The digital “HellVen” dilemma.

…or the case to make the UBER platform of digital education  








A  couple of months ago Jerimiah Owyang (@jowyang)  talked about how disruptive the impact of future digital innovation will be creating a new dilemma he called “HellVen” : i.e. a word combination  of  “Hell” and “Heaven”.

I struggle myself with this dilemma. On one hand how can you not be a technology optimist knowing all the good that digitalization still can offer for both our future economical and societal development.  On the other hand, the expected digitally enabled innovation is of that scale that it truly will indeed have the ability to disrupt  labor markets.

“The second machine age” I read later perfectly captures the HellVen dilemma  without actually referring to it.
   (MIT Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee) The book starts recalling how the industrial revolution and in particular the introduction of the steam great-divergence-graphengine in 1775, massively enabled the  development of our society (see growth graph left).  Most people tend to believe that the arrival 35 years ago of PC and internet has created a similar new industrial revolution. The book however outlines that we are just now reaching the perfect conditions that can bring us to the tipping point of  “exponential growth”  potentially matching if not surpassing the impact of the industrial revolution in the coming decennia’s.

This  evolution will  be HEAVEN as it quite frankly will be able to fundamentally rethink how we do business and structure our society, but it can be HELL  because it has the potential of creating a massive digital divide with big bounties for a few global winners and a very thin spread for the remaining 90% of  population. Evolutions in artificial intelligence and robotics will likely challenge the existence or at minimum the wages of a large majority of current jobs ! The book ends with a couple of medium term and long term societal debates that we need to start addressing today. A great book to ready !

Illustration : Uber Hell, Heaven or HellVen ?

Uber, the new App  taxi company, I find is often sited as a perfect illustration of digital disruption to a particular industry:  it is a good HELLVEN example : this global player has the potential to fundamentally redefine our societal mobility and logistics challenges. Today Uber is seen as a replacement of the Taxi market but clearly Google did not invest in them to be in the Taxi business bur rather to help them reinvent a new logistics “digital platform” of peer to peer people and package transport. At the same time it risks to disrupt quite a high intensive labor. Uber markets see todate an explosion of taxi cabs but a big drop in wages. How do we judge that trade-off especially if the winner and the losers are physically (and politically) not in the same country/continent.

In 1775  Society did not know what type of disruption was going to hit them.  

It has taken u more than 150 years to truly manage the perverse impact of the industrial revolution for the simple reason that no one knew what type of disruption to expect: we badly prepared at both societal and business level. This is however in large contrast with our knowledge today of what to expect in the coming decennia’s.

Today, we DO know, so where is our sense of urgency ?

During the world war II, overnight, millions of housewives took over all of the male jobs that were left unattended. Both business and government had the same sense of urgency and worked hand in hand. Why can we not have the same sense of urgency when it comes to enabling the young generation to adapt itself to prepare itself for this new digital centric labor market ?

My recommendation :  “create the Uber Digital Education platform”

UberOur education system stems from just after the industrial revolution. I get really upset when I see we plan to cut once more in the budget’s of eduction. But  I get even more upset that we don’t transform eduction. Introducing tablets in the class rooms to teach in the same way the same old material is NOT what I’m talking about. I’m talking truly rethink education around digital as a platform.  Where are our Belgian versions of  Massive Open Online Course  (MOOC)  where we concentrate our best teachers’s lectures on a platform that can allow students to learn when and where they want. Where are the  “flipped classes” concept  from  the KHAN academy leverage broad educational video’s. Where is the next block buster education game that leverage gamification to better engage all classes of the population to learn. These new ways of teaching have  demonstrated enough that  we can now leverage digital to achieve extra-ordinary impact on bringing  a digital divide ! Should governments not put all the energy they put in blocking Uber spend it in building  the UBER  of digital education platform ?

any reactions are welcome 🙂

1 thought on “The digital “HellVen” dilemma.

  1. Some first hand very positive user experience testimonies, for Ueber, recently… killer app!

    Another example of app that could tickle your imagination, in my view: Peerby! Have a look… its simplicity and elegance surprised me thoroughly.


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