Digital Economy

Just "digitize"? We must lead digital disruption (bet with ambition on AI)

Just

It is not enough to digitize, you have to lead digital disruption. The discourse of "digitization" and digital transformation is laudable but insufficient, at times quite ambiguous and often misleading. Of course we need the economy to be digitized! Even as a whole an economy will only be strong and positioned in the future if it is 100% digital.

But the truth is that the authorities feel overwhelmed with so many open fronts: IoT, blockchain, online commerce, platforms, AI, Data ... and this leads to a certain inaction.

It is Artificial Intelligence ...

The dangerous thing about this passivity is that some things are absolutely decisive. The trees may not let us see the forest. AI will change everything, it's the new electricity, says Andrew Ng. And Apple's new signing from Google, John Giannandrea, argues thatAI will do more for humanity than fire or electricity. And all this very quickly, in a very few years. The pace will be set by the countries that lead the current technological revolution without reservation and with ambition.

For any economy it will have a high cost to be an internationally secondary player in Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is a fundamental factor, essential to give ambition and relevance to the others revolutions around technology already mentioned (Blockchain, Data, IoT, 3D Printing, virtual reality ...). Your role should be absolutely central. We need training, talent, startups, relevant companies in AI if we do not want become a dependent economy, slow to lead disruptive innovations in all sectors.

The current buzz focuses on the new mantra of thedigitization and digital transformation. These concepts are continually redefined, just after a few months. Companies feel overwhelmed. Any consultant has a genuine and "unique" solution. Sometimes a trap that takes them away from standards from which to “pivot”. And the worst thing is that for many sectors and companies it will no longer be enough to be "Transformed" at a leisurely and digestible pace. We will have to go faster, act with greater ambition if they do not want to be "annihilated", "cannibalized" (in the best of cases), etc.

Against this background, some solid and hopeful strategy must be given in the medium term.The only one with sufficient entity and transversality is AI: capable of revolutionizing production, commerce, transport, or medicine, education, and services in general.

The economy as a whole can achieve the necessary leadership through AI and its potential contributions in all fields. The exciting and stimulating motto for a country should be “dare,be disruptive, don't be disrupted“.

Be disruptive, don't be disrupted

AI can create potential economic gaps between countries

President Macron has made it clear (in Wired), after the huge Chinese and American bet (slowed down by the Trump Administration) that a strong investment by a country in the indigenous development of Artificial Intelligence is not an option.

However, many European countries behave as if the issue was not with them ... They speak little even of digital transformation, let alone AI. Industries and companies in these countries have all the ballots to pay dearly for their passivity. They will most likely be disrupted. They are a long way from becoming "disruptors." Europe, as usual focuses its strategy on regulation, does not prioritize a leadership strategy, in the style of China or the United States. We prepare to stop blows, not to deliver them.

Image Source: by Intersection Consulting

Important differences in the positioning in AI will alter the global economic status. Not only is the world hegemony but economic and business competitiveness between different countries. The current situation is defined by a duel between China and the American tech giants.

AI and the current digital revolution will force to reinvent the economy

The World Economic Forum recently contributed a promising title: “Advances in AI are rewriting our entire economy" (one). Unfortunately its content falls under the topic of a job market where jobs are destroyed.

Meanwhile we have 800,000 vacancies in Europe of unfilled jobs, in addition to aabsolute deficit of engineers computer-related and a need for hybridize computing with all scientific and professional disciplines (medicine, architecture, economics, biology, law ...). All this marinated with the current problems of university employability with the current degrees.

I maintain that current technology, especially AI coupled with Blockchain, IoT and others, will produce a gigantic upheaval in our current economic systems. The concepts of production, prices, consumption, utility, employment, money, distribution, scarcity, income ... will have to be thoroughly reviewed. See in this regard Challenges for Economic Science derived from the digital age.

Blockchain for example, or is called to generate a very relevant disruption in companies that are "disruptors" and that have just been born such as Airbnb or Uber. And they will also do it in many services such as Banking or education, in fact, in any platform or business around intermediation and secure authentication. Some economic sectors will be unrecognizable in a very few years.

Almost two years ago I wrote the 10 revolutions that will change us in the newspaper EL PAÍS, distinguishing between what was there at that time and what was to come. Today the potential degree of implementation of a disruptive technology like Blockchain is infinitely more widespread in the multitude of sectors far beyond cryptocurrencies. In short, the same will happen with AI.

The risk of the political comfort zone

Friends in comfort zones take serious risks. We have not yet assimilated the rhythms of current innovation and recent outdated developments. most of the European politicians they barely introduce in their speeches the need for "digital transformation". They seem to be waiting for the neighbor to do something. In the television debates of the last general elections in Spain, no candidate uttered the word "digitization", "digital economy", AI, technological development, etc. (See in this regard The digital economy is not among the political priorities: 13 reasons why it should be).

More than 36% youth unemployment rate, absolute deficit of engineers, growing employability problems for university graduates. Unaware of the need to introduce the computational thinking in primary and secondary education (thanks Nuria Oliver) and hybridize university degrees (2). A panorama in which, according to some estimates, 50% of current jobs will disappear and 90% of the remaining jobs will change significantly.

This is how things are found in most European countries without homework done and on the doorstep of aPerfect storm”That will shake everything. AI does not exhaust the possibilities for even greater disruption. There will be other overlapping waves.

One would have to wonder what would happen if quantum computing joins the imminent 5G networks or simply Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, update us on the state of development of their research and real advances around AI / Data applied to this or that field ... Not to mention what China is up to. How many companies, sectors or countries are prepared for this exponential innovation?

It takes more "Macron", more Estonia, less defensive regulation and apocalyptic discourse, more strategy and leadership, more priority and better investment in education, greater commitment to talent, more computational thinking ... Less ostrich politics, fewer comfort zones: more AI.

In our country, the Committee of experts (to which I belong) advises the promotion of a White Paper on AI and Big Data by the Secretary of State for the Information Society and the Digital Agenda. It is an enriching debate. I wish we can sit the bases for a strong political bet on AI in Spain.

When there is a technological disruption, leadership matters"Says Andrew Ng. Well that.


Video: Digital Transformation: The Technology and Support You Need to Succeed - LiveWorx 2020 Keynote (September 2020).