Information Revolutions

How will firms, markets and regulators respond to the emerging challenges and opportunities of the 21st century information revolution? Can we draw on historical precedents to help guide us?

24 May 2018

Roundtable, Belfast, UK

The theme of the event evolved from numerous discussions amongst the participants around issues of innovation, productivity, and globalization. Phrases such as Industrial or Information Revolution easily set off debates amongst economic and business historians. What are the causal factors? How do they relate to previous revolutions? What are the likely effects in light of previous experience?

The role of information and technology, in shaping the evolution of both firms and markets, became a dominant theme. Historically, information revolutions have been closely linked to periods of economic growth and globalization. One constant element of debate was, however, around the role government and regulation in enabling or constraining the effects of these processes. Initially, we envisaged a rather hypothetical discussion on these topics, but Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have put these issues centre stage. The timing is right for such a roundtable discussion.

A discussion between historians, corporate leaders and policy makers, analysed long-run corporate and public policy experience to help navigate future opportunities and challenges. Whilst, as historians, we make no claims about predicting the future, understanding long-run trends does provide valuable insights into the factors and forces that shape current and future trajectories of change. Anticipating how firms, markets and regulators will respond to the emerging challenges and opportunities of the 21st century information revolutions, can draw on historical precedents.

The speakers were:

  • Dr. Nicola Millard, BT’s Head of Customer Insight and Futures
  • Professor John Turner, Director of the Centre for Economic History
  • William A. Downe, former CEO of BMO Financial Group
  • Dr. Judy Stephenson, Research Fellow in Economic History, University of Oxford
  • Dr. Graham Brownlow, Lecturer in Economics, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Dr. John Gent, former CEO JP Morgan International Bank
  • Dr. Michael Aldous, Lecturer in Management, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Jacob Hipps, Director of Last Mile Strategy and Operations at
  • John Campbell, Economics and Business Editor, BBC NI
  • Dr. Laurence B. Mussio, CEO, SIERC (Canada) and Academic Historian
  • Sir Jon Day, former Chair of the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee

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