Recently, I held a lecture about the digital transformation for the franco-swiss CAS/EMBA program in e-tourism. The tourism industry not being my specialty, and the “social media” aspects having been thoroughly covered by colleagues, I had been specifically asked to convey a big picture view.
I chose to address some overall issues related to ICT (information & communication technology), innovation and society by debunking the following five myths:
- Ignoring the digital transformation is possible
- Technological progress is linear
- Connectivity is a given
- Virtual vs. “real” life
- Big Data – the answer to all our questions
Each of these points would deserve an treatise on its own, and I will not be able to go into much details in the scope of this article. I nevertheless wanted to share some of the links and references mentioned during my lecture and related to these issues. If you prefer reading the whole thing in French, please go to Enjeux technologiques et sociaux: cinq idées reçues à propos du numérique, which is the corresponding (but not literally translated) article in French.
Myth no. 1: Ignoring the digital transformation is possible
While discussions of online social networks have become mainstream, the digital transformation goes way beyond social media. It is about more than visible communication. It is about automation, computation, and algorithms. And as I have written before: algorithms are more than a technological issue because they involve not only automated data analysis, but also decision-making. In 1961 already, C.P. Snow said:
In order to illustrate the vastness of computation and algorithmic automation I mentioned Frédéric Kaplan’s information mushroom (“champignon informationnel”), my explorations of Google Autocomplete, as well as the susceptibility of a job to be made redundant in the near future by machine learning and mobile robotics (cf. this scientific working paper, or the interactive visualisation derived from it).
Myth no. 2: Technological progress is linear
This point included a little history including sociology of knowledge and innovation studies.