Cryptography and crypto

One of the most crucial components that goes into making contemporary cryptocurrencies and blockchains feasible is cryptography, the study of creating codes and ciphers for safe communication. 

However, a very long history of development has led to the cryptographic methods that are employed today. Cryptography has been used by humanity to send information securely since the dawn of time. Here is a fascinating history of cryptography that explains how the sophisticated and cutting-edge techniques utilized for current digital encryption came to be.

Cryptographic techniques have been used since ancient times, with early civilizations employing symbol replacement as a basic form of encryption. The earliest example of symbol replacement was found in the tomb of Khnumhotep II, an Egyptian noble from 3,900 years ago. It was used to enhance linguistic appeal rather than conceal information. 

The Ancient Roots of Cryptography

Around 3,500 years ago, Mesopotamian scribes began using cryptography to protect sensitive information, such as concealing a pottery glaze formula on clay tablets.

Cryptography was widely used in later periods, including in ancient Greece where messages were encrypted using parchment and cylinders, and in ancient India where spies utilized coded messages.

The Romans achieved advanced cryptography with the Caesar cipher, which involved shifting letters by a specific number of places in the Latin alphabet for encryption and decryption purposes.

Developments in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

During the Middle Ages, cryptography gained importance, with substitution ciphers like the Caesar cipher being widely used. However, cryptanalysis, the science of breaking codes, started to advance, prompting the need for more sophisticated cryptography.

Around 800 AD, Arab mathematician Al-Kindi introduced frequency analysis, making substitution ciphers vulnerable to decryption.

In response, in 1465, Leone Alberti developed the polyalphabetic cipher, which utilized two different alphabets for encoding, rendering frequency analysis ineffective. This significantly enhanced the security of encoded information.

Additionally, in the Renaissance period, new encoding methods emerged, including binary encoding invented by Sir Francis Bacon in 1623.

Advances in More Recent Centuries

Over the ages, cryptography has become a more sophisticated science. Thomas Jefferson proposed a huge cryptographic advance in the 1790s, but it may never have been realized. His creation, the cipher wheel, was made up of 36 letter rings on rotating wheels that could be utilized for complicated encoding. The Second World War would see the use of this notion as the foundation for American military encryption since it was so far ahead of its time.

The Enigma machine, a model of analog cryptography, was created during World War II. This Axis tool, similar to the wheel cipher, uses moving wheels to encrypt messages, making it nearly hard to decipher without another Enigma. The Enigma encryption was eventually broken with the aid of early computer technology, and the successful decryption of Enigma signals is still regarded as a crucial element of the eventual Allied victory.

Cryptography in the Computer Age

The advent of computers led to significant advancements in cryptography compared to earlier analog methods. Modern encryption relies on strong 128-bit mathematical encryption, surpassing the security of ancient and medieval ciphers. In the 1990s, computer scientists began developing quantum cryptography as a new form of encryption to further enhance protection.

Cryptographic techniques have also played a vital role in enabling cryptocurrencies. Technologies such as hash functions, public-key cryptography, and digital signatures are utilized to secure data stored on blockchains and authenticate transactions. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin utilize the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) for enhanced security, ensuring that funds can only be accessed by authorized individuals.

Cryptography has made remarkable progress over the past 4,000 years and shows no signs of stopping. As long as there is a need to safeguard sensitive information, cryptography will continue to advance. While the cryptographic systems employed in modern blockchains represent cutting-edge technology, they are built upon a rich historical tradition spanning back through human history.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)


A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique identifier that can cryptographically assign and prove ownership of digital goods. 

As NFTs for digital artwork have sold for millions — sometimes tens of millions — of dollars, to say they're popular could be an undersell. In the first half of 2021, NFT sales hit $2.5 billion. 

However, once you understand how NFTs work, you'll see there are additional use cases for this technology.

What is an NFT?

