I’ve sometimes wondered what it felt like to be a buggy whip maker when automobiles were entering the scene, or the big airline companies felt like as the first budget airlines appeared. Or what the big hotel companies felt like on the day that they realised AirBnB now had more bed spaces than they did (I was in a major hotel chain’s board room that day. It was interesting.)
I thought this as I noticed an article on BBC suggesting the transition to EV will happen faster than we think. There’s an article in the Economist today on a potential reckoning in the big city office market as developers find ways to tempt people to come into places that are no longer necessary.
And these are not even Black Swans; they’re Grey ones – ones that have been in plain sight all along but ignored because they are inconvenient.
We have a long and infamous history of sidelining what was already in sight. The BBC article invokes Gartner’s hype cycle (though doesn’t name it)
Ghandi also has a good take on it:
It is happening in a business near you. I think of it as the “Jamie Dimon effect” Management nervous, ridiculing what is happening and insisting on its illusory nature. The late Clayton Christensen documented what is happening. All these views are known to those who choose to notice.
And then we have the black swans. We don’t know what’s going to happen here (otherwise, they’d be grey), but I venture to suggest they will be in our entire relationship with work.
Corporations are a recent invention, and they are dying. Once we get past the slick marketing and expensive PR, they have become places where our souls shrivel. They focus on money, and people have become consumables. One look at twenty years of globalisation and the rhetoric around AI is evidence enough of that. In the previous definition of growth, that was as inevitable as it was short term.
Even acknowledging the vast amount we do not know, we can be confident the planet’s future is organic and will react as any living entity does to have something artificial bolted onto it. Our choice right now is simple. We have to decide whose side we are on. I cannot think of a machine on the planet filled with joy on a beautiful early summer’s morning such as we have where I live today or filled with wonder at something as complex as a bird’s song.
We have alternatives to corporates (and no, they won’t like it), and it comes from the same technology that has powered them for the last fifty years. There’s an excellent overview of one of those alternatives here, in the way we might harness blockchain. There will be others.
Goliath was always going to lose, as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his book of the same name. David had the technology and an idea of what was important to defend.
So do we.