Keeping all due respect to Thomas Friedman and his great best-seller book ‘the World is Flat‘, I have to observe that it is not quite the case yet. This stems from my observations as a globe-trotter and my activities as a publisher.
Having moved from Singapore to France a few months ago I re-discover the convenience of online buying of groceries, books and all sorts of equipment. That was not possible even in Singapore (a developed country but a too small market in the midst of developing countries for most e-shops, and that also has some protectionist traits).
At the same time as a publisher I get requests from people from various countries like South Africa or less developed countries who want to get a paper copy of our books. Because e-bookstores are not convenient there I need to organize specific logistics from the digital printing shops we are using – and they are all located in western countries.
Notwithstanding the recent hints at increased protectionism, new technologies have brought an unprecedented access to information and dematerialized content. As for material goods, there are still wide differences and gaps due the maturity of distribution channels between countries.
The world will be flat when there will be an equality in the distribution of material goods globally. It is going in that direction but there is still a lot of way to go.
I love this quote from humorist commentator Will Rogers: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there“.
This recommendation for always continuing to move along in the right direction is compelling. Remaining static actually creates the possibility of becoming obsolete with regard to the rest of the world; it also creates the possibility of self regression by lack of evolution. If we stop, it is a kind of small death.
I believe what is meant here is not necessarily to always try to move forward at great strides; sometimes, we need to resupply and move slower, but what is important is to move forward at all times.
According to common knowledge it is difficult to entertain tight bonding with more than about 150 people at any one time. This is called the Dunbar’s number, a concept developed in the 1990s. However with the Fourth Revolution, I believe the rotation frequency of this tighter community might have increased.
My observation is that with social networks that allow us to maintain weak ties with a lot more people in a more intense manner than before, the composition of this elect group of stronger bonded people is much higher than before. Depending on exchanges, meetings and opportunities, we tend to renew this group much more frequently than before (around a much smaller stable core community). This has implications about the relative impermanence of stronger bonds which might be an issue, while the accelerated renewal rate is an opportunity for a richer life as well.
Is that your case also that your tighter community tends to rotate quicker than before?
In order to enhance significantly the commercial value of your profile (which they resell directly or indirectly to advertisers), they complete it by buying additional data not directly from your usage of the platform!
And the interesting aspect of it is that it appears to be practically impossible to opt out of all these data gathering sources.
Anyway, while I was quite sure that all those social networks would have had enough of all the data handed to them by us using their service, they seem to need more still. Scary, isn’t it? Maybe an area for regulation soon!
The Internet of Things is spreading, multiplying the number of clever devices and intruding deeper in our privacy. Those who will succeed in that market are those that will master the technologies that avoid fraud and excessive privacy intrusion.
The Internet of Things faces huge hacking risks. For two reasons:
IoT devices are relatively easier to hack because they do not usually include software upgrade and because they are based on standard chips with many more functionalities.
The consequences of hacking can also be much more visible, being devices that control the physical space.
At the start of internet, many services collapsed due to the issue of managing spam and fraud. For example, lots of paypal competitors died of this scourge, and paypal survived by having, from the start, implemented strong anti-fraud features.
The same will happen in the IoT: the survivors will be those that will develop and implement the technology that will avoid as much as possible hacking and subornation of their devices. This should be a key research angle for those that want to succeed in this field.
Data is at the core of the business model of the internet. Our private, personal data actually. And, as Cory Doctorow writes in one of his usual well-researched rants, ‘The Privacy Wars Are About to Get a Whole Lot Worse‘. The reason is the emergence of the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things (IoT) started already with the smartphones. Because we will progressively be surrounded with sensors that will measure many things and even listen to what is being said or done, our privacy will be even more exposed than now.
“The returns from data-acquisition have been declining for years. […] Diminishing returns can be masked by more aggressive collection. If Facebook can’t figure out how to justify its ad ratecard based on the data it knows about you, it can just plot ways to find out a lot more about you and buoy up that price.”