NFT stands for "non-fungible token." At a basic level, an NFT is a digital asset that links ownership to unique physical or digital items, such as works of art, real estate, music, or videos. 

NFTs can be considered modern-day collectibles. They're bought and sold online, and represent a digital proof of ownership of any given item. NFTs are securely recorded on a blockchain — the same technology behind cryptocurrencies — which ensures the asset is one-of-a-kind. The technology can also make it difficult to alter or counterfeit NFTs.

To really get a handle on NFTs, it's helpful to get familiar with the economic concept of fungibility.

- Fungible items can be exchanged with one another with ease because their value isn't tied to their uniqueness. For example, you can exchange a $1 bill for another $1 bill, and you'll still have $1 even though your new bill has a different serial number. 

- Non-fungible items aren't interchangeable. With NFTs, each token has unique properties and isn't worth the same amount as other similar tokens. 

So why are people shelling out so much money for NFTs? "By creating an NFT, creators are able to verify scarcity and authenticity to just about anything digital," says Solo Ceesay, co-founder and COO of Calaxy. "To compare it to traditional art collecting, there are endless copies of the Mona Lisa in circulation, but there is only one original. NFT technology helps assign the ownership of the original piece."

Selling NFTs has been a lucrative business in the art world. Here are a few examples you may have heard about:

- Digital artist Beeple sold "Everydays — the First 5000 Days" for $69.3 million through a Christie's auction.

- A 20-second video clip of LeBron James "Cosmic Dunk #29" was sold for $208,000.

- A CryptoPunk NFT sold for $1.8 million at Sotheby's first curated NFT sale.

- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey auctions an NFT of his first tweet, which sells for $2.9 million.

Note: The high-priced and headline-making NFT craze is also attracting scammers and fraudsters, so investors should beware. Some may try to sell you something and tell you it's an NFT when it's not. Others may claim they have the right to sell an NFT of a piece of work they don't own and didn't create.

Other people may be able to make copies of the image, video, or digital item that you own when you buy an NFT. But, similar to buying a unique piece of art or limited-series print, the original could be more valuable.

How NFTs work 

Many NFTs are created and stored on the Ethereum network, although other blockchains (such as Flow and Tezos) also support NFTs. Because anyone can review the blockchain, the NFT ownership can be easily verified and traced, while the person or entity that owns the token can remain pseudonymous. 

Different types of digital goods can be "tokenized," such as artwork, items in a game, and stills or video from a live broadcast — NBA Top Shots is one of the largest NFT marketplaces. While the NFT that conveys ownership is added to the blockchain, the file size of the digital item doesn't matter because it remains separate from the blockchain.

Depending on the NFT, the copyright or licensing rights might not come with the purchase, but that's not necessarily the case. Similar to how buying a limited-edition print doesn't necessarily grant you exclusive rights to the image. 

As the underlying technology and concept advances, NFTs could have many potential applications that go beyond the art world. 

For example, a school could issue an NFT to students who have earned a degree and let employers easily verify an applicant's education. Or, a venue could use NFTs to sell and track event tickets, potentially cutting down on resale fraud.

What's the difference between NFTs and cryptocurrency?

NFTs and cryptocurrencies rely on the same underlying blockchain technology. NFT marketplaces may also require people to purchase NFTs with a cryptocurrency. However, cryptocurrencies and NFTs are created and used for different purposes.  

Cryptocurrencies aim to act as currencies by either storing value or letting you buy or sell goods. Cryptocurrency tokens are fungible tokens, similar to fiat currencies, like a dollar. NFTs create one-of-a-kind tokens that can show ownership and convey rights over digital goods.

How to buy an NFT 

You can buy, sell, trade, and create NFTs from online exchanges or marketplaces. The creator or current owner may choose a specific price. Or, there may be an auction, and you'll have to bid on the NFT. 

- Foundation: A community-curated marketplace that requires creators to be invited by other creators who are already part of the platform.  

