SOCIAL MOBILITY IN THE DIGITAL AGE
PT. 02
ECONOMIC
OPPORTUNITIES
FOROURAVATARS
WORDS // 11248
CHAPTERS // 08
SUB CHAPTERS // 23
SCROLL TO READ
(OPENING QUOTE)
TECHNOLOGYISNEITHER
GOODNORBAD
NORNEUTRAL
39 CHARACTERS
AUTHOR // MELVIN KRANZBERG
INTRODUCTION
WORDS // 270

TECHNOLOGY
IS
NEITHER
GOOD
NOR
BAD
NOR
NEUTRAL
BUT...

CHPT. 01— 08

Kranzberg’s famous first law of technology is a comment on the role that context and circumstance have in determining technological consequence. Technology itself is bereft of intent. Intent is determined by the wielder and consequence by the environment. In a world where technology is ubiquitous, intention is determinative.

Unlike financial capital, technological capital is accessible, albeit disproportionately, to all. The broken system that has undermined income as a proxy for economic value and created barriers to accessing wealth can be circumvented by those with the appropriate skills to create technological opportunity. New digital economies have emerged to fill the gaps left by wage inflation that falls well short of both productivity and asset price inflation.

PULL QUOTE
The broken system that has undermined income as a proxy for economic value and created barriers to accessing wealth can be circumvented by those with the appropriate skills to create technological opportunity.
NO. 001
209 CHARACTERS

These emergent digital economies are facilitating dramatic wealth accumulation for a small few and supplemental earnings for a great many. They are the new ladders and ledges being created to replace the elevators that have been destroyed. They are, however, only accessible to those with the relevant skills and education. Many will be left behind.

But even those who aren’t active users of these technological systems are subject to them in the form of surveillance, social scoring, digital assistants, communication and analytics. These technologies have the potential to exert material influence over an individual’s economic and social trajectory regardless of merit.

The combination of emerging technological economies and widespread technological infrastructure are the building blocks for our economic future. The ways in which they are utilised and regulated will define social mobility for decades to come.

PULL QUOTE
As the efficacy and capability of these technologies continue to scale, so will their reach and consequence.
NO. 002
108 CHARACTERS
REVOLUTIONS // 04
WORDS // 530

WHEN
INDUSTRY
REVOLTS

CHPT. 02— 08
PULL QUOTE
Mechanisation, electricity, computers and the internet have been the technological fulcrums of the four contemporary ages of industry. In each era, the capacity for human endeavour and productivity expanded exponentially.
NO. 003
221 CHARACTERS
1765 - 1870
REVOLUTION 001 // 004

INDUSTRIAL
REVOLUTION

The first industrial revolution occurred when the steam engine and novel methods of organising labour within factories led to the replacement of human workers with machines.

The modern factory system can be considered the greatest technological innovation of its time, encouraging shifts from the agricultural sector to manufacturing and transforming many cities into industrial centres. Yet, many authors argue that despite major transformations brought about by these technological innovations, overall social mobility rates were largely unaffected.

Instead, a new class of industrial workers emerged who faced a growing divide between themselves and the owners of industrial capital. This period is therefore characterised by the transformation of long-standing occupational structures.

//
37 NOTABLE INVENTIONS

NOTABLE INVENTIONS

1700s

Coal Mining

1700s

Crop Rotation or Norfolk Four-Course System

1760s

Selective Breeding

1763

Steam Locomotive

Thomas Newcomen invented the first steam engine in 1712, but the first practical version was invented by James Watt in 1763. Watt’s more efficient engine was introduced commercially in 1776.
1764

Spinning Jenny

The ‘Spinning Jenny’ revolutionised cloth manufacture, allowing the industrial production of cloth in factories rather than in the homes of textile workers.
1769

Arkwright's Water Frame Spinning Machine

1771

The First Factory

1775

The Spinning Mule

1783

Steamboat

1786

The Power Loom

1786

Threshing Machine

1790

Sewing Machine

1792

Gas Lighting

1793

The Cotton Gin

1795

Blood Transfusion

1796

Smallpox Vaccine

The smallpox vaccine, introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796, was the world’s first successful vaccine. Jenner’s work had a foundational impact on the development of immunology.
1800

