Are we currently the masters of our own technology or are our roles reversing?

Are we currently the masters of our own technology or are our roles reversing?  Are we moving into more obvious evidence of our own lack of control over the new digital reality appearing in products, software, artificial intelligence, banking, automobiles in the marketplace with privacy challenges, new technologies, cleverness in lieu of compliance, and the unveiling of the vast data mining and surveillance network established within the US. The developments create the aura of a certain powerlessness and a pattern evolving for the consumer filled with irony and escalating inequality.

As William Faulk in the noted: “Digital technology is a tool, and tools make those wielding them more powerful.” We’re seeing that in the Internet and the ensuing quest for big data with predictive analytics – exponentially multiplying data, knowledge and connections. But is this like the initial discovery of the atomic bomb in the 1940s and could this be providing humans more power than individuals can truly handle? Do Facebook, Twitter and Google work for us? Are we economic minions working for them? Are there boundaries on how giant companies facilitated by governments use information to reach into the privacy of our lives unknowingly? Are we at a juncture where if we don’t provide incisive answers to these questions, the questions will ultimately be answered for us in turn as has evolved with national surveillance, and privacy regulation?

We are seeing everything characterized as content that is shifting to free and open sourcing. The delivery system, technology and big data with predictive analytics instead are the critical building blocks for the future. Impact of this on knowledge management and the service economy structured in the US since 1985 is compelling with high impacts for the future. Very few business models in the US are continuing to work in considering this content shift and its impacts on our colleges and universities, the healthcare system, music and books, the arts industry, electricity, healthcare, law and retail services. Few business sectors in the US are unaffected; and many are just beginning to understand this new revolution.

Under this new business model in the IT and technology economy, payment for content is becoming quaint and is credited as an old 20th century concept. Is this correct in this boundaryless and high technology society? Content providers are essentially becoming extinct or converted into free service providers. The technology system fosters the assumption that the delivery system is all that matters.  Technology is defiantly relegating content in what used to be called art to the status of filler to fit within the technology platform and be wrapped in a wrapper including banner advertising.  Will the Internet and technology become the ultimate form of creative destruction of capitalism recognized by Joseph Schumpeter in the 1940s?

The next round of drone technology in civilian applications, the transformation of the electric utility system, the shift in the transportation and automotive sectors, 3D printing, banking, healthcare, biomedicine and new materials science products will become the ultimate arbiter of this technology build up. All defense mechanisms no longer will be working for personal and civil security as these digital transformations appear. The addition of drones, transactive energy, driverless cars, e-money along with Internet and related privacy considerations will create an economic slide. This will occur from removing the ability of knowledge managers and content providers to ever seek and secure profit from their creativity and innovation in the future. It is for naught if it does not improve quality of life, enhance productivity or foster better economic equality. Just because we can do it — will no longer be good enough an answer as the Internet fosters new bases of rent transfers masquerading as efficiency and convenience.

The impacts on the education, the existing workforce, and companies and their business models are likely to create a huge stranding of personal, social and economic investment after the great recession that will carry the country well into 2025.  The jobs performance in the U.S since 2000 may illustrate this truth except in the STEM skills and new areas like artificial intelligence, drones, software, 3 D printing, and biomedics.

The changes are fast, furious, exciting and pervasive – and if we are not careful they may also  become dark but deeper than we recognize or even can imagine today.


M J  Zimmer

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