Rachel Ooi

Chief Growth Officer, Merkle APAC

This article was originally published on Forbes.

Which sci-fi movies depict closest to your vision of a digital future? I have heard many say Star Wars and Skynet. I really like the latest Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is a neat illustration of a nonlinear digital genesis we might associate better with in our era, congruent with the exponential growth of today’s technologies. It gives a view of the convergent possibilities across deep techs: biotech, advanced AI with nanotech, quantum physics and metaverse NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in an epic spin-out.

I feel that we are at the edge of the epiphany of a digital genesis, like right before the ancient Exodus and Renaissance.

Socially and environmentally, there are great sustainability challenges to solve for. The clock is ticking, and we need to respond to the sustainability agenda more seriously beyond CSR (corporate social responsibility) lip service. Every person and business entity is accountable for their success and wealth built at the expense of the Earth’s resources. Economically, there is a widening gap between human’s linear progression and technology’s exponential growth. This activates a great wealth transfer to digital enterprises and innovators, but at the cost of a great disruption leading to potential marginalization and a great divide in humanity with superiority of AI and deep techs scaling toward technological singularity.

Do You See Fear Or Opportunity?

VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world is now an understatement, and a VUCAV world on steroids is our reality. The current climate forces us all to be “vulnerable.” Many are at the stage of unproductivity, disengagement or confronting mental challenges due to constant uncertainties in life. We are confronted not just for a sound mind but for who we are and can be for a purposeful life and work.

Vulnerability permits us to reflect, rethink and respond wiser, thus grow in that space and time. We are given a second chance for a renewed purpose of “being” to live and work better. This I hope propels us to the next level for greater advancement, civilization and kindness in humanity.

The Epiphany Of Digital Genesis

There is no better time for great innovation and reinvention than now. Innovation is seeing things from different perspectives. Digital genesis is a people-centric, digital-first, cloud-scaled and AI-enabled circular economy. Digital genesis will be a world of technology and humans working together at speed and scale that gives hope to a much more sustainable and circular economic world than today.

Digital is now critical and instrumental to enable, facilitate and help solve problems. This is a critical time when digital frontiers will power in to enlarge and expand. There is no turning back—only acceleration to the digital future. We need to pivot and grow with it, leading our next generations with AI-responsible human leaders to leverage technology for the betterment of humanity. We certainly need digitally sound and noble leaders to steward, orchestrate and narrate the digital chronicles we need for a sustainable world for the next generations. There is an urgency for human-machine relations and the necessary policies and governance now.

Turbo-Twin: Digital + Sustainability

I believe anyone who embraces the turbo-twin hypergrowth accelerators (digital and sustainability) will thrive in the digital genesis. Having spent years championing and pioneering digital innovation, especially with my exposure and experience serving in the resources or energy industry at GE and Accenture, I have seen how closely related both are (digital and sustainability), starting with the context of energy transition—for one, the power or utility industry with the digitalization of grid transmission, or enabling and facilitating efficient trades of power in real time to digitally empower the exchange for consumption and supply.

Another is a thrilling switch over from dirty fuel to clean fuel in the automotive industry. Tesla is obviously right at the sweet spot of a completely digital and sustainability-first model at its business core, powering further with a customer-experience-centric operational model. This is a complete overhaul of an automotive player’s business and operation model, built on all digital assets possible with green energy. Tesla gives a clear illustration of what a digital genesis organization looks like with the turbo-twin.

It is fascinating if we just apply the same principles across sectors as use cases: healthcare-computing, telco-utility, supply chain with manufacturing, B2B go-to-market that is already shaping up to converge with commerce, payment and marketplace work. The mega power of these turbo-twins acting together can completely overhaul the traditional value chain and converge industries.

With Covid, digital-first is already today’s new normal for retail, commerce and logistics companies to engage clients. Here we have an opportunity to reengineer their experience further and rethink customers’ needs with perhaps the concept of living and sustainable products and services, with digital-first immersive experiences. That design rethink will provide a fresh perspective on how a product should be redesigned to be living and sustainable in continuous engagement with the customer, which could include VR/AR metaverse 3D models to personalize and order-to-make or renew.

Sustainable and connected commerce empowered by digital identity and NFTs or other blockchain-type technology will lead to the buildup of the Fourth Industrial Revolution quite seamlessly with unprecedented speed and scale with today’s digital assets: cloud, AI and robotics, blockchain, IoT, 5G connectivity, microchips and biotechnology that will reshape society.

We shall expect a great convergence across industries/functions to revolve around people with an immersive experience, rather than the old world of production-to-market with orders to fulfill and logistics to deliver. It will be completely consumer-centric, thus rich data interlocks with AI at quantum speed to engage and service living products in a living system. It’ll be a seamless operation with an intertwined systemic circular economy ecosystem.

Now we see B2B2C no longer separate but converged to being people-centric, evolving to B2S (business-to-society) in the digital genesis. I also believe that Fourth Industrial Revolution foundations that are established today will offer us a head start with building blocks of the current available innovative solutions to help solve some of the 17 sustainable development goals.