What technology is going to have the greatest impact upon society?
Ask this to 100 people and you will get many different answers. If we look out over the next 20 years, we see there are a number of candidates.
Here is a list of some of the items that come to mind:
- Mixed Reality (AR/VR)
- Quantum Computing
- Nuclear Fusion
- Artificial Intelligence
- 3-D Printing
- Gene Editing
As you can see, there is no shortage of pathways that can radically change the course of humanity. Of course, we can also toss in cryptocurrency and blockchain if we want since that is going to help tie in the next generation of Internet technology.
Whatever side of the debate that one falls upon is really not relevant. The fact that we are proposing any of this shows just how powerful technology is right now. And it is only going to get stronger as each of those areas keeps progressing forward.
The real explosion will come when some of them start to merge together. That is where the real magic happens. When technologies converge, the power of each is pushed to an exponentially higher level. This was what happened with the introduction of the smartphone. That was 3 technologies (mobile, computing, and Internet) that were combined to completely change the way society operated.
Now imagine the impact of each of these individually and then picture a few of them combining to create another "smartphone" moment.
That is why people who follow technology are so excited about the future. If you thought the smartphone carried quite a punch, as they say, "you ain't seen nothing yet".
Consider what will happen when mixed reality is combined with blockchain, running on quantum systems, with AI sprinkled throughout. Just consider the capabilities that will offer humanity.
As society gets disrupted, our entire economic foundation is changed. Every aspect, including government, will be affected. We already see how woefully incapable government is to deal with the digital world as it is now. The gap is only going to increase as laws are woefully inept against what is taking place.
This is also going to be seen in the world of business. As these technologies enter society, companies that are presently in leadership positions are going to find themselves falling, perhaps rather quickly. The carnage that Amazon created is just a preview of what is to come. Imagine that happening across many different industries, at the same time.
It is safe to say that, from a societal standpoint, the Internet was the most powerful innovation in the last half century. It stands as one of the major advancements for humanity along with the steam engine and electricity. We are near the point now where the Internet is as vital as having power.
That said, the impact could be minor compared to what we see going forward. The power of technology today is at a much higher level than it was when the Internet was coming into being. Thus, the effect upon society should be much greater. As we can see from that list, a few of them will turn things into Sci-Fi very quickly.
The question with all of this is whether it which direction will things go. Some believe that we could see a push towards even greater tyranny as corporations replace governments as the major power centers. Hence, those in control of the technology will be able to oversee humanity.
Still others feel that technology cannot help but to find its way to the masses. There are downsides to many of them but, in the long run, development and innovation end up adapting around problem areas. This is a point we might find ourselves at right now.
One of the greatest distributions we see today is in the area of technical talent. It is spread all over the world. People are learning to develop from young ages. Because of the expansion of the Internet, most anything relating to this can be learned without formal schooling. Anyone with some coding skills can start to create some very innovative things.
The open source movement has been a mainstay for the last 30 years. This is taking on greater importance as we deal with more powerful technology. While much of that list is not open source or going to be in the hands of all, it is the process that matters. If we start at the top of the list, we can begin the spreading out of some of the more digital aspects of society, hopefully counterbalancing the mega corporations that seek to control everything.
In the end, this will cause some tremendous financial opportunity. We are going to see trillion dollar companies created over the next decade, many of them. At the same time, we will see many of today's leaders fall from grace. This is how disruption works.
For every Amazon there are a number of Sears.
It is possible that, over the next 20 years, we see 5-10 Amazons forming.
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