• June 18, 2020
I have been doing technology as a passion and a career for much of my working life (there was one brief ice cream retail experience – but that’s another story). It was axiomatic that technology upgrades occur constantly and when looking back, you can’t believe how you survived without them. Whether we are talking modem speeds 300 baud -> 56K or larger storage devices (1MB -> 6PB) or network speeds (1MbE -> 400GbE) or computer/tablet/phone speeds – one thing is true – something faster will be coming. My 10-year-old recently made a comment about the three-year-old tablet that he appropriated from me – “Geez Dad, how can you expect me to use this fossil? Its sooo slow!” I think that says it all.
There is a lot of talk about Big Data. It’s actually a misnomer. We have had exponentially growing data since the dawn of computing. The idea that storage devices and the ability to store large data as a billion-dollar global market is not a new one, but one that has existed for decades. The new focus on data looks to monetize or make actionable the raw data within an organization. Ironically, when embarking on this mission, you collect data even faster. Data growth over the next few years will be explosive, with conservative estimates starting at 90ZB and the IDC estimating 175 zettabytes by 2025 (currently around 33 zettabytes). I would challenge that we have passed Big and Humungous and are now looking for a new word to describe the amount of data in our world.
Technology enables the human experience – it extends us, it scales us, and it frees us; it also relies on us. The innovation and the creativity come from us; the drive comes from us; and the vision comes from us. Technology without us a perfectly organized and clean workshop waiting for a project.
In one of my favorite movies, a scientist explains that to navigate to any destination in a 3D space you need seven coordinates. Six define the destination, and one to define the point of origination. In this movie, the technology (a star gate) couldn’t be used without this information. Most technology is like the star gate. It can help you get places – sometimes faster than ever imaged, but the destination (and the starting point) must come first. It is sometimes hard to explain to clients that before we talk about the technology, we need to talk about the destination. Its only from knowing where we are trying to go that we can find the right match of technology to impel them forward.
Technical advancement originally focused on the advancement of hardware: Bigger storage, faster processors, small devices, etc. We have reached a level of maturity that the next generation of technologies focuses on the logical vs the physical. This has driven the software-defined movement and the rise of trends like cloud, automation, AI, and digital transformation. Software was translated to hardware to make it fast enough to function – now, with current hardware technologies, the software is fast and flexible and malleable and extensible. Software will eat the world – it always has, but the translation to hardware obscured it – now the vision is clear.
Technological Innovation has always been balanced by the moral and cultural ability to accept change. Stories like Frankenstein and the history of Galileo paint a picture of this conflict through history, but it is also a constant and present force of nature. Technology changes traditionally along an exponential curve. Faster hardware, more space, smaller densities. In actuality, the innovation cycle has surpassed a standard exponential curve and it’s a race for society to keep up. The dawn of the web and how that effects digital transformation of our culture and economies a bare 30 years later – so much faster than anything in history. So imagine – if today is the starting point – and there are hundreds of new innovations just starting to come to market – what will the world look like in 10 years? Don’t believe me? Look at 3D printing – from basic idea to new housing construction and food production in less than 5 years. Universal translators now integrated to Bluetooth headsets. Star Trek technologies available to the general public one at a time in the blink of the eye. Buckle your seat belts – we are just getting started.