W. Brian Arthur


"I think it may well be the biggest change ever in the economy. It is a deep qualitative change that is bringing intelligent, automatic response to the economy.

There's no upper limit to this, no place where it has to end ... it would be easy to underestimate the degree to which this is going to make a difference."

W. Brian Arthur in The Second Economy








The Second Economy

Digitization is creating a second economy that’s vast, automatic, invisible, and intelligent—thereby bringing the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution.

In 1850, a decade before the Civil War, the United States’ economy was small—it wasn’t much bigger than Italy’s. Forty years later, it was the largest economy in the world. What happened in-between was the railroads. They linked the east of the country to the west, and the interior to both. They gave access to the east’s industrial goods; they made possible economies of scale; they stimulated steel and manufacturing—and the economy was never the same.

Deep changes like this are not unusual. Every so often—every 60 years or so—a body of technology comes along and over several decades, quietly, almost unnoticeably, transforms the economy: it brings new social classes to the fore and creates a different world for business. Can such a transformation—deep and slow and silent—be happening today?

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