- Nifty Gateway: An art-focused marketplace that works with big-name brands, athletes, and creators. 

- OpenSea: One of the first and largest marketplaces where you can find NFTs for a wide-range of collectibles. 

- Rarible: Offers a range of NFTs with an emphasis on art. Uses its own RARI token to reward members.

- SuperRare: A marketplace that focuses on curating and offering digital art.

Important: NFTs can be highly speculative assets. Some people have made thousands or millions of dollars selling NFTs. Others may wind up spending a lot of money for a digital asset that winds up being worthless.

The sign-up process can vary depending on the marketplace. Generally, you'll buy NFTs using a cryptocurrency, such as ether (Ethereum's native cryptocurrency), although the price may also be listed in dollars. Depending on the marketplace, there may be different fees associated with each transaction.

The bottom line

While there may be many practical applications for NFTs in the future, they're primarily used with digital art today. 

"For creators, NFTs create a seamless way to sell digital art that might not have much of a market. Additionally, there are ways in which creators can get paid fees for each subsequent sale of the art," says Ceesay. "On the flip side, collectors are able to speculate on digital art as well as have bragging rights on rare collectibles on the chain."

If you're considering purchasing an NFT as an investment, know that there's no guarantee it will increase in value. While some NFTs sell for thousands or millions of dollars, others may remain or become worthless.

What is SAFe?

If your organization is seeking efficient project delivery, decreased time-to-market, and increased stakeholder value, then the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) may be right for you.

Larger organizations tend to move more slowly — and be more change-resistant — than smaller, more nimble competitors. Much of this can be chalked up to deep-rooted cultural issues of being a larger incumbent, and to policy- and process-based barriers, as bureaucracy tends to flourish in broader corporate environments.

Still, many larger organizations seek to capture the benefits of agile development, for which they may not be naturally suited. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a powerful tool that can be adopted to help larger organizations overcome issues that negatively impact project success.

SAFe offers large organizations a framework for becoming more agile so that their deliverables can reach the market faster. Here is an overview of SAFe and its benefits and principles, as well as tips on how to effectively implement the framework and its methodologies.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

The Scaled Agile Framework encompasses a set of principles, processes, and best practices that helps larger organizations adopt agile methodologies, such as Lean, Kanban, and Scrum, to develop and deliver high-quality products and services faster. SAFe is particularly well-suited to complex projects that involve multiple large teams at the project, program, and portfolio levels.

SAFe provides larger organizations with a way to leverage the benefits of Scrum and Kanban in a more scalable way. It enables larger organizations to manage projects with a higher degree of agility, offering a way for stakeholders across multiple groups to get feedback faster. This accelerated feedback loop leads to higher engagement levels, increased productivity and job satisfaction, and improved work quality.

SAFe principles

SAFe is built on nine key principles derived from existing Lean and agile principles:

1. Take an economic view to allow for optimal lead time while providing the best quality and value.
2. Implement systems thinking into all facets of development.
3. Assume market and technical variability by preserving choices and encouraging innovation.
4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles that allow customer feedback and reduce risks.
5. Base milestones on objective estimation and evaluation of working systems to ensure there is an economic benefit.
6. Limit the amount of work in progress, decrease batch sizes, and manage queue lengths to enable continuous flow.
7. Apply cadence (timing), synchronize with cross-domain formation to recognize business opportunities and allow for corrective action as needed.
8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers to reach their unseen potential.
9. Decentralize decision-making to become more agile and effective.

SAFe 5.0

The current version, SAFe 5.0, focuses on Lean enterprise and business agility as well as the following five core competencies:

Lean agile leadership: Lean agile leaders drive change and operational excellence, leading by example to help ensure teams reach their potential. This involves modeling SAFe’s Lean agile mindset, principles, and practices.

Team and technical agility: Teams must possess certain vital skills and adhere to Lean agile practices to create well-designed solutions quickly. Ensuring the technical agility of teams is especially important, as they are the ones who ultimately perform the actual work that will be delivered to your customers.

