Thursday, October 18, 2018

Book Review: 'Drowning in Potential: How American Society Can Survive Digital Technology' by Rod Wallace

Drowning in Potential: How American Society Can Survive Digital Technology by [Wallace, Rod]
‘American society must do more than survive--it must flourish.’
Delaware author Rod Wallace earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan as a Fulbright fellow. His academic research and publications have focused on the interplay between business collaboration and competition. Rod helps organizations deliver the greatest profit by expanding their ability to improve society meaningfully and profitably, working to deliver profit in service to society. He has collaborated with Silicon Valley pioneer Dr. Steve Omohundro, with whom he explored the impact of artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technology on society. And, he has been an invited researcher to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.

“Drowning in Potential: How American Society Can Survive Digital Technology” offers groundbreaking insights, strategies, and tools for overcoming American society's most pressing issues. For those of us anxious about the rate of growth of digital technology – now with toys and accessories such as Alexa, Siri, GPS, EMR, driverless cars, the ubiquitous cellphones and tablets and laptops that occupy every passenger on an airline journey, etc – Rod offers well researched information and reassurance about some of those fears that apparently are national.

As Rod states in his introduction, ‘Despite the potential embodied in Digital Technology and seen in its direct impacts, the side effects are just as impactful and generally destructive. D-Tech’s direct potential inspires awe: the internet, cell phones, artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data—even traditional spreadsheets and word processors—are amazing tools. Every day brings a new breakthrough that could be used to solve one of society’s biggest challenges: Game-changing cameras and earpieces can read documents to the visually impaired, Headsets can control prosthetic limbs based on brainwave messages, with the prosthesis providing feedback and sensation, Virtual and augmented reality can immerse students in learning... Problems are growing across society’s sub-systems of Culture, Government, and Business/Economy… Our Business/Economy is also failing to serve society. More than 60% of our economy is dedicated to industries that fail to deliver our most basic requirements. For example: The United States spends more on healthcare than any other nation in the world, yet Americans’ lifespans are the shortest of any developed country.
Through the help of Digital Technology, the average American supermarket is now crammed with an incredible 47,000 processed, bred, genetically modified, and preserved foods. Yet these foods do not nourish us. Even our organic foods are less nutritious than their traditionally farmed counterparts from the 1950s and 1960s. While each failure is unique, Digital Technology’s unintended consequences are causing fundamental failures in every industry I reviewed… Digital Technology has invaded every aspect of our lives—home, work, school, hospitals... I believe we can survive—and, in fact, flourish—by changing our approach to collaboration. Technology does not solve problems. People solve problems. And we solve problems most effectively when we work together. Thus, our collaborative approaches must withstand the rigors of today’s D-Tech-driven complexity.’

In this immensely impressive and important book Rod Wallace offers succor and his vision through compelling stories supported by in-depth-analysis and more than 60 diagrams and illustrations. What are the side effects of digital technology? How have some societies successfully overcome the unintended consequences of new technologies, when most have not? How can we redesign our approaches to leadership and collaboration so we can overcome the fallout from digital technology?

Take a deep breath, read carefully, and gain the perspective (and shared concerned) about our destiny with Rod Wallace’s wise analysis. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, October 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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