Get used to it. It’s not going to stop.Submitted by Michael Nystrom on Sun, 12/08/2013 - 13:16
There's this story* about Steve Jobs, when he came back to Apple. The company was on the verge of failure - too many products, not enough customers, no focus. No one expected the company to survive. Apple was two months from bankruptcy when he returned in ’97.
Jobs scaled everything back - cut divisions, cut product lines, reorganized everything, got a big investor (Microsoft) to help shore up finances. Then, he waited.
His strategy, as he described it at the time, was "to wait for the next big thing." All his life, Jobs had seen wave after wave of new technologies coming along. He knew there would be another one.
As it turned out, that "next big thing" for Apple was the iMac.
Remember that thing? It looks kind of goofy now, but at the time, it was at the leading, bleeding edge of cool. Not only did it help save Apple, it helped millions of people get on the Internet for the first time.
When I was in grade school in the mid 70’s, my dad bought my sister and me a Pong game at Radio Shack. We hooked it up to the black and white TV in our living room and played electronic ping-pong for hours on end.
. Our middle school had a Commodore PET in the math classroom. For a while in the early 80’s, Commodore and Atari were the biggest makers of personal computers. In 1982, Time Magazine named the personal computer its “Person of the Year.”
For a fleeting moment in the mid 80’s, the IBM PC was a big thing. It was soon succeeded by the “PC Clone” thanks to Microsoft, which for a long time was the big thing, along with Intel. Microsoft and Intel helped to build out a huge infrastructure of unconnected computers across America. It was big.
Eventually, they were all connected by the Really Big Thing: The Internet. Fast on the heels of the Internet were cellular phones.
Those were the twin towers of big: The Internet and cell phones.
Back in those days, they talked about “Convergence,” i.e. the convergence of all digital technologies into a single device. It would be your phone and your computer and you’d be able to take pictures and send them to people across the country, and watch videos and listen to music, etc.
Back in 2000, that sounded so far fetched. I thought it would never arrive. There were clunky attempts at it, but sending texts from my first little Nokia cell phone with the tiny LCD screen and the number keypad? You had to press each number key up to three times to select a single letter! No thanks.
At the end of 2013, “convergence” is not only here, it is passé. Phones these days are incredible. My HTC One has way more features and computing power than our giant Pong console ever had.
In late 2002 after the dot.com bubble had crashed and burned, I felt like the last web designer still employed in Seattle. That was the end of Web 1.0. Firms were going out of business left and right, people were getting laid off daily. Eventually I got laid off, too.
I thought we were finally going to get a little break from the breakneck pace of these technological advancements. And we did, for a little while.
But soon, the next big thing came along. The dot.com bubble, frothy as it was, did bear fruit. The infrastructure of the internet was built. Google came along and helped organize it. YouTube arrived. Facebook and Twitter. Amazon survived the washout. The Open Source movement bloomed. The Daily Paul was born somewhere in there.
Like magic, the iPod showed up in there as well. Finally, an MP3 player that you could actually find your songs on!
The iPhone. Touchscreens. Android. The iPad. Tablets. The Kindle. Electronic devices bloomed like flowers.
Second life was a first wave failure, but it will be back, in some form or another. Video games are getting better and better. Pretty soon we’ll all be living in them.
Earlier this year I was at the 2045 conference in New York.
There is a slew of scientists trying to figure out consciousness, so we call all upload our brains onto the internet. Ray Kurzweil was there. He’s the one who pegged the date, 2045 (give or take), as the year of The Singularity. We don’t’ understand how we’re going to get there, but no worries. Technological advancement continues to be defined by Moore’s law. The growth is exponential, which means we'll get there sooner than you think.
Hiroshi Ishiguro, the Japanese scientist who has a robot of himself was there. (I saw him again in Taipei last week, along with his robot.) One day will all have our own personal avatars, just like professor Ishiguro and Bruce Willis, in Surrogates.
Now there’s talk of a new ‘convergence’ - the convergence of computing power, robotics and biomedical technology.
What it will lead to remains unclear, but clearly on the table is immortality, in one form or another.
And once again, it sounds so impossibly far fetched and complicated. But it can't be ruled out because these technological advances keep coming, and they keep multiplying exponentially, and the base we’re building from today is so much higher than Pong.
The thing about exponential growth is that you don’t notice it much early on. Take a penny and double it. On the second day you have two; on the third day four; on the fourth day 8. Big whoop, right? After a week you’ve only got 64 cents. After two weeks, things are a little more interesting. By the 14th day you’re up to almost 82 bucks. By the 21st day, you’re up over $10,000! By the 30th day, you’re over $5 million.
And that’s what technology is doing - it is sneaking up on us so stealthily that we don’t even notice it.
If all the hype is true, the next big thing might well be Google Glass. It might flop, but it might fly, too. Who knows. We might all turn into ‘glassholes’ a-holes who aren’t paying attention to the world in front of them because their brain is jacked into some data stream in the ether via their optical nerve and Google Glass.
And once your brain gets plugged into that, and you become dependent on that, who knows what comes after?
Already devices exist that can read your brainwaves and manifest thoughts and emotions in the physical world.
A toy for sure, but this is only the beginning. Pong started out as a toy as well.
This relentless march of technology? Get used to it. It’s not going to stop.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next big thing.
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* The story is told in Chapter One of the book Good Strategy Bad Strategy