Our world is changing. Look around:
- in geopolitics: liberal democracies are facing unprecedented upheaval across the USA , the UK and the European Union as the traditional middle class revolts against the destruction of blue collar industries, structural inequalities and progressive immigration policies. Whilst the USA moves towards dovish foreign policy, a resurgent Russia and irrepressible China battle for territorial, political and economic supremacy marking the commencement of a new era of superpowers.
- in economics: for the first time macroeconomic policies are retreating in the face of nationalistic sentiments and, deliberately or by design, developing economies are bypassing historical paths taken to industrialise and modernise their countries. At the same time, developed countries are reshaping their economies away from the resources and manufacturing sectors with a full-time labour market towards the services sector with a part-time labour market supported by a secondary shareconomy.
The thread that binds these revolutions? Technology. The revolutionary services that technology enables are built on the bones of dead or dying industries and job sectors. To quote from Vitaly M. Golob’s fabulous TechCrunch article:
“Trump, Brexit and ISIS are the symptoms…society is busy playing tug of war with the past, yet the future is going to change our reality as we know it.”
In 2017, the Australian economy will continue to be reshaped by technological forces that most of its 24 million citizens scarcely understand. Over the coming months, I will demystify some of these forces by exploring these 5 big ideas transforming Australian companies in 2017:
1. App convergence
Over the last 5 years, every financial institution from big banks to fintechs to super funds have scrambled to build their own tailored native smartphone app. They are pouring millions and millions of dollars to win the battle for your attention on your iPhone homescreen. Who will win? None of them. In this article, I will paint a picture of a future in which you will use a single app for everything from payments and banking to social media and online services to calls and messaging. You will literally never leave the app. Sounds farfetched? This future is already here: It’s name is WeChat and it’s from China.
2. Blockchain de(con)struction
I have to confess: I’m a reformed blockchain believer. I’ve trodden a well worn path from Bitcoin evangelist to evolved blockchain commentator to smug distributed ledger advocate. My original insight remains steadfast that blockchain is more about the principles it embraces rather than the technology it represents. However, in this article I’ll come full circle and argue that it is the innovations within Bitcoin itself that matter more than the distributed ledger technology upon which the cryptocurrency network exists. In 2017, post-trust connectivity will emerge from unpacking the Bitcoin blockchain whilst focus will intensify on:
- digital currencies unlocking value amongst trustless communities
- consensus mechanisms enabling collective decision making
- advanced hashing algorithms creating immutable digital assets.
3. Intelligent industries
As I explained previously, artificial intelligence (AI) is not some far imagined Skynet future. AI is here. It’s real. It’s possible. AI will reinvent many industries across the global economy. I will explore it’s impact on just one industry – the Australian insurance sector. The InsurTech revolution will pale into insignificance against the IntelliSurance revolution – underwriting and claims will never be the same. To borrow from the unorthodox Wachowski Brothers:
“Your flesh is a relic; a mere vessel. Hand over your flesh, and a new world awaits.”
4. Augmented humanity
Digital simulations of the “real” world currently come in two main flavours: Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). Human-centered experiences of this technology are currently focused on video games but the scope and potential of reality enhancing technology goes far beyond this. I’ll explain how we are accelerating exponentially towards the much prophesied technology singularity with the coming of AI and maturity of brain-computer interfaces (BCI). Once this happens, the power to shape our financial futures will literally be at our fingertips.
5. Quantum futures
The quantum world is weird and mysterious. It doesn’t work in a way that is intuitive to human beings that experience reality in a relativistic manner. However, many of our most revolutionary technologies (such as lasers and MRI) rely on the weird properties of quantum mechanics. In this article, I’ll help you make sense of some truly strange quantum properties which hint at a future we can barely imagine but that I can’t wait to experience in all its entangled glory. More than any other idea, this one will bend the mind and make you see our world in a new way so keep in mind the immortal words of modern-day genius Richard Feynman as we explore this together:
“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
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