Businesses that underestimate dramatic pace of technological change, do so at their peril

Professor Richard Clegg, CEO, Lloyd's Register Foundation
Professor Richard Clegg, CEO, Lloyd's Register Foundation

90% of all data in the world was created in the past two years and there are now more interconnected devices on earth than there are people

Disruptive technologies are not just displacing existing ways of doing things - they are creating new markets and bringing new risks and benefits, Professor Richard Clegg, CEO of Lloyd's Register Foundation, told delegates at Airmic's ERM Forum in London last week.

Speaking in the opening plenary, which laid bare the dramatic pace of technological change, Prof. Clegg warned members that the potential for disruption is huge and complacent businesses will come unstuck: "At the corporate level, if the risk [of new technologies] isn't appreciated, you can go out of business."

He said that even market leaders are vulnerable: "In the past, some of the companies that have failed in the innovation race were once pioneers in innovation themselves. But they were then leapfrogged by their competitors."

How fast are we moving? Putting change into context

  • In 1986 41% of computing power was pocket calculators.
  • 90% of all data in the world was created in the past two years.
  • There are now more interconnected devices on earth than there are people.
  • The size of the digital universe in 2020 will be 44 zettabytes, a ten fold increase since 2014. That's almost 9000 times the number of words ever spoken by human beings on planet earth.

Source: Professor Richard Clegg, speaking at Airmic's ERM Forum 2017

Noting that there are now more connected devices on earth than there are human beings, he warned that businesses must be highly in-tune with the current pace of change. "It took more than a century to move from the steam age to the computer age, but it's taking just decades to go from computers to the age of data and digital we're now entering. Change is happening faster and faster; the whole thing is compressing."

A key question is how to develop checks and balances in this new world. "How do you regulate a robot which is making its own mind up? These sorts of questions have real safety implications," he warned.