I woke up the other morning and a phrase popped into my head, “the seeds of the future are already planted.” This is an eloquent way to express something I have been preaching for a few years now. It is possible to accurately predict the future state of certain areas in life simply by extrapolating out trends that we can already see coming from the behavior of early adopters. I agree there is a bit of an art to this – kind of like the ability to listen to a list of songs and to have the skill at picking the ones that will be hits. The reality is that all of you have heard a song that the first time you heard it you knew – just knew – that it was going to be a hit. Technology can be like that. The very first time you saw an iPod, or iPhone, the very first time you did a search on the Internet, the very first email you sent. These are moments when you just kind of know, things will not be the same going forward. I estimate my instincts for such things are about 80% accurate based on past experience and I tell you this in case you just do not agree with anything else you read. With that said, here are my observations about the seeds of the future that I see growing into huge changes.
The Amazon Kindle has finally started a revolution that had many seeds planted, but none that sprouted. The eBook era has been kicked off by early adopters. If you have not used a Kindle yet, then the prior statement might be hard for you to really understand. I have books and magazines loaded on my Kindle and will very shortly cease to buy paper ever again. I am just waiting for my inventory and subscriptions to run out. Whether the final winners are the Kindle, an Apple tablet, or a future version of the iPhone, the ship has already sailed on paper content. Paper based content will always exist – in the same way that a hand mixer exists in a world of electronic mixers. Grandma has one, but not I.
Cloud computing has also sprouted from the seeds that were long time ago planted in service bureaus. We did this back in the mainframe world – this renting of computing resources. It worked back then, and it will work now in an Internet and PC based world. Small company data racks in closets will go away. Medium sized companies in house data centers will go away. Hard drives in laptops will go away. Loading lots of applications on a hard drive will go away. Problems with backing up data will go away. Computing costs will continue to drop. IT departments will reconfigure. Cloud computing makes sense, we need it, and it is only a matter of time till we are all cloud based.
Speaking of reconfiguring IT departments… Those seeds have been planted as well. We have spent a few decades with IT departments that spend most of their time doing breakfix and keeping the digital plumbing running. It has been an engineering based approach to IT. The seeds are planted for outsourcing IT infrastructure into the cloud, or just plain outsourcing the plumbing, which will now free technologists to be more creative and artistic in building customized solutions and workflows that actually support the business mission. Technologists will completely change the way we approach helping an organization from one of reactive support, to proactive and creative solutions and intelligent services. IT will look nothing like it does today in ten years. Nor will the players resemble some of the antisocial introverts that now prowl the dark rooms eating cheese whiz and drinking Red Bull while adding yet another star wars character to their desk landscape.
Personal transparency will be forced upon us. Social media has sown the seeds of a whole new concept in how we relate to others – and how much they know about us before we meet. Online reputation will become so critical that people will pay dearly, and invest huge amounts of time trying to craft or repair what is said about them in the statusphere. With a simple addictomatic.com search a person can learn what other people think of me, what I look like, how I speak on video, and what my thoughts are in my online musings. Forget what I say about me, you have hundreds of comments from others that say what they think about me. We have spent centuries believing that it is a bad thing for people to know details about our life. We have fought having our privacy invaded. We have said “none of your business” a hundred times. Give it up now. People can learn about you – they will know things about you that you did not share. If you have nothing to hide, and are good at what you do, this is fantastic. If you have lots to hide and you are a poser – you will be found out before the first hello.
There are many more seeds that have been planted. I just listed a few. Predicting the future is really not that hard. Things are moving so fast at this point; we are seeing flashes of the future everyday. All you have to do is open your mind to accept what your eyes and ears are already aware of…