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Do networks create a winner-take-all “Power-Curve Society” (1)

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
5th March 2013


In this emerging technologically accelerated economy, wealth increasingly concentrates in the hands of a few rather than spreading itself out across the larger population (i.e., the traditional ??bell curve of normal distributions). The Report explores the mechanisms of this phenomenon and its suspected role in ??hollowing out? the American middle class. It also questions contemporary measurements of equality, well-being and value in the digital age; and it surveys the ways that cloud computing, Big Data and collaboration are redefining work and commerce.

* Report: Power-Curve Society: The Future of Innovation, Opportunity and Social Equity in the Emerging Networked Economy. By David Bollier. Aspen Institute (Communications and Society Program), 2013

David Bollier has written a report based on a 3-day dialogue of leading members of digital culture and business in the U.S.. Here is the official announcement:

“The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program today released a report that offers a sweeping look at how technological innovation is restructuring productivity and lays out the social and economic impact resulting from these changes.

Power-Curve Society: The Future of Innovation, Opportunity and Social Equity in the Emerging Networked Economy, written by David Bollier, addresses the growing concern about the technological displacement of jobs, stagnant middle class income, and wealth disparities in an emerging ??winner-take-all economy. It also examines cutting-edge innovations in personal data ecosystems which could potentially unlock a revolutionary wave of individual economic empowerment.

The report derives from the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program’??s 21st annual Roundtable on Information Technology, held in Aspen last August. It includes insights from MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, Ciscoâ?’s Padmasree Warrior, MIT Economists Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, Reputation.com CEO Michael Fertik, and Khan Academy President and CEO Shantanu Sinha, among many others.

?Power-Curve Society? considers the broad implications of a globally networked economy that allows greater ease of transactions but relies less on human workers to carry them out. In this emerging technologically accelerated economy, wealth increasingly concentrates in the hands of a few rather than spreading itself out across the larger population (i.e., the traditional ??bell curve of normal distributions). The Report explores the mechanisms of this phenomenon and its suspected role in ??hollowing out? the American middle class. It also questions contemporary measurements of equality, well-being and value in the digital age; and it surveys the ways that cloud computing, Big Data and collaboration are redefining work and commerce.

Along with examining the historical relationship between innovation and productivity, Power-Curve Society? assesses the increasing speed by which new technologies are outpacing social and institutional capabilities. It then presents groundbreaking new frameworks for rethinking entrenched notions of jobs, learning, skills, entrepreneurship and public policy to better brace everyone, rich and poor, for the unrelenting future.

??This report lays out some of the gravest issues that face us,? said Charlie Firestone, Executive Director of the Communications and Society Program, â??and the solutions and insights gathered by David Bollier come from some of the brightest minds leading the charge.

Power-Curve Society: The Future of Innovation, Opportunity and Social Equity in the Emerging Networked Economyâ? is the result of a three-day Aspen Institute dialogue that convened venture capitalists, economists, management gurus, technologists, and innovators in business, education, philanthropy and government to address the topic. A complete list of participants is in the Report.”

David Bollier posted a collection of quotes here and concludes:

Basically, it makes the case that open networks are not necessarily as egalitarian as they appear, in that they tend to produce power-curve / winner-take-all distributions — and to the extent that networks are becoming the key infrastructure for economic activity, this is aggravating inequality in ways not amenable to conventional welfare-state redistribution and social services over the long term. See, esp., pp. 19-28 of the report.

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