7 Fields That Are Experiencing World-Changing Disruption (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this discussion, I discussed how I see dramatic disruption occurring in the fields of medicine, computing and communications. This post will continue that discussion of the seven fields in which I see similar dramatic disruption.

4. Economic

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Rapid, near-instant communications will eliminate the distance and time between a consumer’s purchase of a product (choosing and customizing), the manufacture of that product and the product’s delivery. It has been theorized recently in The Economist that, as a result, manufacturing will return from offshore so that goods can be produced closer to the consumer and delivered more quickly. (See my earlier post, How 3D Printing Works.)

Money will change from physical currency (such as bills and coins) to an electronic scrip – possibly a single, “universal” monetary system. As an example, in March of 2007 M-Pesa was launched to provide Kenyans with a “payment system for the un-banked.” Kenyan residents, with only a phone number, can store up to $1,200.00 in an account on their cell phones. They can make purchases using their cell phone. No bank is involved – only the pseudo-account with M-Pesa. M-Pesa’s growth in Kenya has been nothing short of spectacular: in the Spring of 2007, it had 19,671 mobile active users; it reached the mark of one million users by November, 2007; two million in March, 2008; 3 million by July 2008; by June 2010 M-Pesa had ten million subscribers; and it reached 14.65 million subscribers in March, 2012 (which is roughly 60% of Kenya’s adult population). Some believe that 25% of Kenya’s GDP is processed on M-Pesa. (Source: M-Pesa 5th-Year Anniversary Time-Line).

Japan and Europe also are moving toward a cash- and credit-card free economy. Going in a different direction than Kenya, they have adopted systems of electronic payments via cell phones equipped with NFC (near-field communication) chips. The difference from M-Pesa is that the Japanese and European payment systems involve payments from bank or credit card accounts. NFC-equipped phones are just now appearing in the U.S., and various banks and other vendors are rushing to offer NFC-compatibility with their banking and credit services.

5. Education

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The future of education will be very strongly influenced by the availability of on-line courses and degrees – particularly if the cost of travel and on-campus tuition keep rising. A trade association named the International Association for K-12 Online Learning has stated that “about 250,000 students are enrolled in full-time virtual schools in 30 states.” (TheFiscalTimes.com, “Can Computers Replace Classrooms?”)

Nationally recognized U.S. colleges and universities are rapidly moving to offer on-line classes, both non-credit and for-credit. Harvard University has offered non-credit courses for some time through its Open Learning Initiative. The Open Culture website states that it contains a collection “that includes over 400 free courses in the liberal arts and sciences.” On May 12, 2012, Harvard and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) announced a new non-profit partnership, named edX, to offer free online courses from both universities. The edX partnership will be overseen by a nonprofit organization governed equally by the two universities.

These “massively open online courses”, now being referred to as MOOCs, are also being offered by other academic institutions. Also announced in May, Stanford University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan announced a partnership with a new commercial company, Coursera, to “offer courses from the top universities, for free.”

Familiar universities that offer for-credit, online degree programs include the University of Phoenix; Kaplan University ; and DeVry University.

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