Move Fast and Break Things

This is the title of Jonathan Taplin's book that I am currently reading. He is complaining about the vast network effects of Google and Facebook in destroying industries and culture. I see great tools for realizing the prayer of Jesus "Father that they may be one..."

Taplin is not a fan of the digital revolution. He gives a great read with lots of interesting background information of the vast destruction to industries and jobs and culture that has happened in just the last 10 years from 2005 to 2015 that has been caused by the digital network revolution. 

In the space of that time from nowhere these networked behemoths have become the most valuable, by market cap, companies in the world.  We are talking here of course of the usual suspects Amazon, Google, Facebook, with network facilitators of tech network Apple and Microsoft rounding out the 5 biggest corporations in the world.

The reason Taplin is not a fan is that he comes from the world of music and film production.  The digital network revolution destroyed the income stream of the music and film creators he represented.  Taplin details what happened to the music and book industry with the rise of Amazon within a few short years across America: 2300 independent books stores closed their doors (as well as the great Borders Books chain) and 3,100 music stores.

Culture critic Leon Wieseltier wrote: "The streets of American cities are haunted by the ghosts of bookstores and record stores which have been destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry".

But it is not just the mom and pop local stores.  The great malls of America are closing down as well. Here is a news headline I saw this last week:

Why America's Retail Apocalypse Could Accelerate Even More In 2018

Is the retail apocalypse in the United States about to go to a whole new level?

Why?  E-commerce!  Here is a quote from famed cable TV billionaire John Malone that I read just this last week:

John Malone Describes Amazon As "Death Star" Moving "In Striking Range Of Every Industry On The Planet 
Amazon is going to use their scale to destroy you.  Speaking with CNBC's David Faber, Malone hilariously described Amazon as a "Death Star moving into striking range of every industry on the planet." The internet "makes scale even more important in the media business, where scale always was important. It's all about scale," he said. Netflix was "the first wave. And I think Jeff [Bezos] is gonna be the most disruptive. As [his] Death Star moves into striking range of every industry on the planet."

And in the media business that requires advertising to survive, media like news and TV networks...the digital network revolution is destroying local newspapers and old style TV networks.

Google and Facebook each have more than 1 billion users.  That is a lot eyeballs on those digital pages...and a lot of consumers.  What is more they know from vast data collection on all your content interests what you typically are interested in. Advertisers want to know who is interested in what so that they can target you. The old saying in advertising is that half of advertising spend is just don't know which half it is.  Now Google and Facebook will help you as a company to hit your target market and avoid the non-interested.

The result has been more than $50 billion of advertising income for each these behemoths per year and rising and these enormous sums have sucked revenue streams out of print media, TV networks and news media.

There is a fascinating dynamic at work here that I want to apply to my ideas of the structure of the coming revolution in the Church...the Second Reformation.

If you analyze what is happening here you begin to understand the power of the concept of the network. It is this:

If you are being offered a multitude of free services like all these digital networks offer...think here of Google...maps, gmail, internet search....then you are not the customer of Google or are the product!  Meaning they as a company are not selling to you...they are selling you!  Your attention span....they are selling you to their advertisers.  The more people on the network, the more eyeball attention they can offer advertisers.  The more advertising the more revenue. The more revenue they get the more free services they can offer the network.  The more free goodies the more people join the network.  It is a self-reinforcing loop.

Taplin makes an interesting observation about these digital network entrepreneurs by giving us insight into one of the premier billionaires in this group Peter Thiel one of the founders of Pay Pal and the fist investor in Facebook (and many digital companies thereafter).  Quoting Thiel "It's always a red flag when entrepreneurs talk about getting 1% of a $100 billion market".  Meaning he wants to invest in monopolies, not competitive businesses.

Peter Thiel knows what he is talking about.  In the digital network "there can only be one" because of the power of the self-reinforcing loop of a network.  It grows exponentially very quickly as more people are added. 

The new digital networks are about monopoly power...dominating the market.  And the amazing thing about this new monopoly power is that governments cannot really break it up under "anti-competitive" legislation because they are using their dominant position to lower prices...not raise prices.

The other interesting insight that Taplin brings is his analysis of these new tech billionaires and their "anti-government", libertarian streaks.  They do not like government or restrictions that come with government or the stifling effects of regulations.  Peter Thiel makes the insightful observation "Of the six people who started Pay Pal, four had built bombs in high school."  Thiel's idea behind Pay Pal as an alternate money/banking system was this, "It will be nearly impossible for corrupt governments to steal wealth from their people through their old means because if they try the people will switch to dollars or Pounds or Yen in effect dumping worthless local currency for something more secure".

Something more secure like maybe Bitcoin...a home made money not made by bankers?  Here was the headline this week...

Bitcoin Surges Near $8000 Record Highs After Venezuela Default

This anti-government libertarian streak of the tech billionaires throws an interesting light on why Musk and Bezos are building their own rockets for space.  Peter Thiel invested in a big way into 'Seasteading" ...a company that wants to build floating cities in areas of the sea that are not under the control of any country.

Here is my analysis for the Church of the 21st Century....

The digital network revolution is only about 10 years old.  Already it has destroyed old established power centres of culture, information and politics.  And it is a world wide phenomenon that is linking people all over the world.

The power of the network is a self-reinforcing loop of exponential growth.  Its growth is so powerful that once started it moves towards monopoly control of the market it operates in.  Or the most 1-3 participants.

The power of a network is that it creates a platform for people to interact on.  This is a bleak landscape of the future for Taplin in his book. He writes:
"But the real effect of the fact that global business is trending toward more market-share concentration in all sectors is that corporate profits have been rising and wages stagnating since the 1970's. In a business landscape with concentrations in all sectors the declining fortunes of the average worker mirror the predicament of the new musicians, filmmaker or journalist....many businesses will have to learn how to align themselves to Google, Amazon and Facebook...the last surviving institutions that will make it possible to earn a living."

This is the new business, cultural and political reality of power in the 21st Century.  If you are not part of a networked environment you are going to have a very difficult time getting people to buy your product, buy your policies, buy you ideas.

And the shepherds of God's flock need to take very careful attention to this. The old eschatology of the 19th century that is centred on a church escaping this world is not going to work in the 21st century church!

The power of the network, which is the power that emanates from bringing people together on a platform that helps them to interact is a very biblical and scriptural concept.

It is the essence of the prayer of Jesus. in John 17:21...
"That they may be one as you Father are in me and I in you that they may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me."

The evangelical Christians of the world...700 million and growing...have the ability now to network and to create a new world power that will have the world in awe of what the love of Christ can do to change the world when millions of people network to create a new world. Have you perhaps considered that this how we become a witness to the world "that the world may believe that you have sent me".?

The digital network technologies are destroying old systems and creating the tools needed for a platform on interaction that can create a new world economic system, a new world economy, a new education system, a new culture of music, art, literature.

Its going to is happening.  The only question is are we going to be part of their corrupt culture or are we going to create our own world network based on the agenda of the Kingdom of God.

Sadly I do not see the traditional church leadership leading this Second Reformation revolution.  They are not able to bring about this vision of a "one body in Christ".  The old divisions of church hierarchy, denominationalism and outdated 19th century eschatology cannot cope with this. It is time for the new Joshua/Caleb generation to see the Promised Land ahead of us and possess the promises of God for the new world.  The new network technology in any case is going to make a lot of what we do in church shift to a different and better platform...and increase the reach of the church into all the world...the world of work and culture and bringing God's people together to create the content of this new world.

And now on a more positive note let me close with a bit of other fascinating news this last week on one of my new tech obsessions. In this last week a great tech announcement from Autoblog..

Is This The Tesla Killer?

Autoblog reports the new breakthrough, calling it a solid-state battery revolution: 
It seems that we’re on the cusp of a solid-state battery revolution. The latest company to announce progress in developing the new type of battery is Fisker. It has filed patents for solid-state batteries and it expects the batteries to be produced on a mass scale around 2023.
Fisker claims the batteries underdevelopment have a density of 2.5x when compared to the standard EV batteries. This should give the range of a Fisker vehicle well over a 500-mile and recharging capabilities in as little as a minute.

This is great news!  It is also the death knell for big auto (any country can build its own electric vehicles) the auto aftermarket (18 moving parts in an EV), the oil industry (still need fuel for airplanes though), the big utilities like Eskom (your own electric power stored from roof panels in the new tech batteries in your car).

In another 15 years you won't hardly recognize the new world of money, banking, corporates, energy, entertainment, politics, industry....

The question is are we as a church of the 21 Century going to shape the new world?

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