The Next Phase in the Digital Revolution: Intelligent Tools, Platforms, Growth, Employment


Digital Platforms in the computing "cloud" are fundamental features of the digital revolution, entangled with what we term "intelligent tools." An abundance of computing power enabling generation and analysis of data on a scale never before imagined permits the reorganization/transformation of services and manufacturing. Here, we expand two central issues raised in our 2016 article "The Rise of the Platform Economy."13(link is external) First, will the increased movement of work to digital platforms provide real and rising incomes with reasonable levels of equality? The productivity possibilities of the digital era are just coming into view. The consequences will be a matter of policy and corporate strategy. Much will depend on how intelligent tools, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics, and sensors will coalesce into systems that appear to be nearly autonomous. The goal of firms could be to simply displace work and remove human intelligence from work tasks. Alternatively, it is possible for intelligent tools to help augment intelligence and capabilities, supporting rather than displacing workforce abilities. Moreover, as communities, is it possible to choose the kind of society that will result from the digital "platform economy." Digital technology does not, in and of itself, dictate a single answer. The increasing diffusion of intelligent tools has already exposed tension between public governance and private governance of platforms. The significance is that a platform's operation sets the rules and parameters of participant action. Digital platforms are regulatory structures and, thus, governance systems. Policy cannot just adapt to the emergence of the digital economy and society. Policy choices are indeed part of the technological trajectories themselves.

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Publication date: 
February 1, 2018
Publication type: 
Journal Article
Zysman, J. M. K. (2018, February 1). The Next Phase in the Digital Revolution: Intelligent Tools, Platforms, Growth, Employment. February 2018 | Communications of the ACM.