At every level, technology is now a game changing tool – and a great weapon of destruction. I suspect there has been little in the history of humanity that has more ability to change our lives, careers and fortunes save war and pestilence. It should be no surprise that when billions of us can now be connected through an inventory of devices and social connections, we can also be disconnected. Hard drives can fail, viruses can disrupt, phones can drop in toilets (twice so far for my daughter) and batteries can die. In many of these cases we not only lose the connection we are becoming so addicted to, we also can lose data we never realized could disappear in an instant. Yes, technology giveth, and can taketh away.
On a larger scale, technology is reconstructing whole industries in just a few years. Often this much faster than the players can handle and that is why we see the demise or crippling of organizations like Blockbuster, Kodak, Borders Books, various music retailers, travel agencies, and newspapers. Over the past twenty years, we have participated in a huge leap forward for mankind. Much more dramatic than landing people in the moon, we are living through an explosion of connectedness of organizations, people, devices, and intelligences. These connections are rewiring just about every aspect of our lives, including our careers because just about every industry is going through wrenching changes due to the havoc technology is instigating for us. I often think about the Chinese character for “chaos” and it’s dual meaning of disorganization and opportunity.
I happen to love the fact that I am alive at this moment to watch the chaos, and benefit from the opportunities. I also mourn the fact that I will probably not be around in fifty years to see what it will be like when it all slows down. Yes, I do believe we are on a curve, and that the pace of change and innovation will one day slow. Making any prediction beyond a few years is dangerous, but just to go on the record and take a shot… I suspect that we will see another 25 years of high paced change and growth in the technology space, then a cooling period. This will be followed by 25 years of fully digesting and implementing all the new concepts and tools that will be invented.
The reason I believe we will have a cooling off era can best be seen with the example of tools like Microsoft Office. This is a set of tools that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and now has hit a point where we hardly use 50% of the capabilities. So adding lots of additional features is a bit of a waste – and frankly, we are starting to hit the wall on features that can even be added that have large value. We are now down to small incremental changes, and many people have no inspiration to buy the new versions because the older versions have more than they need. Apply this same pattern to mobile devices, tablets, social technologies, cloud computing, and what you get is a world in 25 years where we have so much power at our fingertips through those new technologies, that we simply to not need any more. Once that happens – this glut of power and features – we will stop wanting more, and companies will stop producing more. Ergo, the pace of change naturally slows down.
I suppose this is akin to a growth spurt in a human being. We are flat in the middle of a technology growth spurt, and spurts do come to an end eventually. So yes, technology is driving a lot of chaos in the world. Take heart, if you can hang on for 25 years, it will slow down…