Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Living in this world of exponential change

In 2007 I wrote an article; living in a world of exponential change.

In it I said that we would soon be reaching a point soon where anyone anywhere could access the Internet and that this would allow people to communicate and share media from almost anywhere in the world. I talked about the $100 laptop and its disruptive effect on the laptop industry, the way the price of memory was plummeting, and how new technologies were helping us to share knowledge and information both professionally and personally.

Much of the change we have seen is the realization of Gordon Moore's 1965 prediction that the number of transistors that could be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit would double every two years. This number is actually closely linked to the processing power of the integrated circuit, or 'chip': more transistors means more powerful computers. Moore was confident that this doubling would continue for at least ten years. However, forty-five years later, despite the predictions of many experts, Moore's law is still holding steady. In fact, according to this law, the number of transistors on circuit boards has doubled twice since my original article was published. My question is not how circuit boards have changed, however, but how the world has changed around the substantial increase in computing power.

Today, a USB drive costs around $2 per gigabyte, down from $10 in 2007. Facebook now has over 500M daily active users, up from 250M in 2009 and 50M in 2007. And, of course, we have the iPad which, although only launched in May in the UK, is already having a major impact on how people use the Internet and web, with many now accessing the majority of their communications and information needs via iPad applications. In August, CNNs Fortune web-site commented on the market change happening in computing, reporting that 'Mobile Devices are overtaking PCs'. Computing power has increased not just in the realm of the PC, but also in the mobile world, and more and more people are using their phones and pads to access media and communicate.

But mobile computing and services which allow us to keep in touch and share knowledge and information require Internet access and now in the UK we have the BT Fon service, which provides access to over 1.5 million wi-fi points, across the country. Now we really can be connected almost anywhere.

But what does all this mean for our daily lives?

Ofcom published a report in August saying; The average person actually squeezes in the equivalent of nearly nine hours of media and communications each day, by multi-tasking on several devices. This is perhaps not true multi-tasking but people texting, browsing the web, e-mailing and on-line shopping, while watching the TV and chatting with friends.

For the first time in our history we are able to communicate effortlessly with our friends and colleagues anywhere in the world, either in real time, by messaging or via one of the many web 2.0 collaboration tools; blogs, wikis and social network updates. We can enjoy media with high quality video and superb stereo sound either at home or on the move and of course we can chat to friends about the content simultaneously, almost no matter where they are. And lastly we can immerse ourselves in games either with friends or in competition with a friendly computer.

Last week wired magazine proclaimed; 'The Web is Dead. Long live the Internet', explaining that there is a move to accessing much of our information through applications running on smart phones and tablets. Why? Because it's quicker, easier, and means we can be 'connected' all the time. Why carry a laptop when you can get most of the necessary functionality on a phone?

I live with this technology every day and yet I still never cease to be amazed by it. The ability to sit in Cambridge and to chat to a friend sitting in a cafe near Mount Fuji in Japan, to see her smile on the screen of my laptop as we share a joke, is no longer new or special, but is still incredible. Taking a photograph and sharing it with friends around the world instantly is something we now all take for granted, but it does not make it ordinary.

Sir Isaac Newton noted: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

The most powerful change we have seen in the world is the ability to share our thoughts and for others to challenge or build on them, the ability to collaborate on-line with academics and business colleagues around the world, the ability to develop new ideas and new services faster, better, and smarter.

This extraordinary forward march of technology and services continues to gather in pace, and our adoption of the best technological innovations as part of our lives enhances what we can achieve as companies, nations, and human beings.

No comments:

Post a Comment