Photo: Melissa Biggs, Birds on a Wire
If the nineteenth century was about the evolution from mechanisation to industrialisation, and the twentieth century was about a move from electrification to computing; then we are surely in the midst of another significant shift from digitization to a fully data-centric world. Some label this the 4th wave of industrialisation, with emergent technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, all taking advantage of rich data layers, and increased processing power.
This emerging data-driven world suggests profound challenges and opportunities. New business models and new markets are appearing and disruptions seemed likely across markets, ecosystems and institutions, with the likelihood of profound social, cultural and political impacts. These emergent techno-economic transformations, like many of their predecessors, will then also be accompanied by a great deal of societal and cultural anxiety regarding economic impact, sustainability and trust. Managing the machinery of the 21st century, in a way that it safe, secure and scalable, is critical! We need to create frameworks from which to tackle and tame the new systems, train generations of practitioners, and translate turbulence into significant cultural, economic and intellectual impact. In short we need to begin the process of establishing a new applied science.
Genevieve Bell is a Professor of Engineering and Computer Science at The Australian National University, where she also holds a research appointment at Data61. Additionally, Dr Bell is a Vice President and Senior Fellow at Intel Corporation, where she most recently served as their chief futurist. At Intel, she led the company’s first user experience research and development lab. She is recognised as a world leader in the ethnographic approach to developing technology.