Day 5 – Islandization, IT and Post-Consumerism

This is the second last list of potential disruptive factors that could influence the Canadian Public Service over the next decade or so.  See the previous blogs for previous disruptions and Seven Days of Disruption blog for the entire set.  These are in support of November 22, 2017 FMI Conference – Disruptive Writers.

  • “Islandization” of the global economy (2017), NAFTA Negotiations and the rise of protectionism (editor)
  • IT Revolution 2.0 and the Rise of the Machines (adapted from 2015)
  • Post Consumerism (adapted from 2016)

“Islandization” (2017), NAFTA Negotiations and the rise of protectionism (editor)

Adapted from A.T. Kearney 2017: After a quarter century of rapid globalization, restrictions on immigration, trade, and other cross-border flows are now increasing. A new phase—which we call “islandization”—has begun, marked by growing levels of nationalism, protectionism, and parochialism. While the United States is at the center of this trend, many of the countries leading the globalization charge are also quietly islandizing, creating a dramatically different operating environment for global businesses and governments.

Editors Note: Returning to the Great Depression, one of its acknowledged causes of its prolongation was the establishment of trade barriers between advanced economies exactly at the time when economic activity was needed the most.  At the same time, exporting jobs and manufacturing skills undermines an economy and a tax base.  In other words trade like most things is something to be managed with no exact ‘pre-set’ value.  Canada is a directly beneficiary of being a trading nation even if most of it goes south to our NAFTA partner.

IT Revolution 2.0 and the Rise of the Machines

Adapted from A.T. Kearney 2015: The Internet of Things (IoT) is a fast-growing constellation of connected “smart devices,” such as smartphones,  self-driving cars,  household appliances, industrial robots and smart electrical grids. With continued dramatic growth in connectivity, these machines increasingly transmit information to one another and take real-world actions without humans in the loop. Beyond gizmos and conveniences, IoT may lead to dramatic change for societies, economies and governments.  For example, if self-driving vehicles take off, what are the regulatory, economic and employment impacts of giving up this human activity?

Editors Note: Industrial robots are an important IoT growth and China is forecasted to become the world’s largest user of industrial robots by 2017.  This means greater competition for manufacturing jobs and industries in Canada.  Beyond productivity, the IoT also contains significant cyber-security and privacy concerns for consumers and citizens.  As a positive, the innovation and productivity gains are central to the miracle of human development we have seen over the past two hundred years.  The Industrial, Green, Fossil Fuel and Information Revolutions have all created greater material wealth for humans… notwithstanding the negative corresponding negative impacts to the planet and our fellow species.  In other words, two hopes: 1) we can manage the rise of the machines to generally improve the human condition and 2) our robot overlords treat us better than we have treated some of our fellow animals and humans.

Post Consumerism

Adapted from A.T. Kearney 2016: Consumer values and preferences in developed markets are shifting toward buying fewer physical goods and valuing experiences over possessions. While this is creating new business opportunities for service providers, it also raises important challenges for traditional consumer products groups and retailers.  Concurrent with this change is the emergence of the Amazon.com who are effectively competing for a shrinking pool of consumption.  The OECD reports that the rate at which member countries consume physical materials has begun to decline and that at present “OECD countries generate 50 percent more economic value per unit of material resources than in 1990.” While this change is generally good for the environment (and likely good for the soul – editor) it may also pose challenges to governments as retail outlets fail and small business retailers cannot compete with either Amazon or online digital experiences.

Editors Note: Remember Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs?  If post-consumerism turns out to be a ‘thing’ it certainly would validate Maslow’s work?  There is some tough sledding though including unwinding a century of modern marketing and an economic structure based on consumption.  Nevertheless our landfills and planet would probably thank us.

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