartphone has had on me.

“Many of us no longer think clearly,” insists Silicon Valley futurist Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, because of our compulsive attachment to the digital world.

You talked about leading a creative life.  One view on creativity is: calvinandhobbes1Although I don’t necessarily agree with the punchline, I do agree that there is a certain mood required for creativity.  I think that those three points of disconnecting, delving into the past, and being masterful have to be satisfied to get in the mood.  Thanks to your having me over for a couple of days over the holiday, I was able to disconnect and get into the mood to reconnect with the blog.  (It is amazing how watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of King & Maxwell and hour-upon-hour-upon-hour-upon-hour-upon-hour of coverage from the All England Club can allow me to disconnect.)

So what of delving into the past?  I read Friedman’s The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century this year, eight years after it came out.  I think that now was the right time for me to read it because it is only now that I am beginning to appreciate what globally integrated enterprises, supply chain management including human capital supply chain management, knowledge work, and the services economy means.  The flat world has enabled Walmart to be the one and only dominant force.  Ames, Hills, Woolworth, Zayre, and their ilk are all gone and Kmart probably will be too eventually.  In entertainment, Matt Allen, Munich, and Mumbai alike were mad for and then mourned for a single superstar: the king of pop.  Just like video killed the radio star, global integration is killing any star but the one superstar.

By making the entire world a single niche, technology is fanning the superstar effect: in sports, labor, and really everywhere.  I don’t doubt that the same will happen with higher education too: MOOC superstars will be the only ones left educating.

People who lose to the superstar effect are certainly the second best and third best performers, but more so the (mostly rural) segment of the population cut off and disconnected from the superstar.

It is a simple and undisputed principle of development theory that rural incomes simply cannot go up much if villages are not meaningfully connected to the city. No society has eve[r] been economically transformed without that link. Not connecting villages and cities in a mutually beneficial manner is a sure way to hurt the village. Trade and transport are two of the best ways known for creating urban-rural links.

So what of being masterful and connecting different bodies of knowledge in new ways?  Maybe Kṛṣṇa’s youth still has some lessons to teach.  His lifting of Govardhana made him a superstar (leaving Indra and the other devas to be the Phil Mickelsons and Vijay Singhs of religion).  He also has an urban-rural duality to him, having been born a prince in the city, raised in rural lands, and returned to the urban world.

The superstar effect cannot be stopped, nor should it be.  I think the key for the future is to have some superstars from all segments.  The most valuable superstar may well turn out to be one who is or was at some point connected enough to delve in, disconnects, and then connects back to disseminate a creation.  Maybe jugaad innovation is a counterbalance to technology destroying jobs.



  1. […] The Ultimate Machinists « Connecting […]

  2. […] you know, I’m really intrigued by creativity these days as are you.  I’ve recently been reading an excellent book about creativity by R. Keith Sawyer entitled, […]

  3. […] thesis proposal document, I had written ongoing doctoral thesis tweets.  We had previously discussed microblogging a little bit, but this ambient awareness concept of Thompson may enable making […]

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