What no one tells you: We need more than Digital to Transform the World

Since the mainstreaming of the Internet, the assumption has been that we are at the cusp of the next big revolution.

We are going on 20 years, and it’s not here yet. Will it ever?

Let’s back up a bit. My degree is in computer engineering. So I learned how to design circuits and chips, how to write operating systems. To me, there is no magic to digital or executions which are digital. Digital is what we want it to be. Nothing more, nothing less.

Then why do people have unrealistic expectations of it?

Look at your average consultant, CX expert, or futurist talking about digital. They understand the current applications of digital. They have all used digital tools. The output of digital. The ones who are or have been in the bowels of digital are more neutral about its prospects (unless they are trying to sell you something).

I stumbled across Robert Gordon’s US Economic Growth is Over: The Short Run Meets the Long Run, which codified some of what I was seeing and felt.

Visit a third world country; it is easy to see what is revolutionary. Things like electricity, gas, water, and sewer access.

The combination of these connections resulted is societal shifts of the 1920s to 1970s. It changed where and how we lived our lives. That is what we are seeing in the BRIC countries currently. Everyone expected benefits of these new connections to continue and compound and get us our jetpacks in the 21st century. But, Peter Thiel said it best, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” Most people are still commuting and pushing around (digital) paper.

We don’t have the right combination to create the next epic change. Think of marketing; you need to get the 4Ps correct. Read the Ten Types of Innovation. The authors point out that for a company to differentiate, it needs a combination of 4 or 5 things right.

Will big data and AI get us there? If only applied to digital, probably not. We are going to need more significant changes from other fields. How about the nano-, neuro-, and green-?

Emerging Science and Technology