There are two strands in technology: There’s evolutionary change and there’s developmental change, just like in our own bodies most of what we experience as individuals is developmental. So while we’re growing up we start off as an egg and we become a blastocyst and then we become an embryo and then become a fetus and then newborn. That trajectory is very determined and developmental. And then there is also within us, these other forces of mutation in our genes, which are more evolutionary. A lot of what we see in technology is not evolutionary, it’s developmental, meaning that if we were to look at a thousand or a million different planets with sentient life and civilizations, we would find that there’s a general developmental course for the course of technology on a planet, in the sense that you would have a natural occurrence of pottery before you have electronics, whatever it is.
There are certain precursors to certain technologies, and the same thing is happening right now on the growth of this connected world. There are certain developmental stages, and part of this is a cyclic thing where there’s a period of openness, then a period of consolidation, and then the next rev of that is open while things kind of settle, and then that becomes consolidated and there are respiration cycles. We’ve been through several of those already. One of them was e-mail and the openness of e-mail. Then you had closed CompuServe and Prodigy and AOL, then there was this blossoming of the Web, which was all at first open and very chaotic with very few rules, and then there is this consolidation, and we have the closed, cultivated, curated worlds of Facebook and Google+, and then the next stage will likely be again a very open and wild and crazy and chaotic place while things are being sorted out, and that would likely itself collapse again into more enclosed and proprietary systems as people figure out what it is that they want to do.