Stone Tablets to Satellites Book Excerpt – Technology: DNA of Society

This is the second of eight every-other-week blog posts excerpts from my book: “Stone Tablets to Satellites: The Continual Intimate but Awkward Relationship Between the Insurance Industry and Technology”. The publication date for this second post is March 23, 2022. The first blog post excerpted from my book was posted March 9, 2022. The last blog post of excerpted content will be June 15, 2022. Wells Media will publish the book on June 28, 2022 as a hard cover, paperback, ebook (Kindle), and audio book.

The excerpt of this 2nd post is from the Foundation Section of the book. This section includes four chapters that encompass discussions of the shifting conduct of commerce; the nature of the intimate but awkward relationships between the P&C insurance industry and technology; technology being the DNA of society; and of the five technology eras that society and the insurance industry have experienced.

Let’s get to the excerpt ………………..

I posit that technology is the DNA of society. But what is technology?

Considered from a broad-brush perspective, technology represents the tools we use to create physical artifacts as well as digital artifacts, our speech, the clothes we wear, how we grow crops, and how we travel from one place to another. Technology is all of those examples and more. Technology is an integral, inseparable component of mankind’s existence from the first appearance of humans on our planet to current times.

Essentially, technology is the DNA of human society.

I believe that the DNA of human society has six strands or types of technology. Over the eons of our species existence, humans have either used individual strands or combined two or more of the six strands to enhance existing technologies or create new technologies. Each technology, whether an existing one or a new one, has enabled a panoply of applications.

The six strands of technology and the abilities of associated applications are:

  1. Infrastructure: The ability to provide a physical or digital foundation which supports one or more applications of technology.
  2. Communications: The ability to communicate and/or collaborate with another person, another technology, or in current times, with a web-accessible physical artifact with a sensor in it. The sensor could also be attached to or embedded in an animal or a human.
  3. Data storage: The ability to provide a physical or digital place to store data created or captured by one or more technology applications.
  4. Compute: The ability to perform calculations on data whether the data is in storage or in motion.
  5. Analytics: The ability to develop models or algorithms, make predictions or projections, or create a variety of 2D, 3D, or higher degree visualizations spanning pictorial to visual to graphic to geospatial from data in storage or in motion.
  6. Immersion: The ability to surround the user emotionally, visually, physically or some combination of all three by activating one or more of the person’s five senses.

The six major strands of technology emerged and are continually strengthened through time driven by four major human innate skills:

  1. Social: Humans are social animals. We need to communicate and collaborate with other people. Commerce is a form of communication and collaboration.
  2. Inventive: Humans are inventive. We have built physical artifacts since our appearance on the planet and more recently from a historical perspective are now building digital artifacts.
  3. Designer: Humans are designers. We shape our physical and digital artifacts to have the ‘right’ look-and-feel to achieve the tasks we are attempting to accomplish.
  4. Discoverer: Humans are discoverers. We are curious about the world around us whether on land, on water, under water, or in space.

Humans are constantly fusing these innate skills with the major strands of technologies and their associated applications. At times this is a mixture of one human skill with one technology strand. At other times, the mixture is a result of multiple human skills with multiple strands. The result of this never-ending fusion of human skills and technology strands is a never-ending sequence of technology eras each of which simultaneously surrounds, limits, and enables what society, and the insurance industry more specifically, can achieve.

To date, this fusion has generated five technology eras:

  1. Analog Transmission Era (1840s – 1870s). I chose the Transcontinental Telegraph as the symbolic technology of this era.
  2. Computer Era (1940s – Late 1980s). I chose the Mainframe as the symbolic technology of this era.
  3. Interconnected Era (Mid 1980s – 2020). I chose the World Wide Web as the symbolic technology of this era.
  4. Mobile Era (Mid 2000s – 2020). I chose the Smartphone as the symbolic technology of this era.
  5. On-Demand Era (Early 2000s – 2020). I chose the Cloud as the symbolic technology of this era.

Readers of the book will find a table of these five technology eras that includes select technologies of each era, my chosen symbolic technology application of each era, and select technology applications of each era.

The crux of each of the five technology eras centers on how one or more of the six strands of technology and associated applications (infrastructure, communications, data storage, compute, analytics, immersion) generated capabilities to meet the expectations of the insurance industry during the era’s time period and currently in 2020.

My intent is to illustrate the march of different technologies and their applications through different points of time that have been available to the insurance industry from the 1840s until 2020. Of course, availability of technology and its associated applications does not mean adoption.

Seven longitudinal considerations

First: The technology eras encompass a march through time that enabled the commerce of insurance to shift from being conducted almost entirely using physical artifacts to using a mixture of physical and digital artifacts.

Second: If one could treat the eras as a person and conduct a physical examination, it would be obvious that the advance of technology and its applications is causing the metabolism of the marketplace to accelerate.

Third: It is not true that older technologies or their applications are necessarily replaced by new or enhanced technologies and their applications.

Fourth: The technology eras overlap. In fact, I use almost the same time period for the Mobile Era and the On-Demand Era. These two eras are an interdependent pair that have, and continue to, reshape society by altering the place and nature of: commerce, hiring, work, entertainment, communication, education, travel, and shopping at a minimum.

Fifth: Insurance carriers and the other participants throughout the insurance value chain who have existed and continue to sell and service insurance through any of the five technology eras are potentially using technologies and associated applications from all the five technology eras.

Sixth: The nature of conversation has changed through the technology eras. Conversation is becoming more robust as it is conducted through digital channels. Conversation is more than speech. It now includes pictures, videos, and music.

Seventh: People and physical artifacts have always been, and continue to be, involved with insurance commerce.

———————

The next blog post will be published on April 6, 2022. I will focus excerpt content from one of the chapters within the Strategic and Business Models Section. Specifically, I will delve into Moats and Moat Mortality. The last blog post of excerpted content will be published on June 15, 2022. The book will be published on June 28, 2022.

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