As he notes, peak production usually equals peak waste:
In a recent conversation with my daughter Arwen and son-in-law Saul Griffith, Matt Webb remarked that he'd like 2008 to be remembered as the year of "peak consumption." Saul pointed out, though, that the term "peak waste" is perhaps more accurate. In an analogy to peak oil, he suggested that maybe we've reached the pinnacle of waste in our consumer culture. I do wonder if we will look back at the past few decades as a kind of sick aberration rather than a golden age, with good times we want to get back to. Like Saul, I'm hopeful that we can get rid of the waste, and get back to creating things of lasting value.
I've heard the term waste applied in another way lately, in regard to people spending time in social sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. These pundits usually follow such comments with an aside like, "I don't need to be talking to people about what I just ate for lunch." And then, of course, people laugh, thinking, Oh, those silly, wasteful twitterers.
Those of us that actually use Twitter may have another perspective: perhaps this is a lean, efficient mode of communication. Perhaps a glance at it a few times a day can lead to unexpected insights and help build better relationships. And maybe even be a little bit fun.
Achieving great things requires people to take personal risk. Taking personal risk requires believing in a goal, but it more importantly requires trust. And trust requires relationships. We twitterers do not 'tweet' to achieve something specific, but to build relationships. OK, you doubters: how to you build relationships? Maybe you, um, eat lunch with someone? Perhaps you hide what you're eating, since that isn't interesting. Surely you don't mention random things about your life, perhaps share a picture or two? Nope. That is a silly waste of time. Twittering is lunching, but in a way that we don't have to stop the other (perhaps truly wasteful) things we're doing.
Twitter and services like it enable two core activities: First, asymmetrical following allows people to broadcast many opinions to many thousands of people, such as Tim O'Reilly and Robert Scoble. - and by following them I get a good overview of things happening in the technical sphere that I care about. On the flip side I can also follow niche subjects like the Mars Lander... and learn about the discovery of water long before my father does. Second, I can have an ongoing dialogue with my smart friends and get a good sense of what they care about -- this helps us stay connected, but also helps us be more useful to each other. Use Twitter for a day and this won't make sense. Use it for a few weeks and it might, if you are right for it. Basically, in this fractured modern world where between work and children there is almost no free time... and Twitter helps with that.
So a favor I ask of the doubters: there is a core architectural principle of the web, called Must Ignore. It states that if a client sees markup it doesn't understand, the client should ignore the markup. This allows new services and new clients to invent new markup and work fluently without disturbing older clients. Similarly, if you see someone using a tool you don't understand, please just ignore them. We don't care if you twitter, but don't assume we are wasting time if we do.
And what does this have to do with peak waste? Perhaps blogging is more efficient than delivering tons of newsprint, perhaps micro-blogging is more efficient than blogging. Either way, the world is re-aligning to be less mono-cultured. Maybe cars running on more than one type of fuel will be more efficient. Perhaps many tiny car companies will be more efficient than a few gigantic ones. That remains to be seen.
But for now, there are a group of us for which one-size-fits-all communications represent peak-waste, and it is a waste we can no longer afford. So we turn to these new mediums in order to survive, and it is not technology for technology sake, but people for people's sake. If you don't understand it, ignore it, so that we may outperform you in the years to come.