What PAP can learn from Apple’s rise and IBM’s fall – bottom up versus top down

October 12, 2011

The internet was born out of two different wombs Eva, one was from the top-down and the other bottom-up. Initially computers were developed only in military and government labs largely manned by men in white coats. Computation in those early days was largely a hard science nowhere near an art that it is today, with early computer companies such as IBM exuding a kind of metallic sheen of regimented dependability in order to appear seductive to their clients who were largely buying them to kill more Russians without having to think too hard. In the 1970s, the second womb of the internet gave birth to a small market emerging class hobbyist – I call this the “make do” generation – you could spot them ten miles away Eva – usually, they carried huge plastic bags filled with loads of duct tape, rubberbands and glue – these people believe you could build your own little black box and do all sorts of nifty things with it like automatically switch on a tape recording machine to spy on their girlfriends and creating innumerable ways to spot exams questions by using statistical analysis. That’s all the “make do” generation could do due to low processing power – they just made a whole lot of noise Eva – but that didn’t mean, they didn’t enjoy it – it was bliss Eva – as what they must have created then was nothing short of an alphabet.

Now are you following me Eva? Keep this tight. Latter on, these two halves collided with each other Eva somewhere in the 80’s – the top-down and bottom-up. At first it looked as if the “make do” folks would just belly up and die, as the first computer that rolled seemed to only induce migraine and one had to learn really complicated code just to do really simple stuff like jump from one paragraph to another – it was a nightmare Eva. But then something strange and wonderful happened, as more and more people got their hands on these home computers – they began to fashion their own language – what we see here is not so different from how in the game we made the transition from the dawn of man to the age of steel – they had begun to string sentences with alphabets – and this was the period when Internet start-ups sprouted like wild mushrooms. Most burnt out, but the few who survived exploded into tech icons like Apple and Microsoft – and since then what you have is the steady erosion of the top down IBM approach – I am not saying IBM is dead these days – they’re still doing really important things like using computers to put the lead into wooden shafts to make pencils – only when we talk about computers these days – it’s really the “make do” crowd who has won the day.

Now if you take the whole idea of this great clash of the titans between top down and bottom up – and superimpose it on the idea of government and citizenry – what you’re essentially seeing is the same dynamics – dreary top-down government institutions which used to rely on moribund command and control networks to perpetuate their hegemony and worldview are fast losing ground to the emerging worldview that’s regularly wordsmith in the internet by largely ordinary folk – currently, these bloggers and those who read their essays aren’t so different from those guys who belonged to the “make do” generation – there is a lot of room for improvisation here Eva – and that simply means Eva, one day, the sum of all the chatter we commonly find in the internet will evolve into a distinctive language in it’s own right – currently, if you ask anyone who is from the top down camp, he would probably classify these anti establishment voices as howls from the wilderness – there is no coherence to these thoughts, much of it is discursive, tangled and messy – my point is this could well be the new language that our internet has developed – you can say what A, B or C writes is anti-establishment – you may even categories it as only a state of mind or school of thought – but I don’t believe it’s just an opinion; it has to be much more than that Eva. It’s a language – and that attitude of opposition against the establishment may well qualify as the language that most netizens have learnt to speak with each other – I don’t think the government knows this, that could be one reason why despite their best efforts to turn the tide of collective opinion in the internet, like the old music business – they’re still hemorrhaging market share – they’re using the cold scalpel of logic to try to undo what’s essentially a language Eva – a set of similes, parlances, syntaxes that’s not so different from how I would communicate with Hansel, Richie, Milo or any of my dogs. This may be the reason why its counter productive to try to undo the anti establishment culture that has entrenched itself into the psyche of the internet. This idea may sound loopy and even certifiable, but think about it Eva, if we can all come to terms with the idea that computers grew up around these hobbyist machines and spawned the personal computer market – in the form of Apple and Microsoft. And this led to a gradual shift in the centre of gravity from the top down to the bottom up – then it’s conceivable when a critical mass of young and creative people with any sense of ambition are drawn to the internet, then what will invariably happen will also be a shift away from top down to bottom up – another way of putting it is this Eva, as time goes by, government will fade away, their voices will grow fainter and it’s only a matter of time when their magic will recede – whatever that will eventually replace this vacuum will have to come from that new zone somewhere from the depths of the bottom up.

Darkness 2011

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