As service users or consumers, we love that the Internet removes intermediaries. Just think: one click to buy and download a new book or album, everyone now able to “publish” their thoughts and ideas to a potentially global audience, the rise of the citizen journalist and citizen science, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, and so on. Future generations will undoubtedly look back at this time in human existence and recognise it as a phase change – suddenly the friction of a whole lot of stuff that people want to do was drastically reduced.
But of course there is a downside – what if that intermediary is you? We have just about gotten used to the changes wrought by the first wave of Internet based disintermediation – though do you still miss your local book shop or record shop? It’s becoming clear that there are huge areas where machine learning, cloud computing and robotics will come together and wreak even greater changes. Consider Google’s self-driving car video above – it’s hard to suppress a tear as the blind man goes for his first solo car ride. But what will all the taxi drivers do when driverless cars take off? And more importantly, what skills will our children need to learn to find work in a world where any job that can be done by an algorithm will ultimately be automated?