Following my last post, I’ve been thinking more about ‘Digital‘. Is it a buzzword? Maybe. A myth? For sure not. Misunderstood? Definitely!
In my last post I talked about some of the technologies that are already here,and on their way to making our world very different. More technologies will come along soon also, at an increasing, seemingly exponential pace.
Recently I came across this spoof/parody article about how digital is misunderstood, “Nobody knows what ‘digital’ supposed to mean“. As a colleague, who I shared the link with, said:
… Thing is. … This is the reality!
So how does one go about looking into the future, and understanding what a digital world will look like? After all, if as many say, it will radically and rapidly alter our lives, we should try to better understand it.
Well, the best ‘time machine’ we have is the growing library of books by those who have researched the changes that are going on, and / or are close to the development of these technologies. In most cases these books are written by those who are close to the development of the new technologies involved, or spent time researching them, and have early insights into what is coming around the corner.
The future is already here – it is just unevenly distributed – William Gibson
Here are a few that I have read or part-read, and particularly liked (remember, you can usually read / download-to-Kindle the first chapter for free):
The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, by Kevin Kelly, Viking (7 June 2016)
“From one of our leading technology thinkers and writers, a guide through the twelve technological imperatives that will shape the next thirty years and transform our lives
Much of what will happen in the next thirty years is inevitable, driven by technological trends that are already in motion.
In this fascinating, provocative new book, Kevin Kelly provides an optimistic road map for the future, showing how the coming changes in our lives—from virtual reality in the home to an on-demand economy to artificial intelligence embedded in everything we manufacture—can be understood as the result of a few long-term, accelerating forces. Kelly both describes these deep trends—interacting, cognifying, flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, tracking, and questioning—and demonstrates how they overlap and are codependent on one another. These larger forces will completely revolutionize the way we buy, work, learn, and communicate with each other. By understanding and embracing them, says Kelly, it will be easier for us to remain on top of the coming wave of changes and to arrange our day-to-day relationships with technology in ways that bring forth maximum benefits. Kelly’s bright, hopeful book will be indispensable to anyone who seeks guidance on where their business, industry, or life is heading—what to invent, where to work, in what to invest, how to better reach customers, and what to begin to put into place—as this new world emerges.”
MY VIEW: Digestible and smart – at the time of writing, this book had only just been released, so I’ve not yet finished it; nevertheless, I’ve heard Kevin’s views on Tim Ferriss’ podcasts, and so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book (you can access the podcasts here, here, and here)
Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance, by Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna, Bloomsbury Information Ltd (19 May 2016)
“Age of Discovery explores a world on the brink of a new Renaissance and asks: How do we share more widely the benefits of unprecedented progress? How do we endure the inevitable tumult generated by accelerating change? How do we each thrive through this tangled, uncertain time?
From gains in health, education, wealth and technology, to crises of conflict, disease and mass migration, the similarities between today’s world and that of the fifteenth century are both striking and prophetic: we have been here before. So what must we do to achieve our full potential, individually and altogether, this time around? Will we repeat the glories of the Renaissance, the misery, or both?
In Age of Discovery, Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna show how we can draw courage, wisdom and inspiration from the days of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci in order to fashion our own Golden Age. Whether we’re seized by Gutenberg or Zuckerberg, the discovery of the Americas or the rise of China, copperplate etchings or silicon chips, the Bonfire of the Vanities or the destructive fury of ISIS, the spread of syphilis or the Ebola pandemic, such Renaissance moments force humanity to give its best just when the stakes are at their highest.
Turning the spotlight on the crises of our time, Age of Discovery shows how we can all define and create a lasting legacy that the world will still celebrate 500 years from now.”
“The present is a contest between the bright and dark sides of discovery. To avoid being torn apart by its stresses, we need to recognize the fact―and gain courage and wisdom from the past. Age of Discovery shows how.
Now is the best moment in history to be alive, but we have never felt more anxious or divided. Human health, aggregate wealth and education are flourishing. Scientific discovery is racing forward. But the same global flows of trade, capital, people and ideas that make gains possible for some people deliver big losses to others―and make us all more vulnerable to one another.
Business and science are working giant revolutions upon our societies, but our politics and institutions evolve at a much slower pace. That’s why, in a moment when everyone ought to be celebrating giant global gains, many of us are righteously angry at being left out and stressed about where we’re headed.
To make sense of present shocks, we need to step back and recognize: we’ve been here before. The first Renaissance, the time of Columbus, Copernicus, Gutenberg and others, likewise redrew all maps of the world, democratized communication and sparked a flourishing of creative achievement. But their world also grappled with the same dark side of rapid change: social division, political extremism, insecurity, pandemics and other unintended consequences of discovery.
