Published by Dan Cunning on Nov 4, 2014

The Communication Age

The explosion of the Internet and mobile devices shaped a new age where people across the globe are always connected and always communicating, irreversibly changing the way we meet, work, govern, and socialize.

Filed under Politics, Technology

Worldwide Marketplace

The world's economies are tied together more than any time in history. China uses African oil to produce goods for Americans who drive cars built by Germans that share a currency with most of Europe which constantly scouts South America for soccer players. An over-simplification, but it's a simple example of why the world lacks global conflict and war: mutual dependence.

Powerful foreign and domestic share-holders help avoid conflict. Domestic partners protect and nurture local interests while foreign partners bring investment and defend its interests on the world stage. It's no coincidence politically and economically isolated countries like North Korea, Iraq, Libya, and Iran are also hotbeds for conflict.

Managing Risk

For non-isolated economies, the recipe for success is growth via managed risk: the job of the MBA or more generally the decision maker. As an undergrad at Georgia Tech, management was seen as "below" engineering and science, even coining M-train as the easier route of escape, but that's just a false sense of superiority some traditionally smart students have. "Smart" is overrated.

Engineering and the sciences lead to safe, comfortable employment, but if you start a company, you'll need to speak the MBA's language. MBA buzzwords may be easy fodder for jokes, but when fostering relationships across countries and cultures, the cliche is safe, inoffensive, and quickly communicates the point. Diversity and inclusion are paramount: making everyone feel welcome and wanted is an important ingredient to maintaining growth.

The MBA studies, designs, and manages systems of people like engineers and scientists study fluid dynamics and chemistry, and while working within the MBA's heavily-controlled systems can be frustrating, the end result is a guaranteed, lower-than-deserved paycheck because the employer took the risk.

Systems over Communities

Though people have been employeed for centuries, the Communication Age empowers decision makers to impact the daily life of people across the world without direct involvement: they raise money, create, and monitor business rules that employ people on a large scale. Well-designed systems commoditize their workforce: Walmart, McDonald's, UPS, and governments pay millions of replaceable employees.

Decision makers use red tape to produce predictable, measurable, systematic results. Everyone has explicit powers to perform a specific job and reports directly to someone else. Both employees and customers are in the system:

  • Customer Service reps are given scripts to appease customers
  • Telemarketers are given quotas for cold calls
  • Police officers enforce laws and follow protocols
  • Criminals are detained, sentenced, and punished by police officers, judges, and guards
  • Students are trained by teachers to pass standardized tests

When in the system, you aren't an individual: you and everyone you interact with are playing well-defined roles. In contrast, a community encourages everyone to help one another by making informed decisions revolving around the individual: an impractical approach within the worldwide marketplace focused on sustained growth through managed risk.

Services and Ownership

As people interact more within systems, decision makers choose services over products. Selling products is a discrete transaction while subscription services generate more predictable and systematic revenue streams: you regularly charge all your customers until they cancel, and good luck canceling.

Services also allow the company to maintain ownership and control. Every year people click I Agree on countless terms of services which serve two purposes: limit liability and maximize ownership:

These agreements boil down to companies managing risk, and there is an ongoing debate concerning what digital rights companies should be prohibited from claiming, though the trend is clear: companies are converting products into services because they are easier to own and control.

Controlling Communication

Every new technology you use can also be used against you. The US government monitors domestic and international Internet traffic, and Middle Eastern governments have shut down their Internet to prevent political activism, but there are more subtle instances of controlling communication:

Controlling communication is easy when the audience is lazy, busy, distracted, or over-whelmed. You just need to craft a consistent message and feed it to those who won't read beyond the headline. Remember this when interacting with strangers: submitting resumes, requesting assistance, designing a webpage, or starting a relationship. For companies, it means charging more:

Decision makers are very careful with how people perceive their company and services, and the Communication Age makes it very easy to manipulate: employees rarely speak for the company and the company rarely says anything worth hearing. Saying the right thing is now more important than doing the right thing.

Abandoning Production

The worldwide marketplace and its large-scale systems have turned production into an assembly line, leaving the highest paying jobs for managing risk, ownership, and communication:

  • Why grow corn if you can manage people who grow corn?
  • Why manage people when you can manage departments that manage people?
  • Why manage departments when you can manage companies?
  • Why manage companies when you can invest in companies?
  • Why invest in companies when you can invest other people's money in companies?
  • Why invest other people's money in companies when you can manage companies that invest other people's money?
  • Why do anything when you can govern how people do everything?

Each step aggregates power and pools risk which should minimize the overall risk, but as the subprime mortage crisis showed it also obscures critical information and protects the "important" people who only produce words, red tape, and employees.


Consistent world-wide communication has changed the way we live and has created new positions of power: from software development and corporate executives to grass-root campaigns and federal agencies. In the right position, one person can directly impact the lives of millions (for better or worse), but there are many ways you can directly improve your life:

  • Research cleverly crafted messages
  • Save money and avoid paralyzing loans
  • Take calculated risks to avoid negative systems
  • Treat everyone as an individual deserving of respect
  • Retain power when becoming another's method of production

If you know me personally, this list should help you understand my choices: attempts to turn the Communication Age from a burden into a blessing.

For more on how computers brought about "The Communication Age" and what could be next read my article "The Past, Present, and Future of Computers".