Tom Atlee: The Design Economy – How to Meet the Challenges of the Next Economic Era

Money, Politics
Tom Atlee

The concepts of “design” and “association” in this article, related so fundamentally to the creation and contextualization of important information, seems closely related to the idea of open intelligence and the larger meme of open everything.  So, fyi.

The Design Economy: How to Meet the Challenges of the Next Economic Era

Joe Costello, author of the new book Of, By, For: The New Politics of Money, Debt & Democracy, has a message for America: our political economy must be democratically reformed. As we confront a moment of massive historical change, Costello explores, among other things, how electronic information technologies are transforming industrial economies. He explains how the understanding of this shaping process, or design, can help us meet the challenge of the next economic era. Hint: We’re going to have to wake up to our power as citizens to get there. 

The following is an excerpt from Of, By, For: The Politics of Money, Debt & Democracyby Joe Costello (SmashWords, 2012).

“The ordinary person senses the greatness of the odds against him even without thought or analysis, and he adapts his attitudes unconsciously. A huge passivity has settled on industrial society. For people carried about in mechanical vehicles, earning their living by waiting on machines, listening much of the waking day to canned music, watching packaged movie entertainment and capsulated news, for such people it would require an exceptional degree of awareness and an especial heroism of effort to be anything but supine consumers of processed goods.” — Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man

Humanity’s great agrarian era produced agrarian government systems, economies, and cultures. Human life and human identity derived overwhelmingly from the processes of farming. The much shorter two-centuries old industrial era redefined life. The processes of production and consumption became the overwhelming dual identities of individuals and our institutions that evolved to foster the processes of unlimited industrial growth. As we move into the design economy, increasingly the most imperative questions will be what are the roles, identities, institutions, and processes of design.

Design has been part of human history before the beginning of civilization. It has at times played an instrumental role with the designing of hunting tools, farming implements, and industrial technologies. However today, information, the raw material of design, is becoming not simply ubiquitous but fundamental to every aspect of human life. For example, with our knowledge of DNA comes the ability to manipulate the very information codes of life itself.

Presently, many of the processes of design – the creation of information, its editing communication, and finally decision making for its utilization – are in turns both centralized and insufficient. We need to evolve our institutions, organizations, and individual roles to understand that design is increasingly the primary value of political economy, ultimately creating a value shift from industrialization’s quantitative value of infinite growth based on unlimited production and consumption to design’s more qualitative values of participation, efficiency, elegance, and enough.

If we look at the processes of design today, we see rapid change. Companies, governments, NGOs, and individuals each year produce an exponentially greater amount of information. In the distribution and communication of information, paper is in great decline as electronic media explodes. Creation and communication of news and public affairs, once the exclusive domain of print, was supplanted by electronic broadcast media by the mid-20th century, and is now rapidly being replaced by the networked microprocessor, creating both a plethora of real and potentially valuable information, but also an unprecedented amount of noise, with little or no value. Noise grows as what could be useful information is communicated with no ability for the individual or organization to place it in meaningful context.

See Also:

Developing Relational Leadership: Resources for Developing Reflexive Organizational Practices

Failure by Design: The Story behind America’s Broken Economy

Governing by Design: Architecture, Economy, and Politics in the Twentieth Century

Reflexive Practice: Professional Thinking for a Turbulent World