Now is the second Renaissance. We can still flourish―if we learn from the first.”
MY VIEW: Looking back, to look forward; compelling, well-researched findings that are clearly presented: I was lucky enough to hear Ian present his views at a recent conference, with the aid of slides containing some compelling data (some of which are included in his book) – a great story, well told
The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future, by Steve Case, Simon & Schuster (5 April 2016)
“One of America’s most accomplished entrepreneurs—a pioneer who made the Internet part of everyday life and orchestrated the largest merger in the history of business—shares a roadmap for how anyone can succeed in a world of rapidly changing technology.
Steve Case’s career began when he cofounded America Online (AOL) in 1985. At the time, only three percent of Americans were online. It took a decade for AOL to achieve mainstream success, and there were many near-death experiences and back-to-the-wall pivots. AOL became the top performing company of the 1990s, and at its peak more than half of all consumer Internet traffic in the United States ran through the service. After Case engineered AOL’s merger with Time Warner and he became Chairman of the combined business, Case oversaw the biggest media and communications empire in the world.
In The Third Wave, which pays homage to the work of the futurist Alvin Toffler (from whom Case has borrowed the title, and whose work inspired him as a young man), Case takes us behind the scenes of some of the most consequential and riveting business decisions of our time while offering illuminating insights from decades of working as an entrepreneur, an investor, a philanthropist, and an advocate for sensible bipartisan policies.
We are entering, as Case explains, a new paradigm called the “Third Wave” of the Internet. The first wave saw AOL and other companies lay the foundation for consumers to connect to the Internet. The second wave saw companies like Google and Facebook build on top of the Internet to create search and social networking capabilities, while apps like Snapchat and Instagram leverage the smartphone revolution. Now, Case argues, we’re entering the Third Wave: a period in which entrepreneurs will vastly transform major “real world” sectors like health, education, transportation, energy, and food—and in the process change the way we live our daily lives. But success in the Third Wave will require a different skill set, and Case outlines the path forward.
The Third Wave is part memoir, part manifesto, and part playbook for the future. With passion and clarity, Case explains the ways in which newly emerging technology companies (a growing number of which, he argues, will not be based in Silicon Valley) will have to rethink their relationships with customers, with competitors, and with governments; and offers advice for how entrepreneurs can make winning business decisions and strategies—and how all of us can make sense of this changing digital age.”
MY VIEW: Steve Cases focuses on how entrepreneurs will transform existing businesses, while also sharing stories of events and developments since the birth of the Internet
The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age, by David L. Rogers, Columbia University Press (5 April 2016)
“The fast-moving digital environment has been disorienting for traditional businesses, and many may not even realize their strategies are outdated. If managed correctly, lagging businesses can transition by harnessing the power of the digital age to create new value for customers and outperform their competitors. Drawing on years of experience as an educator, researcher, and consultant, David L. Rogers identifies five key rules—and provides practical, hands-on tools—that will help businesses of all sizes adapt, innovate, and maximize value creation.
Rogers’s rules address critical categories for every business: customers, competition, data, innovation, and the value proposition. For each, he presents diverse case studies (from companies such as Apple and Uber to GE and the New York Times), discusses common challenges to adopting the digital approach, and provides companies and business leaders clear, tested steps to implement new practices. Rogers shows that, rather than being “disrupted” by digital business models, any business can learn the rules of today’s leading digital enterprises. This playbook is all business leaders need to create and pursue a digital plan that works.”
“Every business begun before the Internet now faces the same challenge: How to transform to compete in a digital economy?
Globally recognized digital expert David L. Rogers argues that digital transformation is not about updating your technology but about upgrading your strategic thinking. Based on Rogers’s decade of research and teaching at Columbia Business School, and his consulting for businesses around the world, The Digital Transformation Playbook shows how pre-digital-era companies can reinvigorate their game plans and capture the new opportunities of the digital world.
Rogers shows why traditional businesses need to rethink their underlying assumptions in five domains of strategy―customers, competition, data, innovation, and value. He reveals how to harness customer networks, platforms, big data, rapid experimentation, and disruptive business models―and how to integrate these into your existing business and organization.
Rogers illustrates every strategy in this playbook with real-world case studies, from Google to GE, from Airbnb to the New York Times. With practical frameworks and nine step-by-step planning tools, he distills the lessons of today’s greatest digital innovators and makes them usable for businesses at any stage.
Many books offer advice for digital start-ups, but The Digital Transformation Playbook is the first complete treatment of how legacy businesses can transform to thrive in the digital age. It is an indispensable guide for executives looking to take their firms to the next stage of profitable growth.”
