As you know, we're now well and truly in the
Information Age. It began about 10 years ago. In fact,
many economists say it began in 1989, with the Fall of
the Berlin Wall (and the start of the World Wide Web).
To understand who will become wealthy in the
Information Age, first we need to understand how the
Information Age differs from the Industrial Age (born
about 1860, died about 1989).
In fact, let's get a complete overview and go back to
the Agrarian Age.
In the Agrarian Age, society was basically divided
into two classes: the landowners and the people who
worked on the land (the serfs). If you were a serf,
there wasn't much you could do about it:
land-ownership passed down through families and you
were stuck with the status you were born into.
When the Industrial Age arrived, everything changed:
it was no longer agriculture that generated most of
the wealth, but manufacturing. Suddenly, land was no
longer the key to wealth. A factory occupied far less
land than a sheep farm or a wheat farm.
With the Industrial Age came a new kind of wealthy
person: the self-made businessman. Wealth no longer
depended on land-ownership and the family you were
born into. Business acumen and factories were creating
a new class of wealthy person. But it still required
enormous capital to build a factory and start a
Then came the World Wide Web (in about 1989) and
globalization. Suddenly, everything changed again.
Factories (or real estate) were no longer necessary to
run a business. Anyone with a website could start a
business. The barriers to wealth that existed in the
Agrarian Age and the Industrial Age were completely
gone. People who could never have dreamed of owning
their own business were making millions from their
Of course, the Information Revolution didn't begin
It began in 1444 when Gutenberg invented the printing
press in Mainz, Germany.
But the printing press (newspapers, magazines,
paperbacks) belonged to the Industrial Age, not the
The printing press is a 'one-to-many' technology. The
Internet is a 'many-to-many' technology. And that was
what changed in 1989.
The Industrial Age was about centralization and
control. The Information Age is about
de-centralization and no control. No government and no
media magnate controls the Internet. This is the
crucial thing to understand about the Information Age.
As we moved from the Agrarian Age through the
Industrial Age to the Information Age, there's been a
steady collapse of the barriers that kept one section of
society wealthy and the other section poor.
In the Information Age, literally anyone can become
So now that we have a clearer picture of how the
Information Age differs from the Industrial Age, let's
ask that question again: 'Who will become wealthy in
the Information Age? ':
(1) People Who are Self-Taught
To explain this better, let's go back to the Agrarian
Age and the Industrial Age, and the Transmission of
In the Agrarian Age, skills were passed on from father
to son. If you wanted to learn how to be a blacksmith
you had to be a blacksmith's son. If you wanted to
learn to be a stone-mason, you had to be the son of a
With the coming of the Industrial Age, all this
changed. You could go to University and learn whatever
skills you wanted. Knowledge was freely available.
But in the Information Age, the Transmission of Skills
is changing once again.
The skills necessary to succeed in the Information Age
are not being learnt from our parents (as in the
Agrarian Age), nor are they being learnt in schools
and colleges (as in the Industrial Age). Children are
teaching their parents computer skills. And many of
the entrepreneurs who start hi-tech Internet companies
have never been to college.
The millionaires (and billionaires) of tomorrow
probably won't have a college education. They will be
high-school drop-outs, self-taught people.
(2) People with New Ideas.
Again, it's the people who are able to think outside
of the existing structures who will become wealthy in
the Information Age. Often, it's just a Simple Idea
that launches people to success in the Information
Take Sabhir Bhatia, for example – the man who invented
Hotmail. Bhatia was a computer engineer working in
Silicon Valley. He had no previous business
But one day, while he was driving back from work, a
friend called him on his cell phone and said that he
had an idea: What about starting a free, web-based
email service? Bhatia knew this was the idea he'd been
waiting for. He told his friend to hang up immediately
and ring him at home on a secure line.
Three years later he sold Hotmail to Microsoft for
$ 400 million.
The third group who will become wealthy in the
Information Age are Writers.
In the Industrial Age, Writers depended on large
publishing Houses to get published (remember that the
printing press is an Industrial Age technology – it is
centralized and controlled). And the Publishing Houses
took the lion's share of the profits.
In the Information Age, Writers are doing their own
publishing – and keeping most of the profits
themselves. Indeed, Writers are flourishing on the
Web – mainly through eBooks and Ezine Articles.
But even if you don't write eBooks or Ezine Articles,
if you own a website, you are a Writer.
Because the Internet is basically a written medium. It
favors writers, people who are able to communicate
effectively through the written word. Remember, it's
not the graphics on your website that sell, it's the
words you use.
In the Information Age, we're all Writers!