Electric Battery

1803

The Modern Assembly Line

1804

Steam Locomotive

1807

Internal Combustion Engine (ICE)

Franco-Swiss inventor Franco de Rivaz created the world's first ICE and was granted a patent for his invention in Paris in 1807.
1810

Tin Can

1814

Spectrometer

1816

Stethoscope

1822

Photograph

1823

Waterproof Clothing

1824

Cement/ Concrete

1826

Matches

1829

Typewriter

1831

Electromagnetic Generators

1837

Telegraphy

Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone demonstrated the first electrical telegraph in 1837, connecting Euston Station and Camden Town in London.
1838

The Hydrogen Fuel Cell

1844

Hypodermic Syringes

1846

Diethyl Ether Anaesthesia

1853

Aspirin

1856

Steel

The Bessemer Process, named for inventor Henry Bessemer, was the first process devised for mass-producing steel from molten pig iron. The process removes impurities from iron via oxidation.
1867

Dynamite

1867

Antiseptic Theory

1870 - 1969
REVOLUTION 002 // 004

TECHNOLOGICAL
REVOLUTION

During the second industrial revolution, significant increases in the production of goods via assembly lines brought many spillover effects. One was a need for better transportation systems to carry goods to market. Steamships facilitated transatlantic travel, and railroads spread across Europe and North America.

The invention of the light bulb led to a significant shift in work patterns, increasing demand for labour and extending working hours with overnight shifts. This technological change forced workers to restructure their family lives. A larger working class flourished, with increased economic and social participation opportunities for women.

This transformation of the private lives of workers was eventually coupled with conflict between workers and factory owners in the form of unionisation.

//
34 NOTABLE INVENTIONS

NOTABLE INVENTIONS

1861

Elevators

1872

Air Brake

1873

QWERTY Keyboard

1875

Electric Railways and Tramways

1876

Telephone

1877

Phonograph

1878

The Light Bulb or Incandescent Lamp

1882

Electric Iron

1883

Solar Cell (Panel)

1885

Skyscrapers

1886

Automobile

1887

Wind Turbine

1890

Electric Metro

1892

Tractor

1892

Cholera Vaccine

1893

Open Heart Surgery

1895

X-Ray

When Wilhelm Röntgen began studying X-Rays in 1895, his work had an almost immediate impact in finding and removing bullets from wounded soldiers.
1896

Radio

1897

Mosquitos & Malaria

1903

Airplane

1908

Electric Washing Machine

1913

Gas (Petroleum Refining)

William Burton, a chemist and executive for the Standard Oil Co. in Indiana, developed a process for breaking down crude oil into byproducts, including gasoline.
1913

Electric Refrigerator

1913

Moving Assembly Line

The moving assembly line was developed for the Ford Model T at the Highland Park Ford Plant, Michigan. The process reduced production time for each vehicle to 93 minutes.
1927

Television

1936

Universal Turing Machine

The Universal Turing Machine is foundational to our modern understanding of computers, with Turing himself coming to be known as the father of modern computing.
1940

Disposable Catheters

1941

Cardiac Pacemaker

1942

Nuclear Power

Physicist Enrico Fermi, working as part of the Manhattan Project, demonstrated the first human-created, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago in 1942.
1945

Atomic Bomb

1947

Semiconductors / Transistor

American physicists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain invented the point-contact transistor invented in 1947. Transistors are a key component in all modern electronics.
1956

Shipping Container

1956

Shopping Malls

1965

Portable Defibrillator

1969 - 2000
REVOLUTION 003 // 004

DIGITAL
REVOLUTION

Better transportation systems coupled with electricity paved the way for the expansion of information and communication technologies (ICT) throughout the third industrial revolution. During this period, the most significant technological changes resulted from the digitalisation of electronics and associated advances in computing.

This process brought information to the forefront of the transformation of social, economic, and political life. A new demand for skilled workers emerged, with automation replacing labour in routine tasks. This promoted job polarisation and wage inequalities among groups with differing levels of skill and educational attainment.

Workers without a college education have been most adversely affected by the advent of routine-biased technology, but the mechanisation of agriculture that characterised this period has also had further detrimental effects on local social and environmental systems.

