The Pendulum

Back and forth and back again... Much of life seems to move like a pendulum. Economic cycles of boom and bust and boom again are but one example. New ideas in teaching pedagogy today were also new ideas 20 years ago...and 20 years before that. We've gone from mainframes and centralized computing, to desktops and distributed computing and now back towards a centralized cloud model. We see this in our national politics, business management philosophy, on and on. Consider the news business. In the 19th century there were thousands of independent local papers. Anyone with access to a printing press could start one, and, if the copy was good, they had a chance at catching on. Economies of scale, however favored the companies that could afford the best writers and journalists, could land and execute advertising deals, and produce papers at the lowest cost per page. By 1990 there were essentially 6 companies that controlled the news. Enter cable TV, the internet, and the blogosphere and now there are millions of sources of information accessible 24/7 and largely free of charge. But the pendulum isn't likely to stop here, either. At some point, the absence of fact checking, lack of funds for in-depth journalism, and the impossibility of sifting through all the different sources of information to find what you want will pull us back towards edited, quality, consolidated, screened news. Will we see something similar in retail? In the bad old days folks were limited in choices to the stores within a few miles of their homes. Cars extended shoppers range, somewhat, but catalogs really threw the doors open. As time goes on, more efficient business models win and the mom and pop stores lose out to the chains, and the weak catalogs fold. Then, the internet expands the range of choices and the number of specialty shops blossoms beyond imagination, but will the countervailing desire for "one-stop shopping" mean Amazon or Google will be all that's left standing? At least, until the pendulum swings back the other way? The root cause of the pendulum seems to be human nature. We get a sense of which way the pendulum is moving and jump on board creating tremendous momentum in one direction, but at some point we cross beyond the mid-point of reason and keep going until something fundamentally breaks and forces the pendulum to change directions again. It is in our blood to carry every concept too far. At the risk of echoing Seth: could it be that the real leaders are the folks who are always angling for the middle whether the mob is behind them or the mob has left them behind to push a movement beyond the reasonable?
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