This is a golden era for makers, says Tom Friedman. His latest book, Thank You For Being Late, covers many of his tried and true themes: globalization, the increasing pace of change, adaptability and opportunity.
Friedman’s gift is to give a simple, pithy distillation of complex social forces. He recaps for us the unprecedented change of the past 20 years: the exponential leaps in computing power, the immediacy of communication, the development of new tools and materials, the access to abundant free knowledge. All of these unleash opportunities for the individual who is willing to grasp them.
Anyone who is willing to learn can create and build just about anything and distribute to a global audience.
It is a golden age for makers indeed.
However, these forces are also ideal for breakers, says Friedman.
Terrorists can reach beyond walls to poison the minds of the hopeless and aggrieved. Conspiracy mongers can upend institutions with rumor campaigns. Virtual lynch mobs can quickly be whipped up with nary a thought for the consequences.
It is a golden age for makers …. And for breakers.
So which are you? A maker or a breaker?
There are three main types of breakers:
1) The Maker Breaker
Economist Joseph Schumpeter popularized the idea of creative destruction. When a new industry arises, it often kills or radically transforms industries that preceded it. Printing dramatically reduced the need for scribes; Wal-Mart killed a bunch of mom-and-pop general stores; Amazon has upended retail.
More generally, to make something, something else does get destroyed. A tree must be cut down to make lumber. To build a building, you must first clear the ground of what is on it. To make a steak dinner, a steer must die.
This kind of destruction is necessary. Every maker must take it into account as part of the cost of creation.
2) The Revolutionary Breaker
This breaker wants to tear down the system out of dissatisfaction and readiness for change. This breaker unites with others in being against. When enough people are united in againstness, they can destroy entire systems.
Sometimes revolutions are necessary; sometimes systems are too corrupt.
But the challenge of revolutionaries is “what to do when the revolution is over?” Then revolutionaries have to shift from being breakers to being makers. And being a maker is much more difficult.
3) The Joker Breaker
Some people just like to smash things because they can. The extreme literary archetype is the Joker in Batman – a madman who destroys things for the sheer joy of destruction. But make no mistake, the same impulse is at play in the pre-teen cooking ants under a magnifying glass or the teenager smashing mailboxes with a baseball bat. There’s a dark urge within humanity – a rejoicing in destruction. A joy in burning it all down.
Truth be told, we all have each of these Breakers within us – but we can choose to be a Maker instead. Which will it be? Are you a breaker or a maker?
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