Is digital business creating wealth or destroying jobs?

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22 November
14:38
November
2016

It’s obviously doing both, but I do worry that in many digitally-infused fields the destruction happens a lot faster than creativity. Or, more to the point, the destruction gets applied to a certain segment of the economy and society, while the benefits of creativity go to a much smaller group.

An example of this would be the music industry. Streaming has created huge revenue for the likes of Apple and Spotify, but destroyed huge numbers of jobs in CD manufacturing, storage, distribution, and retail. Digital business reduces jobs by reducing the economics in industry after industry.

“Understanding what ‘work’ means in the future is a cosmic question for society and entrepreneurs.”

It’s a winner-takes-all economy with huge benefits for those at the top, and serious implications for those at the bottom. This is only going to continue as we progress technologically. On the other hand, digital transformation is one of the great expressions of human organisational creativity. It’s what gets me excited about all of the revolutionary changes that are in store for all of us.

However, the idea of creative destruction – a theory devised by the economist Joseph Schumpeter – is the dilemma we all face now. It might be that at some point in the future, technology will do everything we can. That could be incredibly destructive, particularly when people take so much of a sense of identity and self worth from the work they do. Understanding what “work” means in the future, when smart machines might be able to do so much of what human beings do right now, is a cosmic question for society and entrepreneurs.

Bill Taylor is the author of Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things In Extraordinary Ways

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