Magazine

First Person

Nicco Mele on how technology radically changes everything

The resident futurist at Davis Square digital firm EchoDitto sounds off on his forthcoming book, “The End of Big.”

Nicco Mele.
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
Nicco Mele.

Big things that are ending include big newspapers, big universities, big political parties, big armies, big entertainment companies, big government, and big manufacturing. It’s the DECLINE OF POWER of these big things.

Our technology [mobile phones, the Internet, social media] dramatically EMPOWERS INDIVIDUALS and allows them to OPT OUT OF A LOT OF OUR INSTITUTIONS, from creative [ones] like record labels and publishing companies all the way to the way our government works. These days you can have a pretty impressive experience with online education yourself with lectures from elite universities that are available for free.

The end of big is a good thing, because there’s a lot of OPPORTUNITY THAT’S OPENED UP by the radical transfer of power from hierarchical, established institutions to individuals. In a lot of ways those institutions have failed us. The cost of a four-year higher education has skyrocketed and the value of it has plummeted. The POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE GROUND THE PROCESS OF GOVERNMENT TO A HALT. The good news is that the technology is not just making them more accountable but creating new ways of doing things.

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The bad part about the end of big is that these institutions are actually often built on very COMPELLING IDEALS AND PHILOSOPHIES that are hard-won in the history of Western civilization —  equal representation, due process, justice. There’s a whole bunch of ideas bound up in our institutions, and just because they haven’t done a very good job doesn’t mean we should totally opt out of them. Maybe we should FIND A WAY TO REFORM THEM.  — As told to Joel Brown

Interview has been edited and condensed.