Have we reached a tipping point for technology?

James Chin Moody
Chief Executive Officer, Sendle LLC
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Digital Communications is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Digital Communications

Hold on tight. We are about to enter a period of unprecedented change, like nothing else you have ever seen in the past.

Now, I know that everyone says this, and usually they are overstating the case. Indeed, since the Industrial Revolution, we have had 200 years of consistent change. But while these changes have been astounding, they have often been based on the same concept – leveraging effort.

The Industrial Revolution was all about using energy to leverage human effort. Water power helped us grow and mill food more efficiently. Railways helped us to move things around and mass production helped us to make more stuff with the same number of people.

But, starting in the 1970s, something began to change. We began to use energy to leverage human intellect. Computers helped us to have better memories and the internet allowed us to access unlimited knowledge.


And it means that this time we might be witnessing something different.

A recent report by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society brings this difference out in stark relief. The report, Technological Tipping Points and Societal Impact, surveyed over 800 experts and executives on their understanding of when certain tipping points would occur.

And the results were quite amazing. Many things that would have been scoffed at only 10 years ago, such as driverless cars or implantable mobile phones, are expected by this group to occur within the next decade.

What are the implications of this deep shift that the tipping points are foreshadowing?

Some of them are quite positive. For example, some of the earlier tipping points, such as ubiquitous computing and storage for all, mean that humanity will have more computing power at its fingertips. We are already seeing the impact of this on service delivery, with business models such as the sharing economy disrupting the traditional way we use assets, and the on-demand economy allowing people to get anything, anywhere, immediately.

But there are others that will pose a more significant challenge to society. According to an Oxford study cited in the report, the advent of artificial intelligence could lead to almost half of all current jobs being computerized. And society must come to terms with issues such as privacy and trust in a world where everything can be measured and recorded.

And there are some areas where we don’t yet fully understand the implications of the shift. What will it mean if over 10% of the world’s GDP is transacted through the blockchain (of which Bitcoin is the currency)? How will this impact taxation and the power of nation states to manage their accounts?

All of these trends have something in common. They are all based on the rise of software as a platform for business, society and the economy. This will require us to have a new set of skills and competencies: in the future, all companies will be software companies and all of us will be systems integrators.

From harnessing effort to harnessing intellect, it might not sound like much but the implications are enormous. Hold on tight.

Technological Tipping Points and Societal Impact is available here.

The Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2015 is taking place in Dalian, China, from 9-11 September.

Author: James Moody, Chief Executive Officer, Sendle, Australia

Image: A woman interacts with “Pixel Wave 2015” a projection art installation by France’s Miguel Chevalier and local designers Carolyn Kan and Depression that features geometric patterns that react to movements and interactions of people, during the Singapore Night Festival at the Singapore Design Center, August 21, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum