The Laws of the Digital Age: from Moore to Martec

I recently wrote about what I called Cyberlife, the third wave of the Digital Age. I was very happy to see that some presentations at the DES2018 in Madrid confirmed my insight and provided other perspectives about it. We are on the same page as there are clearly three waves under the overarching concept of Digital Age.

These waves are based on revolutionary technological developments according to IBM and David Farrell, general manager of IBM Cloud Watson & Cloud Platform. He organised the three waves based on some classic laws of the Digital Age: the first is a very known law that describes the doubling of microprocessing power roughly every two years (Moore’s Law, after Gordon Moore, from Intel). This a typical law of the cybernetics world. The second is Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). I had the pleasure to attend a conference with Robert Metcalfe in Brazil many years ago, he was a truly visionary. This is the law that governs the Cyberspace.

Finally, as a third trend emerges with AI. IBM describes its effects with another law/principle, the Watson’s Law, named after the company’s founder and its supercomputer. Currently the term is not fully adopted but this is the postulation and suggestion of IBM at this stage, which relates to the use and application of AI in business, smart cities, consumer applications and life in general. It makes sense, no doubt, and for me it is  basically the Law of Cyberlife.

Elementos del omni businessFor his part, Antonio Marín Rivals, director of KPMG in Spain, focused on creating value in the digital economy. For him, companies seek to offer an omni business experience to their stakeholders. I found KPMG’s division of omni business in four layers very interesting: Brand, Products and Services, Interactions and People. Marín Rivals pointed out that the role of people is key in this process of dramatic change that we are going to observe in the coming years with the increasingly digitalisation of every aspect of a company. Technological changes will influence internal and external operations, therefore they will also affect employees and consumers. The workforce and the marketplace are changing. New technologies will create new channels; new relationships will result in new behaviours.

Law of MartecI thought it was very interesting, in this sense, the slide presented by Scott Brinker, from Hubspot. Zooming in in the marketing area, he brought us a more specific law: the Law of Martec. Basically it describes that organisations change at a logarithmic rate, while technology advances at exponential speed. This explain one of the reasons why the challenge of marketing departments is so daunting to adapt to the new reality of a highly-intensive data-driven marketing. These departments are basically running against the clock and consequently capability-building and attraction of talent are high-priority items in the CMO agenda.

These different conferences indicate that there is a fundamental aspect of marketing decisions in the Digital Era that cannot be neglect: People. This reminds me Forrester and its POST method of digital strategy creation : people come first, then objectives, strategy and in the end the technology.

The waves of the Digital Age and the beginning of Cyberlife

The Digital Age (also known as the Information Age or Digital Revolution) started after the Industrial Revolution and in its first stage or wave it was characterized by the introduction of computers in our lives, and cybernetics was the word of the day, then. This wave was divided into two phases: the first with the introduction of mainframes in large organisations, and later, thanks to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, its widespread adoption in companies and homes via personal computers.

The second wave, which begun around 1995, was characterised by the connection of these computers through the Internet and the emergence of cyberspace. Also, we verified two phases here, the 1.0 with the web and the widespread popularity of electronic commerce giving rise to companies like Amazon, and creating giants like Dell (a company with which I had the pleasure of working exactly in this phase) and the 2.0 web, with social networks (and with the emergence of new hi-tech giants). This second phase started about 10 years ago.

Now we perceive the beginning of a third wave, an extremely powerful phase which I call cyberlife.

It is the moment when the power of computers is added to the power of social networks and we have the emergence of cloud computing, widespread adoption of Artificial Intelligence, social analytics, machine learning, blockchain, among other innovations. This makes possible significant developments in different areas of economy, from genetic engineering to smart cities; from shared economy to autonomous vehicles. And, unfortunately, we also start to witness the growing risks of cyberwar.

Like all rapidly evolving technology, the technical challenges of cyberlife will be resolved before social and ethical challenges. We are living times of accelerated change, and the decisions of the future are played now. Will we know how to play this game well?