Beyond Good and E-ville

Professor Angell gives his forecasts for the effect of computerization and global communication networks on both political and commercial governance. He relates this to the central position of information systems within the whole spectrum of management, to consider ‘the nature of work’ in ‘the office of the future’ and the ‘enterprise of the future’. Angell finishes by initiating a debate on the likely impact of these emergent technologies on governmental and organizational strategies. He is adamant that all the institutions of the Age of the Machine will have to mutate in the Information Age or die!

Angell’s views are controversial. He is convinced of a growing global competition for highly mobile ‘knowledge workers,’ made mobile by their use of new technology. Angell will consider the fundamental importance of such ‘economic mercenaries,’ particularly women, to the success of both company and country, together with broader implications. He says that commonly held dogmas, such as ‘the common good’, ‘social justice’, ‘full employment’ and ‘fair taxation’, will have to be reassessed, to be superseded by more elitist notions. “In the future the notion of ‘Human Rights’ will seem just as peculiar as ‘The Divine Right of Kings’.” The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer.

The workplace is becoming increasingly feminized. Taxation will move away from income and onto expenditure. Spending patterns will change radically, and every company will have to rethink totally its marketing strategies. The companies themselves will be virtual enterprises, at the hub of loosely knit alliances, all linked together by global networks: electronic, transport and human. They assemble to take advantage of any temporary business opportunity; and then we separate, each company moving on to its next major deal.

The increased importance of knowledge/talent workers to these companies is also intensifying a power struggle with the owners of equity in those companies, and this is likely to fundamentally change the very nature of capitalism itself. This battle is likely to be at least as significant as that between landowners and industrialists in the early part of the nineteenth century that was formative of today’s capitalism.

These economic forces are driving western liberal democracy into decline. Like Karl Marx, Angell believes that representative politicians are becoming impotent in their power broking – that events are forcing their hands. Unlike Marx he does not see the reason as the rise of the international proletariat, but on the one hand ‘new barbarians,’ a growing international elite based in ‘economic hot-spots’ who owe no allegiance to the nation-state, and on the other ‘old barbarians,’ who are insistent on forcing their political, religious and ethnic bigotries on the rest of the world. Indeed he will show that the nation-state in its present form has no future, and that if it is to survive at all it will have to be radically different from today’s embodiment. The future, he says, will be in Smart Regions, E-villes forming the hub of telecommunications, transport and human networks. The basis of this conclusion is his analysis of the nature of money and its relationship to telecommunications.

Angell will conclude by asking ‘what will all this mean for business in general?’ What should these businesses do?

Although Angell delivers a very serious message, his style makes the talk suitable for a general audience. He does have a well-earned reputation for sprinkling his talks with liberal amounts of  ‘dark humour’ and biting satire.