On the one hand, all of us are becoming major players (because of our comparative wealth) in an emerging, Web-driven global economy. We shop on Amazon, buy from eBay, send Tweets and IMs, write G-mails, search Google, download iPhone apps and iTunes, watch Hulu, etc. We no longer really know or care where these enterprises are located, and we are comfortable in the knowledge that wherever we are on the planet, we can simply use our cellphones or laptops to access them. If that item we just won on eBay, or that Web site we regularly visit, happens to be located in Nairobi instead of Nashville, we are largely indifferent. By the same token, when we sit in that conference room at work and use a Cisco system to teleconference a meeting, the novelty of the other participants being in Tel Aviv, Sydney and Brussels wears off quickly.
In other words, almost without our noticing it, that long-predicted global interlinked economy is now upon us, and we are daily participants within it. And there are a couple billion other people out there just like us, entering this vast worldwide marketplace/agora/souk, from offices, dens, coffee shops, Internet cafes and cardboard cell phone rental shops in almost every village, city, and home on the planet. And this global economy is just getting fired up -- wait until you see what happens when the current financial crisis ends.
We are about to see tens of millions of new enterprises, an explosion in intellectual capital, global fads emerging out of the most unexpected places and racing around the globe, hot new products and companies that appear and disappear overnight, and new centers of wealth and power. Out of this chaos will appear the first 10-million-employee companies, the first trillion-dollar corporations and the world's first trillionaires. It is going to be chaotic, exhilarating and more than a little scary. It will be 'flat', but only in the way that roiling lava is flat.
But that's only half of the story. As exciting as this global marketplace will be, few of us will have the inclination or the energy to spend our lives in it. And, as many of us are already discovering, this new reality is becoming a burdensome intrusion. The sheer noise of it all is exhausting -- each day we in the developed world are bombarded with radio and TV ads, web banner ads and pop-ups, spam, viruses … all trying to break through whatever barriers we have put up to them and all trying to capture our attention. And it is going to get much, much worse, both because as human beings we only have a finite amount of time and bandwidth, and because we have begun to actively resist these encroachments. That, in turn, is only going to make the advertisers and marketers of the world even more desperate, and creative, in how they try to get our attention.
The result, both figuratively and literally, is that we are going to find ourselves increasingly hiding in our houses, behind thick doors designed to keep the crazies out -- and only going out on forays into that world when we need to, or the mood strikes us. The rest of the time, we are going to band together, mostly virtually, with small groups of like-minded people who share one or more of our interests. It's these small, sub-market niche groups, which, in time, will number in the millions, that will create the 'bumpy' end of this increasingly bipolar world.