If you’ve read some of my past posts, you know I have a keen interest in the way that the tech industry is maturing into something that, in my opinion, will be reined in by the regulatory bodies. We’re seeing this happen in many areas already – the explosion in privacy and security, the increasing financial plays into cryptocurrency, and now the move by the Trump administration to block any potential merger between Qualcomm and Broadcom on basis of national security.
Even good old Peter Thiel is back in the news again on this one. And I completely agree – he has a point. The technology industry is at such a point of saturation into every part of life that its disruption cannot be ignored by anyone. Tech has been instrumental in influencing an election, influenced key persons in school shootings, suicides, bullying and more, helped us become inseparable from work, and broken down the barriers between nations and workplaces in ways never thought possible. It’s challenging our concepts of money, identity and nationhood.
Whether those are positives or negatives is completely subjective.
Alongside these disruptions, it’s easy to see parallels in the way that society was transformed by the telephone, or railways.
And also by the regulation that followed in both rail (UK, US) and telephone (US) – the mission of the FCC is particularly valid:
“make available so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and world-wide wire and radio communication services with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”
These days that quickly extends into Cloud connectivity, access to Google search and Facebook services and more – in the future would blockchain be included? Cybersecurity? AI? It’s easy to see where this can/and does go in both panic driven dystopia as well as more realistic concepts of the have/have not changing into the “access/access not” divide in society – control is stratified into those who can access tech services, and those who cannot.
The regulations, ISPs and consumers already regularly do battle over labels such as net neutrality. Which is why moves such as the adminstration’s blocking of Qualcomm/Broadcom make tech shiver – the ideals of technology and disruption pale in the blunt realpolitick of “security”. And let’s face it, the government will do what it “needs to”, and has more patience than the tech industry. How realistic, and how far will this go?
I think the next year or so will be quite significant in the evolution of this struggle – regulatory moves will coalesce as the government inroads get significant in the various industries – crypto, security, privacy, AI and services. We will see inroads into SAAS and PAAS regulation off the back of these – particularly based on identity and security. These are all built on the architecture of some core economic and social functions – currency, safety, identity, transport. These are exploding industries within the arms of government, and will only grow.
The government, and traditional industries who are making the most inroads into “disruption”, will weather the changes and plant themselves firmly in the core changes and transformations happening. There’ll be some talk about how it’s stifling innovation…and there probably is. There always is. I personally think the fear is a touch overinflated, and that it’s a necessary swing of the pendulum that will bring disruption closer to the centre of social change. Normalised change and disruption, dare I say it, is slower…but hopefully a more significant seachange.