Category Archives: Innovation

Digital Economy Series: Will the offline world really matter anymore?

Although this series of Digital Economy articles is written from the perspective of what life could well be like at the half-way point of this Century, it is instructive to step back and view the flow of history. For it is through an appreciation of how human affairs have changed, and what has driven those changes, that we can grasp what lies ahead. That we can begin to form answers to the questions at hand.

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Questions such as: will the offline world matter in 2050? Will the teenage grandchildren of today’s teenagers interact with the physical world as is currently the case? Will the limitations of our physical world be overcome by then? Will the digital realm be a greater source of influence than the temporal?

Prior to recent times, our lives were centred on the world of the atom rather than the world of the bit. It was solely in physical spaces that we built relationships, grew economies and exercised political influence. From the villages of the agricultural age to cities of the industrial age domestic, business and government activities were conducted exclusively through analogue means.

But it is without question that we are in a period of transition. The balance is shifting from the physical to the digital. For although the online world is ubiquitous, we are still beholden to our physical world. Even though domain names and the virtual properties they represent sell for millions, the power and opportunity that is afforded through the ownership of real-estate is even more significant. Even though a cadre of eminence grise wield the power of social media in commercial and political spheres, we still respond through our presence at the checkout or the ballot box. And even though the value of digital services is rising, our nations’ export earnings are still dominated by that which can be carried in ships.

Given that the trees of tomorrow are todays seedlings. That the systems of tomorrow and the way things will be are nascent today. What do we see around us? Today our social and retail transactions are dominated by ever-present digital transaction, and as we grow more comfortable with its safety and ease, tomorrow these transactions will dominate all other aspects of our lives such as our domestic, employment, health, romantic and spiritual affairs.

Today, most of us are generally free to live our lives free from statutory manipulation. But as we see administrations around the world learning to leverage digital tools to achieve social outcomes, opposing voices may well be reduced to obscurity. For even the phenomena such as the growing Tech-Lash or the various uprisings coordinated through social media will fade into impotence as the State develops and controls the digital-only narrative to maintain political control.

And so, in the time ahead, our lives will centred on the world of the bit rather than the world of the atom. It is more than likely that it will solely be in virtual spaces that we build relationships, grow economies and exercise political influence. Where we are headed, transitioning from the cities of the current information age to megapolises of the coming intelligence age it is quite reasonable to assume that all domestic, business and government activities will be conducted exclusively through digital means.

Therefore, how the teenage grandchildren of today’s teenagers experience life will be vastly different to our current reality. The offline world won’t be as dominant as it is today.

 

 


For more of what I have to offer, visit Dellium Advisory, follow on Twitter, connect using LinkedIn, review my IT Strategy blog, subscribe to my YouTube channel, or buy my ‘Jobs. Future. You.’ workbook.

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Digital Economy Series: “In a fully digital economy will you still be needed to work in a factory or sit at an office-desk?”

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Work. Whether we sit in an office, walk in a manufacturing facility, or perform some other task, those of us who work are living examples basic economic theory. We are all playing our part in turning an input into an output. We could be making sales calls to increase demand for an output, driving a truck to deliver raw materials, or even developing software to make the process better. Whether our organisation produces goods or services, we are all being paid to perform our part somewhere along the value chain.

The economy of tomorrow, the time when teenagers of today have teenage grandchildren, is more than likely to be a fully digital economy. For we can see evidence of this transition already. The value chain of decades ago was all about atoms, all about making and using physical goods. Today it is a mix of atoms and bits, it is an economy where value is created in the digital sphere as well as the physical sphere. Tomorrow the value chain may well be dominated by that which is digital.

Consider primary industries. Aren’t mines and farms becoming more automated? What about the secondary industries of manufacturing and construction, isn’t automation taking hold there as well? Even for higher value sectors such as finance, health and professional services we are witnessing inroads being made by either automated or intelligence-laden digital processes.

Thus it can be argued that there will be less employment in industry sectors that create value out of atoms. Indeed, even though the value of these sectors is growing across the OECD, related employment is largely stagnant.

But where is value created in the digital economy and what part do workers play in it? Value in the digital economy is created in the manufacture of ICT hardware, in the creation of software and services that use software, and in the collecting, processing and disseminating of data and information.

