Monday, September 28, 2009 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

George Gilder's Micrososm: Hardware as Ideas

Gilder explains the true meaning of the microcosm with his uniquely poetic prose:

As Peter Drucker said. "What one man can do, another can do again." Distilling discoveries of science, a set of technologies, and a Philosophy of enterprise, the microcosm is far too big for any one country. Even its products are mostly made of ideas--waves that suffuse the mindscape of the world. (p.127)

The vital importance of ideas in all aspects of the microcosm, including hardware, is a central theme of the book:
Computer hardware thus is another form of information technology like books, films, and disks. The value resides in the ideas rather than in their material embodiment. The chip design is itself a software program. Even the design of the computer's plastic chassis and keyboard may well have begun as a software program. Like a book, a spreadsheet financial package, even a film on a videocassette, a microchip design is conceived and developed on a computer screen and takes form in a storage device that costs between 80 cents and $2 to manufacture. The current dominance of such products in the world economy signifies the end of the industrial era and the onset of the age of the microcosm. (p. 159)

Consider debate over handset exclusivity: Those who insist that AT&T be forced to relinquish its exclusive rights to the iPhone ignore the fact that the iPhone is not so much a device as a brilliant idea--actually, a cluster of innovations made possible because AT&T was willing to partner with Apple on the risky venture of developing the expensive device and bringing it to market. Speaking of ideas made reality, I can't wait to get my hands on a Microsoft Surface!

posted by Berin Szoka @ 5:23 PM | Innovation , Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism , What We're Reading