You remember the capitalism from the 1950s? No? Me neither. I’ve heard loving stories of a by-gone era, but I was born in the eighties and the capitalism I grew up with was the kind that meant morality is only good as a weapon against the weak, and having friend’s means having a greater number of bodies to throw at the bus as it comes charging for you. Agree or not with the details or overall point of my understanding of the world, I think it a generally agreeable statement that the version of capitalism that we have had since the revolution of computing has been set in stone. We have honed the system to monolith cognizant and drunk on its own necessity. The rich stay rich, the poor stay poor.
But there is another one coming and Robert Schwab makes a very strong case for its importance and the shake-ups it will cause in macro-economical sense. In a world of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and ubiquitous micro computing those who don’t invest heavily in this future stand the very real threat being driven out of business as consumers look for more and more personalized experiences.
The only problem is that the opinion Schwab gains from his own data is infinitely more optimistic (no matter how cautious it may be) than mine upon reading it. He’s sees the potential for good things in this future, where corporations will reconsider taking and taking and taking to drive more zeros after the one.
Upon reading this book you might even feel yourself slipping into that mindset: a return to sympathetic capitalism (if it ever existed, I’m pretty sure I’ve just been fed rose-tinted bullshit my entire life), a place with more chances for the go-getters, anyone with a 3D printer and a dream can become a millionaire overnight!
Except not really. Unlike the last Industrial Revolution, the jobs being supplanted by machines and made redundant are not being replaced by anything new, there are just…fewer jobs. He also acknowledges that the income disparity between rich in poor is quite likely only going to get worse. Schwab doesn’t offer much in the way of platitudes, which I appreciate, it just makes it very, very hard not to think either he knows some grand and miraculous secret, or he has gazed into the void long enough that if this last line of defense from our future falters for even an instant, he will crumble into an ass ball and like some sort of economist Nietzsche.
For positive or negative, Schwab makes it pretty clear that the mercenary economies of Lyfy, Uber, and various Smart Contracts are the way forward in the next forty years. With the exception that you can’t do the first two because driverless cars are taking those jobs. So unless you want to try your hand as some sort of chauffeured sex worker it’s probably going moment to moment in terms of cash flow, and an even greater forest of debt to navigate in order to qualify yourself as financially solvent.
But hey, the toys will be cool.
“The more we think about how to harness the technology revolution, the more we will examine ourselves and the underlying social models that these technologies embody and enable, and the more we will have an opportunity to shape the revolution in a manner that improves the state of the world.”