We now live in a world that is increasingly digital, but not yet completely digital. We are participants and observers in this transformation and the next generation of not-yet-imagined digital technology will further transform our everyday life. This revolution has already impacted nearly every part of modern life. Over the past two decades, digital technologies have profoundly altered our way of life and the change will continue in both expected and unexpected directions in the decades to come.
Engineers and entrepreneurs are constantly co-creating and updating the digital world not only offering excitement and opportunity but are also daunting and overwhelming to a great many of us struggling to keep up with the pace of change.
The digitalisation of modern life has progressed so far and so fast that it is easy to overlook that we are still in the early stages of this transformation. It is sobering to note that the digital innovations dominating consumer and commercial life in 2020 were largely unanticipated as recently as 1999.
These innovations have come in rapid succession, rendering pre-digital life largely unrecognisable to the new generation of digital natives. One of the outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic is a further acceleration of the change to what is now being termed as the “Freedom Age”.
We are about to enter a period of extraordinary technological disruption that will affect every sector of the economy concurrently. For example, as batteries improve as demand and investment in electric vehicles grow, they become competitive in the electricity storage market, which boosts the market for solar and wind energy, which increases demand for more grid storage, which catalyses further improvement in battery technology cost and capabilities, which in turn improves electric vehicle competitiveness relative to fossil fuel powered vehicles.
We are on a journey as profound as the shift from foraging to agriculture and cities but condensed into a fraction of the time according to RethinkX, an independent think tank. They predict in 10 years the convergence of technologies will completely disrupt the five foundational sectors that underpin the global economy, information, energy, food, transportation and materials.
They predict that costs will fall tenfold or more, while production processes become 10 times more resource-efficient, using 90 per cent fewer natural resources and producing 10-100 times less waste. The technology disruptions and the rapid non-linear change they will drive, are not, as some predict, another Industrial Revolution. Instead, we are undergoing a far more fundamental and life-changing shift.
RethinkX “co-founder Tony Seba said; “Our very model of production is being turned on its head and with it comes enormous opportunity and risk. We can use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to solve the greatest challenges of humankind – inequality, poverty, environmental destruction if, and only if, we learn from history, recognise what is happening, understand the implications and make critical choices now; because these very same technologies that hold such promise are also accelerating civilisation’s collapse.”
The report finds that the cost of the “American Dream” defined in terms of 1,000 miles/month of transport, 2,000 kWh/month of energy, complete nutrition (including 100gm of protein, 250gm of healthy carbs, 70gm of fats, and micronutrients), 100 litres of clean water a day, continuing education, and communications, could be as low as $250 per month by 2030.
Seems through all the gloom and doom there is an exciting future ahead.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at [email protected]