MY VIEW: A structured assessment, into five domains of digital transformation (Customers, Competition, Data, Innovation, and Value), recognizing that they are not the same (looking at them as one domain is a common failure in my view!); contains good practical tips on how to participate in, and therefore not fall foul of the digital transformation
Industries of the Future, by Alec Ross, Simon & Schuster (2 February 2016)
“This book answers the question: ‘What’s next?’ The Internet had a world-changing impact on businesses and the global community over the twenty years from 1994 to 2014.
In the next ten years, change will happen even faster. As Hillary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation, Alec Ross travelled nearly a million miles to forty-one countries, the equivalent of two round-trips to the moon.
From refugee camps in the Congo and Syrian war zones, to visiting the world’s most powerful people in business and government, Ross’s travels amounted to a four-year masterclass in the changing nature of innovation.
In The Industries of the Future, Ross distills his observations on the forces that are changing the world. He highlights the best opportunities for progress and explains how countries thrive or sputter. Ross examines the specific fields that will most shape our economic future over the next ten years, including robotics, artificial intelligence, the commercialization of genomics, cybercrime and the impact of digital technology. Blending storytelling and economic analysis, he answers questions on how we will need to adapt. Ross gives readers a vivid and informed perspective on how sweeping global trends are affecting the ways we live, now and tomorrow.”
“Leading innovation expert Alec Ross explains what’s next for the world: the advances and stumbling blocks that will emerge in the next ten years, and how we can navigate them.
While Alec Ross was working as Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Secretary of State, he traveled to forty-one countries, exploring the latest advances coming out of every continent. From startup hubs in Kenya to R&D labs in South Korea, Ross has seen what the future holds.
In The Industries of the Future, Ross shows us what changes are coming in the next ten years, highlighting the best opportunities for progress and explaining why countries thrive or sputter. He examines the specific fields that will most shape our economic future, including robotics, cybersecurity, the commercialization of genomics, the next step for big data, and the coming impact of digital technology on money and markets.
In each of these realms, Ross addresses the toughest questions: How will we adapt to the changing nature of work? Is the prospect of cyberwar sparking the next arms race? How can the world’s rising nations hope to match Silicon Valley in creating their own innovation hotspots? And what can today’s parents do to prepare their children for tomorrow?
Ross blends storytelling and economic analysis to give a vivid and informed perspective on how sweeping global trends are affecting the ways we live. Incorporating the insights of leaders ranging from tech moguls to defense experts, The Industries of the Future takes the intimidating, complex topics that many of us know to be important and boils them down into clear, plainspoken language. This is an essential book for understanding how the world works—now and tomorrow—and a must-read for businesspeople in every sector, from every country.”
MY VIEW: The future of business, and renowned as one of THE books to foretell the coming decade, with a great closing paragraph that discusses what the future will be like for the youth of today and the worforce that they might enter
The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Norton & Company; Reprint edition (26 January 2016)
“In recent years, Google’s autonomous cars have logged thousands of miles on American highways and IBM’s Watson trounced the best human Jeopardy! players. Digital technologies―with hardware, software, and networks at their core―will in the near future diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.
In The Second Machine Age MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee―two thinkers at the forefront of their field―reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realize immense bounty in the form of dazzling personal technology, advanced infrastructure, and near-boundless access to the cultural items that enrich our lives.
Amid this bounty will also be wrenching change. Professions of all kinds―from lawyers to truck drivers―will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar.
Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and offer a new path to prosperity. These include revamping education so that it prepares people for the next economy instead of the last one, designing new collaborations that pair brute processing power with human ingenuity, and embracing policies that make sense in a radically transformed landscape.
A fundamentally optimistic book, The Second Machine Age alters how we think about issues of technological, societal, and economic progress.”
MY VIEW: More from Brynjolfsson and McAfee, this time further looking forward, with an optimistic outlook (see further below, for more from these guys)
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab (12 January 2016)
“Ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing. Artificially-intelligent robots. Self-driving cars. Neuro-technological brain enhancements. Genetic editing. The evidence of dramatic change is all around us and it’s happening at exponential speed.
Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, has been at the centre of global affairs for over four decades. He is convinced that the period of change we are living through is more significant, and the ramifications of the latest technological revolution more profound than any prior period of human history. He has dubbed this era the fourth industrial revolution. Crowdsourcing ideas, insights and wisdom from the World Economic Forum’s global network of business, government, civil society and youth leaders, this book looks deeply at the future that is unfolding today and how we might take collective responsibility to ensure it is a positive one for all of us.”
