Diffusion, Asymmetric Infrastructure, and the Networked Society

RS report image_Networked Society

Integration of Centralized Structures and Diffusion of Technological Capability in the 21st Century

The 20th Century saw the rise of nationalized industrial competition resulting in the creation and solidification of a global communications and logistics infrastructure capable of operation within increasingly automated systems. The communication and logistics infrastructure mutually supports itself, with the communication and computational infrastructure that allows for the secure, easy storage, and transaction of administrative and financial documents instantly over great distances. This supports the material logistics networks that transport goods transnationally.

Together, the creation and integration of these centralized, transnational infrastructures led to globalization and the emergence of a world economy in both production and services. Increasingly, access to this global networked infrastructure is the key to gaining economic, social, and political agency in the 21st Century. Currently, about 60% of the world lacks access to this enormous infrastructure. Yet, as we move into the 21st Century, more communities are quickly acquiring mobile technology, providing them access to valuable information, economic opportunity, social identity and services, medical care, political and news organizations, and global economic infrastructure such as Amazon and Alibaba. As we move further into the 21st Century, we will see the emergence of new technologies and structures that integrate with old ones, allowing for isolated individuals and communities to integrate into this global infrastructure in unconventional, cost-effective ways.


Asymmetric Infrastructure and Network Society

“Network Society” is the integration of individuals and communities into global information and logistics networks through access to integrated platforms and devices. Network Society provides a variety of methods, modalities, and technology services through which to communicate:


  • Letters, Physical Mail System
  • Telegraph
  • Landlines, Phone Lines
  • Dial-up Internet (Wired Internet)
  • Cable Internet (Wired Internet)
  • DSL
  • Bluetooth
  • SMS
  • 3G/4G/LTE Wireless
  • Locally-Hosted Wireless Networks
  • Broadcast Television
  • Satellite Streaming (Dish)
  • Satellite Streaming (Iridium)
  • Radio

*(Note that this is not necessarily an exhaustive list)


Outside of letters, it’s increasingly easy common to find multiple functions on a system traditionally used for an alternate purpose. For example, access to banking services and payments is now done in some locations through automated text messaging services via mobile SMS, Twitter works through SMS as well. Imagine providing an anonymous, locally-hosted, wireless chat forum on a small $35USD computer or your Android phone. Outernet provides access to “Internet Lite” via a free passive data streaming service available all over the world. This allows the development of communications systems that bridge enormous gaps in infrastructure while still allowing poor and fringe communities to access the Internet for economic, social, and political purposes.

By integrating mobile telecommunications, satellite data streaming, and locally-hosted network systems with microgrid technology and solar energy, the creation of asymmetric communications infrastructure will speed the integration of the world, particularly in places that are unable to support centralized communications infrastructure. Trends in technology that are speeding the diffusion of communications technology are also driving the “next wave” of the Internet’s evolution. As the world moves towards 100% network access, the integration of systems is changing the way society operates.


Third Wave of the Internet and Networked Society

Steve Case (AOL co-founder) says that we are currently at a pivotal point in the development of the Internet that will cause massive paradigmatic shifts across the global economic landscape. These shifts are driving the creation of the Internet of Things, a landscape where all devices and objects contain CPUs and sensors, creating an environment that is simultaneously physical and digital.  The digital convergence of physical and virtual realities that is often referred to as Augmented Reality or the Internet of Things. Games like Pokemon Go are only solidifying its place in the mainstream. Overall, by 2025, every sector of the market will be affected by these trends, producing 3-6 trillion dollars a year by 2025.

This enormous growth is the beginning of the creation of Network Society, or as Bruce Schneier says, its “One World, One Network, One Technology”. The development of the “Network Society”, the integration of the world into a global virtual infrastructure, and the abstraction of information via integrated devices on a global scale will provide enormous opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors, and larger businesses alike.

Steve Case’s small business trends include: incorporating crowdfunding to level the playing field between small and large corporations, an increased importance in “strategic partnerships” with government and private corporations, impact investing in organizations like Etsy, and globalization of startups. By following these trends, businesses around the world can flourish and be successful in developing, creating, and implementing “Network Society.”

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