2019 discussion

Trend three: Digital change

The rate and intensity in the development of new and emerging technologies such as AI, automation, robotics, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, quantum computing, energy storage etc is unprecedented in human history. These new technological changes are already causing disruption to the production, delivery and consumption of goods and services, as well has how we interact, communicate and behave in an increasingly connected world.

This digital and technological tsunami presents both challenges and opportunities for the UK as a world leader in science, digital technology and education. How we (and those around us) seek to calibrate institutions and foster business development will help shape the effects of a technological revolution which stands to have a profound impact on our daily lives.

Increasing automation enabled by technological advances not only promises higher productivity and economic growth, but also raises troubling questions and risks about its wider impact on employment, wages, skills and society. Many tasks, including those increasingly higher up the value chain, have the potential to be automated and workers are increasingly using digital platforms to interact with the labour market in new and innovative ways through the gig economy, changing not only what people do, but also how and where they do it.

Yet, while technological advances are likely to continue to make global value chains more effective and integrated, increasing connectivity and further driving globalisation, especially in areas of the world economy where progress to this point has been more limited, such as in service sectors, business and governments will need in parallel to adapt existing, and develop new, employment, education, fiscal and employment models and policies to cope successfully with the speed of change.

Moreover, the advance of information technology is having transformative effects on democratic structures and societies. With the decentralisation of power and information control, new actors are exploiting developments to change, and in some cases undermine trust and faith in, the institutions and processes of western democracies. How the UK manages the impact of technology on its basic democratic institutions, its politics and bureaucracy, will become a defining feature of how it, as a state, is able to build resilience and secure itself against hostile and illiberal forces determined to undermine and manipulate its model of democratic and societal governance.

Feedback - Digital breakout

Key discussion points

  • merging the digital with the real world into an always-on cyber-physical sphere of human and machine collaboration.
  • challenges traditional economies and increases geo-political conflicts.
  • threatening dignity, privacy and freedom of the individual while challenging democratic foundations of society.

Ideas and conclusions

  • Economical: Focus on digital niche markets, in order to generate industry leaders from Europe.
  • Social: Ongoing education programmes for all citizens.
  • Political: equality of wealth creation, access and democratic participation, while protecting the environment.

To view the outcomes from our 2018 event please click here.