//
40 NOTABLE INVENTIONS

NOTABLE INVENTIONS

1967

Floppy Disc Drive

1967

DRAM or Memory

1967

Home Console

The design of the first video game console consisted of a brown wooden box with controllers attached. It could be connected to any TV set and had six games.
1969

Artificial Heart

1970

ARPANET

1970

In-space robot

1971

Email

1971

Microprocessors

Intel developed the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004. The size of a fingernail, it delivered the same computing power as the first computer – the room-sized ENIAC – built in 1946.
1971

MRI machine

1971

ABS (Anti-Locking Brake System)

1972

Digital Camera

1972

Arcade Games

1972

Humanoid Robot

1972

Prozac

1973

Video Home System (VHS)

The first commercially successful video tape recorder (VTR) was developed by Ampex Corporation in 1956.
1974

Personal Computer

1974

Universal Product Code (UPC)

1975

Handheld Mobile Phone

Motorola produced the first handheld mobile phone in 1973, with the first ever call being made by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper on the DynaTAC 8000X on April 3 of that year.
1975

Push-through can top

1977

Walkman

1980

Hybrid Car

1981

Dial-up (Modem)

1981

Direct-Drive Arm Robot

1982

Compact Disc (CD)

1985

MP3 Player

1985

Robot-Assisted Surgical Procedure

1986

Disposable Camera

1990

World Wide Web

In 1989, programmer Tim Berners-Lee laid out his vision for the World Wide Web while working as a software engineer at CERN. The first web page was served by the end of 1990.
1990

Bluetooth

1992

Smartphones

1993

HTML

1993

Bionic Arm

1994

Social Networking Service

SixDegrees.com, launched in 1997 by Andrew Weinreich, is widely recognised as the first social networking site. It allowed users to upload profiles and befriend other users.
1995

Blog

1995

DVD

1995

Self-service bicycle

1996

Google

1996

Biomimetic robot

1996

Viagra

1999

USB Flashdrive

2000 - CURRENT
REVOLUTION 004 // 004

VIRTUAL
REVOLUTION

The technologies of the fourth industrial revolution are increasing the job polarisation gap further still. During this period, networked smart machines have disrupted not only established relations of production but also the boundaries between the physical and the virtual.

The speed and scope of transformation during this period means this fourth industrial revolution has brought about an unprecedented shift in how people relate to each other. The ongoing shift towards non-standard forms of employment that typifies this era is linked to reduced worker benefits and welfare protection, with significant socio-economic implications.

In a world transformed by the widespread use of networked technologies, humanity faces a significant divide between those who can access and use new technologies and those who cannot, counterbalancing the considerable opportunities that are being created in new economic sectors.

//
39 NOTABLE INVENTIONS

NOTABLE INVENTIONS

1991

Offshore Wind Power

1997

AI & Machine Learning

One of the most notable events in the development of AI happened in 1997, when Deep Blue became the first computer chess-playing system to beat reigning world chess champion, Garry Kasparov.
1998

Quantum Computing

1999

Edge Computing

Edge computing is a decentralised model of computing in which computing and data storage are brought closer to sources of data, in order to decrease response times and save bandwidth.
1999

Wifi

2000

Blu-Ray Disc

2000

3D Limb and Organ Printing

2000

Camera Phones

2001

Gene Editing, CRISPR

2002

Autonomous Vacuum Cleaner

2003

Bioprinting

2003

Human Genome

The Human Genome Project, launched in 1990 with funding from the U.S. government, was declared complete after successfully mapping the entirety of the human genome in April 2003.
2004

Facebook

2005

HD Colour 3D Printer

2005

Boston Dynamics' Big Dog

2005

YouTube

2005

BECCS

2005

Face Transplants

2006

Stem Cell

2007

Bipedal Commercial Robot

2007

iPhone

2007

Autonomous Vehicles

DARPA held competitions between 2004 and 2013 meant to advance autonomous technology. By 2007, when the competition used a 60-mile urban route, four cars made it to the finish line.
2007

Bionic limbs (eyes, pancreas, bones, heart, ...)

