The Null Device

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold

Interesting idea of the moment: the well curve. Apparently, the WIRED article suggests, many trends today, if plotted on a graph, would appear as an inverted bell curve, peaking at the edges and declining in the middle. Some sound rather contrived (i.e., great demand for mobile-phone-sized video displays or gigantic plasma screens; meanwhile, people are still buying 17" monitors); others point to an increasingly fragmented and polarised world (more businesses are either very small and very large; the numbers of very rich and very poor rose, with the middle declining). This trend could be interpreted to back up two interpretations: a pessimistic one (society is becoming more balkanised, the middle class is facing extinction, and things will soon look like Brazil or South Africa, or perhaps Snow Crash) or an optimistic one, from a classic WIRED long-boom neophilic milieu (the old conformistic norms are falling apart, ushering in a new renaissance of creative anarchy and diversity). In either case, we live in interesting times.

There are 1 comments on "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold":

Posted by: alan mccallum Mon Apr 21 10:09:08 2003

Hi, The "well" curve is probably familiar to many engineers as the "bathtub" curve, or so it seems to me. Take lightbulb failures, the early ones due to faulty maunfacture, which taper off to a low rate, then the population moves to the enof of life set of failures which become more frequent over time. There is also an "S" curve, which tries to set out the completion of tasks on a large project. The maxim slope occurs when the project is well underway, but has lower slopes at startup and shutdown. Alan