We live in a period of staggering technological change. While society is being transformed by disruptive innovation during this transition, it will be your own individual adaptability that will determine if you are a winner or a loser.

Every 24 hours, there are approximately 4 million smartphones sold, 8 billion hits on YouTube, 700 million tweets, 130 million Instagram uploads, and over 200 million sent emails. There are now more iPhones sold every day than babies born, and the world has more than 3 billion internet users accessing 1.2 billion websites. Facebook alone has more than 1.3 billion users, which translates to a ratio of 1 in every 7 people of the word. In fact, if Facebook were its own country, by population, it would be the second largest.

 

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The onslaught of the information revolution is truly staggering and permanently reshaping our world. It is causing massive disruption, propelling many people forward but leaving many behind as well. It is creating both incredible opportunities and significant risks, and in the words of the author William Gibson, who coined the termCyberspace, “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.”

It is not the innovation itself that matters, but its implications during this transition. For the individual, the key will be how to take advantage of these changes, while protecting one’s family, business, career, investments and way of life.

Disruptive innovation, driven by new technology, has always been integral to human progress. It has moved humanity forward by creating new opportunities, building great wealth, and opening unexplored frontiers, from the vastness of space to the world of particle physics.

The Gutenberg printing press enabled the rapid spread of knowledge as books became cheaper and more plentiful, ultimately contributing to the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment. The compass gave us the Age of Discovery, not only opening new lands and resources, but enabling the spread of industry and the development of nations. Paper currency is an innovation, though recently significantly overdone, which spawned electronic banking and global commerce. The discovery of electricity gave us new forms of heat, light and communications.

These innovations vastly improved the quality of life and economic prospects for society. For instance, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the standard of living, measured by GDP per capita, increased 21.7 times from 1820 to 1998. Average life expectancy at birth doubled during the last 150 years, from 38 years in 1850 to 76 years by the late 1990s. Our lives are dramatically better now, largely driven by technological change and innovation.

However, while society is better off on average, innovation has also produced both winners and losers, opportunity and risk, migration and displacement. For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, over the last 150 years there has been a dramatic migration from the farm to the factory, and then from the factory to the office. In 1840, about 70 per cent of U.S. jobs were on the farm, dropping to 10 per cent in the 1950s, and today sitting at less than 4 per cent. In the 1950s, about 40 per cent of U.S. jobs were in manufacturing – today this number has been cut in half. Where have all the jobs gone? Into the service sector, where almost 80 per cent of the jobs in the U.S. are today.

For many decades, technology significantly advanced the quality of life in our economy, moving us from a hard, short life of farming, to today a longer life of work in the service sector.