The same thing, notes Brynjolfsson, happened 120 years ago, in the Second Industrial Revolution, when electrification—the supernova of its day—was introduced. Old factories did not just have to be electrified to achieve the productivity boosts; they had to be redesigned, along with all business processes. It took thirty years for one generation of managers and workers to retire and for a new generation to emerge to get the full productivity benefits of that new power source. A December 2015 study by the McKinsey Global Institute on American industry found a “considerable gap between the most digitized sectors and the rest of the economy over time and [found] that despite a massive rush of adoption, most sectors have barely closed that gap over the past decade … Because the less digitized sectors are some of the largest in terms of GDP contribution and employment, we [found] that the US economy as a whole is only reaching 18 percent of its digital potential … The United States will need to adapt its institutions and training pathways to help workers acquire relevant skills and navigate this period of transition and churn.” The supernova is a new power source, and it will take some time for society to reconfigure itself to absorb its full potential. As that happens, I believe that Brynjolfsson will be proved right and we will start to see the benefits—a broad range of new discoveries around health, learning, urban planning, transportation, innovation, and commerce—that will drive growth. That debate is for economists, though, and beyond the scope of this book, but I will be eager to see how it plays out. What is absolutely clear right now is that while the supernova may not have made our economies measurably more productive yet, it is clearly making all forms of technology, and therefore individuals, companies, ideas, machines, and groups, more powerful—more able to shape the world around them in unprecedented ways with less effort than ever before. If you want to be a maker, a starter-upper, an inventor, or an innovator, this is your time. By leveraging the supernova you can do so much more now with so little. As Tom Goodwin, senior vice president of strategy and innovation at Havas Media, observed in a March 3, 2015, essay on TechCrunch.com: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.
Thomas L. Friedman (Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations)