On Bold New World...
An Interview with Mr. Knoke
Q: In Bold New World, you talk about the creation of an Age of Everything Everywhere. What do you mean by that?
A: We are currently entering the Age of Everything-Everywhere. Brought on by technological revolutions in computers, communications, and transportation, and the pervasiveness of television, artificial intelligence, and the media in our lives, it is creating a world in which distance is irrelevant - a Fourth Dimension that transcends time and space.
Q: How extensively will the impact of the Fourth Dimension be felt?
A: No corner of the earth will escape its embrace. If you think about the social structures that have evolved in civilization over the last twenty thousand years, the basis of them all has been the primacy of place. But if you ask, "What if place no longer mattered? What if people, resources, and ideas could be connected and interlinked in new ways?," it puts the traditional foundation of our societies at risk. The power of the nation-state that was reliant on a contiguous land mass will be called into question. How businesses are structured, where they are headquartered, whom they employ, must be rethought. The rules of wealth and how it is assembled out will have to change. All those institutions that depended on place must be reorganized.
Q: You see the classical pillars of wealth -- labor, capital and raw materials -- as
A: Economists tell us that labor, capital, and raw materials are the three wellsprings from which all wealth is derived. The theory is that the more access you have to them, the richer you will be. In the Fourth Dimension, these ingredients are equally available to companies everywhere. Besides the fact that they can be transferred so easily, technology is creating a world where the need for these components of production is steadily declining.
Q: Will their elimination be an economic bonus? Or will there be new constraints on the creation of wealth in the twenty-first century?
A: Once these three factors are removed, other constraints will emerge. In the next century, because it will so easy to manufacture and distribute goods the world over, a problem of disposal will arise: the pollution barrier. We will be forced to treat air, water, and soil as limited supplies that are no longer free, and therefore restrain our ability to create wealth. As a result, we'll see an avalanche of regulations coming down on companies and consumers, to protect the environment.
The second limit on the amount of wealth a company can make is the service barrier. Today's manufacturers all have access to the same MBAs, the same technologies, the same global markets, and they are all producing very similar products. To differentiate themselves and compete in the new millennium, companies will need to offer superior customer service, with much of it being conducted in the Fourth Dimension.
Q: What do you foresee happening to corporations in this new system?
A: The Fourth Dimension will favor small businesses over large ones. An emerging amoeba-like business structure, where numerous small operators work together to comprise a single economic organization, will prove much more nimble than the giant corporations with their entrenched methods and tremendous inertia to change. These new organizations will capture increasing amounts of the business market share. In reaction to this, large companies will decentralize their operations, shifting power from the corporate headquarters to its remote operations or the individual worker out in the field.
Q: What types of job skills are going to be needed in this amoeba-like structure?
A: The key qualities for the employee of the future will be knowledge, flexibility, and communication skills. Jobs in the emerging amoeba organizations will fan to those who can solve problems on their own, with little or no outside direction. People will have to educate themselves on an ongoing basis about constantly evolving technologies. This doesn't mean that people will become cyberpunks wearing virtual reality gear, or constantly hooked into computers. Each of us will have to know how to form effective work teams, on an ad hoc basis with a variety of people, whether it's face-to-face or by electronic connections.
Q: You foresee a rise in terrorism in the twenty-first century. Why?
A: The Fourth Dimension favors the terrorist. Using television as their tool, terrorists will increasingly act like Madison Avenue advertising executives, with each successive attack planned to produce the most compelling images, instilling the most fear in the most people. In addition, high speed, ubiquitous transportation makes it easy for terrorists to slip into an area, carry out their attack, and slip out again. Advanced communications allow them to coordinate with one another all over the world, with the ideas and technology of terrorism flowing easily from place to place. All this represents a fundamental challenge to government and the way it operates. Whereas terrorists operate in the Fourth Dimension, moving around the world effortlessly, governments are too often confined to place.
Q: What are some of the problems of governing such a diverse and evolving world?
A: Governments have traditionally defined themselves in terms of place. They deal with problems in a certain geographical area. We're moving into an era where our problems - the flow of global capital, the movement of immigrants from one country to another, global pollution, illicit drugs - have nothing to do with place. If you look at how the economy is becoming placeless, it is becoming out of sync with the nation-state. In many ways, it is decoupling from the government that seeks to regulate it. So, the very concept of government defined by place is increasingly anachronistic. That's why I see global governance as inevitable.
Q: How will family life be affected by the Age of Everything-Everywhere? How can today's parents prepare their children for the Fourth Dimension of the future?
A. Placelessness tears at the very soul of the family, with television as the main culprit. Every evening, millions of families sit together watching TV. Although in the same room, each person is somewhere else, in a passive trance. Nobody's talking. Worse still, many families have multiple television sets and VCRs in different rooms, and soon there is the promise of virtual reality taking people further a field. We have homes where family members scarcely know each other, and the electronic media, largely television, teach the children morality and ethics. This is leading to a society devoid of permanence in relationships, of commitment. To counteract this, we must limit children's access to broadcast television and do things together as a human community as much as possible.
Parents can prepare their children for the Fourth Dimension by instilling in them a desire to learn, and by providing them with basic computer skills. The jobs of the twenty-first century are going to require workers to read and remain up-to-date on ever-changing technology. Electronic media and computers in the home provide entertaining educational videotapes, software and CD-ROMs that help kids become computer literate. It teaches them to combine knowledge from multiple disciplines, and encourages them to work together as a team to solve problems.