The Digital Age.
First, there is a PROLOGUE.
A case study in Unintended Consequences.
The need to exchange information with colleagues across CERN.
A simple need. Leading to a simple html missive.
Sent across an “invent it so you can send it” World Wide Web.
www. = a global information medium.
The founding spirit: Open source. Anti-monopoly. Information: for all.
‘Sharing’ coded into the very DNA of Digital.
Absolute competition in a truly open market.
Price comparison. An even playing field. Consumers in the driving seat.
1994: hello Amazon.
1998: hello Google.
1999: hello Alibaba.
Phones level-up and level-up some more; become handheld computers we take... everywhere.
People able to remotely ‘connect’ with immediacy. Beyond spoken word.
From Conspicuous Consumption to the dawn of “Conspicuous Communication”.
2004: hello Facebook.
2006: hello Twitter.
2007: hello iPhone.
Social Media leading to Social Mobilisation and positive change.
2010: hello Arab Spring… and hello Insta.
Technology liberates and invites.
Technology excites and tempts us all to distort and warp.
Click to buy. Click to polish. Click to post.
We all become bargain hunters and documenters.
Daily selfies and self-curation of our ‘Life Factions’. Neither all fact or all fiction.
A new world order of Unicorns and Decacorns.
From positive… to negative. From light to much more dark.
The system is gamed. The dice loaded. Google/Facebook = duopoly.
The Information Age becomes the Age of Misinformation.
And misrepresentation. Propaganda rebooted.
Fake News. Paid Influencers.
Trolls. Bots. Catfish profiles. Dark Web underbellies.
Click-bait. Click-to-Accept Cookies. Options that aren’t a choice.
User disempowerment. Fakers faking. Haters hating. Hackers hacking.
Open source becomes ring-fenced social feeds, echo-chambers to Group Think prejudice and clique-defined ‘reality’. And if not Clique-defined, then… Cambridge Analytica defined. Or out of some server-melting, power-grid sucking warehouse behind the former Iron Curtain.
New curtains. Old games. Espionage gets a Cyber prefix.
From Arab Springs to Democratic Meltdowns.
Social Media as Mob Rule and Manufactured Mobs spawning Ballot Box change that may echo through history.
‘Digital’ becomes a Black Mirror to our narcissistic, lesser selves.
From free software to create and self-express... to malicious software that can zero your bank account.
The best of times... becoming the worst of times.
So much for self-regulating forces.
And now, from here, where...?
Not over the edge and into the abyss. No.
Instead, chinks of light. Glimmers in the darkness.
As every good script writer knows, the narrative must keep turning. Positive to negative. Negative to positive. Scenes flipping.
And ‘Digital’ has already shown itself to be one seriously wide-angle, see-sawing, fast-pivoting narrative. The game that turns as we play.
Our direction of travel: a step-after-step exercise in course correction.
Technology creates opportunity… the opportunity is realised… technology turns. Finds a loop-hole, exposes the weak point, exploits the advantage.
Technology reinvents again, redresses the new imbalance.
New advantage is born.
HMV… then Spotify. Blockbuster… then Netflix.
Circles of Reinvention and Re-imagining.
Open-source. Free information. Then: Google. Then: monopolistic control of information. With Surfeit of Information leading to Audience Paralysis, leading to Misinformation and Consumer Indifference. We accept everything. We trust nothing. All we know is we don’t know for sure. But then...
A systemic-level reset. Right NOW… where some information has the ability to become rock-solid and certain again.
Begin… ACT 2.
Technology turns. A new equilibrium created. Flow to the left, flow to the right.
The binary osmosis resettling.
Reasons for hope. Hope squared even.
We’re on the cusp of Next.
IBM “putting Smart to work”, articulating the bigger picture themes.
Genuine IoT. Connected everything. Safer, smarter aeroplanes. App-trackable luggage when you fly. Your food packaging talking to your fridge, alerting your phone and making an addition to your online shopping basket.
Every physical something, wearing the right tag, suddenly birthed a digital twin. Everything with a digital identity.
Proof of provenance. Proof of ethically sourced materials and manufacture.
T-shirt labels become digital keyholes into an instantly accessible supply chain backstory.
Printed movie posters become transmedia trigger-points to teaser trailers and fan-delight bonus materials.
RFID: slow-burn technologies now stepping into their defining moment in the Sun. The half-invented arriving at its tipping point. Microdots, antennas and radio waves connecting the inanimate with the cloud, introducing Trust by Design. Not just creating digital identities. Creating Digital Personalities too. Breathing life into IoT. Creating circular economies and giving tired running shoes a sell-back second life.
AI: bleeding-edge technologies starting to bring real human benefits to all that ever-amassing Big Data.
Blockchain: the digital equivalent of carving in stone. Irrefutable.
Data truth: now assured. Movement towards a Post-Doubt Age?
Digital next: less wiggle room, fewer hustles, far fewer secrets.
Imminent death of the cookie monster.
For Brands and Marketers: a new world of permission and first-party opt-in.
2020: hello BLiX.
A new disruptor that makes the theory possible in practice.
CRM of the sincerest kind. Performance marketing that actually performs.
The Digital Age’s Second Act. Everyone: get ready to lean in.