Digital disruption is becoming a necessary consideration for every industry and individual. While the initial consumer savings may be a welcome change, the impact on our entire economy is looming and the outlook isn’t particularly good.
Digital disruption can be thought of as just another technology evolution but it’s certainly more rapid than any that occurred in the past, and the horizon is so full of major evolutions that many of our current industries and jobs will not survive.
The technology switch from vinyl records and cassettes to compact discs took several years and maintained (if not increased) the income of record industry companies, as people still bought (and often re-bought) music.
However, while the switch to digitally transferred music initially offered the hope of decent income (i.e. via online stores), the reality of the switch to digital was much easier piracy and, at best, streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, all of which have subsequently decimated the traditional music industry.
While most people write this off as “they were earning too much anyway”, the real impact of removing large organizations from the economic food chain has a significant sting in its tail.
We are currently witnessing the struggling news media companies grappling with a balance between real journalistic integrity and click-bait celebrity headlines.
The traditional television industry was undermined initially by cable television, whose income from charging for access meant they began making the best TV, and now all of it is undermined by the streaming stations like Netflix, who charge a fraction of the price and are creating some of the industry’s most sought after programs.
Book publishing has had to seriously change it’s culture, cutting back massively on what it can produce and promote.
Bricks and mortar retail is slowly going under, with even the traditional retail giants clamoring to find successful methods of online engagement as they compete with international online sales.
Uber has undercut traditional taxi services with quicker, cheaper and more convenient systems, causing a massive disruption for taxi drivers who pay hefty government levies in order to be licenced to drive.
These are just a few examples but they’re enough to show us the pattern: tougher competition with international producers, lowered profits, job losses, lowered quality and mediocrity usurping creativity.
And as we all begin to expect instant gratification at low cost the long-term impact must be considered.
The impending introduction of driverless cars threatens perhaps the largest change to industry we’ve seen so far.
Estimates suggest we have possibly 20 years before there will be no more need for Taxi or Uber drivers, bus drivers, couriers or, most profoundly, the thousands of truck drivers transporting food, animals and goods across the country. And it won’t stop there.
The car manufacturing industry will have to find ways to cope, not just with the necessary technology but with the estimated reduction in car ownership that may result from all cars being driverless – every car becomes a “taxi” to be booked as needed – the consumer has no more purchasing, insurance, fuel or parking costs.
So, yes, there are definite benefits. This is likely to be cheaper, more efficient, easier, more environmental, safer. What’s not to embrace?
Quite a bit: Employment, particularly high salaried employment, is driven by these very large organisations that make very large profits.
Many administrative and management jobs have been lost forever in the music, publishing and media sectors already.
Massive job losses will inevitably follow the introduction of driverless cars – not just the drivers themselves, but throughout the organisations employing those drivers.
And heavier individual and corporate taxes will likely replace traditional revenue streams for government, such as taxi license fees and fuel duty that keep our roads and infrastructure maintained.
How will your industry have to change its employment footprint once digital disruption takes hold, changes customer engagement and reduces profit?
Will your job survive?
In conclusion, caviat emptor; the savings you enjoy from new technologies will eventually be offset against the cost of the things you must consume, like your electricity, housing, and food. And that’s assuming your job will not be lost in the necessary cost-cutting undertaken by your struggling employer.
Previous Blog: The Cost of Convenience Part 1: Cyber Security (read it here)
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