2008

Internet of Things

2008

3D-Printed home

2008

Android Powered Phone

2009

Blockchain

Bitcoin's "Genesis Block", developed by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, was minted in 2009. This was the first instance of a proof-of-work blockchain system.
2010

3D-Printed car

2010

Non-Military Drones

2010

Instagram

2010

Organs-on-Chips

2013

Robotic-Assisted Transplant

2014

Tesla Autopilot

2015

Augmented Reality

2016

Virtual Reality

The first VR headset was produced in 1968, but it was only with the Oculus Rift that we saw the first consumer VR headset of the modern era.
2016

Smart Mirror

2016

Realistic Humanoid Robot (Sophia)

2019

5G

2019

ARAS (Augmented Reality Assisted Surgery)

RUBRICS // 05
WORDS // 3760

TIKTOK
KILLED
THE
VIDEO
STAR

CHPT. 03— 08

The ubiquity of technology and the standardisation of internet-based connectivity has facilitated the emergence of new digital economies. In some instances, these economies 1) allow participants to trade excess supply, 2) facilitate new ways to commercialise existing activities and influence and 3) generate income in wholly digital spaces from wholly digital assets.

These new economies have created new income opportunities for those with the requisite skills and profile to access them. That income is typically supplementary and goes towards maintaining or slightly augmenting existing standards of living, but in some cases it can result in extraordinary and rapid wealth accumulation independent of traditional mobility pathways.

Digital economies have emerged in direct opposition to the declining prosperity prospects offered by contemporary economic systems. They exist largely outside and independent of established tax and legal jurisdictions and, consequently, quietly erode loyalty towards a social contract that is failing its constituents. The promise on which education and civic obedience failed to deliver has been co-opted by cryptocurrency and influence platforms.

Influencers, crypto investors, streamers, NFT artists and eSports stars are all constituent agents within these new digital economies. They are generating extreme wealth in a short amount of time and garnering much of the public attention around digital economies in the process.

PULL QUOTE
But for most users, these new income streams amount to, at best, small income supplements used to buy a new laptop or take a holiday and, at worst, the money needed to pay rent and keep the lights on.
NO. 004
200 CHARACTERS

We are now at the precipice of a generation of new digital economies spearheaded by data and dynamic digital assets. As mixed reality lenswear, IOT infrastructure and digital assets intersect, we will see an explosion of new markets, jobs and resources.

PART OF THE VIRTUAL REVOLUTION
REVOLUTION 004 // 004

EMERGING
ECONOMIES IN
THE VIRTUAL
REVOLUTION

//
21 NOTABLE COMPANIES

CRYPTO ECONOMY

2013
Bitcoin
First decentralised digital currency. With no need for intermediaries, the transactions are verified through cryptography and recorded on blockchain.
2016
Steemit
Social media platform on blockchain that allows bloggers to earn coins for their content and users for their curation.
2017
Brave
Web browser allowing ad-free and private navigation.
2018
Ethereum
Decentralised, open-source blockchain with smart contract functionality. Ethereum enables the creation of an array of blockchain-based applications beyond cryptocurrencies.

INFLUENCE ECONOMY

2010
Facebook
Social networking platform allowing users to create a profile, share content and connect with friends, family, colleageus and strangers.
2010
Twitter
Online news, social networking and microblogging platform where users communicate via short messages called tweets.
2013
YouTube
Video sharing platform owned by Google where users can search for and watch videos posted by other users and upload videos themselves.
2018
Patreon
Crowdfunding platform that allows content creators to charge for a subscription service.

GIG ECONOMY

2007
Etsy
Platform that allows small businesses to find demand for their products, such as handmade or vintage items.
2013
Uber
Platform connecting clients with drivers and riders via a range of ride-sharing, food delivery, courier and freight apps.
2016
Airbnb
Two-sided platform that allows property owners to rent their property temporarily to clients.
2020
Fiverr
Two-sided platform for buying and selling digital services, such as graphic design, webediting and user testing.

SHARING ECONOMY

2000
eBay
E-commerce platform enabling consumer-to-consumer sales and, therefore, promoting a circular economy.
2009
Couchsurfing
Hospitality exchange platform. A host offers free lodging either as an altruistic act or in exchange for house-sitting.
2014
BlaBlaCar
French online carpooling marketplace brokering connections between drivers and passengers in 22 countries.
2014
GoFundMe
Crowdfunding platform. While Indiegogo or Kickstarter enable innovators to ask the general population to fund potential products, GoFundMe focuses on individuals who need to raise money for a cause or life event.

