For a few centuries we have gotten used to a trend of centralisation in almost all aspects of our life. The centralisation of power, money, influence, businesses, professions, education, health-care, defence, and energy are only a few examples of the current way of the world. Fortunately things do not have to be this way in the future.
Clearly there are some advantages in large units and centralisation of functions. Larger production units are more feasible and can gain economies of scale, but there are also areas in which the accumulation is not based on a voluntary cooperation and freedom of expression. Coercion typically prefers to avoid free competition and transparency. It gets its power from the very subjects that are either by ignorance or by force (or a threat of violence) alienated from their powers (i.e. rights). In all the cases the structures are kept in place by the members of the society only as long as they are tolerated or the veil of ignorance has been lifted from the eyes of the many.
In the past centralisation has been relatively easy. Limited communication capabilities and high transaction costs for different members of the society to directly interact with each other supported this trend. So called middlemen were very lucrative and desirable positions to be. Still today we see many of these operational models around us: banks, traditional media, government monopolies such as post office, healthcare, education, central bank, defence, courts etc. Naturally these are also means to support the agendas of the ones who influence and prefer to have special privileges.
The technology development has changed many of the underlying paradigms in a very rapid pace. Below some examples:
Communications: Mobile phones, email, VOIP (e.g. Skype, Fring), text messages, hotspots, p2p-networks, location and instant messaging enable 24/7 communication that has a capability of reaching millions of people in a matter of seconds worldwide. Typically these means enable cheap multicast type of communication from one person to many that was previously very expensive and available to a few members of the society.
Media: Blogs and social networking, news sites, social bookmarking, multimedia services (e.g. YouTube, Flickr, podcasting, Current TV, Joost), self-publishing, search engines, and long-tail bookstores are among the ways to shape the future of the media and how it is used. New Paul Potts are discovered the minute they appear in to the radar and can gain millions of fans even from different continents. Similarly not so desirable news are brought in to the light that are kept off the main media and freedom of choice enables to pick those items that please and benefit the user.
Banking and finance: ebrokers, internet banks, p2p lending (e.g. Prosper, Zopa), fundraising (e.g. ChipIN, Fundable, GiveMeaning, EcoMiles), microfinancing , PayPal, barter, and egold makes it more cost-efficient and cheaper to obtain loans, select one’s preferred bank, investment or lending partner or even skip the middleman altogether.
Commerce: auction sites, ecommerce platforms, productivity tools, open-source software, and cheap IT solutions enable to reach new marginal customer segments that have not been available without a cost-efficient way of reaching geographically fragmented niches.
Travelling: low-cost airlines and online travel bookings have allowed mass-tourism to take a new form without arranged package-trips.
Information: free online books, databases, websites, ecourses & programmes, wikipedias, and portals have enabled the access for information sources that have previously either been physically isolated or otherwise out of reach for the many.
These were only a few examples how our society transforms and changes every minute. In some areas the changes are more gradual and the adaptation rate is slower but many sectors are realising the inevitable shift in the way people behave and interact with their environment. The choice is always with us.