There might be no really new revolutionary technology immediately around but the combination of currently emerging technologies and their exponential expansion is the disruption.
The surprising fact with technologies, if one looks at them standing on the sun is that actually most of the technologies we are talking about now as more or less futuristic have actually been discussed for a decade at least. No real new breakthrough seems to be happening currently that could just completely break down the current trends (sure there will be many others to come, don’t misunderstand me). All technologies related to the digitalization of our world and our communication, most those related to DNA and biotechnologies, most of those related to new materials, etc. are not revolutionary anymore.
What happens instead is at the level of how their implications are changing our lives in disruptive ways.
The combination of several technologies from all these horizons is actually announcing simultaneously myriads of new services and products, much lower cost provision of many services and products, and the disappearance of some current products and services. It will involve elements as diverse as using Uber taxis (private taxis) via an App on your Smartphone or basing security systems on visual or voice recognition.
The emergence of platforms, be it the software and Apps ones of Google or Apple or Amazon or the physical ones of any automotive manufacturers are, first of all, clever combinations and re-combinations of technologies, allowing to bring constantly new services to consumers (just think how many Apps on your smartphones are actually derived from a simple set of technologies available within the machine like geolocalization, accelerometer, G3, geographic databases or voice recognition, mail, camera, etc.).
The current technologies are not new but are growing in penetration at an exponential speed, gaining ground much faster than what we were used to. Some of these technology progresses are much faster than the Moore’s law, which surprised us for so many years: for instance DNA usage science or BigData science. Be it geolocalization, facial recognition, 3D printing or social networks for example, on which we are increasingly dependent, they all become now part of our daily life at lighting speed. Flabbergasting is also the speed at which mobile Internet and smartphones are growing. There are 1,9 billion smartphones today, there will be 5,6 in 2019. The “normal” access to the Internet is becoming via tablet, phablets (combination of phone and tablet), Smartphones, which implies that shopping, moving around, learning, working, reading, studying are becoming mobile with all the implications this entails for business, education, labor management etc. and what it will mean for competition: who will grab the new consumers, OECD companies or the emerging market companies? Emerging markets are “born” mobile, it gives them a competitive advantage.
The labor market impact is staggering with many jobs to disappear, many skills becoming obsolete as well as many new jobs to appear and plenty of new skills to be in demand. Unfortunately the balance between jobs destruction and jobs creation is currently still skewed toward the first plate.
Corporate organization and governance have to be fundamentally and quickly revised within this environment because the former systems just don’t work anymore, from authority models to HR models, to IT models etc. Organization’s structures and systems have to be reinvented, business models redesigned, innovation models reshaped fundamentally, collaborative models to be accepted and implemented.
Government and more generally public policies have to understand the impact of these changes and become apter at removing barriers to innovation, to funding, to entrepreneurship, if they want to let the opportunity bloom. At a time of growing inequalities (and what is described above can only lead to more inequalities) it is becoming a major economic and social issue. As a simple example: allowing Airbnb (private vacation rentals) or Uber to operate is “great” from a sharing economy point of view, but is also allowing them to work on a playing ground very much unleveled where the traditional players have often to carry costs imposed on them by old regulations but not respected by the new kids on the blocks. Managing the new disruption will increasingly require skills to avoid explosions and skills to understand the implications of externalities. Gutenberg was putting Bible handwriting monks out of their jobs, but helped to create at the end probably billions of jobs.