This article is written by Valery Kholodkov, Lead Researcher at AVG Innovation Lab in Amsterdam. Valery is on the forefront of AVG’s privacy-related research and he is constantly looking into how emerging technologies impact user privacy.
“If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less” – General Eric Shinseki
These are exciting times. In recent decades our lives have been transformed by technological breakthrough after breakthrough.
30 years ago the digital industry used to change entirely once per decade. The rise of the PC (1982), the invention of the World Wide Web (1991) and mass-market search engines (1999) mark moments of transformation that completely reshaped the industry. Nowadays the digital industry is disrupted every 5 years – double the pace of 30 years ago. Facebook (2004), iPhone (2007) and Bitcoin (2009) are the latest examples of game changers.
Our forefathers didn’t experience such rapid advances. The appearance of trolleys on the streets or a manned flight into orbit was already a big change for a lifetime.
But change is no longer something extraordinary. The development of the industry is no longer accelerated by change; the industry is developed through change. This paradigm shift has many implications. Our children should expect disruptive digital technology change every 2 years. This will create enormous pressure on education: with the current status quo in this field, your technology-related degree may be becoming irrelevant long before you finish it. Other degrees are likewise affected by the evolution of technology.
Traditional investment models based on economic rent are becoming irrelevant, but instead new investing models gain momentum, models that are based on risk taking, venture and invention.
Perhaps the most eye-catching implication is this: in the sequence of modern technological changes many did not appear in a planned and controlled way, yet they have profound influence on the society. No one predicted that the Internet and online social networks, open and transparent media, would have such a profound impact on daily life and the way people communicate. Nor did they predict the risks these would have, for example, impacts on privacy rights or implications resulting from mass-surveillance.
Similarly for Bitcoin and many other disruptive innovations, no one can predict the impact they will have on daily lives.
Like it or not, technological change cannot be stopped. In fact, it is becoming increasingly expensive to avoid change instead of embracing it. An attempt to do it would soon leave you in a country house surrounded by skyscrapers .
So we must embrace the change. Those who do not accept change as the new normal will find themselves left behind in a world that seems totally meaningless to them.
“Those who do not accept change as the new normal will find themselves left behind in a world that seems totally meaningless to them.”
This acceptance does not come easy, though. Our natural fear of change is perfectly grounded. Fear is subconscious signal of risk. But fear is alleviated by identifying the source of risk, studying and understanding it. In our case – by learning the disrupting technology.
However, modern science and technology is so breathtakingly vast, none of us does have an ability to know what to study, let alone resources to develop competence in everything.
This fact calls for a new social role: the Technological Mediators. These people or businesses fill the gap between those who drive technological change and those who are affected by it. The mission of the Technological Mediators is to make sure that those who do not understand technology do not become dependent on what they do not understand. By explaining the opportunities and dangers of new technologies to those who do not understand and expanding the circle of those who do understand technology, Technological Mediators help ensure technology users are not endangered by rapid technological change, much like a clutch helps you change your gears smoothly.
In the past the digital industry brought up new dangers such as computer viruses. This sparked the emergence of digital security industry. This new industry is an example of a Technological Mediator, an industry that fulfills the role of explaining us dangers of digital industry and protecting us from them. In our time, the time of Internet surveillance and Big Data the Technological Mediator is a digital guardian online that protects our data and identity.
“In our time, the time of Internet surveillance and Big Data the Technological Mediator is a digital guardian online that protects our data and identity.”
Putting this view into perspective, we can see that the raise of digital security industry is only the beginning of an emerging trend, and to be on top of it we need to study potentially disruptive technologies and learn how to explain it to everyone. And could it be that seeing the role of digital security industry as social function leads to a market with a potential customer base as large as the entire mankind?
-  The Singularity Is Near. Ray Kurzweil. Viking Press (2006);
-  Mindsteps to the Cosmos. Hawkins, Gerald S. HarperCollins (1983);
-  Funky Business: Talent Makes Capital Dance. Kjell A. Nordström, Jonas Ridderstråle. Pearson Education (2002).
Disclaimer: All opinions are those of the author and not those of AVG or Innovation Labs.