Finding a needle in a hay stack

Readings:

  • As We May Think,” by Vannevar Bush from The Atlantic Monthly, July 1945.
  • “Whither Moore’s Law” in Christensen (Seeing What’s Next)

Christensen Morse’s Law could renamed Bill Gates’ “640K ought to be enough for anybody” law. Though I found this to be an interesting case study that disputes the general notion of endless need to continue to transmit more data with the same (or smaller) conductor, I think Christensen’s warning should be taken with a grain of salt. In my view, possible overshooting in the semiconductor industry can be explanation of why the market fragments and customization rises. This is not a unique instance, it’s a phenomenon that applies to many goods and services precisely because of the one-size-doesn’t- fit-all model that Christensen argues in earlier chapters. There are always overshoots and undershots he says, so maintaining a mass appeal becomes harder over time. I would even argue that even if you managed to have the quick strategic response to diversify your products/services for all types of consumers that it may not be the most financially sound decision. Some companies actually do better maintaining their expense/return ratio by focusing on one type of consumers and letting go of others, such is the rationale for luxury goods.

I found a similar vein of anti-diversification in Bush’s reading, actually this sounded more like a long whine about how complicated and difficult our world has become (in 1945 –HA!) Oh! Poor us, humans, victims of our own creations! Another saying that came to mind when reading Bush was “ignorance is bliss”; the world has always been complicated and diverse –we just didn’t know it. Yes, scientist, scholars and all of us are responding to specialization and integrating forces, it takes time and effort to sift through the incredible amount of information and interconnections that exist, yet the challenges of organizing, summarizing and indexing has opened up opportunities for wonderful solutions such as Google! Moreover, I fundamentally disagree with Bush’s conclusion on the need for man to understand objectively and completely his world to grow wisdom; we are always attempting to do that, yet because we can never actually achieve it we are able continue to innovate.

Questions:

  1. What arguments or theories can support the benefits of market diversification and decentralization that would refute Christensen and Bush seemingly negative views?
  2. According to the Victorian Internet, we’ve been trying to send more data, further away and faster, even before Morse’ time. Why do we keep pursuing this?
  3. As Bush demonstrates with many examples in his reading, information is more and more decentralized and complex, therefore search and organization solutions have increase demand, what are the “Faustian bargains” of such solutions?
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