Historical Perspective on the Development of Weak Ties

Following on our previous post on “How the Fourth Revolutions Enhances the Power of Weak Ties” I find interesting to observe the history of weak ties throughout the different periods we have identified in the Fourth Revolution book: the Hunter-Gatherer Age, the Agricultural Age and the Industrial Age.

In the Hunter-Gatherer Age, Weak Ties were inexistent

As clearly exposed by Jared Diamond in his latest book “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies“, in the Hunter-Gatherer Age, weak ties did not exist. You were part of the tribe or not. If you were not part of the tribe we had to fight you as a basis (before any attempt at discussion). This is still observed with tribes that had never any contact withe the outside.

In the Agricultural Age, with the advent of Writing, Empires and Cities, weak ties developed, mainly within the wider urban community. Still the extended family (the ‘blood’) and unions between families remained extremely important and essential, before considering any additional relationships.

In the Industrial Age, with the advent of printing and long distance communication of ideas, weak links became much more important. There are a number of instances where weak ties played important roles in particular in the community of scholars, who were exchanging correspondence and ideas all over Europe. It also extended to the skilled workforce and artisans. However, because of the technical limitations, long distance weak links were still difficult to maintain and communication infrequent.

Finally the Fourth Revolution and the Collaborative Age will allow us to fully leverage our weak ties to a much wider and dispersed community of people.

Ideas are breeding through chance encounters with other ideas. They breed through our weak links. With these weak links becoming easier, more global and prevalent, how can the Collaborative Age not be an Innovation Age?