Original article written for The W.H.Y Community, available here
Technology goes beyond mere tool making; it is a process of creating ever more powerful technology using the tools from the previous round of innovation.” –Ray Kurzweil
Four decades ago the world commemorated the advent of the personal computer. At that time, this device bent the rules of life on earth in a manner that seemed incomprehensible to even the sharpest of minds. Fast-forward forty plus years and we are now entering an age where up to two thirds of the population of developed countries own handheld devices such as smartphones.
Less is more
If the PC of the eighties challenged the sceptics at that time, imagine how baffling a technology like today’s iphone would have been to them were it readily available for commercial use back then. Allow me to illustrate: A 1982 Osborne Executive portable computer weighs almost 100 times more, cost 10 times as much (adjusted for inflation) and has roughly 1/100th of the clock frequency (speed) of a 2007 Apple iphone. Remarkable isn’t it?
Less is” Moore”
Yet what’s interesting in all of this change is not particularly the change itself, but rather, the pace of change. The rate at which new technology develops is increasing and it is doing so exponentially. Part of the reason for this happening lies in the fact that the capabilities of computer chips have increased whilst their price has dropped. This trend has come to be termed “Moore’s Law.” What follows is a development trade-off that is turning the fantasies of our imagination into the everyday technologies that define the way in which we interact with one another and with the world around us. Whilst this is definitely part of the explanation behind the exponential development of computer-based technologies, Moore’s law is merely one of many such-like changes in other technologies such as DNA sequence data and manufacturing processes. Less truly is more and will be even more in the future if the current pace of change continues. But then again, there is every indication that it will only increase in ways we can’t predict, so how can we possibly foresee the future based on this notion?
The short answer is that we can’t – the future will always retain a quality of unpredictability. However, what we can do is familiarize ourselves with the nature of the technological evolution that we are in the midst of currently. Indeed, ”there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril.” Klaus Schwab, Founder and Chairman of The World Economic Forum. Today’s technologies are tomorrow’s solutions and they need to be implemented in such a way that their impact is holistic, as opposed to being limited to the reach of a selected few. Those in a position to spearhead this change need to understand how to do so – leaders, top talents and opinion makers need to grasp WHAT this change implies for them and learn HOW to implement it at strategic levels, one step at a time.