We probably underestimate already the license we give to our smartphone and its apps to use various channels of data recovery. As Cory Doctorow underlines, no-one really bothers to read the long license agreements, and anyway what can you do if you disagree? We can’t go negotiate one particular section with Google or Facebook, can we?
Cory Doctorow’s point is that one day, on some particular issue, a judge may grant significant compensation because of the indirect usage of personal data. However this day is far away. AT the same time this privacy issue is currently slowing down the spread of IoT and its convenience. A solution must be found.
One thing that goes in the way of creating new different habits is certainly the way we look upon ourselves. If we want to change a habit that is aligned with our sense of identity, or the identity we want to project outside, we will fail.
“The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously). To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.” writes James Clear in his post ‘Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year’.
I would add, not only starting to believe new things about oneself, but projecting them and publishing them too, which will make the case much stronger for change.
Reflect on your identity and check whether there is not something there that impedes changing some habits?
His analysis is mostly focused on the clear demarcation between rural and city votes and feel during the last US presidential elections. He interprets is as a geographical clustering of knowledge in cities and makes the point that power should be given back to the cities that would be the new driving political forces of the Collaborative Age.
I do not fully agree with this analysis of geographical clustering because it remains to be shown that knowledge concentrates geographically. There are strong diverging forces also at play, including internet access from anywhere and a certain trend at least in some countries for knowledge workers to work remotely and move back to the countryside.
At the same time, there is clearly clustering of knowledge among only a small part of the community, and at least in the virtual space. And this still does challenge our current institutions.
The Industrial Age has been built by the labor loop: pay workers more so that they can consume more factory products. This has led to unprecedented improvement of living conditions and overall wealth. This also worked well in an era of scarcity.
As we reach an era of abundance, where manufacturing can produce way more than we can or should consume, what will be the new model that will drive progress in the world? There is much talk about replacing it with a knowledge loop. An excellent post describes this transformation: ‘From the Job Loop to the Knowledge Loop (via Universal Basic Income)‘.
At the same time I find that the view of a knowledge loop supported by basic income where everybody would keenly participate to creating knowledge quite utopic. I am not sure everybody would indeed participate actively, and how the contributions of individuals could be valued.
Nevertheless, the crisis of the labor loop is upon us, as shown by the relative decrease of wages as part of wealth creation and we need to find an alternative model.
Irrespective of whether the amount of work available will change (it might remain quite stable), the number of ‘jobs’ (meant as being an employee) will certainly decrease.
Self-employment is already dramatically on the rise in many countries for a while and it is I believe a trend that will remain.
Platforms that serve to link self-employed people and clients are also on the rise.
Self-employment is not always a choice: it is sometimes the only way to keep some activity and a lot of self-employed people work are forced to work part-time and at weird times too.
At the same time, self employment means more freedom and flexibility, and the possibility to have several concurring activities.
It is strange how the administrative organization of most developed countries are so tweaked to considering people as being employee of some organization. This creates all sorts of complications for the self-employed, or requires to create a company to become an employee of sorts.
The trend to self-employment is here to stay. Our institutions should change to cater for this situation and better protect those who work under this model.
Will there be more or less jobs in the Collaborative Age? This is a decisive political question at the core of many discussions and votes.
One one hand, there is an impression that robots will take over jobs, in particular those that are do not require high qualifications. For example, truck drivers represent up to 2.5% of the total workforce in the US and could be soon replaced by robots (to which other types of drivers like taxi etc need to be added, bringing possibly the total to 3.0 or 3.5%). This is a huge, huge number and the shift may happen soon. How will those people redeploy their talent?
Others like Tim O’Reilly in this video titled ‘why we’ll never run out of jobs’ take the stand that the Collaborative Age will provide new opportunities and that work will not be a problem: according to him we’ll never run out of jobs, because:
we will never run out of problems
there will always be the need for new, attractive products
That may be true once the transition has been performed.
One thing for sure, jobs in the Collaborative Age will be different than today’s. The skills and talents they will require will be different too.
The conversion of the current generation to the new situation may be painful and this may help explain the tidal waves of conservative fear of change that express themselves at each election.