INNOVATION CYCLES RUN ever faster, with each of us experiencing ever more discontinuity. Anand Swaminathan and Jürgen Meffert discuss the markets and technology of the digital age, examining and putting forward proposals on what is needed to successfully negotiate the upheavals of the future.

Jürgen Meffert: Many people feel unsettled by the rapid pace of change brought about by digitization. To overcome these anxieties, it helps to understand a little of the context. Ever since the days of Adam Smith, the frameworks in which businesses trade have continued to evolve. The economist Nikolai Kondratiev was the first to describe the long waves in economic life that followed technical innovation, from steam power and railways to the automobile and information technology. New technologies always drive innovation cycles—the only difference being that today those cycles are ever shorter, with each innovation being overtaken by the next at exponentially increasing speed. The early industrial landscape delighted in progress: it saw how each new technology further liberated the individual, from physical work, from restrictive working hours, and from danger. Living standards blossomed for millions of people, and life expectancy rapidly increased. People in today’s industrial nations live to almost twice the age as their ancestors 100 years ago.

Anand Swaminathan: What are the consequences? Whereas in the past an innovation cycle would span ...

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