The world is at a cross-roads when it comes to technology leadership. And it is time for architects to fill out there place in the new digital age.
For most of our history technology has settled into two primary groups; a) fun ‘consumer’ technology like phones and music players and TVs and Netflix and online commerce, and b) back of the house enterprise technology which was an ‘enabler’ to business but not as important as ‘the business’. Those days are completely dead and gone. In today’s business ecosystems, technology is not an enabler, it is the only thing that matters. And it is time the world of technologists woke up to their responsibilities to lead business and society in a world changing for the better and the worse.
- Business is already digital: Business is no longer sales and operations. It is technology that rules the roost now. And yet a generation of technologists are still waiting to be told what ‘the business’ wants to do.
- Jobs are going digital: Technology will create a world where work is no longer the unit of value. Instead it will be a world where creativity and individualism itself become the unit of trade. And yet this world is not ready to lose it’s jobs to robots. How will we deal with a world where there are no jobs because they are not needed? How will we reshape humanity to deal with abundance and free time?
- Money is going digital: We consistently hear about digital currencies becoming available in the near future and governments support for them. This is a world that few lay-people will understand and it is essential that we begin to work through the challenges and opportunities of digital currency and the ability for average people to pay there bills and function comfortably. If I like a street musician, what do I throw in his/her guitar case in a digital money system? What will be the cost of deploying hundreds of millions of digital currency terminals? Will it be SAFE from theft or tampering or tracking?
- War is going digital: The next war will be fought in code and by robots. This changes the entire paradigm. When code can take out the power to hospitals, cities, and human services. When robot ‘lives’ do not matter. When engagements are relatively minor in terms of individual outcomes but massive collectively (think about shutting down the telephones in a large number of small cities). When cars and cell phones and bank accounts are hacked across the field of battle?
- Privacy and identity is going digital: We evolved in villages where privacy didn’t exist. Think back to the time when most humans lived in settlements of 100-200. Everyone knew everything about everyone else. And yet there was a cost in USING that information. Bully someone too much and you run the risk of the community making you suffer for it. Talk about someone’s spouse at the pub and they just might show up the next day to dissuade you from doing so again. But what do regular people do when their employer fires them for something they posted to facebook? What does the school child do when they are being bullied online from someone hundreds or thousands of miles away? How does humanity deal with the notion that at some point soon, literally everything they have done in their lives, from noble to naughty will be recorded from multiple angles and available publicly?
- Things are going digital: We are installing devices in every man made surface of the world. From tables to tennis shoes. Not only is this a massive undertaking it directly impacts the way humans deal with the world. Up until now, the only things on the planet that were aware of us were other animals. Now the entire world will be aware of us and be able to respond to us. What are the right ways to deal with property? Advertisements? Education? How does the economy change when everything is a device?
- Fun and love are going digital: Billions of people play games and fall in love online. Our relationships and our play are both being absorbed into the digital world. Just watch a group of people around a pokemon go stop and you will know what I mean. How do we prepare ourselves for the emotional, spiritual and mental impacts of this change? What happens to human psychology when our entire social existence is virtual instead of physical? What happens to those who reject it?
I do not know the answers to all of these questions, but I do know a group of people who can help solve them. And those are the people who helped invent these exciting technologies in the first place. That is why I want technologists to begin doing the following. Iasa will do everything it can to facilitate and lead.
- Start writing and speaking. Let’s stop defining what is architecture, what is digital transformation. Let’s start focusing on the impact of technology on society and business. Give us ideas! What will jobs look like for the next 50 years? How do politics, religion, business and love change? What can we do for society NOW?
- Create local activist groups. Start bringing together groups of technologists in your area. Look at the list above. What can we do to help? Volunteer with non-profits and charities as technologists. Teach a local class to out of work manufacturing workers. Work with kids to understand how to stop cyber bullying and prepare them for tomorrow. Go and talk to your city council about preparation for the next 10 years.
- Help Iasa form councils to begin preparation for the future. Education, society, privacy, money, ethics, jobs, war, crime, art. We need to have a very public opinion as a body of practitioners and professionals and together we can make those opinions actionable all over the world.
- Stand up innovation groups in your business. Call it a ‘brown bag’ or an internal community. Be where the ideas are generated. Find the ones that work and make them happen.
There is a lot to do, but I know together we can do it.