Last week, I had a brief glimpse into the future. How, you ask? I was at the 2015 O'Reilly Next: Economy conference in San Francisco, along with the likes of Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Logan Green of Lyft, Chad Dickerson of Etsy, and Stewart Butterfield of Slack, all of whom spoke at the event.

The conference focused on exploring the future of the economy and the shifting nature of work. Key topics included why the Internet is changing the way we do business and how automation will impact the economy and our everyday lives.

The biggest lesson was that the future isn't far away--it's already here. The shift we're seeing in the economy today is much bigger than what came out of the emergence of the Web in the 1990's. And it's happening fast. "What's coming at us is bigger than the original Internet," conference organizer Tim O'Reilly said. Businesses that don't pay attention will quickly be left behind.

Why's that? Well, just look at the businesses that are seeing the greatest success today, such as Airbnb and Uber. Neither of these companies are traditional firms. The same can be said for Etsy, Facebook, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Lyft, Medium Slack, and UpWork, all of whom were represented at the conference. All of these companies are platform businesses that build and orchestrate large networks.

These platforms are challenging traditional models of economic organization. The perfectly controlled linear supply chains and the vertically integrated organizations of the 20th century are giving way to large, decentralized networks of producers organized by the platform businesses of the 21st.

This shift has had the biggest impact in the services sector, especially with industries based on relatively unskilled or commoditized labor.

These commoditized services will increasingly be provided by platforms who standardize services that are provided by large, decentralized networks of producers. For example, companies like Uber and Handy are standardizing the experience of hailing a cab or scheduling an in-home cleaning or an apartment paint job, all with the press of a button.

Platforms are also affecting more skilled labor markets, including industries made up of so-called knowledge workers. For example, platform businesses are already reorganizing the way we interact with doctors, lawyers, and consultants. But the change won't stop there.

Platforms are impacting everything from how you consume content (Medium, Twitter, YouTube) or how you talk to your Grandmother (Facebook, WeChat, Snapchat) to how you pay for college (SoFi, Lending Club) or how you start a business (Kickstarter, AngelList, and many more).

Platforms are taking over every part of our economy. In fact, more than half of the 144 companies that are billion-dollar "unicorns "are platforms. The platform economy isn't just the future. It's already here.

So what does this platform economy look like?

Here are some other takeaways from some of the speakers and featured platform companies:

1. Incremental income is a lot easier to find.

50% of Uber's drivers worldwide work 10 hours or less per week. Only 10% of TaskRabbit's workers are full-time. These platforms use technology and data to help manage huge, decentralized networks of workers. Many of these producers only work on the platform part-time, using the flexibility these companies offer to make extra income as needed.

2. We're still in the early days of platforms

While founders from many platforms companies were speaking at the event, there are only a few mature platforms. Uber, Lyft, Etsy, Kickstarter, Microsoft, Google, UpWork and Twitter are a few examples. But there will soon be a lot more. We can expect a more favorable legislative system and advents in connected technology to increase the potential of the platform business model in our economy.

3. Uber is a bulldog in the courts

Uber is betting it will win the 1099 vs. W2 debate.

David Plouffe, an ex-Obama campaigner and current Uber lobbyist, was adamant that Uber is going to win the 1099 debate in the courts.

When I asked whether the rise of the on-demand mobile app economy under an antiquated labor classification system merited a new classification for these type of workers, he responded that the 1099 structure should fit Uber just fine.

4. TaskRabbit is a contrarian

TaskRabbit still doesn't get it.

Its CEO Leah Busque divulged that her platform allows workers to turn down jobs and set their own rates. This is the complete opposite of what other leading service marketplace do.

For instance, Uber is very adamant that drivers must accept a high percentage of ride requests in order to be in good standing on the platform. Furthermore, Uber standardizes prices and doesn't allow riders to set their own prices. TaskRabbit competitor Handy has brought similar standardization to the home-services market. The growth of more efficient competitors has seen TaskRabbit--the original success story in the industry--get left behind.

5. Rules and standards for all

A platform's workers or producers usually have to be screened in order to join its network. An interesting question posed during the conference was whether consumers should be screened as well. There is certainly a case to be made for screening consumers, and a few platforms already do this. (Massage platform Zeel is one example--consumers are required to give the last four digits of their social security number to verify their identities.) Individuals that have misused platforms in the past should also be penalized and restricted from joining. Creditors established creditor scores. Should platforms create a platform score to help the platform economy identify the bad actors and reward the good consumers? We think so.

6. Uber and Lyft don't like talking about AI.

A question was asked about when the platforms might consider deploying self-driving cars. There wasn't a direct answer provided, but previously Uber has gotten in hot water over its CEO's suggestions that all of its drivers would eventually be replaced by autonomous vehicles. Driverless cars will be a reality in 10 to 15 years. How these platforms manage this shift remains a big question. Will they shift business models and own the entire fleet? Or will they remain platforms that simply connect driverless cars with passengers. The answer is still unclear. But driverless cars will be the tip of the iceberg for seeing how platforms companies deal with automated machines replacing human producers.