We are undergoing the Digital Revolution. It is probably the single greatest transformative event since the Industrial Revolution. It is overturning everything, wiping out thousands of jobs a day. It is going to change the world in very basic ways, many of which we cannot even begin to imagine. This is happening now.
Yet during the Presidential debates of 2016, not one word was uttered with respect to the impact of the Internet, the rise of the digital economy, the looming specter of AI, and so much more.
Why is that?
Is it because our politicians are too old? Too out of touch with what is happening daily in Silicon Valley? Because they can understand coal mines but not data mines?
The only time anything vaguely related to the impact of the Digital/Internet Revolution was raised was the seemingly endless fixation on Hillary Clinton’s server. And when she was asked if she had wiped the server, she replied, “wiped it? Do you mean with a cloth?” That’s it.
“The music business has been decimated; the newspaper business is in its death throes; major retailers are closing shop, and yet we are still but at the beginning.”
As for Donald Trump, he clearly uses Twitter, but his understanding of the digital age begins and ends with his watching MSNBC on linear TV.
This is a serious problem. Our political system is out of touch with the reality of our world.
In the late 18th Century, Richard Arkwright built the first water-powered factories in the British Midlands. In doing so, he initiated the Industrial Revolution, an event that would, over the next 200 years or so, go one to completely re-create the world. The rise of factories, steam power, railways, mass production, automobiles, airplanes, the fossil fuel revolution (the list is pretty endless), completely transformed the world of the 18th and 19th Centuries. The world we inhabit today (or inhabited) was a direct consequence of Arkwright and those who followed him.
The Industrial Revolution smashed the world that preceded it to pieces. Not just the way things were manufactured, but governments, social order, warfare on an industrial scale, religion, ethics, economies were completely remade.
Now, the Digital Revolution is going to do to our until now relatively stable industrial world what the Industrial Revolution did to the agrarian society that preceded it: Smash it to pieces and create something entirely new and different.
This is happening now.
It is not for nothing that Mark Zuckerberg’s motto is Move Fast And Break Things. “Things” are being broken at a blindingly fast pace. The music business has been decimated; the newspaper business is in its death throes; major retailers are closing shop, and yet we are still but at the beginning. Google and Facebook are accumulating vast amounts of personal information on all of us. Self-driving cars will not only displace tens of thousands of jobs, they will also know where we are at all times. Every time you click to buy something on Amazon, you fire another store worker. And on and on...
These are major issues. Really major issues. And the time to deal with them is now. But do you hear one politician, anywhere, addressing any of these concerns?
How much easier it is to talk about building “that Wall,” and Mexico is going to pay for it.
These are things that, in light of what is actually happening, make no difference whatsoever.
That is our reality TV President.
That is our reality TV nation.
But that’s all it is.
And that is not nearly enough.