I’m prepping a program on the future and pursuing a number of related books that will no doubt result in Technology and Society blog posts in the future. One recent (2016) book is Tom Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late. I’m only part way in, but clearly technology impact considerations are top on his list. You may recognize Tom from his prior best seller, The World is Flat, that pointed out how technology had changed the shape of the world. Since that book (2005) the world has changed, significantly. The future is arriving more quickly than he anticipated. Like some other authors, he sees this window of time, in particular from 2007 on, as a “dislocation” not just a “disruption.” The short take on this is that a disruption just destroys your business (think PC’s and mini computers, cell phones and land lines, cars and horses) — it wipes some folks out, but the world keeps puttering along. Dislocation makes EVERYONE sense that they are no longer able to keep up. Friedman suggests the last such disruption was the advent of the printing press and subsequent reformation (taking decades to play out, and only affecting the Western world.) Today’s dislocation is global, affecting almost every activity, and requires our serious attention and consideration.
The title Thank You for Being Late results from some of Friedman contacts showing up late for breakfast, and realizing that it gave him a few essential minutes to reflect on the deluge of changes and data he had been assimilating for the last few years. A break he suggests we all need.
While there will be a few more posts based on this, I will point out a few essential factors he has surfaced so far:
- Computing has gone past a tipping point with individual and networked power
tasks that were unimaginable even a decade ago (2007) propagating now.
- Communications capacity has exploded (AT&T asserting 100,000 times as much traffic as their pre-iPhone exclusive in 2007 — note that year).
- The Cloud and Big Data — we can now store everything (and we are), with tools (Hadroop being the leading example) that facilitate analyzing unimaginable content (since 2007).
- Access has gone global — along with collaboration — and many other factors.
- Sensors are everywhere — it is the “Internet of things,” but more than that, “the machine” as he calls it, has ears, eyes, touch, (eventually taste and smell) almost everywhere (including every cell phone, etc.)
And all of the pieces of the equation are advancing at accelerating rates in an event he calls the “SuperNova.”
One key is that the changing of technology has surpassed our ability to adapt to the changes. A decade ago, we might have considered this a generational issue (us old folks unable to keep up with the younger ones. — “if you need help with your PC ask your grandchild”.) Today this challenge is penetrating every demographic. It’s not that the world just isn’t flat anymore, it’s that we can no longer grasp sufficient information to identify what shape it is this year, and next year it will be different.
What factors are changing the shape of your world?