The Emerging Challenge of Digital Bifurcation, or The Cheese is Moving Faster

“New technologies and approaches are merging the physical, digital and biological worlds in ways that will fundamentally transform humankind. The extent to which that transformation is positive will depend on how we navigate the risks and opportunities that arise along the way.” Klaus Schwab, German economist

A colleague recently gave me a fresh copy of Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, the classic tale about four mice and how they handle change. Two of them bravely fail and learn their way through the maze to find new cheese, one of them slowly learns and adapts, and one clings to the past. I hadn’t read it in a number of years, and it reminded me that while change is constant, it is accelerating, and that makes it more challenging for humans to adapt.

On the heels of reading about mice and dairy products, another colleague asked me how I identified emerging disruptive technologies. There is no shortage of research, news, information and marketing literature on the soup of emerging tech, and I have little doubt that disruptions like autonomous vehicles and cryptocurrency will go the way of  online retail, which survived the dot-com bust to become ubiquitous.

But ubiquitous for whom?  Access to and benefits from technology require money and knowledge, and there is plenty of data indicating the digital divide is growing. A 2016 article from the London School of Economics found that educated, high income people derive more benefit from the internet. When you consider that only upper income groups in the US have greater median income today than prior to the Great Recession, it is not surprising to read that retail is not dying, it is just bifurcating along with the income gap, according to a study by Deloitte

As technology leaders, we should consider that median income and retail trends are a precursor to a growing digital divide, where the beneficial breakthroughs enabled by technology accrue disproportionately. A salient example: Ride-hailing services, for all their prominence in news and social media, are only used by 15% of Americans and one-third have never heard of these services. Notably, the 15% have a median income of $75K or above.

Whether reading short tweets or long form articles, technology and other leaders should ask “will this emerging technology be disruptive?,” AND “how can I help to make this emerging technology available and beneficial to the largest amount of people possible?”

The cheese is moving. Identify, shape and deploy technology to help as many people as possible find the new cheese.

“When you change what you believe, you change what you do.” Spencer Johnson, author

Worth considering: 

It’s not to late to register for the International Cheese Tech Expo, being held April 17 – 19 in Madison, Wisconsin. Among the sessions is “Milk & Cheese Analytics Demystified.”

The news is full of data privacy angst. Here’s a new one: Hackers stole a database of a casino’s high roller information – via a thermometer in the casino’s fish tank. Something fishy going on, indeed. (I couldn’t help myself.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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