Earlier this year (2018) I was fortunate enough to be asked to do the keynote at the http://digitaltransformations.org/ conference. The context of this conference is slightly different to most tech confirences as it seeks to bring together technologists and artists and poses a number of cultural questions.


Title Slide

My name is Glyn Darkin, I am and IT consultant and spend my life helping my clients on their journey to being more digital. Today I will try and lift the lid on the Digital Society.

Definition of Society

Definition of Society

To understand what the “Digital Society” means we need to unpick the term a little. According to Wikipedia society means

the aggregate of people living together in more or less ordered community.

This is pretty self explanatory. For me it means that society is:

  • the fabric that binds us
  • our morals, principles and beliefs
  • our politics, laws and judiciary systems
  • our democracy, media and institutions

Definition of Digital

Definition of Digital

Digital on the other hand is a little more nebulous. Home PCs have been around for well over 20years so whats changing now?

I believe we are at a nexus point, a driven by a number of factors that are all starting to to play to gether and changing our behaviour, economics and global economy.

Computer technology is just the building blocks that underpin this change.

The Internet

The Internet

Obvioulsy we have the internet. Its been around for a while now but what you may not be noticing is how just about everthing is connecting to it. From our TVs, Phones to our watches and cards. You can find just about anything these days that is either connected to the internet or comes with an app!!

Apple’s latest watch has a sim card and connects direct to the internet and our cars come with their own sim cards.

Internet Users

The Internet Users

The internet has over 4 billions users. Those who are joining the the internet now who are not encumbered with legacy tewchnology and networks as jumping ahead. Nearly 50% of internet usage is in Asia alone.

The Cloud

The Cloud

To serve content to all those users we need servers, lots of servers. We call this the cloud but is actually massive warehouses the size of football pitches stocked with racks and racks of servers. There are no more PCs under your desk. Even Microsoft want your games console to site in their datacentre. This capability gives anybody with a credit card access to immense computer power from their home. A teenager can spin up 100s of PCs in seconds!!!

Interestingly Ireland is the data center capital of Europe with Amazon, Google and Microsoft operating massive datacenters here.

The Rise of Mobile

The Rise of Mobile

We all know the mobile story. Apple was the first trillion-dollar company this year and they dont seem to be stopping.

Internet Usage Worldwide

Internet Usage Worldwide

We are now truly a mobile first world. Globally around 5bn people have a mobile phone. 2.5bn have a smartphone of some kind (not necessarily with a large data allowance or easy access to charging) and around 1bn, perhaps more have a high-end smartphone. At the time of writting there are some 650-700m iPhones in use.

New Supply Chains

New Electric Supply Chains

Becasue of the explosion in smart phones the cost and size of electronics has been driven down creating whole new supply chains for electronics equipment. This ubiquitos and cheap technology means I can get a working computer (Rasberry Pi) for under €50

IOT - The Internet of Things

Internet of Things

We see this being played out the most in the new wearables market where its possible to have a device on your wrist that tracks your entire life.

3d Printing

3D Printing

The access to cheap electronics is enabling people (makers) to build new hardware. 20 years ago I was printing 3d parts for the automotive industry. Back then the printers cost > £100,000 and the actual printed parts cost well in excess of £10,000. But now I can build a 3d printer at home for a few £100 and print out my own parts.



With all this cheap hardware and software we are able to create entirely new ecosystems like Blockchain and Bitcoin. In 2009 a man by the name of James Howell mined 7500 bitcoins back in the early days on his laptop which later got thrown away into landfill and is now worth $75 million. The underpinning technology behind bitcoin is the blockchain, a distributed ledger which is being investigated to solve all sorts of problems in society right now from supply chain management to fixing the internet itself!!!



And all these cheap electronics are being used to create robots. Boston Dynamic build these incredible robots that can walk and run and will transform working in hazardous environments but our lives will more likely be affected by something like the Dyson robot hoover.

The bots are coming and steeling our jobs

The bots are coming

Companies are bringing all this technology together to build robots, we imagine this to be like the Terminator but actually the bots look more like this. A Workflow and spreadsheet!!!! Any repatative software task is a candidate for a bot. The classic example in a large company is the process for “resetting” ausers password!!!

The crazy thin here though is that the opportunity for packagin software as “bots” instead of “apps” is that people start to think in human terms. I was in a meeting not so long ago where 4 bots had been deployed into an organisation and now required a line manager to keep and eye on them,

The Smart robot AI


The most comman application we see of AI being used right now is the the media with diverless cars, it they are being used everywhere. I your recommendations in Amazon to your Facebook feed!! and that Smarts is built on your data.

XRay Robot

XRay Diagnosis

The greatest example of using Artificial Intelligence is using AI to diagnose patient x-rays. Thousands of xrays have been loaded into an AI with the doctors diagnosis. The AI looks for patterns and correlations which becomes its model. Next time it sees them it will be able to diagnose the patient. But this then raises a number of questions. Are our radiologists now obsolete or more efficient? will we work in tandem with these intelligent systems or will we be competing?

It can take up to 15 million images to train a neural netwrok to recognize and object.

The Gig Economy

Deliveroo Cyclist

All this technology has created new jobs which we call the gig economy. Contractors and Freelancers rather than employees, flexible working hours and new employment opportunities to earn extra income.

The Gig Economy

Uber Driver

Or is it a way for companies to pay less tax, no pensions, no holidays and leaving works with little to no rights.