DevOps and release on demand: The establishment of a continual, ongoing pipeline for deliverables is vital for creating value to meet your customers’ needs.

Business solutions and Lean systems engineering: The more organizations facilitate Lean agile practices to drive blueprints, development, and deployment, the more innovative they can be.

Lean portfolio management: A sound organizational strategy that includes financial considerations, portfolio management and compliance-related aspects is essential to SAFe success.

SAFe agile methodologies

Teams often use SAFe to scale agile methodologies such as Lean, Kanban, and Scrum. The key is recognizing SAFe is about scaling up in larger teams and organizations and complex projects versus smaller ones that don’t necessarily require the SAFe framework. SAFe doesn’t change the principles of the other methodologies.

Kanban focuses on ongoing collaboration and fosters an environment of continuous learning and improvement. It uses visual boards and cards to help teams see complete, in progress, and outstanding tasks.

Lean development (LD) focuses on reducing waste while maximizing output and increasing stakeholder value. Lean follows seven key principles: reduce waste, improve quality, share knowledge with others, remain in a state of continuous improvement and faster turnaround.

Scrum uses interactive sessions or “30-day sprints” to determine prioritized tasks. Small teams may be assembled to focus on specific tasks independently and then meet with the Scrum master to evaluate progress or results and reprioritize backlogged tasks.

SAFe vs. DAD vs. LeSS

While SAFe focuses on alignment, teamwork, and provisioning across a large number of agile teams, there are other popular frameworks for scaling agile at larger organizations, including Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD). It is important to understand each of these frameworks so that your organization can select the best option for your projects.

SAFe: Practitioners created the Scaled Agile Framework by investing in three main bodies of knowledge: agile software system development, systems thinking, and Lean product development. It has been a well-recognized approach to scaling agile practices.

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD): DAD is focused on the end-to-end lifecycle of products, from inception to delivery. It is driven by seven principles: delight customers, be awesome, pragmatism, context counts, choice is good, optimize flow, and enterprise awareness.

Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS): LeSS focuses on getting all teams seeing the entire product rather than taking the view from a “my part” perspective.

SAFe agile process flow

There are 12 general processes organizations should follow to implement SAFe, although it is important to note that each step should be modified as needed to fit your organizational needs.

1. Recognize and communicate the need for change: Many factors may prompt the need for organizational change, including shifts in industry legislation, best practices, or desired goals. Company leadership needs to identify and communicate the business reasons for the shift to SAFe, and then mentor and motivate stakeholders to ensure all activities are aligned with the vision for change.
2. Identify and train change agents: Leadership must identify people across the organization who can be change agents and facilitate their training as Certified SAFe Program Consultants. These change agents will be responsible for training business leaders and other stakeholders in SAFe practices and processes.
3. Get executives and managers on board: Executives must also be trained so they can model behavior around the same Lean agile views and practices.
4. Create a Lean agile center of excellence: Creating a center of excellence (CoE) will help ensure companywide optimized performance rather than simply practicing agile project management within specific domains.
5. Identify value streams and agile release trains (ARTs): Value streams refer to the value that a business provides its customers, while ARTs are the agile teams that develop solutions that create value. It is this combination of people, internal processes, and technology that will deliver value to your customers.
6. Prioritize and roadmap: Goals must be prioritized and a roadmap must be set to accomplish the vision for your SAFe transformation. Implementation involves selecting the first value stream, then selecting the first ART, and repeating this process.
7. Define parameters for each ART launch: Define the ART, set deadlines, assemble agile teams, train personnel, and perform readiness assessments. It’s also important to undertake backlog program preparation.
8. Train teams and ensure everyone understands their role: The individuals that work as a team to develop the business systems are essential to each ART’s success. Everyone must fully grasp their role and possess the skills to do their job successfully.
9. Execute your ART: Proper execution relies on excelling at iteration planning, backlog refinement, daily standups, iteration reviews and system demo, and iteration retrospectives, as well as Scrum-of-Scrums, PO Sync, and ART Sync.
10. Launch more ARTs and value streams: Subsequent, prioritized ARTs should be launched as above, by training teams, coaching ART execution, and giving each ART the necessary time and effort to succeed without skipping steps or diligence.
11. Extend to the portfolio level to lead business transformation: It is time now to apply all of the above steps at the portfolio level to set the overall culture, improve companywide performance, and increase goal attainment.
12. Sustain and improve operational effectiveness company-wide: Continued success depends on seeking ways to take advantage of new opportunities and find improvements. Business leaders should also be operating with a continuous Lean agile mindset.

Using A 'Walking Skeleton' To Reduce Risk In Software Innovation

A common pitfall development teams face when first transitioning to using Scrum is holding onto parts of their old processes. This is especially difficult for teams that are used to a waterfall model, where technical design and architectural implementation are the very first steps after the specification is written. One instinct people new to Scrum have is to keep the technical design and architecture phase up front and then move to a Scrum process for the remainder of the project.

The problem with doing both Scrum and waterfall is that you’re then actually doing neither — and you definitely aren’t capitalizing on all agile has to offer. There’s a reason that BDUF (big design up front) is a problematic term in agile circles. One of the key advantages of agile is that it lets customers change their minds whenever they want. If a large portion of the design is completed up front, requirements and choices can’t change as easily.

But does that mean that Scrum teams are doing NDUF (no design up front)? The answer: nope. Doing NDUF can also cause problems that can affect the long-term success of a project. For instance, say you write a bunch of code that works but doesn’t actually support what you need it to do because there wasn’t enough upfront thinking. The worst thing you could do would be to keep that code and try to make it work.

Instead, the best compromise is SDUF (some design up front). With SDUF, teams can make several fundamental upfront decisions before writing the first line of code. This helps everyone stay on the same page and establishes clear parameters for success. These types of decisions are typically more challenging to change down the line — for example, foundational choices like the technology, framework, languages, patterns and practices.

Another important step teams can take to set their project up for success and reduce risks is to create a walking skeleton.

What Is A Walking Skeleton? 

A walking skeleton is a basic set of code that acts as a “starter pack” for the development team. It’s a lightweight application framework without any product-specific functionality but that is still runnable and can exemplify the fundamental architectural patterns. Think of it as the simplest thing that can possibly work.

Completing a walking skeleton before the first sprint provides development teams with several important advantages:

    - It puts some architectural building blocks together, exhibiting structure and patterns.
    - It establishes the fundamental technologies and proves the basics work.
    - It provides fodder for continuous integration and automated deployment.
    - It can establish a common framework.

However, the biggest benefit of creating a walking skeleton is that it allows development teams to immediately focus on new product functionality. Before the first sprint even begins, you’ve already proven that your walking skeleton will run in a production-like environment, and you’ve established the automation necessary to support ongoing development.

But more than that, having a walking skeleton prior to the first sprint can help reduce risks and head off problems.

How Does A Walking Skeleton Reduce Innovation Risks? 

By having a deployable framework ready from the very beginning, you can identify and deal with problems before they become unmanageable. Discovering a problem on day zero gives you options and time to explore that problem. If you start down the path of making your walking skeleton work in a production-like environment and end up running into issues, at least you now know that problem exists — and problems you know you have are much better than problems you don’t know you have.

After all, one of the biggest criticisms of Scrum is that it can cause teams to paint themselves into a corner by not taking the long-term vision into account. In reality, Scrum gives teams the opportunity to think long term and act short term — and the walking skeleton can help establish the framework for that long-term thinking.

Where Do I Get A Walking Skeleton? 

There are a few possible sources for creating a walking skeleton:

    1. Borrow from past products your team has already built, and strip them down for this new purpose.
    2. Seek out a template, either internal or community-based.
    3. Build from scratch.

