There are two central things that make up most of our lives in 2020 :
A. Physical things (baryonic matter)
B. Digital things (information, represented in 0s,1s in this young century)

Till about 1950, before the Anthropocene truly began, most of world trade, world GDP and our grandparents lives was all about A.

Once Computers, Internet, Cheap bandwidth, Smartphones and Wifi truly took hold in the last 3 odd decades, most of world trade, world GDP and our lives became about B. Our world will keep getting smaller and ideas and connection will be the currencies that matter, not atoms or molecules.

You read a paper book then (a thing). You read a kindle eBook now now (0s,1s). Today, humanity fabricates 1,000 times more transistors annually than the entire world grows grains of wheat and rice combined.

In 1920 : Oil was Oil.
In 2020 : Data is the ‘New Oil’

I sometimes think of this in the way :
My (and your) great great great grandad may have been a sheperd.
His great great great grandson (me, you) is a DIGITAL sheperd.
He moved sheep/cows. (Physical things, baryonic matter)
You and I move information on a screen. (Digital things (information, represented in 0s,1s). All we mostly do is sheperd information into the right excel cell, ppt slide, email. from another excel cell, ppt slide, email send to us, after some ‘analysis’ (that a bot will master by 2030)

A famous quote captures the current zeitgiest “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”

PAST :

A hunderd years ago it was all physical. The world’s largest taxi company would have owned physical vehicles. The world’s most popular media owners would have not only owned the content but created the IP. The most valuable retailer (likely Sears) would have owned inventory and stores. And the world’s largest accommodation provider would surely have owned their real estate.

PRESENT :
Till Covid19 we had to move ourselves to an office building to move information around. Post Covid19 we are realizing we just may not have have to move ourselves to a building to move information around. At least a lot of us may not have to anymore. Analysis is becoming location agnostic on a wide scale.

So now the question we are all grappling with : Can this be a permanent thing for my industry ? Can the majority staff wfh moving their daily quota of 1s,0s. What trends that were slow will now see mass adoption thanks to the very unexpected covid ’19x’ Boost ?

FUTURE :
Today we order physical things that arrives automagically to our front door via the Digital apex & Gorilla of this young century = Amazon.com (by the way the real secret sauce in and of Amazon is AWS, not the store). But later, say by 2040s, we may have perfected Version 11 of the 3D printers of today and like how a 1990 pager is a toy compared to a 2020 iPhone 11, this 11th verison of the Digital Printer will make the ones we have today look like a cheap calculator. In 2050 the printer will use Digital Modelling Information to make a Physical thing. Finally fusing A & B seamlessly. I also suspect eventually money will finally be recognized as just another form of ‘information’ as a store of value and central banks will disapper. The ultimate digitization of a physical embodiment of value since the dawn of the humans as a settled species. This is a future that does not seem impossible to me.

By the way this above reason is why after Reading, wRitng and aRithmetic (3 Rs), Coding is the new necessary 4th skill. This transiton form A to B will need a lot of coders in the next few decades. Good luck Liberal Arts Majors!

I really hope this metaphor helps you a little bit in better understanding the ongoing changes. It is no doubt incredibly simplified and simplistic but it really helps me make sense of this new order we are rapidly moving into.

linear-vs-exponential-comic

2 thoughts on “A Metaphor To Help Better Understand The Ongoing Changes

  1. Well written, makes me sit and wonder how close the “future” really is and how indispensable people really are. When will the transition happen from us controlling the information to the information controlling us – or is it already happening !

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