Beware. The future’s here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet

Author: Erik Brynjolfsson, James Kirk (

Categories: digital strategy, digital warm up acts
One of my favourite quotes is from a science fiction author that the future's already here, it's just not evenly distributed yet.  And one of the tricks that Andy and I used in writing our book, The Second Machine Age, was to go and look at some of the places where the technology is having some of the biggest impacts.  And naturally you see them in some of the high tech companies in Silicon Valley, around the Boston area, other leading companies all over the world.  But it's not just high tech that's being affected. Ultimately, every industry is having digital technologies at its core.  You see that in finance, in banking.  You see it in manufacturing, you see it in retailing, you see it in media, in music of course, and each of those industries, as they before more digitised, they have more of these winner-take-all economics, they have more of this bounty, of being able to replicate new processes or ideas very very cheaply.  Ultimately, they look more and more like the high tech companies that we've been focusing on.What we're seeing is that not only are individual workers being disrupted, but companies and industries are being disrupted as well. One of the phenomena that we looked at was what we call the rise of micro multi-nationals, the fact that a small group of people, by leveraging digital infrastructure including the cloud, advanced software, big data, can have an impact on millions of people, all over the world.  Think of Instagram, or WhatsApp, these are companies with a dozen or a few dozen employees that affected millions of people, hundreds of millions of people with the products they developed.  They ultimately were sold for billions of dollars, that was something you wouldn't have seen ten, fifteen years ago.  Kodak employed 145,000 people at its peak, a big chunk of the city of Rochester were their suppliers, and other people helping out, with the basic functions of Kodak.  So we've seen a sea-change in terms of the ability of a small group of people to leverage technology to disrupt entire industries.  And I think a lot of the big companies are realising that they are vulnerable to that kind of disruption because of the power that technology puts in the hands of very small groups of people.
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