The Genie is Out of the Bottle

Posted on March 30, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This month’s blog comes from a recent post by JP Rangaswami, currently Chief Scientist at Salesforce.com, but formerly Chief Scientist at British Telecom and before that Global CIO at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Arts and the British Computer Society. His blog, Confused of Calcutta, is an interesting compilation of the thoughts of this brilliant colleague.

His recent blog, Why It’s Over suggested that “it’s over, the waves won’t be turned back, the genie won’t go back into the bottle, the changes we’ve seen over the past three or four decades are here to stay, the trends will sustain.” His reasons (which are fleshed out in his blogpost) are:

1. Soon everyone on the earth will be connected to the Internet
2. People choose how they connect to the Internet
3. People choose how they will engage with the “content”
4. People choose where they engage from (even if it’s not where they really are)
5. It’s getting harder to pass bad law
6. It’s getting harder to stop people from connecting and congregating
7. The possibilities are infinite
8. New paradigms, new problems, new solutions
9. People still make shoes, not money
10. It’s over if we want it to be

He then references Alan Kay .

Alan Kay once said, probably around 1968, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”. When I met him some years ago, he’d changed his mind: he amended his words to “The best way to predict the future is to prevent it”. The West has been in the business of preventing the future for a long time now. They’ve gotten pretty sophisticated at it. The East runs the risk of following in the West’s footsteps… Which leaves the stage open for Africa. A land of incredible need, incredible possibilities. A land that may show the rest of us what the internet is really about. Because they want it. Maybe they want it more than anyone else.

I’m struck by the similarity to a message I heard at SXSW, by Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.com.  In his talk, he shared a similar vision.

The Internet is delivering its next tectonic shift upon society – disruption of the global labor markets. There are 7 billion people in the world, but only 2 billion people on the Internet. The other 5 billion are connecting now, at double and triple digit rates. Remarkably, they live today on around $8 a day or less. The first thing they are looking to do when they connect is raise their standard of living- by finding a job online. This is the vanguard of an economic revolution that is sweeping emerging economies and the developing world.

JP’s blog puts forth a powerful vision for the future, and a challenge for those of us in the West.  Along with Matt’s point of view, it raises an important question.  Are we ‘preventing the future’?  As a society, we in “the west” (and maybe even those in “the east”)  have clearly reached some type of inflection point in our use of the internet.  And the rest of the world is just catching up now.  Executives who see this vision will have the jump on the rest who are busy blocking the future so we can keep control over it. Are you an enabler or a block?  Which do you want to be?

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One Response to “The Genie is Out of the Bottle”

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Excellent post Keri!


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