Waiting for the Next Big Thing

With the release of the latest Star Wars I have thought a lot about the basic concept of impact. The film genre of science fiction had been around since the film industry had started but all of a sudden one film caused our expectations of what science fiction film should be had been changed.  I have been around technology for 25 years and seen a lot of great things happen in that time. Some of the simple things are amazing to me like PC’s with terabyte hard drives, memory in terms of gigabytes,flat screens, tablets that are useful, the list could get rather long. But things are happening in corporate america, the start-up community, venture capital, research labs etc..that will shake the very foundation the industry has been built upon over the last half century.  In a lot of ways these change agents are interlinked.  Terms we hear a lot of today in the industry: robotics, big data,artificial intelligence, cloud services,..these are all linked together as they share information between one another.  But when size-mic shifts happen they cause everyone in the industry to change focus.

We have been through a couple big changes in the industry.  The birth of the consumer internet.  It was unique in that the internet had been around a long time, but was really restricted to academics.  With the Netscape IPO in 1995 this all changed as all of a sudden every company and every person needed to be connected.   Companies panicked.  People were excited. We tolerated painful access and download speeds.  Video was not coming and where it existed was choppy and poor quality.  But the seeds had been sewed and the internet has changed how we interact on nearly every level of society.  The one problem we had with the internet was early on we were locked to our desktop.  Always needing to be connected to a power outlet.  Even laptops only took us so far.  Needing wi-fi access with limited battery life.  That all changed in June 2007 when Apple launched the iPhone.  It gave remote internet access a new meaning.  Our browsing experience was changed on a mobile device and more importantly we had apps to make the mobile web more accessible.  Touch screen was flawless.  We could stream video.  It changed the industry once again as all of a sudden every company needed a mobile app developer.

It has been a while since the iPhone and the last major technological impact.  Not to say nothing has happened.  A lot has happened.  In terms of the next great impact I do not think it will be “a single event” this time that transforms us overnight, but a broad brush stroke of multiple events happening in rather quick succession. The velocity at which technology is changing is driving fast changes in how society operates.  As I mentioned earlier we have Cloud, Big Data Robotics etc..On the horizon there are a lot of people making big bets with big money.  Elon Musk predicts they will have a fully self driving car within two years.  This seems ambitious and I am not sure it will happen but the sheer audacity of predicting something like this and believing in it is amazing and Elon Musk has a pretty good track record of delivery.  We have a space race going on, but this time it is not the Soviet Union versus the United States. A space race not funded by the public sector (NASA) but the private sector.  It is happening in the private sector as billionaires are building new rockets that can return to earth. Jeff Bezos with Blue Origin,Paul Allen with Stratolaunch, Elon Musk with SpaceX, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Even discussions of a mission to Mars and a Martian colony.  Other areas will be impacted as well.  As I am going through the wonderful process of choosing a healthcare provider I begin to think of my own mortality and my bodies limitations as my fiftieth year looms large, but the future will be bright for healthcare.  There is talk of 3D printed organs.  No need for a kidney donor, we will take your DNA and print a new kidney.   This year as part of his New Year’s resolution Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook wants to create a virtual assistant with AI,  Seems like the film ex-Machina is progressing quicker from fantasy to reality than anticipated.

All these great things seem to be converging upon us at the same time driving innovation further and faster.  The demand for engineers across disciplines has never been higher.  Great design will be ever more important to take form the simple engineering mind and making cutting ideas usable (sorry I have been around enough useless geeky presentations to slightly slam them).  There will be new opportunities as well  s displacement.  Every technological change in human existence has been met with trepidation and fear.  There have been protest already against a robotic future. Based on Mark Zuckerberg’s New Years resolution I am sure executive assistance may be worried.  Many companies are racing to buy AI startups, robotics companies etc..as the race heats up it will only intensify.  It is what we will call the Internet of Things world.

The impact of all these converging technologies will change the face of mankind in a way we have not seen before.  In part because it will happen very fast and challenge basic concepts of humanity.  How we exist, how we work, play communicate, entertain, it may even beg the question of should human race even exist?  Large questions to ponder and at this point cannot be answered.  Can we pull back?  I am afraid not.  the train has left the station and is only accelerating.  It is part of the human race to move forward quickly and in search of a greater future, not willing to recognize the consequences.  The next big thing is coming quickly and by the time it comes we will look back upon its rise before we know what has happened.  As I have quoted before and I shall quote Bill Baker again “The future comes slowly, change happens quickly”..

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann January 7. 2016


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