VIRTUAL ECONOMY

2007
Second Life
Massively multiplayer virtual world with a social purpose.
2007
Steam Marketplace
Marketplace that enables the sale of virtual assets between players. Third-party platforms also propose this kind of service but as a grey market.
2013
Minecraft
Pixellated 3D virtual world which aims to discover and extract raw materials, craft tools and items.
2018
CryptoKitties
NFT-based platform enabling the sale, trade and collection of cryptocollectibles, virtual assets (here breedable video game cats) relying on a blockchain.

EMERGING ECONOMIES

RUBRIC 001 // 005

CRYPTO
ECONOMY

RUBRIC 002 // 005

INFLUENCE
ECONOMY

RUBRIC 003 // 005

GIG
ECONOMY

RUBRIC 004 // 005

SHARING
ECONOMY

RUBRIC 005 // 005

VIRTUAL
ECONOMY

RUBRICS // NIL
WORDS // 775

A
CEILING
MADE
OF
CLASS

CHPT. 04— 08

Millions of people have benefitted from the development of these new tech-enabled economies. They are, for many, an economic escalator where before there was only a ladder. It is undoubtedly positive that these new modes of ascent are predicated on initiative, innovation and ingenuity, but there are fundamental issues inherent in overreliance on these pathways.

PULL QUOTE
A system that requires supplementary income to maintain social status implies that an individual's primary employment should not be obliged to provide a living wage.
NO. 011
165 CHARACTERS

Or stated another way, the average industrial wage will be less than the average cost of living. This implies that the natural status of a working citizen is descent into poverty rather than ascent into wealth, stability and security.

Rising Cost of Living vs Income Growth in the United States

PERCENTAGE INCREASE SINCE 2000
INCOME
EDUCATION
HOUSING
HEALTH CARE

NPR, National Center for Education Statistics, Centers For Medicaid and Medicare Services, US Census, Social Security Administration

The new digital economies with the greatest upside also massively favour Caucasian and Asian men to the detriment of all women and Latino and Black men. Participation in these economies requires STEM skills far more commonly found within white and Asian communities. Consequently, the technology and the platforms have been built by and for prototypically white and Asian men.

Those without the STEM skills necessary to access these digital economies are subject to the oppressive ambit of technology without being able to circumnavigate it or adapt it. Social scoring, surveillance states and pervasive data prospecting will compound the challenges faced by the economically vulnerable, producing increasingly fragile lower social classes.

TEXT EXTRACT

STEM SKILLS

PULL QUOTE
Those without the STEM skills necessary to access these digital economies are subject to the oppressive ambit of technology without being able to circumnavigate it or adapt it. Social scoring, surveillance states and pervasive data prospecting will compound the challenges faced by the economically vulnerable, producing increasingly fragile lower social classes.
NO. 012
363 CHARACTERS
Missing Component: Feature/BodyCopy
RUBRICS // 05
WORDS // 1500

ALL
WATCHED
OVER
BY
MACHINES
OF
NOT
SO
LOVING
GRACE

CHPT. 05— 08

We have adjusted, over the last decade, to the idea of people leveraging technology for supplemental or novel income, be that through influence, cryptocurrency, gig jobs or shared assets. What we haven’t entirely become accustomed to is the idea of state actors or tech conglomerates leveraging technology to influence, manipulate or constrain us.

As the role of technology within our lives continues to grow, so too do the risks associated with it. We have become dependent on platforms to communicate, work and learn, and in doing so have ceded sufficient personal data for algorithms to construct individual profiles used to target us for commercial and political gain.

These profiles can also be used to control society more broadly. Nation states, in particular, have acquired enormous capacity to track and surveil their citizens. We see in some countries how this capability is now being used to restrict access to jobs, education, accommodation and travel, significantly curtailing the social mobility prospects of those affected.

