Alexander Bard: Today’s 20 year old is a smartphone with some muscles wrapped around it

Digital & Media, Mobile, People, Social Media

Alexandre Bard dedicated a lot of his time to assessing internet’s influence over our lives and over young people’s lives. He started his career at Stockholm School of Economics in 1997 because “people wanted to know more about internet as it was taking over the world and nobody knew what happened and what its influences are” and his mission was to make internet lessons. To be able to teach, he studied and researched the internet, trying to understand its mechanisms.

During a training-lecture-book presentation held in Berlin, during Competence Call Center‘s Executive Day (part of company’s 15 years anniversary program), Alexander Bard spoke about a lot of things, starting with society’s evolution during different eras, going to inventions and innovations that changed the world in a manner beyond any expectations, internet, influence, online social networks, tech and so on. His presentation was meant to introduce and explain a few concepts and ideas from Futurica Trilogy, that reunites 3 books: Netocrats, The Global Empire and The Body Machines.


Tech, internet and Google

When it comes of technology and innovation, Bard says there’s just one category of people in the world that is way ahead all the rest of us. And this category is made up of Korean schoolgirls, most innovative tech users, years ahead compared to other tech users.

The apparition and development of internet killed the old business models, with some trades almost vanishing. And the good question here was: When did you last bought a ticket from a travel agency?

According to Bard, most humans live with the illusion that they control technology when, in fact, tech controls them:

Technology owns and controls us and does what it wants, with us being its slaves. Same applies to the internet, it doesn’t do what we want, it’s going to change us completely. Internet will change us completely even in the very essence of what a human being is.

A 20 years old from today is a smartphone with some muscles wrapped around it. A human being now is an address book, the sum of its own network.

Popularity on internet is the result of a constant fight for attention and Google is the tool that measures who and how much attention gets.

According to Bard, Google has “a crappy and shitty design to show people it focuses on efficiency”. Still, the company is the 2nd biggest employer of mathematicians in the world after NSA because it uses algorithms to assess attention someone or something gets over the internet, analyzing both its credibility and awareness among public.

Attention – the currency of the digital world 

People living today make their buying decision after researching online, which means, in Bard’s opinion, that “capitalism is dead as you make decisions based on intentions and choices of other people”.

Bard appreciates that companies and individuals cannot make money anymore if they don’t generate a huge amount of attention, the real currency of the digital world.

Whoever is powerful in the internet world is because of creativity, because they get attention. Attention is more important than any amount of money. It’s all about getting attention and the money will come along.

He also dismantled the whole “using tech is hard” statements, saying that is just a myth, appreciating that, online, it’s all about storytelling and all that happens is a paradigm shift and everything we do is a fight between old and new habits.

Online there is a huge battle for attention. Attention is credibility multiplied by awareness (…) Companies like Facebook and Google are not asking how much income someone has, but ask about their own network, and the people they know

Paradigm shifts 

The invention of the printing press in 1450 made the books cheap (the books copied by hand were replaced by cheap printed ones, Bible was translated and printed and ordinary people got to read it and make their own opinions), offering this way access to knowledge. The printing press generated a lot of shifts within the society, without sticking to its initial purpose – print the Bible and spread God’s word. Bard pointed out that, having access to cheap books, people learned how to write and read, which made them develop. Also, over time, daily newspapers appeared, keeping people informed, and mandatory school was introduced.

Society evolved over the time and language, written word, mass media and Internet are  fundamental steps for human communication. Paradigms keep changing and generate new developments and phenomena, with the game changer for our period being the internet.

When it comes of internet 

Internet is a big game changer and that was obvious from the start, although the actual scope of change cannot be assessed. Over the internet, the user is not being communicated to, but with.

We stopped listening to the leaders, we killed them

When it comes of companies, they can use the internet for their businesses, but they need to communicate in a real manner with the clients because customers can became their research & development team if they want to.

Alexander Bard consider that there’s no such thing as online marketing and thinks of SEO as a method used by companies to “lie on how interesting they are”.

Online marketing does not exist. There is only mass media marketing and online communication. The conversation on the web is always active and two-sided. The customers of today recommend to the companies how they can improve their products and services. The customers are the ´Research and Development Department’ of the company. The call center especially generates valuable customer feedback and should be integrated into the heart of the company

When it comes to internet, Bard thinks everyone should copy Napoleon’s attitude and be curious about it because it is the main element of the new era of the information age.

The Internet is changing the understanding of the human fundamentally. The living world and the value structure of today’s 20 year-olds differs significantly from that of today’s 40 or 50 year old people. Young people define themselves through their smartphones. Now when you hold a smartphone in your hand you have access to more information than there was available in the whole world 10 years ago.

Access to information becomes the source of power. A new underclass develops that is excluded from this access.


Who is Alexander Bard?

Alexander Bard is a Swede that fancied for years with entrepreneurship and musical industry and was quite successful in the field, building and selling his businesses at the right moment and spotting changes determined by the internet and mobile as they were happening. Eventually, after juggling 2 careers for a while, he decided to focus on the academic one and took over teaching the internet mysteries and their sociological impact and influences to the students attending Stockholm School of Economics.

Bard likes to think at himself as a philosopher, although official presentations would say “an artist, author, philosopher and internationally known as co-founder of the Swedish pop band ‘Army of Lovers'”. When it comes of career, he said he had 2 careers, one at Stockholm School of Economics and one in arts world. When it comes of his art career, Bard “dribbled with theater, performance and video art” and decided to write hit hip-hop songs although he probably was “the first music producer that used computers and hated musicians”. He sold his first record label to Universal Music just before Napster appeared and hit hard the music industry. Later on, in 2008, he made another record label and also sold it. Bard is giving public lectures since 1996, often focusing on social implications of the online revolution.

He wrote 3 books on internet revolution, collectively known as “The Futurica Trilogy” and co-authored by media theorist Jan Söderqvist. The 3 books that form the trilogy are The Netocrats (18 languages, 340,000 copies sold),  The Global Empire (2003) and The Body Machines (2009), last 2 released in English last year. Futurica shares authors’ philosophical vision for a global and increasingly virtual society, as a consequence of the interactive revolution.