People walk by the New York Stock Exchange in New York's financial district

2016: On which side of the new digital divide do you find yourself?

Which way do you find yourself facing as we move into a new, fully digital, fully networked world — a world being remade on that foundation.

A glance back over 2015 helps reveal the tectonic forces at play and gives us some clues for the rest of the decade and beyond.

 Some of these are obvious:

  • The pace of innovation continues to accelerate, across the board, as more and more people are involved and more and more markets ‘disrupted’ (aka redesigned) as we move from a static (first perfect and then use) to a dynamic (constantly improving, so shifting and changing) world
  • Banks are dwindling, laying off tens of thousands, with many more to to follow as they are ‘unbundled’ and seek a new role
    Anthony Jenkins, Sacked CEO or Barclays Bank Predicts that ” the number of branches and people employed in the financial services sector may decline by as much as 50 percent over the next ten years”
  • Friction and costs are plummeting as a result, with the likes of Transferwise and Uphold transforming payments, and money becoming mobile, with transfer and transact capabilities built into the currency itself
  • The rise of entrepreneurship as the ‘roll your own role’ startup becomes a necessity for some and an opportunity for all


The Job Crisis from International Growth Centre Public Lecture at The London School of Economics

Some, perhaps, less so

  • Western governments are increasingly corrupt PR machines. Selling to their public, rather than representing them and governing ‘for the people.’ Their transformation into the image of quasi-‘Corporate’ businesses, along with everything they touch (especially notably from the NHS to Education in the UK) is near complete
  • Once all-powerful regulators are sitting on cracking and fast diminishing ice-floes as it becomes apparent that the environment has changed radically and incremental change, exemptions and accretions, on a basis built for a world that is vanishing, just wont cut it for much longer
  • Democracy is beginning to undergo a transformation as other voices can increasingly be heard, and become influential, despite the propaganda machines which came to dominate the 20th century, on into the second decade of the 21st
  • Transparency and interconnectedness is increasingly being demanded, and gradually delivered, transforming markets and institutions. Sometimes abolishing the need for them. Mostly leaving them looking for a new role
  • The pushback has started with governments and other vested interests seeking ways to reassert the status quo

A new environment for the digitally enabled citizen
In short we are in a new environment. One where power has shifted — from top-down, based on control of the flow of information (enabling divide-and-conquer), to bottom up, from the grass roots, the crowd.

Powered by the digitally enabled citizen, each with their personal smartphone, laptop, tablet etc. and each constantly interconnected to everyone else. Together the ultimate slumbering (mostly) behemoth, now capable of a terrific roar when so moved.

And the crowd has a thousand eyes, as many ears and many more perspectives and insights than any institution, or regulator, can shake a stick at.

The cracks are beginning to show all around us as the tectonic plates shift and the landscape changes, almost imperceptibly on a daily basis, but increasingly obviously as you step back to look back over a decade or two.- even a year, two.

Everywhere markets, business models and the flow of power is being turned on its head as the crowd learn how to listen, how to speak and occasionally how to roar.

Care & celebrity

Care is key — and the question ‘Can you really be paid to care?’ an increasingly key one. Care both in the ‘give a damn’ sense, and as in health care. Increasingly someone who cares in the crowd will be able to find a voice and stir the, otherwise ignorant, crowd to care.

Maybe even changing the nature of celebrity. As the rising, millennial, generation gain more and more sway, and become the forefront of the crowd, their search for meaning and values mean it is an easy guess that their heroes will be more like Michael Sheen and Joanna Lumley than Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Ali G — they will show they give-a-damn by publicly investing something of their time, name and identity into the matters, issues and situation they care about — rather than outsourcing, just handing over a wad of cash.

Money talks, but sometimes is says things you hardly intended. These new model celebrities invest themselves as well as their time and money.


Since famously playing PM Tony Blair Michael Sheen has denounced the political game and taken a personal interest in causes — most recently the fining, bullying and lack of real care for the homeless in his hometown in Wales.

The new regulators — and the New PR

The world has changed and we now have an answer to the ancient question: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who guards the guards?). In a hierarchy that, and every other buck, stop someplace with someone at the top of the pyramid. With that pyramid turned upside down, and shape-shifting toward becoming a richly interconnected hive-mind the answer is clear: everyone.

The answer to an ancient question: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who guards the guards?)

Now that we richly interconnected: WE ALL DO!

We are all ‘the new regulators.’

Able to see more, think more, span greater perspectives, employ more experts, experience and expertise, do more and, most importantly of all, care more than any regulator that has gone before could dream of.

(Does this mean the end of regulators as we’ve known them? Think banks — not necessarily.

The key question is what useful function might they provide in the world-turned-right-way-up? And how they might adapt and transform themselves to find a new role).

Disruption or redesign — A world ‘turned right way up’
This is not really ‘disruption.’ That’s the perspective of the incumbent suppliers, defanged, scrabbling and struggling to find that new role with a new means and a new place in the new order.

It’s redesign.

The redesign of business, commerce, the economy, institutions and society as a whole.

It’s underway now. Its architects and builders are the entrepreneurs at the coal-face disrupting and replacing the old by designing and building the new.

As Buckminster Fuller said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Vive the most positive ‘disruption’ — nay revolution — the world has yet seen. It’s a new kind of society. Build on.