If you decide to go with option No. 3, make sure you minimize the process. Ideally, a newly built walking skeleton shouldn’t take more than two to four weeks. Keep in mind that you just want to build enough to get going so you can spin up a framework and get end to end with source code.

The greatest challenge in software development is that we’re almost always doing something that no one else has ever done before. By beginning with a walking skeleton, Scrum teams can enjoy the flexibility and focus of the Scrum process with the risk protection of minimal planning ahead.

Shu-Ha-Ri in Agile

The concept of Shu-Ha-Ri originates from the Japanese martial art Aikido. Here the meaning:

Shu (守) "protect", "obey"—traditional wisdom—learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs

Ha (破) "detach", "digress"—breaking with tradition—detachment from the illusions of self

Ri (離) "leave", "separate"—transcendence—there are no techniques or proverbs, all moves are natural, becoming one with spirit alone without clinging to forms; transcending the physical.


The Shu-Ha-Ri model can be adapted not only to martial arts. This is a perfect metaphor for the development of Agile teams.


Shu - We strictly follow the rules of agile. I see that as having all the agile ceremonies, and following the guidelines for these e.g. your stand up follows the pigs and chickens rules, everyone answers the “3 questions”, and it is time-boxed to 15 minutes. This should be done until everyone, and I think the key word here is everyone, is comfortable with those “forms”.

Ha - Now that everyone is comfortable with the basic forms, we can start to tweak/make amendments to them. Looking at the example above, maybe now we look at our stand ups, and change the timing of it, or go through each story rather than each member of the team. Doing this, we can see what works and what doesn’t work — retrospectives would play a big role in this section.

Ri - We have moved away from the “out of the box” structure and mechanisms and we have become the rule.

Why Agile Is Eating The World​​

In 2011, Marc Andreessen wrote his famous essay, “Why Software Is Eating the World,” in The Wall Street Journal, leading to the cliché that “every company needs to become a software company.” (A useful update by Jeetu Patel on the situation in 2016 is here: “Software is still eating the world.”)

In one way, Andreessen’s 2011 article was remarkably prescient. In 2011, IT firms were looked down on by Wall Street. Andreessen was telling Wall Street: “Pay attention! These companies are more valuable than you think they are.” And Wall Street listened. In 2018, the five biggest companies in the world by market capitalization are IT firms: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

But it turned out that Andreessen was only half right. It's not that all software is eating the world: General Electric has just proved that in a spectacular fashion: It invested heavily in software and the result. After five years, the CEO and his top lieutenants were terminated. Similar developments are under way at Intel, P&G and HP.

It turns out that it’s not just software that’s’ eating the world. Firms are learning the hard way that software requires a different way of running the organization to be successful. Firms have to be nimble, adaptable, able to adjust on the fly to meet the shifting whims of a marketplace driven by the customer. This kind of management was—and is—beyond the capabilities of the lumbering industrial giants of the 20th Century. It is firms that are truly agile that are eating the world (whether or not they call themselves by the label "Agile").

In fact, many of the big successful IT firms don't use the label “Agile” to describe the way they are run. Instead they talk about "the Google way" or "our startup culture." Of the big five, Microsoft is the exception in making an explicit commitment to the label “Agile.”

But whatever label is used, the successful software firms are all recognizably implementing the substance of Agile—a focus on delivering value for customers, working in small teams in short cycles, and networked organizational arrangements rather than top-down bureaucracy and silos. It’s the firms that invest in software while retaining the top-down 20th Century management practices and structures that fail.

As a result, the world is entering a new age: the age of Agile. An unstoppable revolution is now under way in our society, affecting almost everyone. Agile organizations are connecting everyone and everything, everywhere, all the time. They are capable of delivering instant, intimate, frictionless value on a large scale. They are creating a world in which people, insights, and money interact quickly, easily, and cheaply. For some firms, the revolution is uplifting and beautiful. For others, it is dark and threatening.