The Digital Nomad

The Digital Nomad

2020 there will be 1 million unfulfilled software engineering job openings in the US alone. Software developers who can work from anywhere in the world And you dont even need to go to school or university to learn to program. I am self taught!!

Free Services

1 Hacker Way

Incredible service that I get for free

  • Messaging, Email, documents, photos for free
  • I have all the music in the world on my phone
  • I can catch up with just about anybody I have ever met in under 5 minutes on Facebook
  • There is an abundance of information
  • I can learn anything on the internet
  • Buy stuff delivered to my door next day

The Arab Spring

Arab Spring

Twitter and Facebook were partly responsible for the Arab Spring

The Trump Election

The White House

That which can topple a dictator can damage a democracy.

Our eyeballs = their Money

missing the whale

Photographer Eric Smith captured the moment the unidentified man missed the amazing sight of the breaching humpback whale and posted it online. It surfaced just a few feet from the sailing boat spotted near Redondo Beach in California. Mr Smith said he captured five photos of the man staring down at his screen as the whale appeared. He uploaded the picture on Instagram with the caption: “A sign of the times.”


Social Media is harming our children

Social Media is harming our children

Social media is harming the mental health of teenagers, The state has to act!!!


The king of Social Media

The king of Social Media

I could barely talk about the digital society without talking about facebook.

Facebook has 2billion people on its platform, that’s half the internet!!

87 Million of those had their personal data harvested by a Company called Cambridge Analytica That data was allegedly used to influence voter opinion

Russian meddling and Fake news scandal

Targetted Advertising

Facebook demographics

Still to this day I can put a targetd ad campaign together that can focus on your age, political persuasion, your income and your interested.



Combined that have a market cap bigger than the GDP of the UK.

They are so big they have become a threat to every industry.

Everybody is trying to copy them, its what is at the heart of Digital Transformation.



Our politicians are starting to see the risks.

Regulation is here in the form of GDPR

Its why your inboxes are full with emails asking you permission to keep your details

It’s effectively the right to be forgotten and a right to your data.

Google, Facebook now allow you to download all of you data



So here is the conundrum, What will be the impact of taking control of our data?



With the recent antics of Russia its pretty clear that Russia is on a charge to reposition its self as a world leader again and does not seem to care how it does this.


AI Limited by the data we can provide it

But as I mentioned in my example of using AI in healthcare. The capability to build AI is limited only by the data you have to teach it

Social Credit System

Social Credit System

So how do you compete against a country that is prepared to capture all your data and use it as part of their Social Credit System?

Does taking control of our data give our world competitors a clear advantage in the race to AI dominance?

Can we rely on the GAFA to use our data to move the dial on bettering our social fabric and ensuring that we as a western, democratic world keeps pace with our competitors?

Universal Basic Income

Universal Basic Income

This can all be a pretty scary picture of the future, but for content creators, artists and makers we have some of the greatest opportunities at hand. The rise of the gig economy and machine learning is making us question the future of work and what kind of social system we will need to support our economies. In Finland they have launched an experiment to provide a Universal Basic Income to see what people do. Could we have a future like Star Trek where we get to do what we want and pursue meaningful and creative adventures without the need to worry about our careers and money?

New Platforms

Casey Neistat

We have new platforms and channels for our creativity like never before. Casey Neistat on Youtube have over 9 million subscribers. He releases a video on youtube practically every day. Putting that into persepctive his video of snowboarding in New York has received 17 million views, that is more views than the great British Bake Off that peaked at 8.0 million.


Ed Sheeran

Not many singers were leveraging the potential of social media channels at the time, but Ed Sheeran quickly spotted (and leveraged) their potential. He was posting his videos online, and one of them was noticed by the rapper Example, who liked his style so much that he invited him to tour together.

That helped him grow his online presence more and more, and people across the world started tuning in to his YouTube videos. Soon the media started paying attention to the ginger boy with the guitar and the amazing voice, and some big names and newspapers started mentioning him.

How about a world here we have no more Simon Cowell dictating what bands become successfull!!


Star Citizen

But its not just about music and vlogging. One of the highest funded Kickstarter campaings was a computer game that raised $181,794,208. Thats a lot of money to pump into your creative projects!!!



New Business Models

Music Industry back on its feet

The music industry is back on its feet again now that we have new business models and channels that can actually monitise properly. But its also pushed creators to look at new revenue propositions, getting artists to do more live events and getting closer to their audiences.

New Creative Tools

The AI that can play Irish Trad Music

As creators we have new tools that enable us to to more with less!!!


New Creative Tools

The camera with an AI

Imagine being able to take professional quality photos with your SLR. I love my SLR but often the complexity of taking the photo takes away from the moment!!!!

The safer firework

AI Driven Drone flying

We can use these AIs to fly drones in the sky and create incredible visual displays that beat fireworks hands down.


Magic Leap

And we have not even touched virtual reality and augmented reality coming to a home or phone near you soon.

$6 Billion and it has not released a single product yet

Who Knows?

Forbes Magazine Cover

Forbes magazine November 2017. The cover article is about Nokia, the unbeatable behemoth of the mobile phone industry. The same year that the iphone was released. The iphone cemented design & asthetics as a cornerstone for our digital revolution and for artists, makers, creators we need to embrace this digital transformation; standing on the shoulders of giants; adopting these platforms and tools to help shape our society and culture and to design our future.