As most of us are aware, we are in a huge age of change. The technology genie is now out of the bottle and it is changing the way the next generation is interacting and shaping our world.

Don Tapscott, author of Macrowikinomics, opened Social Media Week in New York with his thoughts on emerging trends. The biggest takeaway?  We need a new set of institutions that fit a digital age. The future as Tapscott sees it, is not to be predicted. It’s to be achieved.

When the internet was created it was about presentation and content was king. This is no different than the invention of the printing press. It changed how we thought because of access to information.

How we are spending our time now is changing our brain. Baby boomers spent most of their formative years watching television. Children, on the otherhand, are growing up digital and are not a passive recipient of information anymore.

The new web is about collaboration and the audience have become the publisher. It’s now not only about other people’s intelligence but it’s about network intelligence. So we, as a society, need to look at making changes to the way we create and distribute content and ideas.

Privacy issues may be our biggest stumbling block

Privacy is another area that is changing how we work and interact with the world. This age of transparency is changing business. Companies are already behaving better, not because of regulations but because of the awareness of their customers. We are expecting more and want to know more.

The issues of privacy are reaching beyond business and into our personal lives. There is a strong movement towards complete transparency. This is apparent if you look at how Facebook are pushing their users toward a place with little regard to keeping our personal interactions private. This may be good for companies but Tapscott believes this attitude could be a dangerous thing.

Privacy is in chaos and we are the problem. The first digital generation has hit the work force. They may be authorities on our digital revolution but they are going to be affected by their lack of privacy knowledge. Some people are already feeling the backlash of transparency as employers discriminate against candidates because of something they said on Facebook or one of the many digital platforms that are now linked to us instead of an online persona.

It’s a new paradigm which is leading to a crisis of leadership where vested interest fights against change. We need good regulation and privacy watchdogs to protect us. We also have to look at new business models that work with the changing digital landscape instead of against it.

But how do we regulate?

The current solutions aren’t going to work. SOPA would have set us back years. It wasn’t conceived through new ways of digital thinking but comes out of an archaic model of the music and film industries.

Take music for instance. Twenty years ago music was not profitable. Only one out of twenty artists made money. This was bad for musicians and music lovers and bad for the music industry. With the introduction of digital media, music turned from a product to a service. Music distribution became cheap and content could be accessed from anywhere. But the music industry wants to still control the content. The industry is collapsing because they are still in the mode of “we get artists, we bring you music, hope you enjoy.”

In order to move forward, businesses need to think differently about intellectual property and need to move to a collaborative model. For instance, if the music industry as a whole chose to stream music everywhere at a standard monthly rate like Netflix does with film and television, we may see less peer to peer sharing. New models may emerge and the music industry will move more into a digital business model instead of merely using digital as a stringent distribution channel.

Tapscott concluded by questioning our business leadership and the models we shape our world around. It’s those looking for the new ways to do things that will succeed in the future. Are you going to move forward or will you be left behind?