Carlo Ratti and Matthew Claudel: Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up

The following quotation is from the Project Syndicate article “Life in the Uber City,” by Carlo Ratti and Matthew Claudel:

As every French fifth-grade student knows, the Internet was invented in Paris. It was called Minitel …

Both Minitel and the Internet were predicated on the creation of digital information networks. Their implementation strategies, however, differed enormously. Minitel was a top-down system; a major deployment effort launched by the French postal service and the national telecommunication operator. It functioned well, but its potential growth and innovation was necessarily limited by its rigid architecture and proprietary protocols.

The Internet, by contrast, evolved in a bottom-up way, managing to escape the telecommunication giants’ initial appeals for regulation. Ultimately, it became the chaotic but revolutionary world-changer that we know today (“a gift from God,” as Pope Francis recently put it).

A key requirement for robust long-run economic growth is to make sure that established players can’t block bottom-up solutions when bottom-up solutions are called for–which is often!