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The dream of the connected economy

January 22nd, 2013 by Tim Greenhalgh

We proceed in fits and starts in this new age, which, despite our protestations, is a part of the continuum that regulates and defines our procession towards the goals we hold dear.

Nothing can illuminate this more clearly than our current passion for mobile connectivity. At a time when large areas of the landmasses that qualify as the British Isles do not have any connection capability to the internet, we laud the rise of mobile (myself among the crowd).

But when you step back, just half a step, you see quite clearly that this new age is built on a raft of dreams.

This is not to say that the connected economy will not be built, far from it. But it will be built with more dislocations and inequalities than any other age.

To take a broad and inexact sweep from history, the Victorians with capital understood the nature of communications much more precisely than us, I believe.

They knew that to build a communications facility, a major road or railway line for example, would add value to the wealth of the nation and to them because this construction would raise the speed of production and exchange.

It is less clear in our more complex present age how the construction of new connections can benefit both the wealth of the nation and the more hidden corporate structures, rather than individuals or small groups that seek profit from the risk enterprise.

The very fact that connectivity is an extant and growing social concern is witness to the unique problems we have in making distributable money from circuits and conduits.

An expert on Victorian history could provide comparative advice on whether this is a replication of the communications inequalities of that age but I cannot.

What I do see is the building of a highly fragmented series of networks that do two things. First, they always, without fail, promise more than they ever deliver. Second, the companies who are building these conduits ally with device manufacturers to deflect attention from the structural inadequacies of their offerings.

This uneven development “strategy” has no benefit apart from the enormous profits, often subsidised by the taxpayer, that accrue to the builders of the new connected economy.

No doubt, my great grandchildren might look at this post and laugh aloud. I do hope so.

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