The Fifth Wave of Computing
Bill Gates the legendary Technologist, Founder and CEO of Microsoft wrote Business at the Speed of Thought in 1999 and wrote The Road Ahead in 1995. In both of these books he wrote about the technology trends he saw back then and the future of software, technology, innovation and the internet that was being envisioned and pioneered by technologists such as himself.
According to the World Economic Forum, in 2020 the entire digital universe has reached 44 Zetabytes of Data. For perspective, that is 40 times more bytes than there are stars in the observable universe. And it is just at the beginning.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and an explosion in mobile devices, smart connected devices from smartphones to smartwatches and autonomous vehicles as well as social networks and digital transformation is creating a world in which people can know anything, anywhere, anytime. This on-demand culture is truly mindboggling and insane.
We live like Gods today compared to our ancestors. And the technology we possess is godlike. The world is changing so fast that people no longer understand the world we live in anymore and the world we are rapidly entering. Software is not just eating the world, it’s swallowing entire industries whole and creating different industries overnight. Understanding the accelerating rate of change itself in digital technologies and the information technology revolutions is SO Important. Because it has been, is and will continue to be responsible for rapid societal, political and economic change for better or worse.
Today’s millennials and younger generations are used to technology and are digital natives. But even many of them can’t keep up. We are living in a fully hyperconnected and digital world and the implications of this change is MASSIVE. This is why industry experts don’t even know what the future looks like. Because things are changing so fast that there are terms being thrown around such as the 4th Industrial Revolution and the Technological Singularity. The 4th Industrial Revolution is basically the technological revolution with all the digital and exponential technologies that are transforming business, the economy and society rapidly.
The implications of billions of people having access to the world’s information at their fingertips is massive. The implications are multi-dimensional and the older ways of politics, society, economics stop functioning in the face of this type of exponential change. When things change so fast, so hard, it becomes impossible to figure out the rules and even to agree on how society or business or consumerism or entrepreneurship or regulation should work in the digital age.
To understand exponential growth vs linear growth, please read Peter Diamandis’s tech blog posts on having an exponential mindset and understanding exponential growth in digital technologies, as well as Michael Simmons article on Ray Kurzweil’s explanations of exponential growth and a video of Moore’s Law Graphed over 5 decades.
One thing is for sure, however. The hyperconnected and hyper-technological world that is being built by the second has MASSIVE implications and the future is being created faster than ever.
Check out what Arm CEO Simon Segars had to say at Arm TechCon 2019 about 5G, the 5th Wave of Computing and the Trillion Device World. Simon Segars predicts that by 2035, 1 Trillion Smart Devices will be connected through 5G Networks and the IoT and Marcelo Claure, COO of SoftBank says that these hyperspeed networks and new computing world will create $11 Trillion of Economic Value. The applications of computing are significant in regards to the IoT (Internet of Things), 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Self-Driving Cars, Cloud, Data Centers, SaaS and digital transformation and digital disruption of every single industry.
What happened with Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other tech giant’s rise in the last few decades will pale in comparison to what happens in the next few decades. Entire markets, industries and companies will be built and wiped out OVERNIGHT. The competition has not even started yet. Because as we move from a scarcity-based economy to an abundance-based economy where we can have anything and everything we want on-demand for basically free, the transition has tremendous implications across the board. The rules of how EVERYTHING worked in the past now CEASE to function as the pace of technological change explodes at an exponential rate.
Lean and agile companies that can move at scale will survive and there are no rules in today’s marketplace. That’s why Silicon Valley startups are able to move fast and break things and the culture of disruption in Silicon Valley drives innovation and leads to Blitzscaling or hypergrowth and the ability to leapfrog imbcumbents and big companies which get bogged down by bureaucracy and move slowly.
It’s not just that there are technologies that exist separately but that many exponential technologies are starting to converge and many societal, economic and political conversations are also starting to converge. Globalization, Technological Disruption and Capitalism are now on Steroids as our society ironically shifts to something completely unimaginable.
However, because there are so many exponential technologies, and because the rate of change happening in innovation is itself accelerating so quickly, it is very hard if not impossible to predict the future and the near future. That’s why even futurists say that a combination of human intuition and creativity must be combined with data in order to generate better quality insights and make higher quality decisions. In a world that’s changing faster than ever it’s not enough to rely on one or the other. But when we combine humans and machines, we unlock tremendous synergies and potential. Furthermore, using the past is a terrible benchmark for trying to predict the future, in a world that is changing faster than ever, and so using foresight (which can be gained by using the combination of human intuition, creativity as well as data from algorithms and computers) to navigate the future is important to trying to not just anticipate outcomes, but to actively navigate and create better outcomes.
It’s not just technologies, it’s also generational shifts in tastes (which are largely driven by new technologies - younger generations such as Millennials and Gen Z are used to on-demand networking, culture, economies, and society and are more comfortable doing things in the digital world - gathering data and making purchasing and other decisions). And it’s also changing expectations about corporate responsibilities, climate change, and the welfare of entire societies and not just those in the top 1%, especially in the post-covid world we are entering, where we have seen what happens when we don’t behave with ethics in terms of climate, or in terms of economic equality.
This is even more true in 2021 and going into the next decade as Covid19 accelerated a bunch of previous trends that were already moving lightning fast in regards to the pace of change in technology and digital transformation and will have immense and increasingly powerful effects and disruptions on individuals, to communities, nations, corporations, governments and societies for better and for worse.
The importance and role of big data, artificial intelligence, digital technologies, automation will only become increasingly important but how humans use foresight thinking, creativity, and intuition along with machine capabilities and data will be crucial in how the future is shaped as the world moves more and more online and our world, society and economy becomes increasingly networked.