We've been following the work of a guy called Steve Sammartino for a while now. A website which does the marketing for his speaking gigs describes him as "a modern day renaissance man who has worked in marketing for the world’s largest companies, founded and sold his own start-ups, is a business journalist, and thought leader in the start-up & technology arena." That doesn't really do him justice though - a better description might be a 'digital polymath.' We love his work, especially his recently published book, The Great Fragmentation which is as good a summary of the digital age as you'll find out there right now.
We've managed to convince him to do an event for Future Crunch, which is great! It's happening tonight, at the Library at the Dock in Melbourne's Docklands. The topic is fascinating - he's looking at something called the "Autonomous Corporation." As far as we understand it, the idea is that we're at the point where we've probably reached 'peak corporation.' Nobody wants corporations anymore - they've gone from something that originally was built to outsource risk and take advantage of economies of scale, to something that exerts an outsize influence on our lives and which damage our environment as a result of the hyper-capitalism of the last 20-30 years.
However, we're now at the point where a combination of digital tools (e.g. cloud-based software platforms, crowdfunding, mobile marketplaces) and technological advances (the outsourcing of traditional 'left brain' jobs to machines) offer the promise of getting rid of the corporation as we know it. This is provocative stuff. An economy without giant corporations is almost unimaginable right? Well, to a certain extent yes. But it wasn't always that way. It's only really in the last 50 to 100 years that the modern corporation as we know it has been the dominant unit of the global economy. Before that, most people were 'self-employed' in the sense that they had a specific set of skills and experiences that they could use either to survive or which they could trade in return for other skills or goods.
Sounds familiar? It should... it's remarkably like the descriptions we now hear of things like the gig and sharing economy. If you zoom out far enough in history, it may be that the age of the corporation was largely an anomaly - and that in twenty years time the services they provide (e.g. legal risk and economies of scale) won't necessarily require something that has a fixed geographical location or even a physical form. We'll leave it at that. If you want to hear more you should definitely get down to the event. It's free! There will be tea, beer and mulled wine (yes, the weather outside is grey but inside we'll be warm).
Also, here are some of the links we've been bouncing back and forth with Steve while he's been thinking about this talk. If you're planning on attending this event, and you're looking for more info on the topic either before or afterwards, this is your "More Reading" section.