Nordic Track Book Club Review: New Rules for the New Economy

Kevin Kelly’s New Rules for the New Economy is one of those must-read books, like Cluetrain Manifesto and The World Is Flat. It was published in 1999 and ahead of its time.  I read it when it first came out 10 years ago, but felt the urge to put in on the [NordicTrack] reading rack for a second time. Interestingly, not long ago Kevin Kelly released the book online, so check it out. 5-out-of-5 Nordic Track Ski Stars.

Excerpts are of the first 100 pages only, as there are too many excerpts in the book’s 192 pages to list them all.



p.2 This new economy has three distinguishing characteristics: It is global. It favors intangible things—ideas, information, new relationships.  And it is intensely interlinked.

Networks have existed in every economy.  What’s different now is that networks, enhanced and multiplied by technology, can penetrate our lives so deeply that “network” has become the central metaphor around which our thinking and economy are organized.

Unless we can understand the distinctive logic of networks, we can’t profit from the economic transformation now underway.

The key premise of this book is that the principles governing the world of the soft will soon command the world of the hard.

p.5 Communication—which in the end is what the digital technology and media are all about—is not just a sector of the economy.  Communications IS the economy.

p.10 Chips are becoming cheap and tiny enough to slip into every object we make. Eventually every can of soup will have a chip on its lid.

p.11 Since they can be stamped out as fast and cheap as candy gum drops, these chips are known in the trade as “jelly beans.” Dumb, cheap jelly bean chips are evading the world far faster than PCs did.  You can only use one or two personal computers at a time, but the number of other objects in your life is almost unlimited.

p.12 We are connecting everything to everything. When we permit any object to transmit a small amount of data and to receive input from its neighborhood we change an inert object into an animated node. They don’t need speech recognition, artificial intelligence or fancy expert systems, instead the networked economy relies on the dumb power of bits linked together into a swarm.

The net is not just humans typing at one another in AOL.  Rather, it’s the total collective interaction of a trillion objects and living beings linked together through air and glass.

p.14 The surest way to smartness is through massive dumbness.

p.20 Since the measure of technology’s success is how invisible it becomes, the best long-term strategy is to develop products and services that can be ignored.

If it is not animated, animate it. If it is not connected, connect it. If you are not in real time, you’re dead.

Swarms need real-time communication.

p.28 We are headed into an era when both workers and consumers will feel more loyalty to a network than to any ordinary firm.

p.40 Indeed the first fax machines cost several thousands of dollars and connected only to a few other machines. They were thus not worth much. Today, $200 will buy you a fax network worth 3 billion. In a networked economy the more plentiful things become the more valuable they become.

p.42 Every time a closed system opens it begins to interact more directly with other existing systems and therefore acquires all the value of those systems.

p.45 Networks spew fecundity because by connecting everything to everything they increase the number of potential relationships, and out of relationships come products, services and intangibles.

p.47 Touch as many nets as you can. The value of an action in a networked economy multiplies exponentially by the number of networks that action flows through.

Maximize the opportunities of others. In every aspect of your business (and personal life) try to allow others to build their success around your own success.

p.53 Because prices move inexorably toward the free, the best move in a networked economy is to anticipate this cheapness.

p.57 The quicker the price of transportation drops, the more quality and services and innovation are embedded in the cars, planes and trains, lifting the quality of the “wants” they satisfy.

p.58 As crackpot as it sounds, in the distant future nearly everything we make will (at least for a short while) be given away free—refrigerators, skis, clothes, you name it.  This will only make sense when these items are pumped full of chips and network nodes and thus capable of delivering network value.

Following the free is a way to rehearse a service or good’s eventual fall to free. Structure your business as if the thing you are creating is free in anticipation of where its price is going.

p.59 The only factor becoming scarce in a world of abundance is human attention.

p.62 Releasing incomplete “buggy” products is not cost-cutting desperation.  Rather, it is the surest way to complete a product when your customers are smarter than you are.

p.67 In a networked economy a firm’s primary focus is not in maximizing the firm’s value, but maximizing the network’s value.

p.81 How do we increase the number of networks our service embraces?

Employ evangelists.  These are not salespeople nor executives. Their job is simply to extend the web to identify others with common interests and assist in bringing them together.

p.84 Some of the most perfect technology was created just before its demise. An organization can cheer itself silly on its way to becoming the world’s expert on a dead-end technology.

p.87 There can be no expertise unless there is also expertise in demolishing the ensconced.

p.93 Nicolas Negroponte, “Incrementalism is innovation’s worse enemy.”



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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.