Dazzling examples of the new way of running organizations are everywhere apparent. It’s not just the five biggest firms by market capitalization: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. It’s also firms like Airbnb, Etsy, Lyft, Menlo Innovations, Saab, Samsung, Spotify, Tesla, Uber and Warby Parker. At the same time, what is lifting some companies is killing others, as the big, lumbering market=leading bureaucracies miss game-changing transformations in industry after industry.

Simply put, it’s Agile, not just software, that is eating the world. As usual, with any massive social change, there’s good news and bad news. Let’s begin with the good news.

Good News #1: Customers Take Charge

The winning firms are those that deliver instant, intimate, frictionless value for customers.. A world in which people, insights, and money interact quickly, easily, and cheaply is a world that has transformed human life—everything is easier and more convenient. It’s difficult for young people today even to imagine the world of just thirty years ago. How did people get by with no cell-phones and no Internet? It sounds downright archaic, like the world before the wheel was invented.

Good News #2: The End Of Wage-Slavery

With the great gains in material prosperity that were steadily generated by the Industrial Revolution from the late 1700s onward, it was easy to overlook the fact that they involved a dark bargain: in essence, large numbers of the human race agreed to sell themselves into wage slavery. Rightly or wrongly, they agreed to be treated like slaves while at work. While they were in the workplace, they agreed to follow orders, even if those orders were demeaning, stupid or just plain wrong, i.e. slavery. To be sure, there was some interesting work to be had in some parts of some organizations. But they were the exceptions. What was valued was diligent following of orders.

So, although slavery was abolished in the political sphere by the mid-19th Century, it continued in the workplace in the form of wage-slavery, even if few were willing to call it that. The reluctance to face this social reality stemmed from the economic fact that wage-slavery was useful: it led to a huge improvement in material prosperity for most of society, at least for most of the developed world. The fact that it led to spiritually crimped existence for much of the human race was just a regrettable side-effect of “progress.”

Wage-slavery as an economic model thus continued from the late-18th Century until the late 20th Century. Then something went wrong. It turned out that wage-slaves could not deliver what the economy now needed. In a marketplace disrupted by globalization, deregulation, knowledge work and new technology, firms now required initiative, innovation, commitment, smarts, passion--the very opposite of wage-slaves.

As a result, a new kind of management was needed to enable this new kind of worker. Some called this way of running an organization “Agile.” Some used other labels. But whatever it was called, it wasn’t just a new process. It was a fundamentally different way of running organizations. It was economically more productive. And it has immense potential benefit for the human spirit. It can create workplaces that enable human beings to contribute their full talents on something worthwhile and meaningful—creating value for other human beings.

The end of slavery in the political sphere was a big deal. The end of wage-slavery in the workplace is also a pretty big deal.

The Bad News: A New, Darker Gilded Age

Yet as with any massive social change, there are also downsides. A summary of the issues is set out by David Dayen in an insightful article in American Prospect, “Big Tech: The New Predatory Capitalism.” He argues that “The tech giants are menacing democracy, privacy, and competition” and asks: “Can they be housebroken?”

Thus, the successful exponents of software and Agile are becoming so successful that they are now emerging as a threat to a free society, in the much same way, mutatis mutandis, that the big industrial companies of the late 19th Century (rail, oil, steel) became a threat to society and had to be broken up the trust-busters like President Theodore Roosevelt. A similar scenario needs to occur with the big IT firms. That’s a job for the public sector. Dayen's article sets out the agenda. True, it's hard to see how all this will happen in the current political environment. But it has to happen, if a free society is to survive.

Today’s Necessity: Embrace Agile

For the private sector, waiting for anti-trust action is not a solution. Continuing the management practices and structures of the lumbering industrial giants of the 20th Century won’t cut the mustard. To survive, let alone thrive, firms today must learn to embrace the new business reality: they are entering the age of Agile.