I had the pleasure of joining The Digital World with Game Changers radio program for the second time this year. Joining me as panelists were Futurist Gray Scott and SAP Innovation Evangelist Timo Elliott. First, kudos to program host Bonnie D. Graham for doing a wonderful job keeping the discussion energized and interesting. The title of the session was Eating Disruption for Lunch: Digesting Decentralization. Now there’s a term not heard much outside of futurist circles. Decentralization is one of those structural changes that make what lies ahead so impactful. According to Wikipedia, decentralization is the process of redistributing or dispersing functions, powers, people, or things away from a central location or authority.
Centralization has long been a part of us. The Industrial Age brought with it a need for vertical orientation, command and control structure, and a central authority. The capital intensive nature of that era made it the most effective way to organize. But we don’t live in that era anymore, and our technology enabled connectedness forms the foundation for decentralization on multiple fronts. This same connectedness that launched consumerization and shifted the power to the individual, will now drive a massive structural change. Here are some examples of how it is likely to play out:
3D Printing – this innovation is currently in the deceptive phase. But make no mistake, it is poised to disrupt and decentralize numerous industries. As Gray Scott said during the program: “What happens when 3D Printers print 3D Printers?” The shift from consumers to prosumers plays out here and in other disruptive scenarios.
Renewable Energy – and speaking of prosumers, what happens when everyone is not only a consumer of energy, but a producer as well? We are likely to see a continual shift away from a central electrical grid
Education – this quote from the article says it best “The trend of the decentralization of education empowers those who wish to learn but don’t desire an Everest of debt. It’s easy to imagine a point in the not-too-distant future when free or vastly-reduced-cost online education is recognized as a viable alternative to a degree with six-figure price tag, forcing traditional institutions to crumble or re-imagine themselves”
Sharing Economy – according to Fred Wilson, the founder of New York City venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, nearly all business will be conducted on a radically decentralized peer-to-peer level. Wilson believes the peer-to-peer economy will thrive without the need for a centralized authority. Could the future of the sharing economy be a world built like Bitcoin?
These are but a few examples. Even the Internet, as distributed as it is, could be heading towards a decentralized future. Imagine a world where our ISP or Facebook is not the central authority to our connectedness. Well, blockchain technology could enable that future, and IBM and Samsung are already exploring how it can be used to make washing machines autonomous, reordering detergent as needed and negotiating the best deals on our behalf as part of an optimal ‘Economy of Things’.
What does all this mean? Could the world be heading towards Decentralized Autonomous Organizations? Do we bid farewell to Corporate Power? Our Futurist Gray Scott was one of the authors of a book on The Future of Business due to launch on June 11th. The book contains over 50 chapters written by 60 exceptional future thinkers from around the world. The Future of Business explores the visions, trends, forces, developments and ideas shaping the next two decades and their implications for business leaders and entrepreneurs. I’m looking forward to exploring these issues upon its release. Be sure to listen to the radio program and the various thoughts on the future shared by our panelists.