We are witnessing the rise of the individual like never before. Tremendous technological advances and connectivity are empowering individuals across the world.
Almost 5 billion people are using mobile phones, and of those devices, more than half are smartphones. Social platforms have fundamentally changed the way people communicate, interact and organise their lives: from sharing information and organising knowledge on Wikipedia, WeChat, and Twitter, to funding new ventures on Kickstarter or peer to peer marketplaces on Airbnb, Uber or Airtasker.
Use of mobile payment is 11 times higher in China than in the United States. Chinese tech firms Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu rival Facebook, Google and Amazon in innovation, the size of their customers, profitability and social impact.
There is an increasing expectation for experience and personalisation rather than consumption. Access to information changes not only the way we consume but also the way we interact with companies and the influence we have over products and services.
This megatrend will vary substantially across different regions. Those who do not have access to technology and connectivity, available to most, will feel increasingly disempowered. New forms of organisation such as the ‘gig’ economy also raise new questions around the responsibilities of business and the status and rights of workers.
This megatrend is accelerating as more individuals are connected to internet services and as large social platforms invent new ways draw people into their ecosystems. While giving people a voice, the same data practices and business models also amplify misinformation and disinformation, harmful and extremist content.
Rising rates of depression, stress and anxiety amongst adolescents are linked to increased use of social media and the introduction of smartphones. Technology, however, could also be an opportunity for improved, individualised delivery for mental health.
As this trend continues to amplify our voices, governments and individuals need to understand the trade-offs between access and privacy, between empowerment and isolation.
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Haidt, J. and Lukianoff, G. (2019) The Coddling of the American Mind. Penguin Press.
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