Barely two centuries after the Industrial Revolution, another revolution of innovative ideas is sweeping the globe, fueled primarily by a seemingly never-ending resource called the Internet. Long gone are the days of the steam engine that catapulted Western Europe, most specifically Great Britain’s manufacturing dominance in the 18th and 19th centuries and introduced mankind to the power of coal. Now the world is welcoming a new era, one of Cloud Computing (a technology of which I am particular fond), Mobile Apps, and Social Media. Like most people around the world, I love the Internet. The Internet pays for my mortgage, my food, my car, my clothes, my travels, and all the other things I am privileged to enjoy in my life. But most importantly, I love the Internet because of the wealth of information it possesses, good or bad, and because it allows me to express my thoughts like on this blog and share them with the world without incurring any financial cost (technically not true … I pay for my domain). What would have been my options 15 years ago? Pretty much, write a book. However, unlike many people I see a very dangerous side to the Internet. A danger that goes well beyond online child molesters, identity frauds, and hate sites. I see husbands and fathers unable to provide for their family because they lost their job and its never coming back because a computer can do it faster and probably better. I see single mothers drowning in sleepless nights wondering what to do next so their children don’t spend another night starving. Two months ago, that job at a call center was enough to make ends meet but then came VoIP. Yes, I see a new kind of poverty. One might say, “Well why don’t they go learn something else? How about nursing? We always need nurses?” That latter question actually addresses another fundamental lapse in our society but let’s save it for another post. Shall we? Let’s go back to the idea that people who lose their job can easily retrain for something else. That held true 30 or 20 years ago but not anymore. The 21st century shall be remembered as one of constant shift – the world around us just keeps moving faster and most of us will not catch up. That’s life? Perhaps.
The beauty of the Industrial Revolution was that it happened at a time when it was really needed. The world’s demand for manufactured goods was higher than what was being supplied and therefore companies needed a way to increase output. The raw material being exploited from colonies was abundant and practically free (excluding lives lost from the oppressive regimes of colonization). So although a man had lost his job to a coal-ingesting machine he was merely assigned different responsibilities, which he learned while on the job, earning the same if not a higher salary because productivity was still lagging. This is how the Middle Class was built. Technological Revolution, brought by the Internet, in the other hand is a bit more complicated. The beauty of the Internet, I believe, has been lowering the barrier of entry into the playing field for non-aristocrats and slashing to non-existing levels the transaction costs that had successfully kept people from achieving gigantic leaps through the social strata. Consequently, brilliant regular folks came up with revolutionary technological ideas, mainly around automation, that allowed them to gain a considerable amount of wealth, cash that is, and the social status that comes along with it. This at the expense of not-so brilliant regular folks who have lost their jobs and are having a hard time finding one that’s not already being done by a computer. Ironically, if there’s a part of the world that stands from truly reaping the benefits of the Internet it is the developing world. Indeed, as companies in the developed world turn away from increasingly saturated markets, the developing (third) world will once again carry the prosperity of the modern civilization on its shoulders.
So what’s next? As you might have already heard, artificial intelligence has found its way to cars and soon you’ll finally be able to nap on your return to LA from that crazy Vegas weekend! Thank you Google!