Re: Anarchy and spontaneous order in business and education

Dan Clemmensen (
Sat, 19 Jul 1997 11:12:01 -0400

Abraham Moses Genen wrote:
[SNIP of my assertin that the PC drove downsizing]
> To some extent the point made is valid.
> It must be remembered, however, that the PC is neither the beginning nor
> the end.
> There is a bigger and broader picture (or paradigm).
> Changes in human behavior in response to education and inovation have, I
> think, far more to do with changes in organizational structure.
> Humankind does, after all, progress.

I think our disagreement is only a matter of emphasis. I feel that
the inovations (usually of a technical nature) drive the whole
process. In the case of downsizing, nearly all the analysis of
the phenomenon have centered on the resulting behavioral changes,
and not on the underlying technical change. It's true that
the behavior is interesting, but it typically lags far behind
the enabling technology because habits are hard to change. You
usually have to wait for the older generation to retire: look
at the ages of the folks who still have secretaries. One should
be able to predict organizational changes by looking at new
technology, but we don't do a good job of this. In essence, the PC
is automating a lot of management jobs out of existance. This trend
should have been predictable with the advent of the computer.
Instead, we worried about automation of productins jobs, which
mostly didn't happen: workers mostly just became a lot more

You mention that the PC is neither the beginning nor the end,
and you are quite correct. As a simple example, the typewriter
brought the secretary's job into existance, and the PC abolished
it. The computer revolution is accelerating, and will IMO lead
within the next 9 years to the development of an SI that will
change our current society beyond comprehension. This is an
extreme example of technology driving organizational change.
If unforseen factors prevent the SI development we will still
see radical organizatinal changes based on computers. Many of
the advantages of a large company disappear when each individual
can use a PC to do the jobs that were traditionally done by the
corporate infrastructure: billing, accounting, payroll, taxes,
purchasing, contracting, etc. These capabilities are automatable,
and this is what permits an individual to easily become a
contractor instead of an employee. With the advent of the Web,
other aspects of running a business become accsible to the
individual, such as advertizing, sales, customer support,
and marketing. It will take a while for society to learn
to use these new tools, but we should in theory be able
to predict some of the consequences.