Who is in the driving seat?
There is no doubt that technology has changed the world. Without it, we would possibly still be rubbing sticks together to build a fire. There would be no cutting edge medication which cures basic and sometimes deadly diseases, and we would be riding around on the back of pack animals as means of transportation.
Fortunately, the human brain is wired in such a way that it always tries to break the barriers that it is seemingly created for it. While we can argue now that technology is continually taking over our lives, it was humans that led technology to this stage.
The case of exponential growth
The growth of technology may be baffling to some. I often stand back in awe and wonder how we have come to a stage where a simple watch monitors not only the steps you take during the day, but also breathing and sleeping patterns.
This is because technology has grown exponentially over the years. This is because we need to look only at the past the rate of progress to see that it has always been continually accelerating.
To explain this whole idea let’s just start with a $1 bill and double it each day. After a week you would have $128, not a lot but a significant increase. In another week you would have $16 383.
It is now that the growth pattern really starts to kick off because by the end of week three you would have $4 194 048. And the next week you would have $27 574 274; yes, heading for thirty million dollars. Five days later, you’re drowning in cash with $882 376 768 dollars. The growth from here just keeps accelerating faster and faster but the vital point to keep in mind is that the first week only took you to $128.
Now three weeks later your have nearly a billion dollars but you only need five more days and you have over $14 billion. This is the nature of exponential growth and it is exactly what is going on with technology and has been since the very beginning. You hardly notice the growth at first. But the effect becomes increasingly clear over time.
This is the story of technology. If we take the last century, it did not equate to 100 years of progress at today’s rate, but was around 18 or 19 years because of the rapidly accelerating rate of progress. I estimate we will make more progress by the mid to late 2020’s than we made in the entire 20th century and that we will do it again by the mid to late 2030’s.
And Big Data will drive this. It is believed that 90% of the world’s data today was created in the last 2 years alone, every day 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created (IBM Big Data). Data will be the commodity of the future.
The good and the bad
While the human brain is a fascinating thing, it can be argued that at times, humans can be too clever for their own good.
There is an idiom which states: be careful what you wish for because it may come true. Humans wanted to advance technology so much that it would make their lives easier. But in the process, has technology not changed the very essence of who we are.
The most palpable example of this is the growth of social media. A recent article on business2community.com showed just how much social media has influenced our lives.
The article points out that in 2005, Facebook was still in its early stages of its spread across the world. Some users were signed up for it back then, but didn’t really see the point until a few years later. Twitter appeared around that time, but a lot of us saw it as a pointless life casting toy. LinkedIn was essentially a digital resume and, for some of us, a pseudo-Rolodex. And Google+ didn’t even come on the scene until 2011, followed later by Pinterest and other platforms.
Fast forward to 2014, and social media has become not only a key part of the modern lifestyle, but a useful marketing channel for businesses of all sizes. Recently, a friend commented that her young kids were stunned to know that phones were only used for conversations a few years ago. They were dumbfounded to hear that we didn’t even carry phones with us 15-20 years ago.
There is a generation of kids coming up who can’t even conceive of a world without smart phones and social networking. It has officially embedded itself in our culture.
How has social media affected human relationships? An article on socialmediatoday.com sums it up perfectly. The writer’s biggest issue with technology and relationships is the inability to detect tone. You can never really know when someone is being sarcastic, funny, not funny, serious or joking.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered what someone meant by their words – whether on social media, in a text or via email. Unless you see the person’s face, hear their voice and understand the environment, you have no idea of the context surrounding the written words. This results in misunderstandings, miscommunications, and assumptions, which influences a specific view of others.
So it is clear that technology – through social media – has changed the very essence of the world we live in and human relationships. But where will it progress to in the future?
Some technology commentators have said that by 2030, 40% of the world’s jobs won’t exist and will be replaced by jobs that have not even been thought of. One of the jobs that will be in highest demand over the next two years will be app builders, a job that didn’t exist five years ago.
Robots also threaten to replace humans in jobs that require rule-based labour. This is how Japanese car manufacturers like Toyota first revolutionized automobile production in the 1980s.
A report on theguardian.com points out that innovation in artificial intelligence and robotics could force governments to legislate for quotas of human workers, upend traditional working practices and pose novel dilemmas for insuring driverless cars, according to a report by the International Bar Association.
The competitive advantage of poorer, emerging economies – based on cheaper workforces – will soon be eroded as robot production lines and intelligent computer systems undercut the cost of human endeavor, the study suggests.
While a German car worker costs more than €40 (£34) an hour, robot costs between only €5 and €8 per hour. A production robot is thus cheaper than a worker in China. Nor does a robot become ill, have children or go on strike and [it] is not entitled to annual leave.
Perhaps the advantage we can take out of this is that humans are still needed to establish the rules based programs that run technology. Robotics is the future, but it is a future that still needs humans to program them.
So you need to ask yourself: How will technology affect your business?