Will we ever learn…

…to recognize the signs of change early enough to respond adequately? Probably not…

In a recent post Ian Gotts highlighted again the now well understood changes, to traditional business models, in publishing from print media to music and films. As everyone in the tech industry knows everything is different, the pace of change is so rapid that your business model can disappear virtually overnight without any apparent warning. We’ve seen it happen so often now we’re sure to see it coming when it affects us.

Is that really the case? Are we kidding ourselves while we choose to ignore the warning signs and desperately hang on to the past?

The dark economy

This year the value of Bitcoins spiked at an all time high against the US Dollar. The virtual currency is used to trade goods and services over the internet with a growing number of well known organizations adopting it as a payment method.

But Bitcoins are unlike traditional currencies, they are not centrally managed by national banks, they are untracable (making them popular for trading illegal goods and services) and they are finite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin). The structure of the system is fundamentally different from the currency systems that dominate trade today. In other words it has good disruption credentials and the evidence shows that it is being adopted.

And this is where we seem to be making the same mistakes. Edward Castronova, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University Bloomington was quoted in The Guardian

It [Bitcoins] just isn’t very fun. We’ve learned from game currencies that people like a little inflation in their economies. But Bitcoin is built to deflate. And we’ve just seen, culturally, people don’t like deflation.

That may be true but it would be easy for those reliant on the status quo to take this as evidence that they can safely ignore it. When the internet began to change the way we consumed music some people noted that Vinyl, cassete tapes or CDs hadn’t destroyed the radio.

The warning signs are there, Bitcoins already fuel a thriving underground economy and as usual governments, and other large organizations, are late to the party. Already on the back foot these organizations will once again be playing catchup on a rapidly changing business model. It seems we never learn to heed the signs of change until it’s too late for those most affected.

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