Ben Hammersley is a pioneer in Internet technologies and the digital future. Ben Hammersley is host of Cybercrime for BBC World News, editor-at-large for British Wired magazine and the author of five books. Next to his role as an author, he is a consultant and technology expert, focusing on the impact the Internet and digital networks have on business, politics and society.
Mr. Hammersley, you are an author, journalist, broadcaster, speaker and consultant. Your mission is to explain the present and outline challenges for tomorrow's society. Did you imagine the world as it is today 20 years ago?
To a point, yes. The role of a futurist is not to make predictions in the sense of a perfect image of the future, but to show the evolutionary pathways that social systems are on. So, for example, with the evolution of the media and content industries, asymmetric warfare and foreign policy, and the changing nature of the workplace, I was either right or I was wrong in a usefully interesting way. The parts where Donald Trump is the President of the United States, and the UK is leaving the European Union? No. But then again, no one else did.
Digital challenges in the working world
The working world is undergoing radical changes due to digital developments. What developments will employees have to prepare for in the future?
The main changes are coming from changes in business models, which mean that jobs or tasks that had to be done locally can now be done either somewhere else, or by something else. This includes, but isn’t limited to, artificial intelligence. After all, there’s no real difference to you or I if our jobs are taken by an AI or if they go to a real human in another place. Mainly, though, the challenge is having to deal with change itself, at a pace and scale that we’ve never seen before.
Ben Hammersly speaking at the SCD18
What are the challenges facing companies?
Most companies are living about 8 years behind today. So the biggest challenge is just realising they are actually in 2018. In your opinion, what other areas of daily life are affected by digitisation in particular? All of it, if you want it to be. What do you think shopping will look like in 20 years? Exactly as it does today, only with more electronic payments. We’ll still go to the shops to buy clothes, and the market to buy vegetables. We’ll just pay with something more interesting than physical money. Shops and markets and so on are technologies that have been refined over thousands of years. They’re hard to kill, and definitely won’t die because of something fashionable like virtual reality.
New challenges for eCommerce industry
We are currently seeing a trend towards increasing isolation of states, looking at the USA and Brexit as key examples. Could this be a panic reaction to increasing digital networking?
In part, yes. Certainly to the profound change in the world economy brought by the internet, of which digital networks are an obvious and impressive example. But they’re also enabled by those very same networks: the very thing that enables the modern world that so scares racist idiots also allows racist idiots to act together as racist idiots. Happily it also allows us to identify the racist idiots, so the story isn’t over yet.
You consult the UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Commission on digital development. But is the state still in a position to control and regulate what is happening on the Internet? And to what extent should they be able to do that?
The UK isn’t, no, after Brexit. But the European Commission certainly can: the GDPR laws being an example that is about to happen. And they should be able to do that, yes, if their democratic systems show that this is what their citizens want.
See Ben's full presentation from the SCD18
Artificial Intelligence will be a challenge to your job and your business, but not in the way you think. At the Shopware Community Day 2018, Ben addressed the changes to come, what they are, and what they are not, and how to prepare for the world of the future, today.