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Tech's Healthy Disregard for the Arcane Machines

05/07/2016 10:54

From a technologist's perspective, the notion of countries separating is mind-bogglingly antiquated. Technology is a unifier. Technology helps people communicate wherever they are in the world. It has brought about the 'death of distance' and spawned our era's most significant philanthropists.

Birthplace and passports have little relevance to Facebook. Though advertisers may target geographically, the more global Facebook is the stronger it becomes. LinkedIn would not be worth $26bn had it decided to refuse entry to those outside its own country. Netflix's growth is, in large part, down to the number of countries to which it can stream content.

Indeed, such is technology's disregard for borders that governments and regulators of all hues are often at loggerheads with technology and the change it causes.

Dictators hate the new communication possibilities tech offers. Trust-busters worry about market dominance, now that a company can invent and globally own a market in years rather than decades. Unions fall by the way side when workers are disintermediated. Languages purists, such as Académie française, fret over tech-born informality, abbreviations and emojis. Regulators simply cannot operate fast enough to accommodate the impact and possibilities tech brings. Luddites fear job losses.

The commercial interests of the status quo are disrupted by technology too. The music industry, for example, has been digitalised, making and breaking companies within a few short years. How the record labels raged against the machine until they accepted progress and learnt to express themselves in a different way.

Ever closer APIs

What all that tells us about tech is that it is the most progressive force on Earth. Quite simply, it enables us to do things better, quicker and cheaper. It has no respect for the non-tech world's structures because it - ahem - thinks different.

Britain, with its relatively small population of around 65m, has participated brilliantly in the global technology industry. It has succeeded in tech for many reasons. Our universities are globally attractive, and churn out top class tech-ready brains. Our technology infrastructure is good, and multi-cultural London is a fascinating city for the best young tech minds.

Britain has also benefitted greatly from being a part of Europe. For the English-speaking US tech firms that dominate the industry, Britain has been the automatic choice for a European (typically EMEA) HQ. Freedom of movement has meant that tech firms have been able to recruit across Europe for their UK-based offices. Britain has considerable 'EMEA hub' expertise as a result; able to ensure that an organisation's discrete operations across EMEA are greater than the sum of their parts. The ecosystem that has evolved means Britain is home to a blessing of 'unicorns' and the majority of the tech industry's EMEA HQs.

The technology industry has proved to us that isolation is the enemy of success. And what the technology industry does best of all is disrupt. As an industry, tech does 'change' better than any other. Given the UK is such a hothouse for technology, so smart, so disruptive and so quick to find solutions and progress, I can't help but to be hopeful that - despite the challenges and uncertainties - they'll be no Texit.

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