If it’s not already obvious, the digital revolution is here. Our world is changing at an accelerating pace. If you don’t believe me, just watch Casablanca (1942) then watch Home Alone (1990) and while you’re at it go ahead and watch Ocean’s 13 (2007). They’re all great movies, and they’re cultural cornerstones of their decades. As you watch the movies, notice how the way people communicate, travel, and live their regular lives have drastically changed throughout the years.
In his 1999 book “The Age of Spiritual Machines” Ray Kurzweil proposed “the Law of Accelerating Returns” which states that the rate of change in evolutionary systems tends to increase exponentially. As we enter 2021 and after you watch these three movies you’ll notice how technology exponentially grows. Here is what I think is happening: humans create technology to support our behaviour, and in turn technology changes our behaviour. As a result, we create more technology to make more advancements, that in turn further influence our behaviour. Before we knew it, in less than a century our world has been reinvented several times over and there’s no reason for it to stop. The world is ever changing, and its rate of change is accelerating.
We are on the frontier of humanity and that prospect is as exciting as it is terrifying. In 2019 we were already pacing towards the digitalization of many industries. The internet made way for a wide variety of disruptions including the way we communicate, consume, and travel to just name a few. Then 2020 happened and the covid-19 pandemic paused the world. Millions of businesses were shut down and hundreds of millions of people were left without work. As we were forced to retreat to our personal areas, we should at least be grateful for the communication tools we have that allowed us to stay connected in ways our ancestors could only imagine during the last global pandemic in the 1900s.
The point is the pandemic has further accelerated the advancement of technology in society as we rely on our devices more now than ever to stay connected, be productive, and get what we need. I’ve spoken to dozens of entrepreneurs and professionals about this issue over the last 6 months and most everyone believes that the digital dependence built up during the pandemic won’t be going away anytime soon. Even after the pandemic leaves us.
Many of us had to pivot into our remote working skills, and create new digital processes to operate our businesses and our lives. These processes are more efficient. Tech is often designed to save us time and money through automation. But this is a double edged sword. As we move towards the mass adoption of technology across industries and we become more efficient, we’ll need less people to get the work done.
Farmers and seamstresses were disrupted by steam powered machines. Factory workers were disrupted by factory robots. Print workers got disrupted by email. There’s dozens of other examples, some roles totally eliminated while others wholly transformed. Disruption is happening to every industry to a certain extent. In your role or business, will you be disrupted or be the disruptor?
What Is The Digital Revolution
The digital revolution is considered by many economists to be the fourth industrial revolution. The digital revolution was triggered by the adoption of digital technology which started with the invention of the microchip in 1947 and really capitalized when the world wide web went live in 1989. Fast forward three decades later to 2020 and now over 4 billion people use smartphones are connected to the internet. 100% of jobs have already been or will be affected by new internet enabled technologies.
We’re seeing massive changes in every part of society as a result of the internet, and that certainly includes the way we do business and work. There’s a growing fear that technology is going to cause in many lost jobs, and they’re right to be concerned:
A 2011 study by McKinsey’s Paris office found that the Internet had destroyed 500,000 jobs in France in the previous 15 years—but at the same time had created 1.2 million others, a net addition of 700,000, or 2.4 jobs created for every job destroyed.
Unfortunately, not all of the 500k workers that lost their jobs were able to benefit from the 1.2 million newly created jobs. For example, The growing role of big data in the economy and business will create a significant need for statisticians and data analysts; McKinsey’s Paris office estimates a shortfall of up to 250,000 data scientists in the United States alone in a decade.
We are living in a new world era where millions of apps and software tools are available to help us fix any number of problems faster than ever before, and this is just the beginning as we’re still at the cusp of global internet adoption and on the horizon is the implementation of artificial intelligence.
Just as quickly as new tech emerges in this revolution, so shall they expire and be replaced by an even more advanced technology.
The question is: can we keep up? As of now the answer is no.
We’re letting just a handful of tech companies monopolize the market, our governments have been slow to respond in meaningful ways to regulate the tech industry, all while millions of people are at risk of losing their jobs to technology.
Tech companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft are monopolizing the digital landscape. Amazon will actively search and seek to crush its e-commerce competitors with predatory tactics like price wars to win. Facebook & Google generate billions in profits by selling access to our user data to marketers. You see the motto for the tech industry has long been known as “move fast and break things.” Not necessarily the best motto when you think about what the unforeseen consequences that can come as a result of this attitude. Government is slow to react to tech and because of this we’re living in a widely unregulated world for technology. Countries, states, and cities are all still learning how to regulate and work with tech companies. In the big picture of the digital revolution though, policy makers have been reactive instead of proactive to issues related to the protection of personal data and privacy, and the rising threat of cyberterrorism.
All this while 100% of jobs are changing in some way as a result of technology and the internet. Another McKinsey study showed that 60% of jobs in the world were partially automatable by at least 30%. That means less work for everyone. The result is transforming the economy quite drastically. That’s why we’re seeing a lot more independent contractors, gig/app workers, and freelancers.
Here’s the thing, if you’re not actively preparing by boosting your tech skills then you’re at risk of being disrupted. I don’t care how old or young you are or what type of job you work, if you’re not getting better at using tech than you’re falling behind.
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