Regarding the manufacture of ICT hardware, it is not too hard to see full automation in production and logistics. But in the research, development and design phases we humans will still be critical for success.

Regarding the creation of software and software-based services, is it not too far fetched to contemplate software writing software? Where designers set the input and output requirements for new software or a new service, and the computer creates and tests the complete set of algorithms and interfaces.

Finally, regarding the management of data and information. Apart from employees performing regulatory oversight, it is possible to imagine the only other scenario in which human involvement is necessary is where faulty data collection sensors need to be replaced.

So, in this fully digital economy will you still be needed to work in a factory or sit at a desk in the office?

The answer is a qualified yes. While there are many factors that should be taken into consideration the foundational truth is that an economy is there to serve the society. For we grow things, we produce things, we teach things, we regulate things and so on for our individual and collective benefit.

Even though you may accept the propositions that 1. we are moving to an economy that is dominated by bits and, 2. just like production involving atoms has become more automated so too will bits-based production. We will still be human. Thus, even though what we value and how we pay for it will more than likely change, there will still be economic production to serve the needs of the population.

So yes, the factory will still be around to produce physical goods, but the types of work that are open to humans are those that are less automated. And yes, the office-desk job will still be around, but it too will involve non-automated people and thinking skills.

Therefore, even though what will be available and how it is produced will be different from today, basic economic theory will still apply. No matter the industry sector, in a fully digital economy people will still have roles as productive links somewhere in the value chain.

 


For more of what I have to offer, visit Dellium Advisory, follow on Twitter, connect using LinkedIn, review my IT Strategy blog, subscribe to my YouTube channel, or buy my ‘Jobs. Future. You.’ workbook.

The future of work and technology

2050 might be a bit too far away, but by gazing that far into the future we can see current trends, events and “signals” as perhaps harbingers of what may well become our lived experience.

The “Millenium Project”, gathers thoughts/intelligence/wisdom from over 3,500 futurists, scholars, business planners, and policy makers who work for organisations, governments, corporations, NGOs, and universities from across the globe.

A recent project looked at “Future Work/Technology 2050”. That is, what will the economy look like for our children and grandchildren?

They came up with three scenarios that are likely to occur.

To put this further into context, here is the background that the scenarios were based upon:

“Future artificial intelligence that can autonomously create, re-write, and implement software simultaneously around the world is a unique historical factor in job displacement” says Jerome Glenn, CEO of The Millennium Project, and adds that, “the Internet is also a historical factor in job creation. Information and means of production are far more open and distributed in the forthcoming biological and artificial intelligence revolutions than they were during the industrial revolution and the information revolution; hence, the frontiers for work may be greater than the information age revolution.”

Here are there three scenarios. Which one do you hope for, which one do you dread, which one do you think will happen?

  • 2050 Scenario 1: It’s Complicated – A Mixed Bag. A business-as-usual trend projection of the increasing acceleration of change with both intelligence and stupidity characterized decisionmaking. Irregular adoption of advance technology; high unemployment where governments did not create long-range strategies, and mixed success on the use of universal basic income. Giant corporation’s powers have often grown beyond government control, in this government-corporate, virtual-3D, multi-polar world of 2050.
  • 2050 Scenario 2: Political/Economic Turmoil – Future Despair. Governments did not anticipate the impacts of artificial general intelligence and had no strategies in place as unemployment exploded in the 2030s leaving the world of 2050 in political turmoil. Social polarism and political grid-lock in many forms have grown. Global order has deteriorated into a combination of nation-states, mega-corporations, local militias, terrorism, and organized crime.
  • Scenario 3: If Humans Were Free – the Self-Actualization Economy. Governments did anticipate the impacts of artificial general intelligence, conducted extensive research on how to phase in universal basic income systems, and promoted self-employment. Artists, media moguls, and entertainers helped to foster cultural change from an employment culture to a self-actualization economy.

Although it is a while away, if we look we can see the seeds of each of these tomorrows around us today.

For more of what I have to offer, visit Dellium Advisory, follow on Twitter, connect using LinkedIn, or review my IT Strategy blog, or subscribe to my YouTube channel.