How digitalization creates new social hierarchies


In the era of abundance, social hierarchies change. This chart of a recent GDI study illustrates the differences between social classes in a digitized future.

This text is based on an excerpt from the GDI report "The End of Consumption as We Know It", which can be downloaded from our website.

If there is more than enough of everything, if everything is available immediately, and 99 percent of raw materials can be recycled, what remains in short supply? What will we not be able to purchase? What becomes “priceless”?

These are crucial questions for society as well as companies seeking new business models for an abundance economy. Since the beginning of civilisation, access to scarce resources has defined status within society. But how do we differentiate among social classes and levels of net worth if every person can have everything? Or could this situation signal the advent of a society that no longer recognizes these concepts? 

The following chart illustrates an initial view of society in the era of abundance and how different social classes manage certain scarcities. It assumes that the social hierarchies we observe in digitalization will become even more apparent: 

  • A small upper class which is designing and ruling the system (influencers)  

  • A broad middle, which has come to terms with the system and is seeking to optimise it for itself (citizens) 

  • A growing group of have-nots, which is repressed by the system (disenfranchised) 

  • A small class of outsiders, which is trying to live outside the system as much as possible (opt-outs)