Sally Wallace, Ann-Margaret Esnard, Jennifer Giarratano, David Iwaniec, Denise Jenkins, Jorge Martinez, Karen Minyard, Maggie Reeves, Tyler Rogers, Bill Sabol, Cynthia Searcy, David Sjoquist, Susan Snyder.
Over the past 50 years, society has witnessed major advances in computer capacity, speed, and analytical techniques. The most recent major advance in technology has been machine learning, which has given rise to artificial intelligence (AI), robots, and the Internet-of-Things (IoT) (West 2018; Ford 2015).
This new technology has resulted in significant changes and is expected to have even greater effects in the future, similar to what occurred during previous technological revolutions. The “New, New Economy,” the “Second Machine Age,” and the “4th Industrial Revolution” are titles that have been used to describe the current era of technology advance.
As new technologies advance deeper into everyday use, they raise the question—how will they transform society and the economy (West 2018; Lee 2018)? This transformed world gives rise to questions about the role of governments, nonprofits, and the private sector in securing the welfare of citizens around the globe. These questions are pertinent to every unit within the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (AYS).
This report provides a summary of some of the key changes in technology that are driving change and the ways these technologies have and might affect our world. It is presented as the basis for decisions regarding how the AYS should position itself in this new world. The report identifies the main drivers, a non-exhaustive list of applications, and potential implications. The decision of what the School should focus on will require diving deeper into the research and discussing the topic school wide, which are ongoing steps in the process.
Since at least the 1970s there have been major advances in computer technology. Initially, the change was the ability to digitize things. As the speed and capacity of computers increased, the world became more digitized, and the economy was transformed. The expectation was that economic productivity would increase substantially, but there is some question as to whether that happened. This section provides a discussion of the major technological drivers of recent (past 50 years) change.
Like the steam engine, the internet and AI are considered “general purpose technologies,” meaning they can be applied to a broad range of applications. Digitization, the internet, AI, robots, and IoT have led to new products and applications. Providing a comprehensive list of these products and applications is neither feasible nor our objective, which is to illustrate the variety of applications.
It is expected that the new technology will lead to major and widespread disruptions, with winners and losers. Some authors liken the magnitude of changes that will occur as a result of new technologies to the changes that arose during previous economic revolutions, such as the Industrial Revolution. As the new technologies advance deeper into everyday use, they raise the question—how will they transform society, the economy, and politics (West 2018; Lee 2018)?
In this section we consider the possible implications, effects of, and concerns with new technologies. There is little empirical evidence of the implications of the new technology. Thus, much of the discussion of the implications in the literature might be considered conjecture or informed speculation.
It is helpful to think of the implications as falling into one (or more) of the following four categories.
This category includes how new technology affects how organizations operate.
The implications considered in this category are associated with the cause-and-effect paradigm of social science research.
This category includes the required changes to institutions, laws, regulations, policies, systems, etc.
This category focuses on the necessary changes in education and training that are driven by the new technology.
Building on its current strengths as a premier policy school, the Andrew Young School is identifying its roles in addressing issues associated with the new technology. This report is the first step in this process is to identify what is driving this new technological landscape, summarize the potential implications of these changes, and present some examples of applications of the digital world.
If you have questions about the Policy in the Digital World Initiative, a member of our team would be glad to help you better understand the project.
The Andrew Young School has created a continuous learning group which meet regularly to discuss new developments in the digital landscape.
A PDF version of this report is available to download for offline reading and printing.