Networks accelerate innovation
Let’s start by stating the obvious:
Since COVID kicked, everything has gone digital at a much faster rate than ever anticipated.
Jobs, events, sports games.
Even family reunions are happening via Zoom!
Many of us are sick of this digital isolation.
We’re craving the real life human connection that our brains are wired for.
But, there is some upside to this accelerated digitization.
Here’s the thing:
Networks accelerate innovation. The bigger the network, the faster the innovation.
Our digital networks are tools that allow minds to connect with other minds, exchange ideas, and spark invention.
In my book Abundance with Peter Diamandis, I explored how the rise of the coffeehouse in eighteenth-century Europe became a critical driver of the Enlightenment.
These egalitarian establishments drew people from all walks of life, allowing novel notions to meet and mingle.
Coffee shops became hubs for information sharing.
They became crucial networks that played a foundational role in driving progress forward.
Not surprisingly, we see similar network effects in cities, which are essentially coffee shops writ large.
Two-thirds of all growth takes place in urban environments because population density leads to the cross-pollination of ideas.
This is why Santa Fe Institute physicist Geoffrey West discovered that doubling the size of a city produces a 15 percent increase in income, wealth, and innovation (as measured by the number of new patents).
But just as the coffeehouse pales in comparison to the city; so does the city pale in comparison to the globe.
In 2010, roughly one-quarter of the Earth’s population, some 1.8 billion people, were connected to the internet.
By 2017, that penetration had reached 3.8 billion people, or about half the globe.
And over the next half-dozen years, we are going to wire up the rest of humanity, adding 4.2 billion new minds to the global conversation.
Soon, all eight billion of us, every single human, will be networked together at gigabit speeds.
If network size, density, and fluidity have turned cities into the best transformation engines we’ve yet managed to create…
Then the fact that we are about to link the entire globe into a single network means the whole planet is just a few years away from becoming the largest innovation lab in history.
Think of this process as steps in a mathematical equation, an algorithm designed (in a sense by all of us) to increase the rate of change in the world and the scale of its impact.
Each step acts upon every other, each one amping up the next, all of them together accelerating our acceleration, producing more change in a year than our grandparents experienced in a lifetime.
The upside of this COVID induced digital isolation is that it’s accelerating the speed at which the whole planet becomes one giant connected network.
More game changing innovation, sooner.
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