Archive for January, 2019


Roadmap: Five Phases of Digital Eras

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Five Phases of Digital Eras

Roadmaps directionally guide us when situations are unclear. To guide me, I often used this framework in client work, speeches, and reports. It serves us to see how technology is rolling out in our lives, as Scott Monty said, it could a “chart of your life”. It’s not just for me, it’s for all of us to use in our personal and professional planning.

As we approach the anticipated recession, now is a good time to publish this roadmap, as we’ve seen economic conditions shape each era. For example, in the Internet Era, the dot coms experienced a shakeout in the 2001 recession. Next the Social Media era became a low-cost channel in the next economic downturn and the collaborative economy birthed in the 2008 recession as people struggled to stay in homes, and get what they needed, cheaply.

The same will happen in the next recession, technologies will reduce costs, increase efficiency, and humans and businesses will turn to them to increasing their adoption at an exponential growth rate.

It’s worth noting that these eras often happen in overlapping waves. One era doesn’t start and stop, they overlay each other, and obviously interact with each other. For example the Collaborative Economy era (like Uber) will soon become the Autonomous World era, as the cars become self-driving.

  Internet era Social Media era Collaborative Economy era Autonomous World era Modern Wellbeing era
When: Mid 90s, “popped” in 2001. Currently a matured market; nearly all internet users access these services. Gained traction in 2005, gained market adoption during 2008 recession, most internet users use these platforms multiple times a day. Many companies birthed in 2008 recession, when people were resource strapped. Undergoing growth for decades, there have been many surges and ‘winters’ Early Fitbit emerged in 2007, Nike’s Fuelband emerged in 2012, spurring a craze. Since then hundreds of wearables attracted mainstream attention.
Description: Every media, business, and entity created a website to share information and enable commerce; “dot com” boom. Free, low-cost people-created media, and used by marketers to reach customers. Peer-to-peer commerce platforms emerged during recession, enabling people to get what they needed from each other. AI technologies simulate human intelligence by replacing and augmenting simple repetitive tasks to more complex problems. Consumer accessible technologies improves humans minds, bodies, physical spaces around them, and communities.
Technologies: Easily accessible browsers, web software, hosting, network technologies RSS, ratings, commenting, publication tools. Mobile apps, geo-data, online payments, ratings and reviews, marketplace software Machine learning, big data analysis, advanced computing. IoT, devices, apps, machine learning, and prior digital eras
Benefits: Birth of business to consumer ecommerce. Peer to peer communication changed the flow of information power. Near real time services, sharing of resources can improve sustainability, human connection. Reduce humans painful toil of hard labor, repetitive tasks –solve complex problems Humans can improve mental capability, increase longevity, enjoy happier, more content lives with their loved ones.
Downsides: Many failed startups from lack of monetization, “dot bomb”. Traditional retailers and middleman struggle to compete. Privacy woes. Monetization of user data in questionable ways. Digital addiction, psychological damage, social dynamics changed. The sharing companies and their investors became 1%ers, some models increased congestion, and workers rights often trampled Top fears include: robot overlords enslave humans, job loss, lack of human/work purpose, unforeseen ethical dilemmas The concerns over data privacy and over reliance on technology in our lives continues to grow.
Winners: Google, eBay, PayPal, AOL, Alibaba, Amazon, Netflix Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WeChat, Weibo, Snap, YouTube, blogging platforms. Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, BlaBlaCar, Ola, DiDi, Careem, Lime, Bird. Fiverr, UpWork The race is far from over, but current leaders: IBM, Palantir, Google, Amazon, Apple, Nvidia This battle is still being fought, but Apple, Google, Calm, Headspace, 23andMe, Ubiome lead the market.
Losers: Thousands of “dot bombs” and their investors. Users privacy, journalism, governments and marketers who failed to adapt. Some on demand workers. Traditional companies who failed to adapt. Workers who conduct repetitive tasks. Traditional medical, health, pharma and insurance companies who don’t adapt to these consumer technologies will lose out
Future: These large companies are laying foundation to support –but not always lead– in the other eras Leading platforms must adjust business model for autonomous world era. Balance user and gov needs. Workers who perform repetitive tasks will be replaced by autonomous systems. These autonomous technologies will continue to creep into our lives, businesses and society, indistinguishable from most human services. These technologies continue to integrate with our bodies, where we become reliant on them, a form of cybernetics

The first version included only the first three eras, and the second edition layered on the Autonomous World era. While I’ve been eyeing the fifth era, Modern Wellbeing era for about a year (prior we called this a quantified self), I waited until the right time to publish this in public. It’s ripe now, as with the growth mindfulness apps and features emerging, new devices that measure heart rate variability and others coming. During the next period, people are so tired from the politics, bad news, too much tech, they want to focus on themselves. 

With that said, what’s the six era? I’ve some early ideas, but it would appear as unrealistic science fiction at this stage. Love to hear your reactions to this view of how technology is going to roll out. Which era are you currently focused on? How will you plan for the next phase?

(assistance from Julie Viola)