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Big data


The evolution and impact of future digital platforms and systems according to Stéphane Grumbach

© Inria / Photo J.-M. Ramès

For the last few months, Stéphane Grumbach, Inria senior researcher, has been head of the new Datasphere project team, at the Inria Research Centre in Grenoble. Datasphere project team is dedicated to big data domain and, above all, on its impact on the organization of society.
As Inria celebrates its 50th anniversary, he shares his own vision of how digital platform such as Google, Facebook and so on, will change the society in the next fifty years.

What are the main areas of research within the Datasphere team?

Stéphane Grumbach: We are looking at the ways in which data is changing the world and its impact on power relationships. The new digital systems being developed imply a need for new economic models. On the one hand, they enable people to connect with short distribution channels, but, on the other hand, the also enable distance shopping, in a virtual sphere. All this has a pretty radical impact on the world we live in. From being a vertical society, we are now seeing a shift to a much more horizontal society, one that functions as a network. Whether we are talking about people or technological devices, we are all now more connected and linked to many more other players than in the past. With a smartphone, for example, we can directly connect, talk, and share with a huge amount of other people. This makes a large proportion of the vertical players entirely redundant.

What are the major changes in store for us all in the next fifty years?

Digital platforms (such as Google, Facebook, and so on), which didn't even exist twenty years ago, are becoming major players in our economic, social and political life. As they get more powerful, governments and traditional industries get weaker. Let's take the car industry as an example. In the near future, we won't buy a Peugeot or a Citroën, but an Apple or a Google car. What will matter most will be the onboard operating system.
These platforms are also getting involved in redefining global governance. They are starting to look more and more like States. We would then have a globalised system of governance. That means we could see a shift away from the concept of the Nation State, replacing it with a form of government no longer limited to a geographical territory, but to a specific sector. For example, we could deal with issues like energy management or crop production at the scale of whole planet.

So, what do you imagine the world will be like in 2067?

Logo Inria 50 ans

In fifty years' time, the world will obviously have changed radically and the way our society works will be very different. Today, we are facing two major challenges. The first is to develop an economy that will be much more in tune with the Earth's ecosystem. And the second is to rethink our social model, basing it on co-regulation of the world with digital systems, and automating many jobs. These two challenges are, of course, interlinked, and how we deal with the first will probably be dependent on the successful development of the second. We are entering a period in which nothing is certain. Fifty years from now, we may be coming out of it. One thing is certain though, digital technology is a radical change in itself. It's a bit like a whole new continent emerging on the face of the Earth. A huge amount of activities and business can take place there on a global level.

Keywords: Datasphere Big data Stéphane Grumbach 50 years