How technological and social change are feeding on each other in an accelerating spiral


In my recent keynotes I have frequently used variations on my Transformation of Business framework, which looks at how Technology Drivers and Social Drivers lead to a changed Business Landscape, and in turn New Drivers of Success.

In looking at the world around, us, the shift that is the most apparent to many is the pace of technological change, with in the order of 100-fold increases in processing power, storage efficiency, and fixed and mobile bandwidth over the last decade.

However I believe that the degree of social change over the last decade has been at least as much as that of technological change, if not more, across countries, cultures, and contexts.

On the face of it, much of this social change has been driven by technology. The freer flow of information, enablement of expression and participation, ability to connect across boundaries, and rise of powerful open source technologies have helped to shape new values.

Openness, transparency, authenticity, participation, opportunity are values that stem from the technologies that have dominated the last decade.

Yet it could rather be that our shifting social values (or perhaps our underlying values that have long been yearning for expression) are shaping the technologies we develop.

Of course both are true: our open, social, participative technologies are shaping societies and social values around the world, and our emerging social attitudes are driving entrepreneurs, users, and business ecosystems to develop technologies that reflect and support them.

Together these forces form a virtuous circle which is accelerating social change. Yes, the forces of technological change are extraordinary. Yet this is resulting in social change of an unprecedented degree. We are only just beginning to comprehend the degree of social change we are undergoing, accelerated by its continuing expression in amplifying technologies.