The Mythology of Networks (and Other Lessons from the Commercial Internet)

Tullock Lecture presenting Big Ideas About Information 2011. Shane Greenstein, Elinor and H. Wendell Hobbs Professor of Management and Strategy at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Advanced data networks arose under government sponsorship in the 1970s and 1980s; they were commercialized in the 1990s.  As the “network of networks” has evolved, it has touched a wide range of economic activities and revolutionized large areas of social life.  Which economic metaphors contribute to understanding — or confusion — as to how the Internet grew to its present size, structure, and importance?

Six myths about the Internet frame the presentation.  It will explain why the US government funded the R&D that led to the Internet, why the Internet was neither cheap nor easy to invent, and why government funding had consequences for the direction of commercial innovation.  The presentation also will discuss why common claims for more innovation in open networks are not true in general but were in this historical instance, why the commercial Internet did not resemble a highway (and still does not), and why the Internet has not led to the death of distance.  Overall, the presentation illustrates several useful government-sponsored arrangements for encouraging innovation.  It also illustrates a potential drawback to government sponsorship – in this instance, truncation of exploratory activity.  Lastly, it also aims to illustrate the power of market experimentation to foster new directions of innovative activity.

Listen to the Lecture [50:06:87] [ShaneGreenstein_MythologyofNetworks_040711.mp3]

Download Presentation Slides [74 pages] [ShaneGreenstein.MythologyofNetworks.Slides.pdf]

Download (PDF, Unknown)

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