As the efficacy and capability of these technologies continue to scale, so will their reach and consequence. In many countries this is likely to enshrine the political and economic status quo in stone and resist unpermissioned mobility. The potential for a technological caste system is looking more and more likely.

PULL QUOTE
As the efficacy and capability of these technologies continue to scale, so will their reach and consequence.
NO. 013
108 CHARACTERS

AMBIVALENT TECH

RUBRIC 01 // 05

ARTIFICAL
INTELLIGENCE

RUBRIC 02 // 05

ROBOTICS

RUBRIC 03 // 05

SURVEILLANCE

RUBRIC 04 // 05

SOCIAL SCORING

RUBRIC 05 // 05

BLOCKCHAIN

RUBRICS // 05
WORDS // 2620

WHAT
THE
FUTURE
LOOKS
LIKE

CHPT. 06— 08

The future is clay moulded by a giant’s hands. Despite the billions of events and people and discoveries that contribute to our future, it tends to be a small number of major systemic issues that define it. Climate change and income inequality are the two hands of this epoch.

Those day to day occurrences add texture, nuance and circumstance. They are minor catalysts that produce both contextual opportunities and challenges, but it is the major catalysts that determine the context and the actors within the world to come.

Social mobility is one of those major catalysts. It has a major impact on the quality of life, the productivity of nations and the artistic expression of societies. It will continue to transform the nature of politics, economics and identity, and if left unchecked, it will create chasms between classes that will take centuries to fix.

FUTURE THEMES

RUBRIC 01 // 05

NEO-SOVEREIGNTY

RUBRIC 02 // 05

BIOSECURITY

RUBRIC 03 // 05

COLLABORATIVE
CAPITALISM

RUBRIC 04 // 05

NATURAL
ECOSYSTEMS

RUBRIC 05 // 05

SURVEILLED

RUBRICS // 06
WORDS // 1434

ANTICIPATING
FUTURE
ECONOMIES
AND
MARKETS

CHPT. 07— 08

Beyond the new digital economies that we already see taking shape today, additional economies and markets—including data, energy and environmental economies—will emerge over the next decade in response to increasing levels of digital fluency and capacity. The shape and necessity of those economies will be determined by circumstances that we are crafting today.

FUTURE ECONOMIES

RUBRIC 001 // 006

ENERGY MARKETS

RUBRIC 002 // 006

ENVIRONMENTAL
ECONOMIES

RUBRIC 003 // 006

BIOPRINTING
MARKETS

RUBRIC 004 // 006

HEALTH
ECONOMIES

RUBRIC 005 // 006

CITYSTATE
ECONOMIES

RUBRIC 006 // 006

BLACK AND GREY
ECONOMIES

CONCLUSION
WORDS // 292

THE
DIGITAL
CONTINENT

CHPT. 08— 08
PULL QUOTE
After all, we call ours a man-made world. And it is that, because mankind, with the aid of its technology, has fashioned our physical and social environment, our institutions, and other accoutrements of our society. But if ours is truly a man-made world, I claim that mankind can re-make it. And in that remaking process, the history of technology can play a very important role in enabling us to meet the challenges besetting mankind now and in the future.
NO. 032
457 CHARACTERS
Melvin Kranzberg, Technology and History: "Kranzberg's Laws", 1986

A wall exists around the garden of prosperity and stability we were promised. The ladders of education, hard work and civic responsibility no longer reach high enough to scale it. The walls have been built higher by those within and the ladders shorter to those without. Hope sits astride the top of that wall, moving, inexorably, out of reach.

PULL QUOTE
Technology is both the problem and the solution.
NO. 033
48 CHARACTERS

Surveillance infrastructure and social scoring are the cement and aggregates used to raise the wall. But in the shadow of the barricade, new digital markets emerge as a form of economic activism, catapulting people upwards towards the hope that convention can no longer provide.

These new economies are just as inequitably distributed as those that created the malaise of economic inequality in the first place, but they are an understandable response to an iniquitous economic reality. They may temper social frustrations in the short term, but they are unlikely to serve as a long term solution.

In the next part of our exploration of social mobility in the digital age, we will try to forecast which countries are most likely to experience social fragility and economic activism as a result of worsening social mobility.

PT. 03

FORECASTING
FRAGILITY

COMING SOON

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