MY VIEW: Seemingly the one that really got the ball rolling among the advisory community, by Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic forum a clear and articulate summary, raising many good questions about the future
The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind, Oxford University Press (22 Oct 2015)
“This book predicts the decline of today’s professions and describes the people and systems that will replace them. In an Internet society, according to Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind, we will neither need nor want doctors, teachers, accountants, architects, the clergy, consultants, lawyers, and many others, to work as they did in the 20th century.
The Future of the Professions explains how ‘increasingly capable systems’ — from telepresence to artificial intelligence — will bring fundamental change in the way that the ‘practical expertise’ of specialists is made available in society.
The authors challenge the ‘grand bargain’ — the arrangement that grants various monopolies to today’s professionals. They argue that our current professions are antiquated, opaque and no longer affordable, and that the expertise of their best is enjoyed only by a few. In their place, they propose six new models for producing and distributing expertise in society.
The book raises important practical and moral questions. In an era when machines can out-perform human beings at most tasks, what are the prospects for employment, who should own and control online expertise, and what tasks should be reserved exclusively for people?
Based on the authors’ in-depth research of more than ten professions, and illustrated by numerous examples from each, this is the first book to assess and question the relevance of the professions in the 21st century.”
MY VIEW: If ‘computers’ / robots do eventually take over all of today’s jobs, what will people ‘do’ in the future, and who will control the computers?? A British perspective, compared to Martin Ford’s ‘Rise of the Robots’ (see below)
The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, by Martin Ford, Oneworld Publications (3 Sep 2015)
“Intelligent algorithms are already well on their way to making white collar jobs obsolete: travel agents, data-analysts, and paralegals are currently in the firing line. In the near future, doctors, taxi-drivers and ironically even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by ‘robots’. Without a radical reassessment of our economic and political structures, we risk the very implosion of the capitalist economy itself. In The Rise of the Robots, technology expert Martin Ford systematically outlines the achievements of artificial intelligence and uses a wealth of economic data to illustrate the terrifying societal implications. From health and education to finance and technology, his warning is stark – all jobs that are on some level routine are likely to eventually be automated, resulting in the death of traditional careers and a hollowed-out middle class. The robots are coming and we have to decide – now – whether the future will bring prosperity or catastrophe.”
“What are the jobs of the future? How many will there be? And who will have them? We might imagine—and hope—that today’s industrial revolution will unfold like the last: even as some jobs are eliminated, more will be created to deal with the new innovations of a new era. In Rise of the Robots, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Ford argues that this is absolutely not the case. As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer people will be necessary. Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making “good jobs” obsolete: many paralegals, journalists, office workers, and even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots and smart software. As progress continues, blue and white collar jobs alike will evaporate, squeezing working- and middle-class families ever further. At the same time, households are under assault from exploding costs, especially from the two major industries—education and health care—that, so far, have not been transformed by information technology. The result could well be massive unemployment and inequality as well as the implosion of the consumer economy itself.
In Rise of the Robots, Ford details what machine intelligence and robotics can accomplish, and implores employers, scholars, and policy makers alike to face the implications. The past solutions to technological disruption, especially more training and education, aren’t going to work, and we must decide, now, whether the future will see broad-based prosperity or catastrophic levels of inequality and economic insecurity. Rise of the Robots is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what accelerating technology means for their own economic prospects—not to mention those of their children—as well as for society as a whole.”
MY VIEW: Here come the Robots! A view as to what happens next, after computers / robots take over jobs as we know them today; an American perspective, compared to Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind’s ‘The Future of Professions’ (see above)
Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, by George Westerman and Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee, Harvard Business Review Press (23 September 2014)
“If you think the phrase “going digital” is only relevant for industries like tech, media, and entertainment—think again. In fact, mobile, analytics, social media, sensors, and cloud computing have already fundamentally changed the entire business landscape as we know it—including your industry. The problem is that most accounts of digital in business focus on Silicon Valley stars and tech start-ups. But what about the other 90-plus percent of the economy?
In Leading Digital, authors George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee highlight how large companies in traditional industries—from finance to manufacturing to pharmaceuticals—are using digital to gain strategic advantage. They illuminate the principles and practices that lead to successful digital transformation. Based on a study of more than four hundred global firms, including Asian Paints, Burberry, Caesars Entertainment, Codelco, Lloyds Banking Group, Nike, and Pernod Ricard, the book shows what it takes to become a Digital Master. It explains successful transformation in a clear, two-part framework: where to invest in digital capabilities, and how to lead the transformation. Within these parts, you’ll learn:
- How to engage better with your customers
- How to digitally enhance operations
- How to create a digital vision
- How to govern your digital activities
The book also includes an extensive step-by-step transformation playbook for leaders to follow.
