Tapscott and his fellow Wikinomics co-author Anthony Williams decided to research and write a sequel to that book after watching the financial and economic crisis that followed the collapse of U.S. financial firm Lehman Brothers in September of 2008, then the largest bankruptcy in history.
“We came to the conclusion that this was not just a recession or the fallout from a financial meltdown — this is really it! The industrial economy had finally run out of gas and at the same time the Internet had come of age, enabling us to rethink these institutions around a very different model.”
Tapscott was following those events, and their effect on the U.S. election, closely, and concluded the Lehman collapse and cascading economic crisis tilted the presidential momentum away from John McCain and back to Barack Obama, whose support had dipped with the late August vice-presidential nomination of Sarah Palin. (Tapscott had just written the book Grown Up Digital, in which he predicted the Democratic hopeful’s Net-driven campaign and Gen Y appeal would help put him in the White House).
“I think we will look back in a couple of decades and will say this was the time when the global economic crisis … dramatically accelerated the pace of collapse on one hand and of renewal on the other,” said Tapscott.
Macrowikinomics contends that the Internet — and people’s use of it — has matured sufficiently to be the new age of networked intelligence that will alter society by allowing communities and businesses to bypass failing institutions. The change is so big, so macro, that it would be more far-reaching than more recent inventions such as the steam engine, electricity or the automobile, said co-author Williams.
The best example instead would be Gutenberg’s introduction of the printing press in 1440, which took information out of the hands of an elite group.
“What that did was force a redistribution of knowledge and power in society,” Williams said, adding the spread of the printed word took centuries to replace dynasties with democracy. “Arguably what is happening today is on a much quicker time scale. We are looking at decades instead of centuries.”