Navigating the Post-Digital Era: From Democratization to a New Capitalist Model

5 min

The “Post-Digital Era” has become a recurring theme in my posts, and with good reason. In this new era, digital technology will become so ubiquitous that we will no longer acknowledge its presence, but only its absence — like when we lose power.

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The obvious question to ask is how will we get from here to there?

Consider our transition into the Post-Industrial Era. With the shift from industry to services, information technologies, and automation, we formed a new economic model: “servitization.” Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have predicted this development during the Industrial Age.

The simple truth is that it’s up to each of us to be agile and adaptable in the face of change. Nowhere is this more crucial than as we prepare for the post-digital era, which is poised to bring about unprecedented changes to a global society and the economy.

To bridge this divide, we are turning to futurists for their unique ability to anticipate change, analyze its potential impacts, and provide us with a glimpse into what lies ahead. Of course, I recognize that this is a complex topic, and exploring its depths would require more than a mere article — it would require an entire book. What I will present here is a brief introduction, with the promise of more to come.

By way of a preview, the changes we’re seeing are far too radical to be boiled down to mere technological innovations. Rather, the four social paradigms — order, conflict, structure, and action — are all undergoing profound shifts. While I won’t delve into the social paradigms in this article, I do want to emphasize their importance in helping us to understand and reconnect with the massive shifts that are taking place before our very eyes.

Unlocking the Power of Digitization: Enabling Progress and Transformation

The commercial arrival of the PC marked a significant turning point in the world of computing. For the first time, its power was no longer confined to data centers staffed by clinical, white-coated technicians. The fact that it was accessible to the general public marked an enormous shift and paved the way for the digital revolution that would soon follow.

However, the true democratization of computational power didn’t occur until the late 2000s, when the smartphone burst onto the scene. Suddenly, the digital world was at our fingertips, available to us no matter where we were or the time of day. This remarkable shift in accessibility changed the way we interact with technology and with each other in ways that we are only beginning to fully understand.

As a case in point, the smartphone has profoundly impacted our behavior and sense of place. Beyond its power to connect us and carry out everyday activities, like booking holidays or listening to music, its most significant impact has been to generate a newfound awareness of the role of the individual in social and economic systems. The dawn of the smartphone has given us a stronger sense of control and freedom over our actions, irrespective of geographical or social constraints. It has also paved the way for us to play a more direct and autonomous role in shaping the dynamics of society, politics, and the economy.

In the 'Post-Digital Era', technology will be so ubiquitous we won't be able to live without it, but how will we transition? Share on X

Disintermediation and decentralization as catalysts for change

Understanding the implications of disintermediation and decentralization is essential for anyone seeking to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of the post-digital era. I say this because these phenomena have far-reaching implications for all aspects of society, including the paradigms of order, conflict, structure, and action.

Disintermediation was born of the desire to take control and cut out intermediaries in everything from information and finance to political leadership. Not only does it drive individuals to seek alternative sources for information, beyond mainstream media, but it also fuels their urge to play a more direct and autonomous role in democratic power.

We need to look no further than the rise of cryptocurrency, which has shown us that it’s possible to create and use the currency without the need for central banks. This decentralized approach challenges traditional notions of financial power structures, just as it opens up new possibilities for financial freedom and autonomy.

Decentralization, often seen as the driving force behind disintermediation, seeks to distribute power and functions previously managed centrally to lower levels of stakeholders. Just as it enables disintermediation from central monetary authorities in the financial sector, in the constitutional context, it has paved the way for the exercise of democratic power by and for the people. Direct democracy is empowering individuals to take control of the decisions that affect their lives, altering traditional power dynamics and reshaping the ways in which we approach governance and financial systems.

With today’s technological advancements, the term “indirect” in the definition of democratic power no longer holds true. For instance, the use of computer-based evidence in legal courts — especially in commonwealth countries — has affirmed that the public’s will holds power and sway.

Post-digital society

 The Emergence of a New Capitalist Model

The societal changes we’ve been discussing will have cascading impacts on our current economic models, especially shareholder capitalism — which continues to dominate the West. This model places the interests of a select group of stakeholders, namely shareholders, at its core. However, with the rise of disintermediation and decentralization, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a shareholder-centric economy may no longer be sustainable. The shift towards a more equitable economic model — one that benefits all stakeholders equally — is likely to become more pressing as these social phenomena continue to take hold.

In fact, the World Economic Forum is already advocating for a transition to stakeholder capitalism. This model acknowledges and prioritizes the interests of all stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, and the planet, without any preferential treatment. As I see it, instead of waiting for our leaders’ actions to align with their words, we must take an active role in shaping our post-digital future.

We have every reason to expect a future where technology is seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. As digital natives become the majority, we will see a significant shift towards a post-digital society, where the technological revolution is no longer the driving force behind social change. However, this is just the beginning, and I am excited to delve deeper into this topic in my upcoming book. Stay tuned!Subscribe to our newsletter