28 March 2005

Brilliance Continued

The Jenius continues His Quest of providing a framework for a multi-level Conversation on the Development of the Internet in Puerto Rico. Why? Because Somebody has to. Now, many of you might think that The Jenius espouses these viewpoints as The Ultimate Answer. They. Are. Not. They are points for consideration, starting points for a Conversation that is long overdue.

Here is the First Part of the opening of "Puerto Rico: Online or Flatline." The Second Part is due tomorrow. At that point, the basis for the Conversation will be set. The Jenius will continue to do His Part: It IS expected that You do Yours.

When muscles moved the economy, individual efforts produced individual results.

When mechanical machines started to move the economy, group efforts produced supra-group results.

When information processing machines started to move the economy, individual efforts could then produce supra-group results.

Whether we call it the New Economy, the Knowledge Economy or the Information Society, the basic fact remains: The economic bases have been radically altered.

The global economy created by the Internet and massive data-processing power has shifted the fundamental perceptions of resources and labor, and thus the allocation of capital. Whereas once it was scarcity of resources that underlay economic theories, now it is the abundance of knowledge resources that drives (or should drive) economic thought. Where labor was considered a restricted resource, by dint of limits imposed by location, now labor based on knowledge resources can be bartered, traded and sold globally.

The combination of abundance and labor fluidity also changes the way capital is invested. Instead of being tied down to physical constraints, capital now has the freedom to follow idea trails. As with all freedom, there are elements of risk and uncertainty that are not present in restricted situations (we’ve seen some of that in the past four years), but the potential for growth, truly explosive growth, has been demonstrated amply over the past decade at the corporate and national levels.

The exponential effects of knowledge have also changed the mechanics and balance of previous economic thought. In simplified form, for muscle or group power to make a huge impact requires an inordinately massive effort; for information power, making a huge impact is often the result of just one idea. The value of ideas has not changed. What has changed is the speed of implementation and dissemination. When information is made abundant by highly-connected channels, while knowledge workers and other resources are available from across the globe and capital can be attached within days instead of months, then an idea can be conceived, polished, planned, financed, communicated and improved in a fraction of the time it takes to plow the north forty or build a factory. Speed is the by-product of the knowledge economy. It is also the vital motivator.

To build an agrarian economy required a huge source of natural resources, either land, animal or vegetable. Barring that, you could use mineral wealth to arm a powerful group of warriors and just go in and take what you wanted.

To build an industrial economy, you had to have an abundance of at least a handful of natural resources and the wherewithal to secure their complements, either with abundant trade or conquering zeal.

To build a knowledge economy requires one abundant resource: minds. And for once, Puerto Rico is rich in the resources that builds powerful economies.

Throughout our history, Puerto Rico’s small island, with no great quantity of exportable resources and distant location from traditional economic centers has been externally limited in terms of economic growth. It was only when a heavy infusion of monies and resources from outside the Island were brought together in Operation Boostrap (1950s and 1960s) that Puerto Rico blossomed.

But the past three decades have seen a dramatic slowdown, if not a reversal, of the growth rate achieved. It is most evident in the social trend known as “brain drain”, where well-prepared professionals tend to leave Puerto Rico to work primarily in the United States.

It is commonly known that money, in terms of income, is a great motivating factor. And yet, time and again, surveys show that money alone is not a primary factor in job and/or career choices, lagging consistently behind a sense of satisfaction, challenge, potential for growth and comfort as key factors. With its restricted economy, Puerto Rico could not offer enough of these conditions to satisfy the ever-increasing number of professionals.

That was then.

The knowledge economy has opened the door for Puerto Rico to leap into the global economy on equal footing with the rest of the world. Size no longer matters (in this case.)

The change brought on by the knowledge economy is that the translation of physical raw materials to finished products is not the economic engine of the present or future: It is the proces of converting ideas into profitable systems. Data and information are the mother lode; knowledge mining is the process.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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