Leading Digital is the must-have guide to help your organization survive and thrive in the new, digitally powered, global economy.”
MY VIEW: One of the earlier views on the change that ‘Digital’ will bring, focused on how to achieve digital mastery; aimed at C-Suites, and senior management of an organisation, and based on lots of empirical data and case studies
Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Digital Frontier Press (23 January 2012)
“Why has median income stopped rising in the US? Why is the share of population that is working falling so rapidly? Why are our economy and society are becoming more unequal?
A popular explanation right now is that the root cause underlying these symptoms is technological stagnation– a slowdown in the kinds of ideas and inventions that bring progress and prosperity.
In Race Against the Machine, MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee present a very different explanation. Drawing on research by their team at the Center for Digital Business, they show that there’s been no stagnation in technology — in fact, the digital revolution is accelerating.
Recent advances are the stuff of science fiction: computers now drive cars in traffic, translate between human languages effectively, and beat the best human Jeopardy! players. As these examples show, digital technologies are rapidly encroaching on skills that used to belong to humans alone. This phenomenon is both broad and deep, and has profound economic implications. Many of these implications are positive; digital innovation increases productivity, reduces prices (sometimes to zero), and grows the overall economic pie. But digital innovation has also changed how the economic pie is distributed, and here the news is not good for the median worker. As technology races ahead, it can leave many people behind. Workers whose skills have been mastered by computers have less to offer the job market, and see their wages and prospects shrink. Entrepreneurial business models, new organizational structures and different institutions are needed to ensure that the average worker is not left behind by cutting-edge machines.
In Race Against the Machine Brynjolfsson and McAfee bring together a range of statistics, examples, and arguments to show that technological progress is accelerating, and that this trend has deep consequences for skills, wages, and jobs. The book makes the case that employment prospects are grim for many today not because there’s been technology has stagnated, but instead because we humans and our organizations aren’t keeping up.”
MY VIEW: Important ‘early’ perspective, especially regarding technology versus jobs debate; worth reading at least to understand the ‘second half of the chessboard’ concept to describe increasing / exponential rate of change
I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work & Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted, by Nick Bilton, Crown Business (October 4, 2011)
“Are we driving off a digital cliff and heading for disaster, unable to focus, maintain concentration, or form the human bonds that make life worth living? Are media and business doomed and about to be replaced by amateur hour?
The world, as Nick Bilton—with tongue-in-cheek—shows, has been going to hell for a long, long time, and what we are experiencing is the twenty-first-century version of the fear that always takes hold as new technology replaces the old. In fact, as Bilton shows, the digital era we are part of is, in all its creative and disruptive forms, the foundation for exciting and engaging experiences not only for business but society as well.
Both visionary and practical, I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works captures the zeitgeist of an emerging age, providing the understanding of how a radically changed media world is influencing human behavior:
- With a walk on the wild side—through the porn industry—we see how this business model is leading the way, adapting product to consumer needs and preferences and beating piracy.
- By understanding how the Internet is creating a new type of consumer, the “consumnivore,” living in a world where immediacy trumps quality and quantity, we see who is dictating the type of content being created.
- Through exploring the way our brains are adapting, we gain a new understanding of the positive effect of new media narratives on thinking and action. One fascinating study, for example, shows that surgeons who play video games are more skillful than their nonplaying counterparts.
- Why social networks, the openness of the Internet, and handy new gadgets are not just vehicles for telling the world what you had for breakfast but are becoming the foundation for “anchoring communities” that tame information overload and help determine what news and information to trust and consume and what to ignore.
- Why the map of tomorrow is centered on “Me,” and why that simple fact means a totally new approach to the way media companies shape content.
- Why people pay for experiences, not content; and why great storytelling and extended relationships will prevail and enable businesses to engage with customers in new ways that go beyond merely selling information, instead creating unique and meaningful experiences.”
MY VIEW: A very down to earth view, that everyone can relate to, looking not so far into the future (partly because it was written a few years ago!) largely focuses on social media, and looks at films like minority report which are foretelling a lot of what is coming
Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler, The Bodley Head (1970) / Bantam; Reissue edition (1 June 1984)
“The symptoms of future shock are with us now. This book can help us survive our collision with tomorrow. Yet The Future Shock is about the present. It is about what is happening today to individuals and groups who are overwhelmed by changes.”
MY VIEW: The granddaddy of them all? Alvin Toffler (as well as people like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke) were making future predictions back in the 1970s – worth reading at least the first chapter, to understand his views on the impact of change
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