Economic futures: The next digital economy
We are living through a profound transition towards the Next Digital Economy. Even if the outcomes of this transition may be positive for many, the changes it imposes could be difficult. Each previous economic transition has spawned new ways of thinking, redirected human energies, disrupted ways of life, overturned powerful institutions, and transformed the built and natural environments. The same could happen again, and this time the speed and scale of transformation might make adaptation more challenging than ever before.
The Next Digital Economy promises to revolutionize value chains and introduce a different model for the production and consumption of goods and services. Much of our economic activity may become digitally intermediated, customized, on demand, and globally distributed.
Eight digital technologies are maturing and combining to change the economy:
The Internet of Things will collect vast amounts of data and bring it to bear on the physical world.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automated cognitive tasks will introduce new economic actors.
Robotics will perform physical labour and provide an embodied platform for AI.
Advanced telepresence will allow us to project ourselves and our expertise anywhere in the world that is connected to networks.
Virtual reality will offer immersive non-physical worlds, while mixed reality will combine physical and virtual worlds, creating a third space distinct from both.
Advanced materials are enabling the production of micro- and nanoscale devices that can bring digitization to many new areas at low power.
Decentralized production technologies such as 3D printing could use locally available inputs, including new biomaterials, to manufacture countless products on demand for local markets.
Blockchain technologies create unique, non-copiable digital assets. This enables secure, low-cost transactions between parties who do not know each other.